How to Play Texas Hold'em

# of players: 2-10 per table.

A normal table holds 9 or 10 players. Any less than that and the table is considered SHORT-HANDED. A game of Texas Hold’em between two players is called HEADS-UP.


The POSITION where a player sits at the poker table in relation to the sequence in which the cards are dealt (the DEAL) can be a significant factor in determining a player’s course of action at any given point in a round of Texas Hold’em (a HAND). Therefore, the deal rotates around the table each hand with each player taking a turn as the dealer, to allow every player the chance to play in each position, ensuring a fair game.

The term “hand”, incidentally, is used to refer both to a full round of Texas Hold’em, from the first deal to the determination of the winner, and to a player’s combination of cards in that hand.

To determine which player at the Texas Hold’em table will be the first dealer, a single card is dealt out to each one with the deal going to the player holding the highest card (Ace high).

The dealer in each hand is identified by a white chip placed in front of them. This is called the BUTTON. The player in this position is often referred to as being on the button.

After each hand of Texas Hold’em the deal rotates one position to the left.

Sequence of Play in Texas Hold’em

The Deal/Pre-Flop

The dealer deals out two cards face down to every player. These are called a player’s HOLE CARDS. Your hole cards are the only cards in Texas Hold’em that are your own. All the rest of the cards dealt in the hand are COMMUNITY CARDS that every player can use in their hand as they see fit. Your hole cards, therefore, are the key element in deciding how to act in any given hand of the game.

This phase of the game, up to and including the first round of betting that follows the deal of the hole cards, is called PRE-FLOP. It is at this point, after the hole cards are dealt, that the first round of betting occurs, in which players have their first opportunity to wager on the potential of their hand, or fold their cards and leave the hand.

The Flop

After the first round of betting is complete, the first three community cards are dealt face-up in the center of the table. This is called the FLOP. Following the flop, for any players still remaining in the hand, is the second round of betting.

The Turn

After the second round of betting is complete, another community card is dealt face-up in the center of the table. This is called the TURN. Following the turn, for any players still remaining in the hand, is the third round of betting.

The River

After the third round of betting is complete, one final community card is dealt face-up in the center of the table. This is called the RIVER.

At this point, all the cards that will be dealt in the hand have been dealt. As the players proceed now through the fourth and final round of betting in the hand, it is the strength of this hand, that is the best five-card poker hand each player can make with his two hole cards and the five community card, that will determine the winner of the pot, should it come down to a SHOWDOWN.

The Showdown

If at least two players remain after the fourth and final round of betting, the showdown occurs. This is when it is finally time for the players to reveal their hole cards and determine which of the remaining players’ hands is strongest. That player is declared the winner of hand and receives all the chips in the pot.

Betting in Texas Hold’em

Money in Texas Hold’em is represented by POKER CHIPS (or CHIPS). When players place their bets at various points in the game, they do so by placing the equivalent amount of chips into the center of the table, or the POT. Once a player has placed chips into the pot, the only way he can retrieve them is by winning the hand.

It is the chips in the pot that the players have at stake and the chips in the pot that each of them are vying for.

Betting Actions

After every deal (pre-flop, flop, turn, river) and before the next, players are given the chance to bet. The following are the choices of betting actions a player may take:

Fold – placing no chips into the pot and removing yourself from the rest of the hand.

Check – placing no chips into the pot, while remaining in the hand. This is only permissible if you are the first to bet in a given round or if everyone in turn before you has also checked.

Call – placing into the pot an amount equal to the current standing bet. (In the case of the first bet placed pre-flop, that amount would be equal to the big blind.)

Raise – placing more chips into the pot than either the big blind or the current standing bet (whichever is applicable). This forces the other players at the table to either call your raise (and place into the pot the difference between what they already placed this round  that extra amount into the pot)

The Blinds

Before the deal, the two players sitting to the left of the dealer button are required to place a set starting bet up front in order to be included in the deal. These set starting bets, which rotate around the table just like the dealer button, are called BLINDS.

The player immediately to the left of the dealer button pays the SMALL BLIND and the player to his left pays the BIG BLIND. The big blind is always double the small blind.

After the deal and pre-flop, in the first round of betting, every player, starting with the one sitting immediately to the left of the player who paid the blig blind, must match at least the big blind in order to remain in the hand. A player may choose, at this point, to pay nothing and simply give up his cards and any chane of winning the pot.

In tournament poker, the blinds increase at regular intervals; in cash games the blinds are unchanging.

Texas Hold’em Betting Basics

Betting in Texas Hold’em rotates in sequence around the poker table in a clockwise manner.

A player may check if no previous bet has been placed, but otherwise must at least call the current standing bet or fold out of the hand.

A player may fold out of the hand at any point in the game, as long as it’s during any betting round and on his turn. Once a player folds, he relinquishes any chips he has placed into the pot.

The amount a player can bet at any given point in the game may be restricted depending on what style of Texas Hold’em is being played—FIXED LIMIT (in which betting and raising increments are pre-set before the deal; POT LIMIT (in which betting and raising increments are restricted by the amount of chips currently in the pot); and NO LIMIT (in which the only restriction on how much a player can bet is the maximum number of chips remaining in their personal CHIP STACK (or BANKROLL).

A player in No Limit Texas Hold’em betting their entire chip stack is said to be going ALL-IN.

Quick Glance at a Hand of Texas Hold’em

  • Pre-Flop
    • Small and big blinds paid
    • 2 hole cards dealt face-down to every player
    • Betting Round 1: in turn, players either call or raise the big blind and any preceding raises, or fold out of the hand.
  • Flop
    • 1st 3 community cards dealt face-up
    • Betting Round 2.
  • Turn
    • 4th community card dealt face-up
    • Betting Round 3
  • River
    • 5th (and final) community card dealt face-up
    • Betting Round 4
  • Showdown
    • Hole cards revealed
    • Winner determined

Now that you know how to play Texas Hold'em, check out our Texas Hold'em strategy or browse this list of the best Texas Hold'em poker sites (if you would like to play Texas Hold'em online for real money).