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Texas Hold'em Rules

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INTRODUCTION

This is the most popular form of poker played today and understandably so. Its numerous rounds of betting increases not only the pot, but the action and excitement as well. The game is attributed to the Texas Rounders of the 1950s and ‘60s, who played it to milk the Southern U.S. states dry. It is also the game played every spring at the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas, on the World Poker Tour and on several popular television series in the United Kingdom. For these reasons, and because it has easy rules, Texas Hold ‘em is a good game to learn first.

Its easy rules make it a deceptively simple game to play, yet it can take a lifetime to master more so than any other poker game. The ultimate player is an exceptional mathematician with a profound ability to read people and in No-Limit High Stakes Texas Hold ’em, nerves of steel are essential. Edward Norton, who played a Hold ‘em gambler in Rounders, had this to say about the game: “I’d equate it with chess or other games of skill that require multilevel strategic, mathematical, or psychological skills. For the people who play it seriously, there’s no luck involved at all.”

If you want to learn how to play the game so you’re not relying on luck, there are some excellent free online tutorials you should use to try to teach yourself how to play Texas Hold ‘em. PokerStars is one of the biggest online poker sites and has many great interactive, free tools to help you learn poker. Absolute Poker is another site you should visit for great teaching aids and easy-to-follow instructions.

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To be a truly gifted poker player, however, you need to be well-rounded and not a ‘specialist’ of only one game, which many people do by only learning Hold ‘em. Even though it’s hugely popular, don’t neglect developing your abilities in other games. Absolute Poker is a top online poker room with poker leagues, tournaments, big sign-up bonuses and excellent Omaha and Five-Card Stud rooms where you can play for free while you learn the game. They even have six qualifying tournaments for the WSOP and Ladies-only Hold ‘em games. Gorgeous, realistic and world-class graphics make you feel like you’re right in Las Vegas!

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OBJECT OF THE GAME

To win the pot by having the strongest hand at the showdown or by being the only player left in the game when all the other players have folded. You build as strong a hand as you can out of any combination of your pocket cards and the five community cards, or just the community cards (called ‘playing the board’).

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME

The following information gives a detailed explanation of a how a hand unfolds in Hold ‘em. For an easy-to-follow graphic-based explanation of the game, click here.

Theoretically, a 52-card deck can accommodate up to twenty-two people, but usually it is played with eight to ten players.

Hold ’em is played with a wide range of betting limits. The following are some common betting structure variations:

  1. Limit Hold ’em There is a maximum limit you can bet per round and for the entire hand. The small and big blind bets are predetermined: In a $2-$4 game, the small blind is $1 (half or a third of the lower betting limit) and the big blind is $2. During the first two rounds of betting (before the flop and on the flop), you can only bet or raise the lower limit ($2 in this example). You can bet or raise the maximum limit ($4 in this example) only on the fourth and final round of betting, the turn and the river.
  2. Pot-Limit Hold ’em The maximum limit you can bet or raise is the current (also called ‘active’) size of the pot.
  3. Spread-Limit Hold ’em You can bet any amount within the predetermined minimum and maximum. For example, if the spread limit is $5 to $10, you can bet any amount within that range. This betting structure is common at lower limits.
  4. No-Limit Hold ’em There is no maximum limit to how much you can bet or raise. You can bet all of your chips.

 

This format is used to deal all flop games, including Omaha, Pineapple, and Cincinnati, to name a few.

Before explaining the game, there are some terms you should know:

Fold: This is when you give up your claim to the pot and is out for that hand. You keep your cards face-down and return them to the dealer. If your hand is bad, fold.

Call: This is when you put chips in the pot to match the previous bet. If you want to stay in the game and have a chance at winning the pot, you have to have the same amount of chips in the pot that everyone else put in. For example, in the first round of betting, the player to your right bet $2. If you want to stay in the game, you ‘call’ his bet by putting in $2 as well. If you’re really happy with your hand, you might even want to raise, which means putting in more than $2.

Raise: As mentioned above, a raise is when you match what the previous bet was, and raise it. Some games have rules by how much you can raise. There are also rules (sometimes) on the maximum number of raises that can happen per hand.

Check: This means you do nothing when the action comes to you. You don’t call, you don’t fold and you don’t raise. You can only do this if a bet hasn’t been made yet for that betting round. If someone has already placed a bet for that betting round, you can’t check because if you want to still have a claim for the pot, you have to call (match the bet).

Now let’s look at how the game is played:

First Betting Round: Pre-Flop

Texas Holdem Rules

In home games, the role of the dealer moves clockwise by one person after every hand so everyone experiences positional advantage and disadvantage equally (see the Texas Hold ‘em strategy section for more information on this). In live and online casino games, the house always deals and the theoretical position of the dealer is indicated by a dealer button.

Before any cards are dealt, the two players immediately to the left of the person with the dealer button start the action by placing blind bets (similar to antes in other card games) a small blind (also called ‘little blind’) and big blind. They’re called blind bets because the two players haven’t seen their cards yet.

Normally the big blind is the lower limit of the spread/table limit and the small blind is half or a third of the big blind. In a $2-$4 game, the small blind would be $1 (in this case, half of the big blind) and the big blind would be $2 (the lower limit maximum).

Once the two blinds have bet (also said to be ‘posted’), the dealer deals out two cards face-down to every player. These two personal cards are also called ‘hole cards’ and ‘pocket cards.’ Be very careful in protecting the identity of these cards.

After all of the players have looked at their cards, the betting starts with the player directly to the left of the big blind. They can not check as there is money in the pot by the blinds and they have not yet put any money in the pot. They can call (by betting the same amount as the big blind); raise (by betting the same amount as the big blind plus the lower betting limit); or fold their cards and relinquish any claim for that hand’s pot.

For example, in the $2-$4 game mentioned above, since the big blind has already put $2 in the pot, in order for the players to stay in the game and see the flop, they also need to put in $2 (or more if people have raised the pot). Some casinos have a limit to how many raises can be made per betting round usually they are limited to three or four raises per betting round. This is to prevent collusion between two players to force another player out by never-ending raises.

Play moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized (meaning everyone has put the same amount into the pot).

Second Betting Round: The Flop
Texas Holdem Rules

The dealer burns the top card (this means they discard the top card in case anyone saw it to prevent cheating) and deals out three cards face-up on the table, called the ‘flop.’ These are community cards and are available to all players to use in their hand.

When you see the flop, you are looking at 71% of your hand. Good poker players have a few chosen hands they’ll play that come up in the flop, and will fold if they don’t. Remember, you want to maximize your wins and minimize your losses, so if you don’t have a strong hand after the flop, fold; don’t waste money on a weak hand. By educating yourself and practicing a lot, you’ll develop a strategy for what hands to play. Check out our strategies section for tips on good starting hands.

Another round of betting starts with the closest active player (meaning they are still in play and have not yet folded) directly to the left of the dealer. For this round, they bet and raise the lower limit value ($2 in a $2-$4 game).
Players can check and pass until someone bets. After a bet has been made, players wanting to stay in the game must call the bet or raise.

Play moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized.

Third Betting Round: The Turn (also called ‘Fourth Street’)
Texas Holdem Rules

The dealer burns a card and then deals a fourth community card face-up on the table. The bets increase to the higher-tiered amount in a structured game (for example, $4 in a $2-$4 Limit Hold ’em game). This is where the pot can significantly increase in size; consequently, this is where a lot of money can be lost as well.

Players who immediately raise on the turn usually have a good hand. If you have a strong hand, check first to throw off the other players, and then raise. Be cautious of other players benefiting from a flush.

By the turn, you either have a good hand or you don’t; your hand won’t usually improve during the turn or the next round, the river. If your hand is weak and unimproved by the turn card, fold. It gets too expensive to stay in now that the betting limits have increased.

Play starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer button and moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized.

Fourth Betting Round: The River (also called ‘Fifth Street’)
Texas Holdem Rules

The dealer burns a card and then deals a fifth and final community card face-up on the table. As in the turn, play starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer button and moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized.

The Showdown
Texas Holdem Rules

After all of the betting is complete, the players still left in the game turn over their cards to expose their hands. Using any combination of five cards from their pocket cards and community cards (or just the community cards), the player with the highest-ranking hand wins the pot, or splits it if there is a tie.
The dealer button then moves to the person directly to the left and a new hand starts with the riffling, shuffling and cutting of the deck.

TEXAS HOLD ’EM RULES

These rules apply in addition to general poker rules, so be sure to read that section as well.

1. A misdeal occurs if the first hole card dealt is made visible to other players. The dealer will then reshuffle and recut the cards. The deal continues if it was any other hole card. The exposed card can not be used in play. After finishing the hand, the dealer exchanges the exposed card with the top card of the deck and the exposed card becomes the burn card. If two or more hole cards are exposed, a misdeal has occurred and the cards must be dealt again.

2. If the flop has too many cards, it has to be dealt again. (This is the case even if it were possible to figure out which was the extra card.)

3. If the flop is being redealt because it was flopped too soon (before betting was over), or because too many flop cards were exposed, those cards are mixed with the rest of the deck. The burn cards stay on the table. The dealer then shuffles, cuts the deck, and deals another flop without first burning a card.

4. If the dealer exposes the turn card prematurely (before betting was over), that card is removed from play for that round, even if players later on want to fold. Betting is then finished. The dealer burns and turns the fifth card in what should have been the fourth’s card place. Betting ensues, followed by the dealer reshuffling the deck (including the removed card, but not the burn cards nor discards), cutting the deck, and exposing the final river card without burning a card. If this fifth card is exposed to early, the deck is reshuffled and dealt the same way as a prematurely exposed turn card.

5. When the dealer accidentally deals an extra card to the first player (once all players have received their hole cards), the extra card is returned to the deck and is used as the burn card. If the dealer accidentally deals two or more cards, a misdeal has occurred and the hand has to be entirely redealt.

6. Before throwing your cards away, you must state that you are playing the board. Failure to do so results in you relinquishing your claim to the pot.

Be sure to check out our strategies page for general poker and Texas Hold ‘em tips, strategies and statistics.

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