As many have said, Texas Hold’em is one of those poker games that take mere minutes to learn, but you can spend a lifetime mastering. The aim of this article is to teach you the basics of how to play Texas Hold’em poker and run you through some strategy.
Texas Hold’em gameplay & rules
Typically in a game of Texas Hold’em any hand will start with the two players to the left of the dealer posting the small and the big blind. The big blind is twice the size of the small blind and both of these bets are used to induce some action into the pot. After the blinds have been placed, two cards are dealt to each player around the table at which point players are forced to make their first decision in the hand. When the action reaches you there are three options that any player can take, either calling, raising, or folding.
Texas Hold’em Poker betting
The rules for Texas Hold’em poker are similar to most other poker games. If a player is going to call, they must place at least the size of the big blind in the pot or if someone has raised, at least the size of the raise. If a player chooses to raise, they must raise at least twice the action in front of them, either the big blind or raise from another player. However it is typical beneficial if a player raises more than the minimum allowable as players will be more likely to concede their hands to a more powerful raise. In No Limit Texas Hold’em forms of poker a player may raise up to their entire stack at any moment when the action is on them in the hand, whereas in limit poker a player may only raise the dictated amounts at the table. Lastly, a player may choose to fold when the action is on them and takes no further part in the hand nor is required to place in any more money. You can read a detailed guide to the betting in Texas Hold’em below.
Once the players have placed in as much money as they would like after the two cards have been dealt, three cards are placed on the community, in Texas Holdem this is referred to as the flop. The players attempt to make the best five card hand by using either zero, one, or both of their dealt cards with a combination of cards on the community.
After the flop has been dealt, the remaining players again are given the option to check, an action that is used to pass the action to another player when there is no bet in front of you, bet, or fold if a bet has been placed out that they do not wish to call.
If a player chooses to bet here, they must bet at least the size of the big blind though it is advised that they bet an amount that is related to the size of the pot. As always, if a player chooses to bet everything they have they can go all in, and will not have to take action in the rest of the hand if they are called. Likewise if a player does not wish to continue in the face of a bet, they can fold and will take no further action in the hand.
Turn Card – Texas Hold’em Fourth Street
After the action on the flop has been settled a single card is placed onto the community, called the turn card or fourth street in Texas Hold’em. There is another round of betting action for any players that are still left in the hand.
The River or fifth card
Once the betting action has been settled on the turn, if there are still at least two players left in the hand a fifth and final card is turned over, known as the river or fifth street.
A final round of action occurs between any players which are left in the hand. If the pot is settled and two or more players are still involved, all remaining players are required to show their cards, at which point the player with the best five card hand will be given the pot.
At the conclusion of the hand, another hand will be dealt and the blinds will move over to the next two players as a dealer button symbolizes the dealer around the table. Any player who has lost their entire stake will either be eliminated if it is a tournament setting or will be forced to get more money if they choose to continue in a cash game setting.
Ways to win in Texas Hold’em
There are different ways of winning Texas Holdem, either by making the best five card hand or by forcing out your opponent by making a wager that they cannot call. The majority of the hands played do not end up reaching the showdown stage after the river, so betting is especially important in this game.
It becomes very important for players to learn the right amounts to bet and the right cards to play as both of these lessons can turn a player from a losing player to a winning player on any given night.
Of course, no matter what ones skill level is, the element of luck can provide an equalizing factor on any given hand. As the players do not know what cards will be dealt on to the community or what cards their opponents have, frequently the winner of the hand will be decided by what cards fall, something that is both exciting and maddening depending on how well your cards are holding up.
Differences between Limit and No Limit Hold’em
There are two distinct types of Texas Hold’em game and the differences centre around the betting. Basically No Limit Texas Hold’em is when a player can push all-in at any time. While Limit Hold’em will mean there is a bet limit, which can be great for beginners or those looking to play for real money, but at a social level. Here is a detailed explanation of both Limit and No Limit Texas Hold’em:
Betting in Limit Holdem
More: Low Limit Texas Hold’em
There are two big differences between Limit and No Limit Holdem. The first, and most obvious, is the difference in the betting structures. If you are playing $1/$2 holdem the blinds are $.50 and $1.00 respectively, both blinds are posted prior to any cards being dealt. The big blind posts $1.00 (2 seats to the left of the dealer) and the small blind posts $.50 (one seat to the left of the dealer).
Once the cards are dealt the person Under The Gun (one seat to the left of the big blind) will be the first person to act. They can call the $1.00 big blind, raise it to $2.00, or fold. If they choose to raise it to $2.00 the next person can raise it to $3.00, call $2.00, or fold. The raising can continue in $1.00 increments until the maximum number of bets (4) is reached or everyone has called for mucked (folded) their hand. Once everyone has acted three cards are dealt in the middle face up, this is called the “Flop”.
On the Flop the betting patterns are the same as Pre-Flop. It is $1.00 to bet and raising is allowed in $1.00 increments up to $4.00, however it is possible to get through this round without putting any more money into the pot if everyone checks. After everyone has acted one more card is dealt face up.
The fourth card dealt to the board is called the “Turn”. Once the turn is dealt in Limit Holdem the amounts you can bet are doubled. In a $1/$2 game you can now bet $2.00 and raise $2.00 up to a maximum of four bets for a total of $8.00. Again, you can only call, raise, or check if no one has bet.
Once all action is complete on the turn, one final card is dealt face up – It is called the “River”. Bets are once again made in $2.00 increments up to a $8.00 maximum when you can only call. Once the river has been called or checked down all hands are flipped over and the highest 5 card hand using any combination of cards is the winner. Some sites allow unlimited betting in $2.00 increments when the hand is down to 2 players (heads up).
Betting in No Limit Holdem
No Limit hol’dem has blinds just like Limit Hold’em but you can raise any amount at any time. This is especially helpful when you are trying to bluff which is much more difficult in Limit Hold Em. There are only two requirement in No Limit betting. The first is your bet must be, at minimum, the value of the big bet for the table you are playing at. The second is if the pot is raised to you and you want to raise, the minimum amount you can raise is the amount originally raised.
For example, if you are playing 5/10 NL and someone raises on the flop to $55.00 and you want to re-raise the minimum amount you can re-raise in that position is $55.00 making it a total of $110.00. You can raise more if you want to, up to the entire amount you have at the table. You can’t ever raise less unless it is all the money you have at the table effectively putting you All In.
Everything else including how the cards are dealt is the same in No Limit as it is in Limit. The reason somany enjoy it and the game is so much more complex is due to the fact you can go “All-In” betting everything you have at the table any time you want. You can go all-in with 23 in your hand and JT9 showing on the flop and still win the hand if everyone folds. As they say, learning the game takes minutes…to master it, a lifetime!
Hold’em betting tips for Beginners
Most people recommend beginners start with Limit Hold’em to at least get a feel for the game. It is much cheaper to learn the game and make a few bad plays in Limit than it can be in No Limit. If you decide to make a bluff in No Limit it can cost you the entire amount you sat at the table with.
In Limit however if you do make a mistake at least it isn’t for every penny you have. If you have never played poker before in your life, experts recommend playing at least three or four hours of Limit games before you play No Limit. Of course it is your choice, but playing some $.25/$.50 limit hold’em for a couple hours can be a fun, cheap, and definitely entertaining way to learn the game. Whereas learning at $.25/$.50 No Limit can cost you $50.00 in one hand.
Hand rankings in Texas Hold’em
Hand Strengths – strongest to weakest:
1) Straight flush – KQJT9 all of the same suit (Ace High Straight Flush is a Royal Flush)
2) Four-of-a-kind – 4 of the same cards in a 5 card hand
3) Full house – Three of a Kind and a Pair in the same 5 card hand
4) Flush – 5 cards of the same suit
5) Straight – 5 cards in a row, KQJT9
6) Three-of-a-kind – 3 of the same card
7) Two-pair – Two pairs in one hand
8) One-pair – 2 of the same card in one hand
9) No-pair – No cards of the same kind in your hand
Tips for mastering Texas Hold’em
There are so many different aspects to becoming a great poker player and the level of play has never been so high. Some key Texas Hold’em poker skills and strategies you can improve to improve your game are:
Educate yourself about table positions in poker: Whether you play or fold a hand could come down to where you are sitting at the table. For instance you are not going to raise of the flop if you are the first person betting and you have an 8-10 hand, whereas you might if you are betting second last in the round. Read our guide on poker player positions strategy.
Know the rules and game you are playing: This is probably the most important I can give you when playing poker. If you don’t know the rules and have a grasp of the gameplay and its intricacies, you should not be playing for real money. Many poker players make this mistake and it can end your poker career before it began. Don’t make the same mistakes they do: never sit down at a poker table unless you feel like you could write a book about how to play the game.
Know Your Environment: Online poker is vastly different from casino/real-life/”brick and mortar” poker. They’re practically two different games. You can’t play an online game of poker like you would a Friday night game with your buddies, or a high-stakes tournament in Vegas. Online poker is a whole new experience. You need to learn the difference between the two or it will cost you.
Practice Your Game: Nobody gets better by not doing anything. If you really want to be a good poker player and make money, you have to practice. This means playing as much poker as you can fit. Whether or not you’re playing for money, or just playing to play, you need to keep doing it. As any professional poker player will tell you, poker is a game in which you never cease to learn new things.
Study Your Game: Read as many guides, books, tips, strategies… anything you can get your hands on. Poker is a mental game. The more you know, the better off you are. Even better would be to ask a good poker player to teach you, or at least let you watch while they play so you can pick up what they’re doing. Your other option is to learn by trial-and-error, which can be very costly. Study, study, study.
Know Your Opponent: Okay, I know I say this one a lot, but it cannot be stressed enough. Knowing your opponents and how they play is the key to winning online poker. If you know what kind of player your opponent is, you can know when to bluff, call, raise, fold, trap, etc. It becomes a mental duel. I can’t stress how important this is enough. If you know your opponent, you have a huge advantage.
No Attachment: Even if you have a very strong hand at the beginning, you could still lose the game. Never become too attached to a hand. It doesn’t matter if you already have $100,000 in the pot – if you think he has a better hand, you’re usually better off to get out if he bets another $50,000. You don’t want to keep giving your opponent your money. If you have nothing, just let it go.
Don’t Push It: If you keep losing hands when playing Texas Hold’em, take a break. If you just can’t seem to win, don’t keep throwing your money away. Step back, take a walk, read a book… Whatever you want, but stop blowing through your money. Some days are good, and some days are bad. If it seems like every day’s a bad day, reread the other tips, check through this site, or just take some time off.
Real Money Poker: Don’t be fooled by the animations and graphics of the poker rooms. This is the reason that all casinos will exchange your real, hard cash for colourful chips. They don’t want you to look at these little discs and see them as your money. You have a number beside your name that says the amount of money you have. Never forget this. If it says you have $50 in play, think of it as if you had a $50 bill in your hand. This is the most important online Texas Hold’em poker tip. Don’t throw your money away.