Rules For Texas Hold em (Want to see all “How To Play” and “Poker Strategy” articles? Click here).
How To Play No Limit Texas Hold’em
This game is not overly complicated to learn but a great deal of strategy is involved in playing it well. First, though, let’s cover the rules for Texas Hold em and how the game is played.
Casino and tournament standard No Limit Texas Hold’em is most commonly played with a standard deck of playing cards, excluding jokers, and with 2 to 10 players at one table. One non-player acts as the dealer. In a home game, one player can act as the dealer or the players can take turns acting as the dealer but this never happens in a casino or professionally-run tournament.
Texas Hold’em Tournaments have unlimited players, although most tournament fields are capped in total size, and players all play at typically 9 or 10-handed tables or at times 4 or 6 handed tables (known as 4 max or 6 max tournaments).
By the way, as we get started keep in mind you’ll encounter lots of terminology in poker. You will see many of them described here but use our poker terms section to learn many more terms, including slang terms. (And poker players love to use slang, as you will discover…)
In tournaments, players play with an identical starting tournament chip stack issued at the beginning of the tournament. They play down to one winner, with the prize pool most typically being paid out to the top 10% of finishers.
In cash games, each player plays with a bankroll (their personal cash) of their chosen size within the limits set for a certain table which they trade for chips when they start. The chips are as good as cash. At times, actual cash “plays” as well depending on the rules of the house. Play continues at the table of 9 or 10 indefinitely. Players come and go as they please but the maximum seating is 9 or 10. Buy-in limits vary but typical limits are $100 or $200 to $500 for no limit with $1/$2 blinds, $200-$1,000 for no limit with $2/$5 blinds, and so on. (More on blind levels later in this article).
Object of the game
As with most poker games, the object in Texas Hold’em is to win pots, or the total amount of chips and/or money the players have bet in a hand. This can be accomplished in two ways. Either a player beats the others by having the best five-card poker hand at the end of a showdown (see Texas Holdem hand rankings here), or a player causes the other players to fold and abandon the pot through aggressive betting and bluffing techniques.
At the beginning of a hand, the two players to the left of the dealer are required to the pay the blinds – two forced bets made in games that have a flop. In Texas Hold’em, there is normally a small blind and a big blind with pre-determined amounts. In tournaments, these blinds increase as the game moves on, typically after set periods of time or after a certain number of hands. In cash games, blinds stay fixed at the level table you have chosen (typically $1 small blind/$2 big blind, $2/$5, $5/$10, $10/$20 and so on).
In Texas Hold’em, a dealer button – literally a button or chip labeled “dealer” – is placed in front of the a player to keep track of the blinds and the dealing schedule. This button rotates clockwise around the table, moving after each hand and changing who has to pay the small and big blinds. No one is permitted to miss blinds. If they are absent in a tournament, the chips to pay the blinds will be removed from their stack to seed the pot. In cash games, there is some variation for absent players but essentially they must also pay, or pay when they return to play, or if they would rather, sit out the round until the big blind comes to them again.
The small blind is posted by the person directly to the left of the dealer and is usually equal to half of the big blind. The big blind is posted by the person to the left of the small blind and is normally equal to the minimum bet.
In tournaments as mentioned, the small and big blinds increase as the tournament progresses.
Play begins when each player is dealt two cards face down. The cards are called pocket cards and are only revealed in some cases by the players in the showdown. Rules strictly prohibit exposing your pocket cards prior to the end of a hand in tournaments, and also in most cash games. There are cases depending on house rules in which players may expose cards prior to the end of a hand in cash games, but it is best to assume that you cannot if you do not know the specific house rules.
The hand begins with a pre-flop betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind and continuing clockwise. Players choose whether or not to play their cards by betting at least the amount of the big blind, or any amount they choose up to and including all their chips (this is no limit) in increments equal to the amount of the big blind. The first player to act can choose to “fold”(quit the hand, surrendering their cards to the dealer), “call”(match the bet), or “raise” (bet any amount in increments equal to the big blind up to a maximum of the all the chips they have, which would be declared an “All In”).
As an example, suppose the big blind is 100 tournament chips or units. A minimum bet or “call” is place 100 units in front of you to continue playing the hand. A better move if you’re planning to play a hand is to “raise,” and a typical raise is somewhere between two and three times the amount of the big blind, or in this case 200-300 units.
Once a player preceding them in the action has raised, a player acting next can only “fold” , “call” , or “re-raise” (bet any amount again in increments equal to the big blind up to a maximum of the all the chips they have). They cannot call the minimum big blind amount because the action before them raised the “price” to play the hand. Each player has an option to fold, call or re-raise as the action gets to them.
Once each player has acted, and assuming not all players have folded and at least two remain in the hand, the dealer places three cards, known as the FLOP, in the middle of the table. The flop is made up of three face-up community cards which each player can use in combination with their two pocket cards to form a five-card poker hand.
After the flop is displayed, a second betting round begins with the player to the left of the dealer in the exact same manner as the first rounds of betting.
Next, once each player has acted, and assuming not all players have folded and at least two remain in the hand, a single community card, called the TURN, is then placed on the table by the dealer and another identical format betting round ensues.
Next, once each player has acted, and assuming not all players have folded and at least two remain in the hand, the final community card, famously known as he RIVER, is dealt, followed by a final identical format betting round.
After all player actions are complete, the remaining players in the hand go to showdown, and display their cards, at which time the dealer determines who has the best five card poker hand. Each player must utilize their two pocket cards in combination with the five community cards. At times, the five community cards compose a better hand than any player holds, in which case the pot is awarded in equal parts amongst the players still in the hand. More often than not, however, one player ends up with the best hand and is awarded the entire pot.
Note that if at any time during a hand only one player remains because all other players have folded to their betting actions, they collect the pot. However, if two or more players remain when betting ends, the players must compare hands to see who wins.
So, there you have the basic rules for Texas Hold em. If you were paying close attention you have probably thought that there is much room for strategy in this game, particularly as related to bet sizing.
If so, you’d be right so check out our other articles and pages here at pokerplyr.com to help you develop your game.
NEXT: Check out “Reading The Board” and learn this critical Hold’em skill.