How to play Texas Hold’em

Jon Pill
Published: March 27, 2021 1:00 PM EDT

What is Texas Holdem poker?

Texas Holdem is the best-known and most popular form of poker. The WSOP Main Event is a no-limit Texas Holdem tournament, as are all the WPT TV final tables. Doyle Brunson went so far as to dub Texas Holdem “the Cadillac” of poker in his book Super/System. With so much popularity surrounding the game, it’s no wonder that players the world over are interested in learning how to play Texas Holdem.

In Texas Holdem, each player gets two cards (their “hole cards”). The table gets five community cards. All active players share the community cards, starting with the flop, then the turn, and then the river. At showdown, each player makes the best five-card poker hand they can from any combination of their hole cards and the community cards.

As with all poker games, a round of betting breaks up the sequence of play. Betting rounds are where strategic decisions are made.

Why do they call it Texas Holdem?

The origins of the name “Texas Holdem” are obscure.

Popular folklore has the game created in the early 20th Century, by Blondie Forbes, a road gambler.

The state of Texas claims that Robston, Texas is the game’s birthplace. But the most likely story is simply that the game became associated with Texas due to its popularity with Texas road gamblers. Regardless of where the game got its name, let’s go over some Texas Holdem rules.

Texas Holdem Rules

Texas Holdem can be played by between two to twenty-two players. Though a more typical game range would be from six to ten players. 

“Heads-up” Holdem games (1-v-1 games) have also become increasingly popular since the early 00s.

In Texas Holdem, players receive two hole cards face down, then five community cards face up. Players can use any combination of board and hole cards to make the best five-card hand they can.

The general populace tends to view “table stakes” as standard for Texas Holdem. Also known as “no-limit,” table-stakes indicate that players can bet, raise, and lose anything up to the number of chips (which represent real money) they have in front of them on the table.

In practice, both fixed-limit and — to a lesser degree — pot-limit games are common variants in most places.

Learning how to play Texas Holdem

If playing live, players usually draw cards for their seats, and for the dealer button. In online poker, the software will automate this for you.

A hand of Texas Holdem begins with the player left of the button beginning the first round of betting. They post a forced bet called the small blind. Then the next player to the left of the small blind posts the big blind (usually this is twice the big blind, but in some cases, it can vary).

Players post antes at this point, which is the minimum bet for playing a round, if the game includes antes.

The dealer then gives each player a starting hand two cards face down. Players can look at their cards from this point on, but may not show them to other players.

A betting round begins, starting to the left of the big blind. Players can either “call” the big blind (i.e. put in chips equal to the big blind), they can “raise” the bet (increasing the stakes), or they can “fold” (in which case they relinquish their hand).

If the pot is unraised, the big blind has the option to raise their “bet” when the action reaches them or to “check” (which is to pass without folding).

The dealer burns a card, and deals out three community cards face up in the middle of the table (this is the “flop”). A second betting round begins with the first player from the left of the dealer. As there are no blinds, all players may have the additional option to “check,” providing no player has made a bet before them in that round.

The dealer then burns and turns the fourth community card face up (the “turn”).

The remaining players partake in another betting round. If playing with fixed limits, this is the round where the bet increases.

The dealer burns and turns the fifth card, which is the final community card (the “river”). The final round of betting takes place.

After the final round of betting is finished, the remaining players show down their cards. This starts with the last player to make a bet or raise that round. Or from the left of the dealer if there was no betting.

At showdown, players can use any five of the seven available cards (two hole cards, and five community cards) to make the highest hand and win the pot. After the winning hand, the dealer button then moves one space to the left, and the next hand begins.

Learn more about poker hand rankings and how to deal poker.

What’s the Difference Between Texas Holdem and Poker?

“Texas Holdem” is one of many kinds of “poker.”

Poker is a term for a group of vying-games (i.e. raise or fold games) that use a shared set of rules for betting and the same standard set of hand rankings.

Texas Holdem is a specific kind of poker. It uses two hold cards and five community cards which distinguishes it from other flop games, like Omaha Holdem which uses four.

Having community cards is what makes Texas Holdem a flop game, and distinguishes them from the other two categories of poker games: stud games and draw games, where cards are not shared between players.

Texas Holdem’s rules are most similar to the other poker variants: Omaha Holdem and seven-card stud.

Where to Play Texas Holdem Online

Thanks to the enormous popularity of Texas Holdem, almost all online poker websites and offline poker rooms offer a Texas Holdem option.

They also tend to offer a wide variety of stakes. Although, you may have to go to one of the major sites for high-stakes games. All sites will offer low to mid-stakes players plenty of options. This is true regardless of whether they play cash games or tournaments.

If you want to play a mix of games that will include Texas Holdem, look for H.O.R.S.E., H.O.E., or H.O. tables. The “H” in these abbreviations stands for Texas Holdem (usually limit Holdem) unless specified otherwise. Additionally, “eight-game mix” tables usually include rounds of both limit and no-limit Holdem in their lineup.

Featured image source: Flickr