How to Play Texas Hold’em | Poker Rules
Texas Hold’em stands as the world’s most popular and well-known poker game. The majority of cash games, tournaments, and home poker games around the world are Texas Hold’em games.
Each player in a Texas Hold’em game gets two hole cards, and five community cards are dealt face-up on the board. The object of Texas Hold’em is to make the best five-card poker hand using any combination of hole cards and community cards.
Texas Hold’em uses standard poker hand rankings to determine the winning hand. Let’s take a look at the rules of Texas Hold’em.
Texas Hold’em Rules Overview
Texas Hold’em can be played using limit, pot-limit, or no-limit betting structure. (For more on how each of these structures work, check out our guide to Poker Betting Rules.)
No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular way to play poker around the world. The example hand in this article just below this overview assumes no-limit betting rules.
No matter which betting structure is used, Texas Hold’em is played with a “dealer button” and "blinds". Every hand, one player has the dealer button (or just 'button') in front of them. Whenever a hand ends, the button moves one player to the left.
The player seated directly to the left of the button is the small blind, and the player to the left of the small blind is the big blind. Both of these players must put in a forced bet (hence 'blind') before the hand is dealt. The price of the small blind is always half (or close to half) of the price of the big blind. This system is used in many poker games, so it’s crucial to understand how it works.
Each player in a Texas Hold’em game is dealt two hole cards. The dealer begins each game by distributing these cards one at a time to each player, starting with the player in the small blind position. Hole cards are kept face down throughout the game, and can only be seen by the player holding them.
After every player has two hole cards, the first of four betting rounds begin. Texas Hold’em betting rounds are known as preflop, flop, turn, and river.
Now, let's go over an example hand of No Limit Texas Hold'em.
No Limit Texas Hold'em Example Hand
For this example, we’ll go over a hand from a $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em cash game.
The “$1/$2” denotes a $1 small blind and $2 big blind. After the blinds are posted, the dealer begins dealing one card at a time to each player, starting with the small blind position.
When everyone has their two hole cards, the preflop betting round begins with the player directly to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
- Call (matching the big blind amount).
- Raise (betting at least 2x the big blind, which any subsequent players must at least match to stay in).
- Fold (pushing their cards into the middle and surrendering any chance to win the hand).
So, in our $1/$2 example, the first player can either call the $2 big blind amount, raise to at least $4, or fold.
Suppose the first player raises to $6. The action then moves one player to the left, and this player can either call the $6 bet, or fold. Suppose this player chooses to fold, and the next four players, clockwise around the table, all fold as well.
This brings the action to the player directly to the right of the small blind. The player in this position, known as the “button”, chooses to call the $6 bet.
The small blind folds, surrendering their $1 forced bet into the pot. The big blind, who already has a $2 forced bet in play, makes the call by putting $4 more in the pot to match the $6 raise.
Note that if any of the players decided to re-raise more than $6, the action goes back around to the first player, who can then call the raise, or re-raise again (known as a four-bet). This continues until everyone at the table has either folded or called the current bet.
With the preflop betting round closed, the dealer burns a card, taking the top card off the deck and putting it face-down on the table.
The dealer then deals the first three of five community cards, known as the “flop”. In our example game, the dealer puts these three cards face up for the flop:
The small blind is first to act in all betting rounds after the flop. If the small blind isn’t still in the hand, the next live player to the left of the small blind begins the action.
In our example hand, the big blind, to the small blind’s direct left, is first to act on the flop. The big blind player has the option to check, putting no money in the pot, or bet at least $2, the amount of the big blind.
Let’s suppose the big blind checks. The under-the-gun player now has the same option to check or bet. In this game, the under-the-gun player also checks, moving the action to the player on the button.
The button bets $10, and the action goes back to the big blind player. The big blind calls, and the under-the-gun player folds. The pot is now $37.
The big blind and the button then advance to the turn.
Also known as “fourth street”, the turn is the fourth community card dealt to the board. In our example, the dealer burns another card and deals the turn. The board now looks like this:
The big blind checks, and the button bets $20 into the $37 pot. The big blind raises to $60, and the button calls, putting in $40 more to match the $60 raise. The big blind’s move of checking, then raising when the opponent bets, is known as a “check-raise”.
The pot is now $157, and the two players advance to the river.
The dealer burns another card and puts the fifth and final community card on the board.
This card is known as the river, or “fifth street”. In our example hand, the river is dealt to the board, and the five community cards look like this:
The big blind checks, and the button checks back, keeping the pot at $157. The player who made the last aggressive move (a bet or raise) generally turns over their cards first, and this part of the hand is called the showdown.
The big blind turns over his/her hole cars, revealing:
This hand makes two pair, aces and threes, for the big blind. Using hole cards and community cards to make the best possible five-card hand, the big blind holds A♣ A♥ 3♣ 3♠ J♥.
The button doesn't have to turn over their cards at showdown, as they have the option to "muck" without showing and surrender the pot to the opponent. In this case though the button shows this hand:
The best possible five-card hand with these hole cards is T♠ T♥ A♥ J♥ 9♠. This gives the button a pair of tens, having missed a chance at both a straight and a flush.
The big blind wins this hand, as two pair beats one pair in the poker hand rankings.
The player in the big blind collects the $157 pot. The button and blinds shift one player to the left and a new hand begins.
What if a Hand Doesn't Go to Showdown?
Many Texas Hold'em hands end without anyone even showing their cards. In any betting round, the hand ends when one player bets or raises, and all other players fold. The player that didn't fold wins the pot without a showdown.
In the preflop betting round, the big blind wins the pot automatically if all other players fold before the big blind player gets to act. This is known as giving the big blind a "walk".
In the Event of a Tie (Chopped Pots)
When two or more players turn over hands of equal hand strength at showdown, the hand results in a chop, aka chopped pot. All chips in the pot are divided equally among the players that have the strongest hand.
Starting a New Game
When a new game starts, the initial position of the button and blinds is determined by dealing each player one card. Whoever has the highest-value card, with ace being the high and two as the low, starts the game with the button.
In the case of a tie, the suit of the card determines the winner. The tiebreaker order for suits goes spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs.