Texas Holdem Poker

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How to play Texas hold 'em

Learn the basics in Texas Holdem Poker

If you have paid any attention to poker at all in the past five years or so, it is most likely that Texas hold 'em is the variation of the game that you have come across. It is by far the most popular version of the game among new players and professionals alike, largely due to the fact that it is relatively easy to learn and still provides a sufficient challenge to a player of skill. It's also a good game for analysis and strategic planning. Let's take a look at how this incredibly popular game is played.

Point of the Game

In Texas hold 'em poker, the goal is to have the best hand possible in each round in order to take the pot. The pot is the amount of money or chips that have been bet over the course of the hand.

The hand itself is made up of two hole cards that are dealt to players face down and are not shown to anyone but the player holding them, and any combination of five community cards in order to make the best hand. The community cards are dealt in rounds, and the rounds consist of betting as well. Players may fold, call, or raise, and the player with the strongest hand after the final round wins the pot.


Most Texas hold 'em hands will start out with blind bets being placed by the two people to the left of the dealer. The small blind is placed by the player to the immediate left of the dealer, and the big blind (double the amount of the small blind) by the player to the left of the small blind player. It's the equivalent of the ante, and must be put in the pot if a player is to receive cards. After the blinds have been placed the hand begins.

There are actually three versions of hold 'em that are popular today; limit, no limit, and pot limit. No limit is the version you have probably seen on television: players can bet or raise any amount of chips they want over the minimum bet, including all of their chips, during any round. Pot limit hold 'em limits the size of the bet to equal that of the pot. Limit is the most popular version, and players may only bet or raise in amounts equal to the blind for the first two rounds, and equal to double the big blind amount in the last two rounds.

Game play

Texas hold 'em can be played with two to ten players. The game uses a standard 52 card deck, with no jokers.

After the blinds are placed, the dealer (the dealer may be a designated person, such as when playing at a casino, or players may take turns. When the player is designated, a button is used to indicate the dealer position at the table so the blinds shift accordingly.) deals two cards to each player. These are the hole cards, and only the player who receives the cards should look at them.

The first betting round, known as the pre-flop, now begins. Betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind and goes clockwise. The betting continues until all players have folded, put in all their chips, or matched the amount put in by other active players.

After the betting ends, the dealer puts three cards on the board. This is known as the flop. These cards can be used by anyone at the table in any combination to make the best hand. After the flop is dealt, another round of betting occurs.

When the flop round is completed with all players having folded, called, or checked, a single card called the turn is dealt. This is followed by a third round of betting, after which the river (again a single card) is dealt. Another round of betting follows, and if there is more than one player left, a showdown will occur. The showdown is when all players remaining play their best hands out of the seven in play, the five community cards and their own two hole cards.

Some different circumstances

While most of the time just one player will have the strongest hand, sometimes the pot can be split. Here's how.

  • If two players have hands of equal strength, the pot is split.
  • If one player has gone all in before the final betting round, and has the stronger hand, that player takes the main pot. The main pot is the pot accumulated up until the player went all in. The player who stayed in for all the rounds of betting and has the next strongest hand will receive the side pot.
Further, players may appear to have hands of similar strength, for example each will have a pair of aces. In order to decide who wins the pot, the highest hole card not being used to make the hand will determine the winner. For example, one player may be holding A-K, while the other holds A-10. The player with A-K takes the pot with the king as the kicker.

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