form throughout much of the world, Texas Hold'em Poker rules are relatively simple. Remarkably similar to 7 Card Stud Poker, there are two primary differences between these distinct games. First, Texas Hold'em is played with blind bets, instead of antes - perhaps the most complicated aspect of Texas Hold'em to learn. Second, while each player does receive two hole cards, the last five cards are shared by all players.
Texas Hold'em Poker can be played with a Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit betting structure; No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker being the most popular of these. When playing with Limit Texas Hold'em Poker rules players may only bet and raise in predetermined increments for each round. Pot Limit Texas Hold'em rules allow players to bet or raise up to the current pot's chip count. As the name implies, No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker rules do not impose a cap on bets or raises, providing players the opportunity to go "all-in." In Mixed Limit Texas Hold'em Poker, the betting structure alternates between Limit and No Limit Texas Hold'em rules.
A small and big blinds are applied in lieu of antes. The blinds for Limit Texas Hold'em Poker are relative to the small bet, with the big blind being equal to the small bet and the small blind normally half that. The small and big bet are indicated by the two dollar amounts in the game's title (example: $2/$4 Limit Hold'em). In No Limit and Pot Limit Texas Hold'em games, the small and big blinds are equal to the figures presented in the game title. Before each deal, the small blind is posted by the player to the dealer's immediate left, with the next player in clockwise rotation issuing the big blind.
Each player receives two cards, face-down, that will remain private unless the game reaches the "showdown" phase. Called the "pocket" or "hole" cards, each player may use one or both of these cards, in combination with the community cards to follow, in order to form the best possible five-card poker hand.
In the first round, the posting of the blinds count as betting actions, though these two players will have a chance to act again at the end of this round. Therefore, the player to the left of the big blind is the first to act once starting cards are dealt. This player, and each successive participant - in clockwise rotation - may call the current bet (the big blind until someone raises), raise, or fold without contributing any chips to the pot.
The small blind has already committed a half-stake to the pot, and may meet the current bet, raise or fold and forfeit the small blind. Note that it is considered a "rookie mistake" for the big blind to fold at this point if no one raises the bet, given that this player is not required to pay any more chips in order to stay in the hand. The big blind, of course, also has the option to raise the bet.
Once all players who have not folded have contributed an equal stake to the pot, the "flop" is dealt. The flop consists of three community cards that are distributed to the center of the table. In live Texas Hold'em Poker, rules dictate that the dealer must burn the top card before dealing the flop (and all subsequent community cards) to the board. To burn a card, the dealer simply discards - face-down - the card on top of the deck. This act reduces any advantage that more observant (or less scrupulous) players may gain from recognizing marks or imperfections on the cards. This gesture is not relevant in online Texas Hold'em Poker.
The second betting round is initiated by the player in the small blind position, or - if this player has folded - by the first active player to the left of the dealer button. This player has the opportunity to check, bet, or fold. Until a player opens the bet with a wager, every player can check, keeping their cards in play without throwing any more chips into the pot. However, if anyone does place a wager, those who had checked must either call or raise the bet to stay in the hand, with folding their cards to the muck pile being the only other alternative.
The fourth community card is dealt to the center of the table, face-up, once the second betting round has concluded. This card is referred to as the "turn." Again, the betting cycle begins with the nearest remaining player in a clockwise direction from the button. In Limit Texas Hold'em Poker games, the betting-raising increments climb from the small bet to the big bet on the turn.
The final card dealt to the communal board is called the "river." This card completes the five, shared up-cards located in the center of the table. At this point, every active player has formed the best hand they possibly can. The last betting round commences, clockwise, as before. If any two or more players do not fold, a "showdown" is required.
Having reached this point in the game, any players abiding in the hand must reveal their cards to the rest of the table. The player who possesses the highest ranking poker hand comprised of any combination of hole and community cards - up to five cards - wins the pot.
If two or more participants emerge with identical hands to tie for the win, the pot is split. A tie can be broken by a "kicker" or high card only if less than five cards are used to complete the hand itself. Thus, two identical straights would split the pot, while a couple of equally valued two-pair hands would be decided by the highest kicker each player held - though if the kickers are also equal, the hand is tied and the pot divided equally.
No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker frequently requires the use of "side pots." When a player chooses to go "all-in" - betting every chip they have - a side pot is formed if the wager is lower than the current bet, or any other players raise the stakes further. This ensures that - in the event that the all-in player wins the hand - that player will receive a share of the pot based on the stakes they were able to meet. The remainder of the pot is issued to the second-best hand.
Side pots may also be created for proposition bets, such as a running pot for the next player to win with the worst possible starting hand, 7-2 off-suit. Such pots tend to be established among seasoned players in live cash games prior to the first deal, though some online poker
rooms - inspired by professional poker players - do offer these "prop-bet" side pots.