Texas Hold ‘em Rules


If you want to be successful in Texas Hold ‘em you must first familiarize yourself with the rules of the game. Without properly understanding the basics you won’t be able to take down the table. This includes knowledge of the hands, chips and various kinds of bets. Fortunately, Texas Hold ‘em is one of the easier variations of poker to pick up – at least when it comes to the basics. Here’s a quick rundown of Texas Hold’em rules.

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Buying chips

Like all poker games in a professional setting, money in Texas Hold ‘em comes in the form of chips. Players must buy a minimum number of chips, the amount of which will be determined by the card room or casino. In cash games and certain tournaments, players have the option of rebuying chips whenever they get knocked out, though most tournaments function within a single elimination format.

Begin Play

In Texas Hold ‘em there can be anywhere between two and ten players to a table, each hoping to hit it big. Before the cards are ever dealt, players are given chips based on the amount of money they buy-in for. For tournaments, every player will buy-in for the same amount, though individuals at cash tables typically only face a minimum buy-in, not a maximum.

Once a dealer is chosen from among the players, the position rotates one place to the left after each hand. The two players to this dealer’s immediate left will have to make forced bets called blinds: a small blind made by the player to the left of the dealer, and a big blind issued by the player to the small blind’s immediate left.

The big blind will be double the small and will serve as the minimum bet for participation in the hand. In some games, each player at the table will have to make smaller forced bets known as antes, which must be made before the cards are dealt.

Deal

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Cards are dealt from the left of the dealer.

After posting the blinds, each player receives two cards dealt face down, known as hole cards. Cards are dealt clockwise, starting with the player in the small blind. The cards are passed out to each player one at a time so that everyone at the table has a one card before anyone receives a second.

In a live casino setting the dealer will typically rotate decks, placing one in the table’s shuffling machine while dealing with the other. This is done to speed up the rate of play. Should a card be exposed or information be revealed to any player in the hand, it must then be shown to/shared with the remaining players in the hand. In most professional settings this will signal a re-deal, though many home games will allow the hand to continue with the exposed card being removed from play.

Betting

Once all players have their hole cards, they enter the first round of betting. Beginning with the player seated to the immediate left the big blind, a position known as “on the bubble,” each player will now have the option of calling the big blind, folding or raising the hand. Calling, of course, is a simple concept, in which the player matches the most recent bet and stays in the hand.

If a player is looking to raise, they must bet at least twice the amount of the current bet, though if they are short stacked and don’t have enough chips to cover that wager, they can go all in for their remaining stack. While raises must be at least double the big blind in the above scenario, the maximum amount a player can wager will be governed by table limits. At a no limit table, a player can bet as much of their stack as they like, while limit tables will be more prescriptive with what wagers can and cannot be made. Likewise certain tables will cap the number of raises that can be made in a single hand.

Be sure to announce your intentions to raise, as simply sliding out chips in some casinos is construed as a call. You also want to slide your chips out as quickly as possible. Taking a long time to bet, or placing in only a portion of the wager and then adding more, can be construed as a string bet if an amount was not previously declared.

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Betting occurs after each round of dealing.

Should a player decide their cards are not good and enough to continue, they throw them face down into the center of the table sit the rest of the hand out. Should either of a player’s cards be exposed during the folding process, they must then be exposed to the entire table so that all current players are on an even playing field. It will also be important that players that have exited the hands refrain from discussing their cards or those that come in later rounds, as these reactions could provide information to players still in the hand, and thus, skew the outcome.

Flop

Once the first round of betting is settled, the dealer will place one card face down on the table then flop three face up in the center. This is called the flop and begins a new round of betting. For each new round of betting, the pot minimums will be reset, so players have the option to check (move the hand along to the next player without putting any money in), fold or bet. The minimum bet will typically be equivalent to the big blind, and all other betting rules apply.

Unlike before, the first person still in the hand to the left of the dealer button will be the first to act. This includes any players who were in the blinds in the previous round. Once a bet has been made, the other players still in the hand have the option to fold, call or raise.

The Turn/River

After burning another card from the deck, the dealer lays out a fourth community card and the third round of betting begins. This is called the turn, and all betting rules from previous rounds will apply. When that round of betting is completed, and should more than one player remain in the hand, one last card is dealt face down, and the final community card (known as the river) will be laid out. The betting rules remain the same for this round, though should more than one player remain in the hand at the end of this round of bets, they will be placed into a showdown.

Showdown

At this point, players must construct the best five-card hand using any combination of their hole cards and the board.The player with the best combination of cards wins the hand and all of the money in the pot. The onus is on the first player to act to reveal their hand, though that is not always necessary. Should another player reveal their hand, their opponent can muck their cards face down so as not to reveal what they were holding – which will be then treated as a fold.

Hand Rankings

Of course, you won’t get very far in a game of Texas Hold’em without knowing what beats what. While we go into the different Texas Hold‘em Hands elsewhere on the site, here’s a quick recap of the rules as far as hand rankings go:

  • High Card
  • One Pair
  • Two Pair
  • Three of a Kind (also called a set)
  • A Straight (five sequential cards; Ace can be high or low)
  • A Flush (Five cards of the same suit)
  • A Full House (A set and a pair)