Texas Hold'em is usually played with nine or ten players at a full table with a rotating blind system. A blind system is designed to generate money to put into the pot and stimulate betting. There are two types of blinds, the big blind, which is equal to the minimum bet at the table you are playing at, and the small blind, which is half the amount of the big blind. For instance, if the table minimum is $10, then the big blind would be $10 and the small blind would be $5. The players who have to contribute these blinds rotates on position to the left after each hand. In tournament play, an additional forced bet, called an ante, is also sometimes used in addition to the rotating blind.
After the blinds and antes (if applicable) are placed, each player is dealt two down cards (called hole cards). Then each player starting with the player to the left of the big blind has an opportunity to call (place an amount of money equal to the previous player's bet) the big blind, raise the bet (to place a bet higher than the previous player's), or fold (resign from the round of play). When the action (or betting) gets to the player in the small blind position, he/she can call the partial bet they initially placed, raise the bet, or fold. The player in the big blind has the option to raise or check (to decline to bet) if there are no raises as he/she already has a full bet in the pot. Any player who calls the big blind and has the pot raised behind him/her then has the option to call the raise or reraise the pot.
Card Abbreviations and Hand Rankings
AA Pair of aces
AK Ace and king
Q9s Queen and nine, suited. (The "s" means suited, so if it were Q9 without the "s," that indicates the cards are of different suits.)
Ranking of hands
Four of a Kind
Three of a Kind
Most limit Hold'em games have a three bet limit per round (hence the name limit), which means there can be only three raises per round of betting. In this case, "round" refers to a series of checks, bets, calls, raises, and folds during a single session of betting or nonbetting. After the first round of betting, three community cards (called the flop) are placed face up in the center of the table. A second round of betting is now conducted starting with the player to the left of the button (dealer). Each player still active in the hand may check or bet. After a bet, each player may call the bet, raise, reraise if there was a raise, or fold.
The fourth community card (called the turn or fourth street) is then placed face up in the center of the table followed by another round of betting. In most limit games, the amount of a bet on the turn and river (last community card) is double the amount in the first two rounds.
Finally, the last community card (called the river or fifth street) is placed face up in the center of the table, and the last round of betting is conducted. After all bets have been placed, a showdown occurs, which simply means that players still in the hand show their hole cards to see who wins the pot.
Players can use any combination of their hole cards and the community cards to form the best five-card hand possible. Players can use both of their hole cards and three community cards, one hole card and four community cards, or all five community cards.
Players who use the five community cards to form their best hand can usually win only part of the pot or lose as everyone can use all five community cards. An example would be when the board shows AK-Q-J-T, then everyone left in the hand will split the pot as the board shows a royal flush, which is the best hand possible.
As we have already begun to mention in this section, there are different varieties of Hold'em games, depending on the amount the players are allowed to bet. In the next section, we will discuss these different games and the differences in play.
For more information about Texas Hold 'Em Poker and other variations, try the following links:
- To see all of our articles on poker rules and advice, go to our main article on How To Play Poker.
- Some Poker Basics are essential before you sit down at the card table.
- For a more complicated version of hold 'em, learn How to Play Omaha Poker.
- Get to know the previous "most popular game in poker", in How to Play 7-Card Stud Poker.