Texas Hold'em Rules

Texas Hold’em – the Cadillac of Poker – is by far the best known and most popular variant of poker, and it’s also true for online poker. Like most forms of online poker, Texas Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck which is shuffled before each hand.

To start, each player receives two cards face down that are known as ‘hole cards’. Following on from the hole cards, three rounds of ‘community cards’ are dealt face up into the centre of the table.

The first is called ‘the flop’ and draws three community cards; the second known as ‘the turn’ draws one community card, and the final community card drawn is known as ‘the river’. After each round, players may choose to check, bet, call or fold.

The player with the best combination of the five community cards and two hole cards wins.

Below you’ll find a more comprehensive description of Texas Hold’em Poker:

Betting in Texas Hold’em

Hold’em, as any form of poker, is about betting. Hold’em has four betting rounds. The sizes of the bets depend on the structure of the game, of which Hold’em has three possibilities:

  • No-Limit Game - the most common form of Texas Hold’em. In No-Limit Texas Hold ’em, a player can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the maximum number of chips they have in front of them (known as going ‘all-in’). However, there are caveats; the minimum raise has to equal  the previous bet or raise – unless the raiser has fewer chips than that and would be put all-in. If another player wants to raise again (called a ‘3-bet’), they need to raise at least the amount of the previous raise. It can get a little bit confusing for beginners, but in online poker this is worked out for you.
  • Pot-Limit Game – in Pot-Limit Texas Hold’em, a player can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the size of the pot. In Pot-Limit Hold’em, players may bet or raise any amount over the minimum raise, up to the current pot size (known as ‘betting pot’). The pot raise equals the current size of the pot, plus the current bet amount, plus your call of that bet amount. For example, if the pot is $200 and the current bet is $50, the pot raise would be $200 (pot size) + $50 (bet) + $50 (call) = $300. Your can raise to that amount, plus an additional $50 for your call, making a total of $350.
  • Fixed-Limit Game (also called Limit) – Pre-flop and post-flop, in Limit Hold’em, all bets and raises must be equal to the big blind (in a $2/$4 this would be $4). Post-turn and post-river, all bets and raises must be equal to twice the big blind. (In a $2/$4 this would be $4). The maximum raise is set at four times the big blind in all rounds. This gets easier to remember when playing.

The Blinds

‘Blinds’ are preliminary bets made by two players before cards are dealt. Each hand of Texas Hold’em Poker starts with two blinds – the big blind and the small blind. Prior to cards being dealt, the player to the left of the dealer puts in chips equal (usually) to half the size of the minimum bet for the game. This is the small blind. The player to the left of the small blind (second player to the left of the dealer) puts in chips equal to the minimum bet for the game – this is the big blind.

The reason for the blinds is that if there were no obligation to bet, there would be nothing at stake and the first player to have to make a decision would have no reason to make a bet. The small and big blinds stimulate the action.

The dealer position is indicated by a disk called the ‘dealer button’, or simply, ‘the button’. This is the position from which the dealer would distribute cards if the dealer were one of the players.

Sitting Down

When you first sit down at a table, you must wait for the big blind to arrive at your position. This happens naturally, because the button moves one position to the left (clockwise) after each hand. Alternatively, to get dealt in at the start of the next hand that wouldn’t put you in the small blind or dealer button position, you can ‘post’ (put in a blind the same size as the big blind).

Each player must put both a small blind and a big blind into the pot once each per round. If you ever miss the blinds in a round, you must either wait for the big blind to get to you, or post a blind equivalent to the big blind.

First Round

Once the blinds are in place, the dealer first deals one card face down to each player, then another once face down, starting with the player immediately to the left (who is the small blind). These two starting cards are called hole cards. On screen your hole cards appear face up but don’t worry – only you can see your hole cards. Only the backs of every other player’s hole cards appear on screen. Every other player has a similar view, with only their own hole cards visible.

Each player starts with two cards, and then five cards are placed face-up in the center of the table. These community cards are part of each player’s hand, so each player has access to seven cards. Each player tries to make the best possible poker hand by using five of the seven cards. A poker hand consists of exactly five cards, so only choose the best five of the seven cards. Even if you haven’t had experience with Hold’em, don’t have to worry which are the best cards; the software automatically chooses the best five for you when it comes time to compare hands.

The Flop

Once the betting for the round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to match the total betting – known as to ‘call’ – or fold, the dealer deals three cards face up in the center of the table. These are the first three community cards, also known as ‘the flop’.

The second round of betting takes place. In this round, the betting starts with the first active player (a player who still has cards) to the left of the button. If the small blind called on the first round, that player would be first to act, even though he was next-to-last on the first round of betting. Only in the first round (sometimes called the pre-flop round) does the betting start elsewhere. In all rounds after the first, the first player has two choices:

  • Check, that is, make no bet
  • Bet, that is, make a bet at the proper limit for that round

If no one bets, each player in turn has the same choices. It is possible in every round except the first for no betting to occur. No betting in a round is called being checked around.

If anyone bets, each succeeding player has three choices:

  • Fold – stop playing in the hand and forfeit any money they have bet
  • Call – match the preceding bet
  • Raise – increase the preceding bet

A player who checks retains his cards. If someone bets, when the action returns, a player who checked has the preceding three choices. To check and then raise when the betting returns is known, you guessed it, as ‘check-raising’. If you check with the intention of raising, you risk the possibility that no one will bet.

The Turn

Once the betting for the second round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to check or match the total betting for the round, the dealer deals one more card face up in the center of the table. This fourth of the community cards is called the turn.

The third round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the second round. In a limit game, in the third round and fourth rounds the betting usually proceeds in increments twice the size of the first two rounds.

The River

Once the betting for the third round is equalized, the dealer deals a fifth and final card face up in the center of the table. This last community card is called the river.

The fourth and final round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the two previous rounds.

Showdown

 Once the betting for the fourth round is equalized, the betting is over, and there is a showdown. Remaining active players show their cards and the best hand, comprised of the best five cards from among each player’s combination of two hole cards plus the community cards, wins. The holder of the winning hand is awarded the pot. If there is a tie for the best hand, the pot will be split equally among the tied players.

If the betting is not equalized on the final round, that is, one player bet or raised and no one called, there is no showdown, and the software awards the pot to the player who made that uncalled bet. This is the case on any previous round, as well. If it happens on earlier rounds, no further cards are dealt, because the hand is over.

Sometimes a player runs out of chips before all the betting is over. In such case, one or more side pots are created, and the software awards appropriate main and side pots. When a player is all in, a bet or raise can be made that is not called, but a showdown still takes place.

Players often do not show losing hands. You are entitled, however, to see any cards that were active at the showdown even if they were not shown. Click on “Show previous hand” to bring up a new window that shows the results of the last hand and all the active cards.

In determining the winning hand, the combination of five best cards sometimes includes both a player’s hole cards. Sometimes it includes only one of a player’s hole cards. Sometimes, rarely, no hole cards are used. In such a case, the board would contain some combination better than any hand that can be made using any player’s hole cards. This is called playing the board. When all players play the board, the pot is split equally among all players remaining in the hand at that point.