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Everything you ever wanted to know about Texas Hold’em but were afraid to ask

When it comes to poker, nothing beats Texas Holdem. There’s a reason why it’s the most popular variation of poker on the live tournament circuit. And there’s a reason why a high percentage of the online poker tables are dedicated to Texas Hold’em (including No Limit, Limit, and Pot Limit variations).

But if your familiarity with poker is limited to 5 Card Stud or whatever your dad and his friends used to play when you were a kid, Texas Hold’em can be a bit confusing. That’s where we come in. We’re laying it all on the table to help you understand the game, how to calculate poker odds, and how to win at Texas Hold em.

The basics: How to play Texas Hold Em Poker

Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular variations of poker — and incredibly easy to play. Using a standard 52-card deck, each player is dealt two cards, face down. These are typically called hole cards or pocket cards. Once each player has their two cards, an initial round of betting commences. Next, three common cards (the flop) are dealt on the table, face up. This is followed by a second round of betting. Once all betting ceases, a fourth card is dealt face up (the turn) followed by another round of betting. Next, a final card (the river) is dealt face-up, followed by a final round of betting.

How to win at Texas Holdem Every Time: Texas Hold’em Hand Rankings

To win at Texas Hold’em, you need the have the best 5-card hand. And you can use any combination of cards, including your two hole cards and the five community cards.

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings

From best to worst hand, these are the hand rankings for Texas Holdem, including tournaments and cash games:

Royal Flush – 5 cards of the exact same suit from 10 to Ace (Ac, Kc, Qc, Jc, 10c)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Royal Flush Hand

Straight Flush 5 cards of the exact same consecutive suit (7d, 6d, 5d, 4d, 3d)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Straight Flush Hand

Four of a Kind 4 cards of the same rank (Ks, Kh, Kd, Kc, 3s)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Four of a Kind Hand

Full House – 3 cards of the same rank and 2 cards of the same rank (5s, 5c, 5d, 7s, 7d)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Full House Hand

Flush – 5 cards of the exact same suit, any value (Ah, 9h, 7h, 6h, 2h)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Flush Hand

Straight – 5 cards consecutive ranked (6c, 5s, 4s, 3d, 2h)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Straight Hand

Three of a Kind – 3 cards of the same rank (9c, 9d, 9h, Js, 2,d)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Three of a Kind Hand

Two Pair – 2 cards of the same rank and another 2 cards of the same rank (Ad, Ac, 3c, 3s, 9h)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - Two Pair Hand

One Pair – 2 cards of the same rank (Jc, Jh, 9d, 7d, 3c)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - One Pair Hand

High Card – 5 unmatched cards (Ac, Qc, 8h, 4c, 3d)

Texas Holdem - Hand Rankings - High Card Hand

First, it’s important to understand Texas Hold’em terminology:

The button. Also called the dealer button, this is a physical round disc that moves clockwise around the poker table. The button determines the player acting as the dealer at the table, but this player doesn’t actually deal out the cards in a tournament or cash game (home games are a different story). Instead, the dealer button lets everyone know which two players are required to put in the blinds and which player is first to act.

The blinds. Before each hand, two players at the Texas Holdem table must post a small blind and a big blind. The small blind is the player to the immediate left of the dealer and the big blind is the player to the immediate left of the small blind. In Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, blinds are raised regularly. In cash games, they stay the same.

Call. Matching the big blind amount, or any raise.

Raise. Increasing the size of the bet and forcing other players to call it, fold it, or raise on top.

Fold. Bowing out of the hand by tossing away your cards and refusing to call a blind or a raise.

Check. Passing on the action and inviting the next player to either check or bet. Note that you can’t check if the player before you has raised, or if you’ve yet to commit your big blind.

Spotlight: Texas Holdem betting rounds

During flop betting, the first player to the left of the dealer is invited to make the first bet. This player can choose to check or bet. Checking signals that there’s no intention to make a bet, and the player to his or her left now has the option to check or bet. But if this player decided to bet, things get interesting.

With a bet on the table, the next player must call the bet (add the same value of the bet to the pot), fold the bet (toss their cards to the side and bow out of the hand), or raise (bet above what the previous player bet). The move this player makes determines what the player to his or her left must do next.

It should be noted that betting only ends once all remaining players have called the last bet and every player has contributed an equal amount into the pot.

Flop Betting

During flop betting, the first player to the left of the dealer is invited to make the first bet. This player can choose to check or bet. Checking signals that there’s no intention to make a bet, and the player to his or her left now has the option to check or bet. But if this player decided to bet, things get interesting.

With a bet on the table, the next player must call the bet (add the same value of the bet to the pot), fold the bet (toss their cards to the side and bow out of the hand), or raise (bet above what the previous player bet). The move this player makes determines what the player to his or her left must do next.

It should be noted that betting only ends once all remaining players have called the last bet and every player has contributed an equal amount into the pot.

Turn Betting

You can think of betting after the turn as exactly the same as betting on the flop. The first person to bet is the player to the left of the dealer button, and betting continues around the table. Betting ends once all players have contributed an equal amount to the pot, or once all players have checked. If at any time every player folds, the player left standing who initiated the last bet or raise wins the pot and betting ceases.

River Betting

While all these betting rounds sound a bit complex, there’s not much new to know about betting on the river. In fact, it’s the same as betting on the flop, except for one key thing. Once betting ends, all remaining players are required to flip over and reveal their hole cards. The player with the best 5-card hand is awarded the pot. However, if a player bets or raises and everyone else folds, the remaining player wins the pot and isn’t required to reveal their hand.

How to calculate odds in Texas Hold’em poker hands

To understand calculating poker odds in Texas Holdem hands, you need to understand the concept of outs.

An out is a card in the deck that’ll help you make your hand. Let’s pretend you’re holding As, Ks and you see two spades on the flop. Since there are 13 spades in a deck of 52 cards, you know that you have 9 outs to make a flush.

It’s possible that someone else is holding a spade, but you don’t know that. When calculating outs, you should only use knowledge that’s available to you. That includes your pocket cards and the community cards on the table.

Now that you know the number of outs, the quick way to calculate poker odds is to multiply that number by 4. You’ll then get a pretty good understanding of what percent chance you have of hitting the hand after the flop. To calculate odds after the turn, multiple by 2.

If math isn’t your forte, consider using a poker odds calculator. Or, just use this simple Texas Holdem cheat sheet:

Texas Holdem - Cheat Sheet

Making money playing Texas Hold em poker

If you look at the top pros, it seems like everyone knows how to win at Texas Holdem every time. But the truth? Sometimes it takes just one massive win to change everything. Just look at Jamie Gold. He holds the record for finishing first in the largest-ever World Series of Poker Main Event, securing $12 million for his victory. But before that, his victories were limited to a string of small tournament cashes. And since his big win, there’s not much else to report. So, you don’t have to be a pro to win big at Texas Hold’em. You just have to love the game.

Biggest Texas Hold’em tournaments by prize pool

Texas Holdem - Tournaments by Prize Pool

Texas Holdem FAQs

Can the house cheat at Texas Holdem?

The short answer is no. And the longer answer is also no. There’s no incentive for a poker room to cheat at Texas Hold’em. Remember, poker rooms don’t participate in poker. Unlike Blackjack, Craps, slots, or pretty much any casino game in which you face off against the house with the goal of winning their money, in Texas Hold’em, you don’t play against the house.

The sole goal of the house is to act as a host for everyone anteing up. They provide the tables, cards, and chips. And they collect a fee for doing so, either through rake (cash games) or a flat fee (tournaments).

How many cards are dealt in Texas Hold em?

According to Texas Hold em rules, each player gets two cards, both dealt face down, and only revealed at the end of the final betting round. In addition to the hole cards dealt to each player, there are also five community cards, made up of three cards in the flop, one turn card, and one river card.

How many chips in Texas Hold em poker?

Chip stacks vary based on a number of factors. And if you’re playing in an online tournament or one in a poker room, you don’t really have to worry about chip distribution because everything is pre-determined and set up for you. But if you’re running a home poker game, you’ll definitely want to budget at least 100 chips per player. If you have a chipset with chips in various colors, you can assign a chip value to each color.

How many starting hands are in Texas Holdem?

Texas Hold em poker rules state that there are 1,326 possible 2-card starting hands, with the best hand being pocket Aces and the worst hand being 7, 2 (offsuit). This 1,326 value takes into account various suits.

But for the sake of understanding probability, before the flop is dealt, you can assume that there are 169 different combinations. There are 10 possible 5-card poker hands, including Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind, Two Pair, One Pair, and High Card.

In Texas Hold’em poker, what’s the term for the face-down cards each player gets to start the hand?

These are called hole cards or pocket cards. They remain face down until the end of a hand, assuming that there needs to be a showdown. If everyone has folded to the sole remaining player, the hole cards don’t need to be revealed.

Who gets the first card in Texas Hold’em?

Poker rules dictate that the player to the left of the dealer button gets the first card. This player is known as the small blind.

How many players do you need to play Texas Hold’em?

You need at least two players to play Texas Hold’em. Remember, as the number of players increase, you’ll want to modify your Texas Hold em strategy.