How to play Texas hold'em poker for beginners

How to play Texas Holdem - Poker.org
Author Adam Hampton
Adam Hampton
Posted on: March 27, 2021 06:00 PDT

Quick-start Texas hold'em poker guide

  1. Every player gets two hole cards
  2. Three communal cards are dealt (‘the flop’)
  3. One more communal card is dealt (‘the turn’)
  4. A final communal card is dealt (‘the river’)
  5. All remaining players reveal their best five-card hand, using all seven available cards
  6. The strongest poker hand wins the pot

Betting rounds take place between each step, until step 5.

If you want to learn how to play poker, you’ll want to learn how to play Texas hold'em. It’s by far the most popular kind of poker in the world, wherever you go. If you’ve seen poker on TV - at the WSOP or WPT, for example - it’s almost certainly been Texas hold'em.

So, why is that? Why is Texas hold'em poker more popular than other variants? Well, hold'em is easy to learn, but has enough depth to it to keep you fascinated for a lifetime.

At PokerOrg we sure know poker, and by the end of this page, so will you.

Texas hold'em is the widest player poker variant, and the game you're most likely to see on TV Texas hold'em is the widest player poker variant, and the game you're most likely to see on TV
Spenser Sembrat

What is Texas hold'em poker?

Like all forms of poker, Texas hold'em is about making a poker hand which is stronger than your opponents’ hands - or, at least, making them think you have a stronger hand.

Which hands beat which other hands is something you’ll pick up quickly as you play, but if you need a reminder just bookmark our page of poker hand rankings . These hand rankings apply to Texas hold'em, as well as almost every other poker game there is.

Texas hold'em - cards

In Texas hold'em poker each player receives two ‘hole cards’ - cards that can only be seen and used by the player who receives them. No peeking!

Five community cards, also known as ‘board cards’, are then dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Every player can use the seven cards available to them to make their strongest five-card hand.

Texas hold'em - betting rounds

Four betting rounds take place during a full hand of hold'em, in which each player has to match the biggest bet of the round, or fold and give up the chance to win.

Every player has the chance to raise the bet, and any raises must be matched (or ‘called’) by all other players if they want to stay in the hand. Note that if all players choose to ‘check’ - i.e. bet nothing - they all remain in the hand. If at any point only one player remains, they win the pot instantly.

These betting rounds take place at the following points in the hand:

  • When everyone first receives their two hole cards (‘preflop’)
  • After the first three community cards have been dealt (‘the flop’)
  • After the fourth community card is dealt (‘the turn’)
  • After the fifth and final community card is dealt (‘the river’)

Following the final betting round, if more than one player remains, everyone still in shows their cards and the strongest poker hand wins. This is called ‘the showdown’.

When five cards have been dealt to the board the final betting round takes place, followed by the showdown When five cards have been dealt to the board the final betting round takes place, followed by the showdown
Joe Giron

Learn Texas hold'em poker the easy way

If you’re learning how to play poker Texas hold'em is a great place to start. And if you’re learning how to play Texas hold'em, the easiest way is to see how a hand plays out from start to finish.

Note that you can play the game with anything from two players up to 9 or 10 on a single table - it’s technically possible to play with more, but it won’t be a comfortable experience crammed round the table! Tournaments give you the chance to play with hundreds or even thousands of players in the same game, but these will be across multiple tables.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how no-limit Texas hold'em works.

Step 1: Pre-flop

Every player is dealt two face-down hole cards, which only they can see.

The player to the immediate left of the dealer has to make a forced bet, known as the small blind. This is a fixed amount which is agreed upon before the game begins.

The player to their left has to make a larger bet, known as the ‘big blind’. Again, this is determined before the game starts, and the size of these blinds is often used to describe the size of the stakes. In the example of a ‘$1/$2 game’, the blinds are $1 and $2.

Once the blinds are in the pot, the first betting round then takes place, with every player required to either call the bet of $2, raise it, or fold. Once each player has either put in the same amount as the others, or folded, the game moves on to…

Step 2: The Flop

Three communal cards are spread in the middle of the table, for all players to use.

Once more, a betting round takes place. When no one has bet, it is possible to ‘check’. This means you choose not to bet, but haven’t folded. As soon as one player bets, though, everyone else must at least match that bet to stay in the hand. Otherwise, they can either raise the bet, or fold.

Step 3: The Turn

A fourth communal card joins the other three, making four cards on the table that anyone can use.

A further betting round takes place.

Step 4: The River

The final board card is dealt, alongside the others, making five communal cards for everyone to share and two private hole cards per player. Using these seven cards, players mentally make their strongest possible five-card hand (according to the hierarchy of poker hands ).

The last betting round of the hand takes place, after which any remaining players show their cards in what’s called the ‘showdown’. The strongest hand wins.

Texas hold'em is the game played to determine the WSOP World Champion Texas hold'em is the game played to determine the WSOP World Champion
Jamie Thomson

How to win Texas hold'em hands

As we can see above, having the strongest hand at showdown will win you the pot. An unbeatable hand is known as ‘the nuts’, and is one of the best feelings in poker!

However, take note that any players who fold during a betting round are out of the hand, and when only one player is left they win the pot - no matter which stage of the hand they’re at - and a new hand is dealt.

It’s possible to bet big with a strong hand and make the other players fold. That said, it’s also possible to bet big with a terrible hand and make the others fold! That’s called bluffing, and it’s a great tool to use at the table, but be careful when you’re starting out; many a beginner has come unstuck trying to carry off an audacious bluff. It’s better to focus on your fundamental understanding of strategy before adding a lot of bluffs to your game.

That’s why we’ve broken down five of the key strategic elements new players should be aware of when learning how to play Texas hold'em.

Learning Texas hold'em strategy - the basics

While knowing how to play Texas hold'em is one thing, learning how to win is another.

Follow these fundamental poker tips to get yourself in the best position to win at Texas hold'em.

Texas hold'em Strategy tip 1: Poker starting hands

Those two-card combinations you’re dealt before the flop are important. Some combos will win more hands than others, so the more you focus on those hands, the more pots you’re likely to win.

The best starting hands in Texas hold'em are high pairs. Hands like , and are very strong, as you already have a good pair.

Combinations of high cards like and are also great to start with as, if you do make a pair using the communal cards, it is likely to be the highest pair. It’s even better if these high cards are of the same suit (‘suited’), as you’ll then have a better chance of making a flush.

Cards that make middle pairs, like up to , can also be strong, as are cards that have good potential to make either a straight or a flush, such as suited. Combinations like this that are next to each other in rank, and of the same suit, are known as 'suited connectors'.

You may have heard offsuit (i.e. not of the same suit) referred to as the worst hand in poker; this is because these are the lowest two cards you can hold that can’t combine to make a straight or a flush.

Texas hold'em Strategy tip 2: The importance of position

With every bet you make during a betting round, you are giving out information. For example, you would expect a big bet from a player to indicate they are confident and hold a strong hand. A check, meanwhile, will often indicate a weaker hand which a player is hoping will improve by seeing more cards for free.

For this reason, players who act after others have an advantage; they are able to see each other player’s action before they themselves have to act, and so have more information.

If you act after another player, you are said to ‘have position’ on them, while they will be ‘out of position’. Position is such an important advantage that the dealer position changes after every deal. This ensures that no players enjoy this advantage more than any others.

Texas hold'em Strategy tip 3: Understand bet-sizing

It’s natural to want to bet big when you have a strong hand, and to bet smaller when you are unsure or hoping to improve your hand. Again, this is information you are giving off when you bet, so make sure you pay attention to other players’ bet sizes.

Likewise, this is information other players can pick up from you, so do your best to make sure you aren’t giving away too much info with the size of your bets. Change it up and try to stay unpredictable.

Texas hold'em Strategy tip 4: Pot odds

You’ll often be in a position where you need a specific card to come on the turn or river to make your hand. For example, if you have four hearts you’ll need one more to make a flush, or if you have 3-4-6-7, you’ll need a 5 to make a straight.

Sometimes it’s worth calling a bet to try and hit the card you need, but sometimes it isn’t. How can you tell the difference?

The answer lies with something called ‘pot odds’, and here’s an example to help you learn how to use it to your advantage.

Let’s say you’re on the turn and there is $100 in the pot; you have to call a bet of $10 to stay in the hand and see the last card. The ratio of money you can win vs money you have to pay is known as the ‘pot odds’. In this case you have pot odds of 10 to 1 ($100 to $10).

Now let’s say you have four hearts already and need one more to make your flush. Subtracting your two hole cards and the four communal cards you can see, there are 46 possible cards that could come on the river. Nine of these are hearts, and 37 aren’t, so your odds of making your flush and winning are 37 to 9, which equates to just a fraction more than 4 to 1.

When your pot odds (10 to 1) are longer than your odds of winning (4 to 1), it’s generally worth making the call.

There’s an even easier way to think about this: imagine a coin flip where you lose $1 every time it comes up heads, but win $2 each time it’s tails. Your ‘pot odds’ - the money you can win vs the money you pay - is 2 to 1. But your odds of winning are 1 to 1: the pot odds are longer than the winning odds. Over time, the more you play, the more you’ll win, and it’s exactly the same principle in poker.

Know your odds: The rule of 4 and 2

A useful shorthand for figuring out your percentage probability of hitting the card you need is the rule of 4 and 2.

  1. Count the number of ‘outs’ you have (an out is the card you need, for example if you have 4 clubs on the flop and need one more to make a flush, you have 9 outs).
  2. If you are on the flop with two cards to come, multiply your outs by 4 (eg. 9 x 4 = 36%)
  3. If you are on the turn with one card to come, multiply your outs by 2 (eg. 9 x 2 = 18%)

Texas hold'em strategy tip 5: Spot the nuts

Once you’re familiar with poker hand rankings , it’s important to be able to read the ‘board’ (i.e. the community cards) and identify what cards people might hold that you can beat, and which ones will beat you.

When you first start learning how to play Texas hold'em it’s easy to focus on your own cards too much, without paying attention to the danger signs that may be out there.

Let’s say you have in your hand and the flop comes out , giving you the top pair and the top kicker. Pretty strong, right? Now what if we told you all three of the cards on the flop were spades? Still as confident?

With three of the same suit on the board, someone holding two spades will have a flush. And if a fourth spade came on the turn, any player with a spade would have you dead in the water.

So here’s a useful exercise you can do by yourself: take a shuffled deck of cards and deal out three off the top. Which two hole cards would you need to make the ‘nuts’, the very best hand possible? Now deal another - has anything changed? What cards might come on the river that could possibly change the best possible hand?

For example:

You deal out a flop of:

What are the best two hole cards you could have right now? That’s right: two aces.

Now deal another card, so we have:

Are two aces still the best hole cards you could have? Nope. A would make a straight, and the next best hand would be a for a lower straight.

But what cards might come on the river that would make an even stronger hand than a straight?

Any diamond would make a flush possible, while any , , or would make a full house possible, or even four-of-a-kind - all of which beat a straight.

This is a useful exercise to help you learn how a hand’s strength can change as new cards are dealt.

How to play Texas hold'em poker - FAQs

How do you win Texas hold'em poker?

There are two ways to win a hand of Texas hold'em poker. The first is to have the strongest five-card hand at the showdown. The second way is to be the only player left in the hand who hasn’t folded, for example by making a raise that no other player will call.

How do you deal Texas hold'em poker?

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer button (in the small blind position), deal one card to each player, moving clockwise round the table, and then a second card - all face-down. After the first betting round, deal three cards face-up in the center of the table (the flop). Following the next betting round, deal a fourth card face-up alongside the flop cards (the turn). After the next betting round, deal the last card to the board (the river). Make sure not to accidentally show any other cards, including the card on the bottom of the deck. Shuffle after every hand.

What beats what in Texas hold'em?

The strongest hand is a royal flush, which is an ace-high straight, all of one suit. The lowest hand is a five-card combo with no pairs, straights or flushes. For the full breakdown of what beats what in Texas hold'em, check out our poker hand rankings page .

What is Ultimate Texas hold'em?

Ultimate Texas hold'em is a casino table game which is played against the dealer, not other players. It has similarities to regular Texas hold'em, in that you are trying to make strong poker hands using seven cards, but it is not considered a poker game.

How many players can play Texas hold'em together?

It is very rare for more than 10 players to play at the same table in the same game. 8-10 players is considered a ‘full-ring’ game, while many games you’ll find comprise just 6 players (‘6-Max’). In a multi-table tournament you can play against many more players - even tens of thousands - but this will be on multiple separate tables. A game with just two players is known as a ‘heads-up’ game.