How to play Texas Hold'em

Both variations of Texas Hold'em (Limit & No Limit) are played with a standard deck of 52 cards, what's different about Hold'em is how players make their hands. In this popular version of poker, players receive 2 face-down cards – called the hole or pocket cards. These two cards make your starting hand. As betting rounds progress, up to 5 community cards (dealt face up in the center of the table) will be eliminated. The winner is the player who either forces his opponents to fold, or has the best ranked 5 card poker hand at the end of the hand (the "showdown").

So what hands are better than others? Remember, each player makes their best 5 card hand out of the available 7 (the 5 community cards plus the 2 hole cards) – every player can use the community cards and sometimes the 5 communal cards from the best hand (in which case the pot is shared between all remaining players). Hands rank as follows …

  1. Royal Flush (10, J, Q, K, A of same suit)
  2. Straight Flush (any consecutive 5 cards of same suit)
  3. 4 of a kind (as it says! 4 cards of the same value)
  4. Full house (3 of a kind combined with a pair eg A, A, A, 5,5 "Aces over 5's")
  5. Flush (5 cards of the same suit)
  6. Straight (any 5 consecutive cards, not suited)
  7. 3 of a kind (3 of the same value)
  8. 2 pairs (exactly what it says eg A, A, 5,5,3)
  9. pair (two cards of same value)
  10. high card (no other hand)

In the result of 2 players having the same hand (eg a pair of aces), the high card kicker (the highest card after the Aces) determines the winner.

The order of play in Hold'em is determined by the "dealer button". This is a visible marker that rotates between the players, in a clockwise motion, before the start of each new hand. The player left left of the button always acts first in any given betting round. The player who has the button therefore, acts last. This is a huge advantage as this player can wait to see how all the other players act, before making his own decision.

After players are eliminated their hole cards, betting begins with the obligatory blinds. These are small forced bets that ensure that every single pot has a value. In Hold'em, the two players left of the button place these small bets. As the button moves before each round begins, so does the obligation to place blinds. It's always the two players left of the button that pay the blinds. The value of the blinds depends on how big a game you are playing and are only placed on the first round of betting.

So now, we're set up and ready to gamble – the hole cards are fatal and the blinds are in. Let's start gambling!

When it's a players turn to act, he has 5 options.

  1. Call – match a previously made bet
  2. Bet – wager an amount, adding it to the pot
  3. Check – make no bet but stay in the hand. This can only be done if no other player has made a bet before him in this particular round of betting
  4. Fold – drop out of the pot and throw away your cards. Cards should never be shown when folding as this could give an unfair advantage to another player.
  5. Raise – increase the wageed amount

A betting round does not end until all players have either folded or matched the highest amount bet. When ended, all chips are collected into the total pot and the next card (s) deal if applicable. Remember the player to the left of the dealer button always acts first (placing a restricted blind counts as an action).

The first betting round, the pre-flop betting round, begins with just the hole cards in play. When it is completed, 3 community cards are eliminated and the flop betting round begins. Next is the turn betting round where an additional community card is deal, and, lastly, comes the river betting round – with all 5 community cards now on the board.

A little about Hold'em variations

There are 2 variations of Hold'em – Limit and No Limit.

Limit – Each table has a specific limit. This limit determines the forced blind amounts, for example, in a $ 1 / $ 2 game the blinds would be $ 0.5 and $ 1 to get the action started. The small blind is usually half the value of the big blind. Remember to choose a table that suits the amount you have to gamble, there is no point joining a $ 10 / $ 20 table with $ 100 as you stand the chance of being 'blinded' out of the game ie losing your money before you even have a hand good enough to bet on. In a limit game of $ 1 / $ 2, the first bet must be $ 1, a raise would be an additional $ 1. No more, no less.

No Limit – This is the most popular version of Hold'em. Any player can bet or raise any amount – only limited by the amount he has in front of him! If a player puts their whole stack of chips in, they are going "all in". If a later player puts even more chips in, the first player does not lose but will only win the amount equal to his own bet. Should there be a third player in the hand, the two players with remaining chips can continue betting as normal. In this case the players' chips which are all in are matched with the same amount from the other 2 players and are moved to one side as the main pot. The other two players will add any additional chips to what is called a "side pot" and continue as normal.