For the sake of simplicity, we have chosen to explain the rules that you will encounter playing Texas hold’em poker online. These rules also apply to most Texas hold’em poker games you will encounter in brick and mortar casinos but there are a few variations (typically having to do with the blinds) that we won’t go into here. If after reading the rules you are still unclear about how to play, sign up with an online poker room. It is free to sign up and you can play with ‘play money’ until you get the hang of it.
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
The rules of Texas hold’em are simple to understand. At a full table, you will be playing with nine other players. After each deal, a small, circular puck (called the ‘button’) is passed from one player to the next, rotating clockwise. Since all games feature a house dealer, the button is used to denote which player will be representing the dealer on each deal. The primary benefit of having the button is that you will be able to act last on all future betting rounds (except for the first betting round). Being able to act last is always an advantage in poker, since you will be able to see how much your opponents like their hands before you have to commit any money to the pot.
At the beginning of each hand, the player to the button’s left is forced to make a ‘blind bet’, equal to 1/2 of the small bet (the small bet is equal to the bet increments before the flop and on the flop. In a $3/$6 game, a small bet is three dollars. In a $10/$20 game, a small bet is ten dollars. The big bets, which are the betting increments on the turn and the river, would be six and twenty dollars respectively). This player is called the ‘small blind’. Then the player to the small blind’s left posts an amount equal to one small bet. This player is called the ‘big blind’.
Once the blinds are posted, each player is dealt two cards face down. The first player to act is the player to the big blind’s left. He can fold, call a bet equal to one small bet, or raise to two small bets. These are his only options. After he has acted, the player to his left must act. If the first player raised, his only options are to fold, or call the raise, or to reraise to three small bets. Every player acts after the player to his right acts, moving around the table clockwise. When it’s the small blind’s turn, she can either fold, or call, or raise. The amount that she has already put into the pot—her small blind—is considered ‘live’ money, which means it counts towards the amount that she must call. So, in a $1/$2 game, if nobody has raised, the small blind need only put fifty cents into the pot to call. If there has been one raise, she need put in $1.50, as opposed to the 2 dollars that all other players must put into the pot. If she wants to raise, the amount of the small blind is again deducted from the total amount she must ‘put in the middle’. The same rules apply to the big blind as apply to the small blind, except that, if nobody has raised, the big blind can either raise by putting an additional small bet in the pot, or elect to see the flop without having to put up any money other than the amount he already put up for his big blind.
After the pre flop betting round has concluded, three cards are placed face-up in the middle of the table. This is called the “flop”. All of the cards on the flop are community cards, which means all players still active in the hand can use these cards to make their best five card poker hand. The betting round on the flop is essentially the same as the action before the flop, with the bets coming in increments of one small bet at a time, except that here the player who was the small blind must act first (as opposed to the player to the left of the big blind, who acted first before the flop) and the player on the button gets to act last. After the flop betting round has concluded, a fourth community card is turned face-up. This card is called the “turn”. The betting round here mirrors the betting round on the flop, in terms of who must act first and who acts last, except that now the bets have doubled in size. In a $1/$2 game, for example, the bets now come in increments of two dollars.
After the turn action, a fifth community card, called the “river”, is turned face-up. The betting round on the river is exactly the same as the betting round on the turn, with bets coming in increments of two dollars. This is the last card of the hand. When the river betting round is finished all players still in the hand must turn their hands up, and make their best five card poker hands out of the seven cards available. Texas’hold ’em is a ‘cards speak’ game, which means the house dealer will declare your hand for you.
THE HIERARCHY OF HANDS
In case you haven’t played any poker before, or just need a review, following is the hierarchy of hands. If you haven’t already, your first task is to MEMORIZE this list. The best hand is a straight-flush, and so on down the list.
(h = hearts, c = clubs, d = diamonds, s = spades, T = 10)
All five cards are not only of the same suit but they are also in sequential rank.
Example: Ac Kc Qc Jc Tc or 8d 7d 6d 5d 4d
Four of your five cards are of the same rank.
Example: 9c 9d 9s 9h 2h
Three of your five cards are of the same rank, and the other two are equal each other in rank.
Example: Qh Qs 3s 3h 3d
All five cards are of the same suit.
Example: 2h 7h 9h Jh Ah
All five cards are sequential in rank.
Example: Qd Jh Td 9s 8s
Three of your five cards are of the same rank.
Example: 7h 7d 7s Ah 4d
7. Two Pair
Two cards are equal to each other in rank, and two other cards are also equal to each other in rank.
Example: Kd Kh 3s 3d 8h
8. One Pair
Two cards that are equal each other in rank.
Example: 9h 9d Qs 4h 5d
9. High Card
At least one card in your hand is higher than the highest card in an opponent’s hand.
Example: As 7s 4d 3c 2c beats Kd Js 9h 7c 4h
In the case that two opponents both have a flush, for example, or both have a three-of-a-kind, the player with the higher flush, or higher three-of-a-kind wins. Here are a few examples to consider:
9c 9d 9s 9h 2h beats 4d 4h 4c 4s As
4d 4h 4c 4s As beats 4d 4h 4c 4s Ks
2h 7h 9h Jh Ah beats 2h 7h 9h Jh Kh
Qd Jh Td 9s 8s beats Jh Td 9s 8s 7d
7h 7d 7s Ah 4d beats 7h 7d 7s Jh 4d
Kd Kh 3s 3d 8h beats Qd Qh 3s 3d 8h
Kd Kh 3s 3d 8h beats Kd Kh 3s 3d 7h
That’s basically all there is to it. Because of the community cards, it can often be difficult for beginners to know exactly what they have, and harder still to know when they are tied with another player. To this end, we suggest that all new players take a look at the ‘Reading the Board’ quiz.
Now that you’re finished reading this tutorial of how to play Texas Holdem Poker, take the quiz to see how well you play poker.