Rules of poker: Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker game played in casinos and at home around the world. There are countless movies, TV shows and books about it, and it’s the variant that many people think of first when they hear the word «poker».
Texas Hold’em is a strategy game that requires a combination of luck and skill to succeed. The basic rules of Texas Hold’em poker are relatively simple, but the game quickly becomes more complex as you get to grips with the many nuances and strategies. Texas Hold’em poker is so popular due to its many different strategies and ways to play.
Basic poker terms
Before we get to the actual rules of Texas Hold’em poker, we’d like to explain a few key terms here. Understanding these terms is essential to be able to follow the course of the game.
- SMALL AND BIG BLIND:
In poker, the term «blind» refers to a forced minimum bet that certain players have to place. The big blind is usually twice the amount of the small blind. The blinds are placed at the beginning of each round. The player to the left of the dealer must bet the small blind, the player to the left of the small blind is in the big blind. Each additional player who wants to enter the hand must make a bet equal or greater to the big blind.
- HOLE CARDS:
The players’ two cards are called «hole cards». These remain hidden throughout the game and may only be seen by the player himself, not by the opponents.
- COMMUNITY CARDS:
The five cards placed in the middle of the table are called «community cards». These can be claimed by all players for their hand.
To «bet» means nothing more than to make a wager. You wager you’re holding the best hand. A bet is therefore simply a wager.
«Check» means that a player does not want to place (any more) bets in this round, but wants to keep their existing bet. In principle, checking is only possible if no player has already placed a bet in the betting round. In the first round, only the big blind has the opportunity to check, and only if none of their fellow players have placed a higher bet in the meantime. In future rounds, all players have the option of checking. When all players in the game check, the next card is shown, but the pot does not increase. However, if a player in the round decides to increase their bet, the option to check is lost. The player then has the option to surrender their cards («fold»), match the bet («call») or increase the bet («raise»).
When you «call», you’re confirming that you are matching a bet. This means that a player makes a bet of the same amount as the player or players before them. You can also say that the player has «called».
«Raise» refers to increasing a stake. So if a player doesn’t just want to just match the previous bid, but wants to exceed it, it’s called a raise. As a rule, your raise must be at least equal to the last bet in the current betting round. An exception to this rule applies if a player no longer has sufficient game credits to make the minimum raise amount. In this case, they are allowed to go «all-in» – i.e., bet all their chips to make the raise. This rule may vary depending on the game variant. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the poker rules of the table before the game or clarify these points with your friends before the game starts.
Another option in Texas Hold’em poker is to give up your hand, or «fold». Discarding the cards ends the current game for the player. The player therefore has no right to the pot and must wait until the next round before being allowed to play again. If the option is between fold and check (if the previous player did not raise), check is always the better option. This allows you to stay in the game for longer and thus still have the chance to win the pot without having to increase your bet.
When you compare hands at the end of a poker game, it’s known as a «showdown». The first player turns up their hand, the subsequent players have the choice of whether they want to reveal their cards or hand their cards face down to the dealer. Strategically, it often makes sense not to reveal your own cards unless they trump the cards that have already been revealed. Who has to reveal their cards first depends on the table rules. It’s best to clear up this point before your first game.
A Texas Hold’em game requires at least two players. However, usually more players, up to a maximum of ten, play at a table. A poker card set (without jokers) with 52 playing cards is required for the game. The set thus contains the cards from two to ace in all four suits.
Before starting the game, the two blind amounts must be determined. When playing in a casino or online casino, the blinds are already defined and specified. When playing with friends, they should be determined at the beginning of the game according to the poker rules. The big blind is usually double the small blind.
At the start of a new round of Texas Hold’em poker, the dealer for the first round must first be determined. A card is dealt face up to all participants at the table. The person with the highest card is the first dealer. If two players have the same highest card, the card suit is the determiner, according to the order established in bridge: the highest suit is spades (♠), followed by hearts (♥) and diamonds (♦). Clubs (♣) is therefore the lowest suit.
The role of the dealer moves clockwise with each game. Note, however, that in the casino the croupier always deals the cards himself. Nevertheless, a dealer button is still distributed clockwise. The dealer button serves as a virtual dealer that simulates the change of dealer.
The aim of Texas Hold’em poker is to make the best possible five-card hand by combining your own hole cards and the community cards. The remaining two cards (from the five community cards and the two hole cards) are not considered for the evaluation of the hands. Here are the best hands in order from best to worst:
- Royal flush: ace, king, queen, jack, ten all of the same suit
- Straight flush: a straight with five cards of the same suit
- Four of a kind (Poker): four cards of the same kind
- Full House: three cards of the same kind and two cards of the same kind
- Flush: any five cards of the same suit
- Straight: five sequential cards
- Three of a kind: three cards of the same kind
- Two pairs: two cards of the same kind and two other cards of the same kind
- One pair: two cards of the same kind
- High card: if none of the above combinations have been reached, the person with the highest card wins
Pre-flop: blinds and hole cards
Before the cards are dealt, the blinds must first be set. The player to the left of the dealer must bet the small blind, the player to the left of this player bets the big blind. Simply place the corresponding amount of chips in front of you on the table.
Once the two blinds have been placed, the dealer begins dealing the cards and each player receives their two hole cards face down.
The first to play is the person to the left of the big blind. They now have three options for their move:
- Call: the player places a bet equal to the big blind
- Raise: the player raises and bets at least double the big blind
- Fold: the player withdraws
One by one, all players now make their decision. Wagering continues until the bets are completely balanced, i.e., until all players who wish to stay in the game have made the same bet.
Since each of the players has the same options listed above, it is also possible that there will be a «re-raise». This happens when a player has raised and is then outbid by another player’s raise. The first player must therefore raise their bet again to the new, higher level if they want to stay in the game.
If all people at the table place their bet equal to the big blind and there is no raise, then the person in the big blind has the option to check in addition to raising. This is because this player has already placed a bet equal to the big blind.
First round: the flop
When all players have placed their bets, the dealer reveals three community cards in the middle of the table, which all players can claim equally. These first three cards are known as the «flop» in technical jargon.
All bets made during the betting round are moved to the center of the table and form the pot to be won in that round. After the flop has been laid out, another round of betting follows, starting with the player in the small blind (i.e., the player to the immediate left of the dealer). Players who dropped out before the flop will no longer take part in this round.
In the second betting round, players also have the three options noted above: call, raise and fold. However, there is also the possibility to check. This option is only available if the other players have not placed a bet beforehand. Once a player raises in the round, the other players must at least equal the bid.
Second round: the turn
As soon as all players have paid the maximum bet or have dropped out of the game, the fourth community card, the «turn», follows.
There is another round of betting that follows the pattern described above. All players have the opportunity to call, raise, fold and, if necessary, check. The new betting round begins with the first player to the left of the dealer that remains in the game.
Third round: the river
When all bets are balanced and there are at least two players left in the game, the fifth community card, called the «river», follows.
After the river card has been dealt, the final round of betting follows the same pattern. If there are still two or more players in the game, the showdown takes place.
The first player now shows their hand (the first player to reveal their cards is defined in the table rules and can therefore vary from game to game). The other players in the game may also show their cards, but they do not have to. The player’s own cards must be shown if their combination is better than the cards already revealed, in order to be considered during the analysis. If your cards are worse, it may make sense strategically to not to disclose your own cards.
If more than one hand is exposed, the cards are compared and the player with the best hand wins the pot. In the case of equal hands, the pot is divided among the winners (split pot).
After the pot has been paid out, the position of the dealer, small blind and big blind are moved clockwise by one person. The next round of Texas Hold’em will begin following the same pattern.
End of the game
Even though the description above showed a Texas Hold’em poker round ending with the showdown, this doesn’t mean that in reality every round is only won in the showdown. What’s much more common is that all players except one have already quit beforehand. So, if you have placed a bet or raised in any round and no other player wants to match your raise, you automatically win the round and thus the pot. In that case, you don’t have to show your cards.
Special case: what happens with an all-in?
In Texas Hold’em poker, players often go all-in, meaning they bet all their chips on their hand. In this case, the player pushes all their remaining chips into the middle. If one of the players matches the bet and there are no more opportunities for bets, calls and raises, the face-down cards of the players involved are revealed immediately. The remaining community cards are then placed in the middle and the hands are dealt as in a normal showdown.
But beware: if there are three or more players in the round and only one of them goes all-in, a side pot is formed. The player who is all-in can then only win the main pot. Their cards remain face down until the end of the game. The other players continue to play normally. The possibility for another side pot to form remains until the showdown. The hands are played according to the normal poker rules, with the difference that the player who has gone all-in only has a chance of winning the pot in which they have actually deposited their chips. The other players have the opportunity to win both pots, that is the main and side pot, or any additional side pots if applicable.
Texas Hold’em variants
Texas Hold’em is available in a range of betting variations. The best-known is No Limit Texas Hold’em. In this variant, the player has the option to go all-in at any time when it’s their turn. So your maximum bet is based on the chips available to you.
Pot Limit Hold’em and Limit Hold’em are other variations. These game variants limit the maximum bets that can be placed per bet or raise.
These game variants only affect the maximum amount of bets, but not the rest of the rules. We recommend that you inform yourself about the variant played and the table rules before each game starts. This way, you’ll always be well informed about the maximum bets.
A popular variant of Texas Hold’em poker in casinos or online casinos is the Ultimate Texas Hold’em poker variant. This version of the game is not played against other players as in Texas Hold’em. Instead, the player plays against the bank. Visit our rules page for all the important information about the Ultimate Texas Hold’em poker rules.