Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular card games in the world and an online sensation. Since the early 2000s, Hold’em has taken on a life of its own, rising to become the poker game of choice for millions, thanks to its “simple to learn, hard to master” structure as well as its TV coverage and the iconic World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Before you jump in to play for yourself, here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know so that you can start stacking people.
How a Hand of Texas Hold'em Works
Texas Hold’em can be played as a Limit or No-Limit game, depending on the specific game rules. The term "limit" suggests whether a cap on betting exists. No-Limit Hold'em, with no cap on betting besides "all in", is the most popular way to play.
Here’s a breakdown of how an actual hand plays out:
Starting a New Hand
The game starts with posting the blinds, which are two forced bets to get the pot started. The two players immediately to the left of the dealer must chip in a big blind and a small blind, respectively. The big blind is generally twice the small blind amount.
Because the dealer function rotates around all players at the table in a clockwise direction, every player in the game will eventually be required to pitch in for both blinds, ensuring everyone is subject to the same rules.
Once the blinds have been posted, each player is dealt two cards face down.
It’s now time for the first round of betting. The player to the direct left of the dealer is the first player to act and action continues clockwise from there. Generally, poker players can do one of four things when the action is on them:
Players will be somewhat more limited depending on the actions of the players in front of them.
Action will eventually go all the way around to the small blind and the big blind. If everyone has simply called, the small blind has the option of “completing,” which means he puts in half a big blind to take part in the hand. The small blind also has the option of folding and losing half as much as the big blind. The small blind also has the option of raising or calling a bet.
Meanwhile, the big blind is always forced to play so there’s no point folding unless there’s a bet in front of them. Conversely the big blind also has the option of betting.
When the first round of betting is complete, it’s time for the community cards to be dealt.
Three cards are dealt face up, known as “The Flop.” These are what are called community cards and will be used by all the players in the hand to make a five-card poker hand.
This time around action begins on the player on the direct left of the dealer and continues clockwise until ending on the dealer. As with all betting rounds, players have the opportunity to check, call, bet, raise or fold on the flop.
The flop is one of the most important stages of a hand because it adds three cards to the mix and can drastically alter players’ starting hands.
“The Turn” comes next, a fourth card dealt face up on its own, before another round of betting commences. Players are fairly committed at this point as there is only one more round of betting to come.
Then “The River” completes the set, a fifth card dealt face up, revealing the complete board of community cards.
Players have the chance to bet for a final time before all those still in play need to show their cards. This is called the showdown. The person who can make the best five-card poker hand ultimately scoops the pot. On rare occasions, players will chop the pot if they have the same hand value.
Hold’em is a simple game in essence, but one that presents a challenging series of dilemmas for its players. While the rules are straightforward, especially after playing a couple of hands, strategy and tactics can take a lifetime to truly master.
Especially when there are no limits in play, the amount of money on the table can quickly get serious, and players with what are generally medium to strong hands often do fold early for fear of losing a bigger pot. It is in the interplay of understanding both the game and the betting side of Texas Hold’em that makes it such an engaging, tense, and altogether challenging way to play poker.
Of course, the first thing you need to do when learning the game of poker is to learn the hand rankings, which are as follows:
Tournament Poker vs Cash Game Poker
There are two major formats for Hold’em: tournaments and cash games.
Finally, in online poker, there is something called a Sit and Go event, which is really just an extremely small tournament that begins when there are enough players. Sit & Go’s generally range from two to 45 players and take only a fraction of the time to complete.
Quick Guide to Poker Terms
Poker has a rich history in the backrooms of bars across America and the globe and it’s developed a diverse vocabulary of terms to describe the various actions at the table.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know the vast majority of those terms to be a good poker player. There are a few basic terms that you should be familiar with, however.
Outs for Specific Draws
Many times in No-Limit Hold'em, players must calculate their odds of winning with specific draws. Whether yuo have a flush draw, a straight draw, overcards, or some combination of the three, it pays to know exactly how many theoretically winning cards remain in the deck. In poker, the theoretical winning cards remaining in the deck are called "outs".
Here is a table listing the number of winning cards associated with the common draws you'll hold in poker.
|SPECIFIC HAND||NUMBER OF OUTS|
|Flush Draw with Two Overcards||15 Outs|
|A Straight Flush Draw||15 Outs|
|Flush Draw with One Overcard||12 Outs|
|Flush Draw||9 Outs|
|Open-Ended Straight Draw||8 Outs|
|Two Overcards||6 Outs|
|Gut-Shot Straight Draw||4 Outs|
Texas Holdem Strategy Tips: Specific Hands in Flop Play
Whole books exist to give players Texas Hold'em strategy advice. Online poker training schools also exist for those who want advanced poker coaching. In this space, we focus on a few specific hands in flop play that new players find tricky.
Texas Hold'em Strategy with Non-Vulnerable Monsters
Non-Vulnerable Monsters are premium hands that almost always win: a four-of-a-kind, nut full house, nut flush, and nut straight.
Poker Strategy with Vulnerable Monsters
Vulnerable monsters are hands that win most of the time but still hold some vulnerability. Often, these are big hands that can be beaten with equal hands with a higher card: a low full house, non-nut flush, and non-nut straight.
Strategy Playing with Sets: Trips Using a Pocket Pair
Flopping a set when you hold a pocket pair can be tricky, especially if the board is highly coordinated with 2 to 3 cards that have flush or straight potential.
Top Two Pair or Top & Bottom Pair
If you pair both hole cards, the strategy will be similar to flopping a set. You want to push players out of the pot if a board has a lot of draw possibilities and slow-play the hand if it doesn't.
Strategy when Flopping Bottom Two Pair
If you flop a pair of lower-ranked cards, the hand still has vulnerabilities. For instance, if you hold flop two pairs holding a 9-8 and the third card is a face card, many outs exist that could still beat your hand.
No Limit Texas Holdem FAQ
What does "no limit" mean in Texas Holdem Poker?
"No limit" means that a player can go all-in during any of the game's four betting phases. That is, a player can risk their entire stack of chips with any bet. If you raise the bet, you must factor into that decision the fact that your opponent might go all-in. If you have the bigger chip stack, then the bet is the amount of the other player's chip stack. If the opponent has the bigger chip stack, then the bet is the amount of your chip stack. In that case, you risk all your chips and could bust out of the game or tournament by calling.
No-limit Texas Holdem is the most popular form of poker. The no-limit betting rule adds more risk to every bet, which more players prefer. The adrenaline rush of going all-in and surviving is huge. On the other hand, Limit Texas Hold'em is seen as a game of tactical caution and patience.
Is No-Limit Hold’em easy to learn?
The core concepts are simple. You’ll basically want to memorize poker hand rankings and get accustomed to the relative strength of hands. Of course you can spend a lifetime mastering the game.
Do I have to use both my cards?
No. You can use just one (to complete a flush or a straight, for instance). You can actually just play all five cards on the community board but you’ll be just splitting the pot with other players in a best-case scenario. There are other variants of poker where you must use both your hole cards, such as Pot-Limit Omaha.
Can I just practice online and not lose any money?
Yes. Online poker is fantastic for learning the game and nearly every online poker site offers a play money version.
Can I wait for good cards?
Yes but it’s not always the best strategy. Really strong hands like pocket aces only come around approximately once in 250 hands so you’re going to want to mix it up with some less powerful hands.
Do people make money playing poker?
Yes. Poker is one of the few games in a casino where you aren’t competing against the house, you’re competing against other players on a level playing field. That goes for online as well. If you’re significantly more skilled than the other players, then there is a good chance you’ll make money. It’s still possible to get unlucky in the short term, however.
Is bluffing a huge part of poker?
It’s a significant part of the game but not as much as you might think. Movies and TV shows tend to emphasize bluffing but you could make an argument that math and basic deduction skills are much more important.
What’s a good number of people to play Hold’em with?
You can play Hold’em with just two people although that’s called heads-up and it plays slightly different than regular Hold’em. Most players prefer playing with a total of six to eight players.
What are winning poker strategies?
That’s a very broad question as there are almost limitless resources available online for improving as a poker player but here are some of the most basic tips to get you started:
What is the difference between No Limit Texas Holdem and Limit Texas Holdem?
No-Limit Texas Hold'em is a form of poker where the rules don't limit how much you can bet. At any time, you can go all-in -- that is, bet your entire chip stack. If your chip stack exceeds that of your opponent's chip stack, you'll only risk the amount to cover their bet. If your chip stack is smaller, you risk all your chips. A player can't bet more than the lower chip stack of the two, meaning you can't push players out of the hand simply by betting more than they have. Otherwise, there are no limiting factors.
Limit Texas Hold'em can be played in one of two ways: Fixed Limit Hold'em or Pot-Limit Hold'em. Fixed Limit Hold'em is just that -- it has a fixed bet limit than can't be exceeded at any time during the hand. Pot-Limit Hold'em sets the limit according to the size of the pot. Your bet can't exceed the current size of the pot, which means the bet limit grows as the hand continues.
How do you play no limits in Texas Holdem?
You play No-Limit Hold'em, abbreviated to NLHE on many online poker sites. Players can enjoy No-Limit Texas Hold'em in tournaments, sit and go events, and cash games online. To play, visit an online cardroom's homepage and select either Tournaments, Cash Games, or SNGs. Once on the page, pick the NHLE event at the bet level you prefer. You'll be playing Texas Holdem for no limit within minutes.