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Texas Hold’em Rules – Poker Guide For Mastering Basics


Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variation, so you must learn Texas Hold'em rules to enjoy it.  

If you are new to the game and want to learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker, you have come to the right place. 

We will teach you everything you need to know, and by the time you are done reading this guide, you will be ready to sit down in your first game and compete with other players at the most basic level. 

Keep in mind that Texas Hold’em is a very complex game, and there is a lot more to learn once you have the basics down, but this is a great place to start.

How to Play Texas Hold’em

If you have never played a Texas Hold’em Poker game, you probably don’t know exactly what you need to play it, although you may have seen the game on TV at some point. 

To set up a most basic live poker game, you are going to need:

  • A table to play on
  • A standard deck of playing cards
  • Two to ten poker players
  • Poker chips or other tokens 
  • A dealer button

A game of Texas Hold’em requires at least two players, although it is typically played with anywhere between six and ten people. While two players are enough to play Texas Hold’em, playing with more players is definitely more fun. 

If you go to play poker at the casino, all these things will already be prepared for you, including the poker chips, which will either have a monetary value in cash games or act as tournament tokens. 

In either case, once all these poker supplies are ready, the game of Texas Hold’em can start. 

Once the players are seated at the table, the dealer will deal one face-up card to everyone to decide where the dealer button will be in the first hand. A player with the highest open card gets that privilege.  

These 15 tips for beginners will help you further.

Pokercode Cash Game Coach Steffen Sontheimer Playing Poker

Playing a Hand of Texas Hold’em Poker

The game starts with the two players to the left of the dealer posting small and big blinds, the two forced bets that are designed to spur the action in the hand. 

At the start of each hand, the dealer will inform players what the blinds are and warn the two players who are supposed to pay them. 

The hand of Texas Hold'em starts with each player at the table receiving two hole cards. 

These cards are dealt face down and should be protected from other players' views at all times. 

Now that everyone has two cards, it’s time for the first betting round. Each player, starting with the one to the left of the big blind, has several options:

  • Fold: Give up your cards and leave the hand. If you fold your hole cards, you will no longer have any action until the hand is finished. 
  • Call: Calling means paying the amount of the big blind for a chance to see the first community cards. However, other players after you will still have a chance to raise. 
  • Raise: In No-Limit Texas Hold’em, players can raise the bet every time the action is on them. You are allowed to raise to any amount between 2x the big blind and your entire stack. Putting your entire stack into the pot is also signified as an “all in.”

The action will go around the table until each player has acted. If one player calls or raises, and another player makes another raise, the first player will have a chance to respond to that raise by taking any of the previously mentioned actions. 

Once all the players have acted on their hole cards, the first community cards are dealt out, also known as the flop. 

Flop Play

Once all the pre-flop action is done, the dealer will deal out three cards across the middle of the table. These cards are called the flop. 

Once the flop is dealt out, every player at the table will have five cards to work with. 

The community cards are dealt face up for everyone to see, and every player can use them to make their best poker hand. 

Once again, Texas Hold ’em rules give every player at the table a chance to act on their hand. 

The player left of the button is first to act on the flop, and the action moves on until it reaches the button. All players take turns and have to respond to any bets players make, with two new actions now introduced:

  • Check: Checking your option means you are happy with the current pot, and you pass the action to the next player in line. You can always check if there is no bet in play, and it is inadvisable to fold your cards if no one has made a bet. Simply check instead!
  • Bet: Since there are no forced bets in play, you can now make a bet of your own. You are allowed to make a bet of any size between one big blind and your entire stack. 

Turn Play

Once all players have completed their flop actions, the dealer will proceed to deal the turn card. 

The turn is a single community card dealt right next to the flop, face up. 

There are four community cards out there, and all active players in the hand are given a chance to act once again. 

The betting action is identical to the flop, with players taking turns checking, betting, calling, raising, or folding their cards. 

River Play

The turn action is now done, and the dealer deals out the final community card, known as the river. 

The five community cards are now out, and every player has seven cards to work with. 

All players at the table who still have cards have the option of checking or betting, with the action going around the table until all the bets are settled. 

Once there is no more action to be had, the dealer will announce a showdown. 

The Showdown

Finally, your first hand of Texas Hold’em Poker is ending. If more than one player still has cards, everyone flips over their hole cards, starting with the player left of the dealer button. 

The dealer will announce the hand's winner in accordance with Texas Hold’em Poker rules and hand rankings and award the entire pot to that player. 

The dealer will move the dealer button to the left and shuffle up the cards to deal the next hand. 

Hand Rankings in Texas Hold’em Poker

Now that you know what the game flow of a Texas Hold’em Poker hand looks like, it’s time to talk about what the best poker hands are and how to make them. 

In each hand, you will have a total of seven cards to work with, and your goal is to make the best five-card poker hand out of those seven cards. 

You can use any combination of your two hole cards and the five community cards on the table to make your hand, and your opponents can do the same. 

The following are the possible Texas Hold’em hands you can make and examples of each:

Texas Hold’em Rules – Poker Guide For Mastering Basics
A royal flush is the best hand in poker

As you can probably interpret from this table of poker hand rankings, the more difficult a poker hand is to make, the more valuable it is. 

One or two pair combinations win most poker hands if they reach showdown, but the big pots are more often won by straights, flushes, full houses, or better. 

Make sure you memorize these hand rankings and basic Texas Hold’em rules before jumping into your first game.

How to Play Texas Hold'em: Choosing Your Starting Hand

Now that you know the rules of Texas Hold’em Poker, you may think you are ready to start playing. But we still haven’t talked about how to play your hands or how to win at the game

The first decision you will need to make in every poker hand is whether to play the hand or not in the first place. 

The first betting round comes right after you are dealt your hole cards, and you will only be able to see two of the seven cards dealt in Texas Hold’em Poker. 

Yet, it is these two cards that are the only ones your opponents won’t see, and they are the ones you will need to base your first decision on. 

To make your life very simple in the early days, we recommend waiting until you have strong starting cards to play with. While we don’t advocate only ever playing premium hands, it is worth knowing what these hands are and how best to play them. 

The Top Ten Hands in Texas Hold’em Poker

Playing the top ten hands in your first Texas Hold’em session will guarantee you don’t put yourself in too many difficult spots.

These hands are usually somewhat easy to play, and you will reduce the number of difficult decisions you need to make by playing them. 

These are the top ten Texas Hold’em hands you will definitely want to play:

  • AA (Pocket Aces): By far the strongest possible hand in Texas Hold’em, pocket aces are a hand you always want to play for all your chips if possible. You will be a huge favorite against all other hands, and you want to get as much money as you can before the flop. 
  • KK (Pocket Kings): Unless another player has pocket aces, you have the absolute best hand in poker. Like pocket aces, pocket kings are a hand you want to play very aggressively and rarely ever fold before the flop.
  • QQ (Pocket Queens): While pocket queens are not as powerful as the higher pairs, they are the third-best possible starting hand in Texas Holdem and one you want to raise aggressively to make your opponents pay you off with their sub-premium hands. 
  • AKs (Ace-King Suited): A hand with massive potential and high equity against almost every other holding, AKs is one of the most powerful hands in both tournament and cash games. Play your AKs aggressively and boldly, and you won't go wrong. 
  • JJ (Pocket Jacks): Pocket jacks are the next best pocket pair and one that can get you into a bit of trouble. Make sure to know your opponent is aggressive before you commit too many chips with pocket jacks when playing deep, but don’t be afraid to do it when the situation is right. 
  • AK (Ace-King Off-Suit): Similar to AKs, but without the flush potential. AK off-suit is somewhat less valuable, especially when playing with deep stacks. Yet, it will still make a lot of top pair hands that will win you the pot and is worth playing almost every time. 
  • TT (Pocket Tens): Pocket tens usually don’t warrant your entire stack going into the pot, other than in tournament situations when the stacks are getting shallow. Make sure to make your opponents pay you when you have TT, but also be aware that many stronger hands could be out there. 
  • AQs (Ace-Queen Suited: A hand similar to AKs, but susceptible to being up against that particular holding, AQs is nowhere near as strong. AQs is still worth opening for a raise almost every time, but also a hand that you need to tread cautiously when facing a lot of aggression. 
  • 99 (Pocket Nines): Pocket nines are the lowest of the "big pairs" and a hand that works very well in tournaments but is fairly vulnerable in cash games. Be careful with your 99 while still playing them almost every time. 
  • KQs (King-Queen Suited: KQs is a hand that dominates many other hands that people will play, but one that also does very poorly against hands like AK or AQ. Be careful when you make top pair with it, but make sure you get paid by weaker Broadway combos like KJ or JT. 

Remember that these top ten hands are only the strongest possible holdings in Texas Hold’em and that you need to learn to include other hands in your opening range as well. 

You should only be playing the top ten hands when you are in an early position and opening up as you get closer to the button. 

To elaborate more on that, let’s talk about position in Texas Hold’em Poker, why it is so important, and how to use it to your advantage. 

Texas Hold’em Rules – Poker Guide For Mastering Basics
Pocket Aces are the best starting hand in poker

Position in Texas Hold’em Poker

The position is one of the most important concepts to understand in any form of poker, including Texas Hold’em, which we are trying to get a good grasp on today. 

In poker, position refers to your position relative to the dealer button and the blinds, which change every hand. 

At a nine-handed poker table, you can be seated in early, middle, or late positions and in the blinds. While the rules of Texas Hold’em Poker allow you to play your cards any way you want in all of these positions, there are some things you should keep in mind. 

The first three positions at the table are referred to as "Under the Gun" (UTG), UTG +1, and UTG +2, and it is advisable to play only the strongest poker hands from there. 

In fact, if you only play the top ten hands we showed you earlier, you should be just fine, as there isn't too much merit to playing a wide range of hands in an early position. 

If you enter a pot from an early position, many other players will still have a chance to act and raise, so there is a reasonable chance that one of them has a big starting hand. 

What’s even more, if you do get to the flop, you will be playing out of position for the remainder of the hand. This means you will act first on the flop, turn, and river, and this is never a good thing. 

Acting first after the flop means you are giving away information about your hand and allowing your opponent to control the size of the pot, both of which are unfavorable scenarios. 

As you move into the two middle positions, you can now start to raise slightly more hands when the action gets to you. 

Still, you should not go too crazy with your hands, but playing the likes of KJs, TJs, T9s, or 66 is reasonable even for a beginner. 

You are in a good spot if your raise manages to isolate the players in the blinds or win the pot right then and there. If one of the late positions calls your raise, be careful about further action. 

The positions you really want to be in are the cutoff (one to the left of the button) and the button, as these give you all the post-flop advantage you could want. 

This is exactly why the dealer button is the one position where you want to play many hands, introducing many suited cards or cards containing an ace or a king into your opening range. 

Finally, you will also have to play hands from the blinds. The blinds are the worst positions at the table as they put you out of position even against the early position players. 

Playing profitably from the blinds is impossible, as you are forced to put money into the pot even with the worst of hands. 

However, playing a good pre-flop strategy can reduce your losses and win back some of the money you have to pay to post the blinds.

You can find much more information on how to play from certain positions in our more extensive guides to playing each position, and we recommend you check those out. 

Texas Hold’em Rules – Poker Guide For Mastering Basics
Position in Poker is important

How to Play – The Power of Aggression

We have discussed the types of poker hands you want to play, but we have not touched on how to play those hands or what to do when dealing with a strong starting hand like AA or AKs. 

For the most part, you always want to start a hand with a raise if no one in front of you has raised. 

Your opponents will have a chance to respond to your raise by either folding, calling the raise, or re-raising you. 

When you have a monster hand like AA or KK, you always hope your opponents will re-raise, as this gives you a chance to raise once again and inflate the size of the pot very early. 

With weaker hands like 88 or AJs, you usually won’t be looking to get all your money into the pot before the flop, so calling re-raises when you will have position makes more sense. 

Once the flop is dealt, you want to keep up your aggression if you were the last player to raise before the flop. 

A simple strategy called continuation betting allows you to fire a small bet on the flop even if you have not made a pair just yet, and win the pot without having a strong hand quite often. 

By mixing bets on boards that connect with your cards and those that don’t, you will keep yourself unpredictable and allow yourself a chance to win more pots than you could if you were only betting when you have a big hand. 

After all, your opponents will also be looking at your actions and would quickly figure it out if you were only ever betting when you were strong. 

While there is a lot to say about playing poker hands, an aggressive approach that seeks balance between value bets and bluffs is the best overall approach to an average poker game. 

Texas Hold’em Rules FAQs

What are the most important rules of Texas Hold’em Poker?

Texas Hold’em Poker rules are not too complex, and you can find all the most important ones on this page. However, keep in mind that you will need a lot more than just the basic rules to win this game, so check out our more detailed strategy guides as well. 

What is the strongest hand in Texas Hold’em Poker?

The strongest Texas Hold’em Poker hand is a royal flush, made up of a T, J, Q, K, and A of the same suit. Other strong Texas Hold’em hands include four-of-a-kind (quads), a full house, and a flush. 

Why is position important in Texas Hold’em?

The position is very important in Texas Hold’em. The player in position acts last on every betting street, providing him with the extra information from his opponents’ actions and allowing him to make better-informed decisions.

What is the difference between value betting and bluffing?

In Texas Hold’em, a value bet is a bet that seeks to get paid, made by a player holding a strong poker hand. On the other hand, a bluff is a bet made by a player who has a weak hand but is hoping his opponents will fold their cards, allowing him to win the pot. 

What is the best place to play Texas Hold’em Poker?

The best place to start playing Texas Hold’em Poker is online, with many great poker sites offering very low-stakes games, which are ideal for practice. You can also play poker in private games with your friends or at the casinos, but online poker rooms will give you the most action and hands per hour, which is very important while practicing the game. 

Texas Hold’em Rules – Poker Guide For Mastering Basics
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