Want to enjoy a game of Texas Hold’em poker? Here you will find key details about Texas Hold’em to help you learn the game including the rules, hands, different variants of this game type and more.
Texas Hold’em poker is one of the most popular poker variants in the world. Despite its relative simplicity, Texas Hold’em has the potential to be played with a seemingly infinite variety of strategies and tactics.
To start playing Texas Hold’em games, it’s important to understand the basic rules:
In Hold'em, a marker called ‘the button’ or ‘the dealer button’ indicates which player is the dealer for the current game. Before the game begins, the player immediately clockwise from the button posts the "small blind", the first forced bet. The player immediately clockwise from the small blind posts the "big blind", which is typically twice the size of the small blind (blinds can vary depending on the stakes and betting structure being played).
In Limit games, the big blind is the same as the small bet, and the small blind is typically half the size of the big blind (but may be larger depending on the stakes). For example, in a CA$2/CA$4 Limit game the small blind is CA$1 and the big blind is CA$2. In a CA$15/CA$30 Limit game, the small blind is CA$10 and the big blind is CA$15.
In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the games are referred to by the size of their blinds (for example, a CA$1/CA$2 Hold’em game has a small blind of CA$1 and a big blind of CA$2).
Depending on the exact structure of the game, each player may also be required to post an ‘ante’ (another type of forced bet, usually smaller than either blind, posted by all players at the table) into the pot.
Now, each player receives their two hole cards. Betting action proceeds clockwise around the table, starting with the player ‘under the gun’ (immediately clockwise from the big blind).
In Hold'em, as with other forms of poker, the available actions are ‘fold’, ‘check’, ‘bet’, ‘call’ or ‘raise’. Exactly which options are available depends on the action taken by the previous players. If nobody has made a bet, then a player may either check (decline to bet, but keep their cards) or bet. If a player has bet, then subsequent players can fold, call or raise. To call is to match the amount the previous player has bet. To raise is to not only match the previous bet, but to also increase it.
After seeing their hole cards, each player now has the option to play his or her hand by calling or raising the big blind. The action begins to the left of the big blind, which is considered a ‘live’ bet on this round. That player has the option to fold, call or raise. For example, if the big blind was CA$2, it would cost CA$2 to call, or at least CA$4 to raise. Action then proceeds clockwise around the table.
Note: The betting structure varies with different variations of the game. Explanations of the betting action in Limit Hold'em, No Limit Hold'em, and Pot Limit Hold'em can be found below.
Betting continues on each betting round until all active players (who have not folded) have placed equal bets in the pot.
Now, three cards are dealt face-up on the board. This is known as ‘the flop’. In Hold'em, the three cards on the flop are community cards, available to all players still in the hand. Betting on the flop begins with the active player immediately clockwise from the button. The betting options are similar to pre-flop, however if nobody has previously bet, players may check, passing the action to the next active player clockwise.
When the betting action is completed for the flop round, the ‘turn’ is dealt face-up on the board. The turn is the fourth community card in Hold'em (and is sometimes also called ‘Fourth Street’). Another round of betting ensues, beginning with the active player immediately clockwise from the button.
When betting action is completed for the turn round, the ‘river’ or ‘Fifth Street’ is dealt face-up on the board. The river is the fifth and final community card in a Hold'em game. Betting again begins with the active player immediately clockwise from the button, and the same betting rules apply as they do for the flop and turn.
If there is more than one remaining player when the final betting round is complete, the last person to bet or raise shows their cards, unless there was no bet on the final round in which case the player immediately clockwise from the button shows their cards first. The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In the event of identical hands, the pot will be equally divided between the players with the best hands. Hold'em rules state that all suits are equal.
After the pot is awarded, a new hand of Hold'em is ready to be played. The button now moves clockwise to the next player, blinds and antes are once again posted, and new hands are dealt to each player.
There are 1,326 possible combinations for your opening hand in Texas Hold’em poker. However, because suits have no value in this poker variant, a lot of these combinations will have the same value before the flop. When we eliminate identical combinations, there are 169 starting hands in Texas Hold’em.
Pre-flop, Pocket Aces is the best starting hand. However, if your hand doesn’t improve on the board, you will only have one pair. Particularly in multi-way pots, this may not be a strong enough holding for you to continue in later betting rounds, or to win the hand if it gets to showdown.
When playing heads up games (vs just one opponent), you typically need to play an extremely wide range of starting hands, especially when on the button.
However, in multi-way games (vs several opponents), you need to be more selective with your starting hands, taking table position and the actions of your opponents into account. Hands with generally strong playability include:
Understanding hand rankings beyond your starting hands is important as you look to play your best possible five-card hand from the seven available cards.
Texas Hold’em poker uses traditional high poker hand ranks:
More information on hand ranks, including examples of poker hands, is available in our How to Play section.
Hold'em rules remain the same for Limit, No Limit and Pot Limit poker games, with a few exceptions:
In the PokerStars software, it’s not possible to bet less than the minimum or more than the maximum. The bet slider and bet window will only allow you to bet amounts within the allowed thresholds.
If you want to learn how to play Hold'em, then download the PokerStars software and join any of the free poker games where you can play online against other players. Unlike our real money poker games, since there is nothing at stake, you can be comfortable learning the ropes of the game and all the rules of Hold'em.
As well as Texas Hold’em, we also offer many other poker variants. See our Poker Games page to learn more.