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How to Play Texas Hold’Em for Beginners (May 2024)

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Introduction to Texas Hold'em Poker

Poker is one of the most glamorous casino games out there. Whether it makes you think of James Bond, Las Vegas, or any other cultural reference in TV shows, films, music or books, it has a huge appeal. Amongst other casino games, poker stands in a category of its own, especially when playing peer-to-peer games, that is, against other players. It requires skill, but also an element of anticipation or reading your opponents and trying to make the most of your cards. But everyone has to start from somewhere, and it is never too late to get in on the action. In this article, we will look at Texas Hold'em Poker, which is the classic 5-card poker that is popular the world over.

How to Play Texas Hold'em Poker

The aim of each round in poker is to form the best 5-card hand. Through a series of betting cycles, players can build up the pot, and then the remaining players in each round have to reveal their cards and the winner takes all unless of course there is a tie. So how does it work? Well, there are 10 different hands you can have at the end of each round. These are formed using the 5 communal cards that are placed in the middle of the table, and your 2 hole cards.

Poker Hands Explained

The poker hands, from strongest to weakest are:

  1. Royal Flush
  2. Straight Flush
  3. Four of a Kind
  4. Full House
  5. Flush
  6. Straight
  7. Three of a Kind
  8. Two Pair
  9. Pair
  10. High Card

Royal Flush is the rarest, and therefore strongest 5-card hand that you can form. If you are not familiar with them, then you can refer to our poker hand guide, in which the hands are explained and there are some scenarios to help you learn them.

Small and Big Blinds

Before the action commences, a small and big blind need to be placed. These will set the stake that each player at the table needs to pay before joining the round. These are fixed amounts in most games, and the big blind is always worth double that of the small blind. For example, if the small blind is $1 then the big blind will be $2. This builds up the pot, and then after the first cards are dealt out the other players need to match the big blind if they want to play in the round.

Actions During the Betting Cycle

You may be familiar with the poker commands Call, Raise, Check and Fold. These are the actions players can take during the betting cycles. When a player calls, what this means is that they meet the current bet and put their money in the pot, thus continuing the round. If a player does not want to stake any more money, they can fold, which is throwing away their cards and forfeiting the round. Raising is when someone decides to increase the bet and thus the pot. The other players need to react to this raise, either staying in the round by calling it or they can quit and fold their cards. Of course, you can also call a raise, and then raise it even higher.

After you have raised and the betting cycle comes back to you, if you do not want to raise any more then you can check. This means that you have already put a stake equal to the highest bet and now do not want to raise the bet further.

The last command is All-In. This is when a player takes all of their chips and puts them into the pot. The other players can then either fold or go all-in as well. The amount of money does not matter, so if a player goes all-in with $200 then players with $100 or $300 would have to go all-in just the same. In the event that one or more players also go all-in, all the participating players have to reveal their hole cards and then the dealer has to draw the remaining communal cards (if there are any left to draw).

Texas Hold'em Poker Rounds

In each round of Texas Hold'em, there are 4 betting cycles in which players can increase the pot. Sometimes, a round can conclude early. This can happen if a player elevates the bet and no other player wants to continue. In that case, the player takes the pot and does not need to show their cards.

The Preflop

After the blinds are placed, the dealer will give each player 2 hole cards. Then the first betting cycle commences, and players can start raising the pot. As no communal cards have been placed yet, it is a risky time to raise aggressively. However, if you think you have a great hand then there is no rule against starting strong.

The Flop

Once the first betting cycle concludes, the dealer draws three communal cards. Everyone sitting around the poker table can already start planning their moves, as 3 of the 5 communal cards have been dealt. The second betting cycle then takes place.

The Turn

After the second betting cycle finishes, the dealer draws the fourth communal card, called the turn. With only one communal card left to go, players can raise the pot again.

The River

The fifth and final communal card is dealt. The remaining players around the table have one last chance to raise the pot before they have to reveal their cards.

The Showdown

This is the decisive moment in each round when a victor is determined. The player with the best 5-card hand takes the pot. If there is a tie, then the pot is usually split between the players with the tying poker hands.

Tips on How to Play Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em is fairly simple to play and the rules can be learnt in a matter of minutes. Developing your game and perfecting your strategy, on the other hand, takes far longer and there are no guaranteed formulas on how to win. However, here are a few tips to help you on your way.

Do Not Fear Folding

A typical mistake for newcomers is holding onto every hand. This is especially evident after the flop, as now you already have some money invested in the pot you may be hoping that the next two cards will strengthen what you have. You should not be afraid to throw away weak hole cards as they will not do you any favours in the long run. Folding after the flop never feels great but the amount of money you can save by not calling big raises will help you further down the line.

Play Your Position

Your position at the table is everything in poker. The betting cycle goes around clockwise, and if you are sitting in the first or second position, then you need a lot of guesswork when raising. The other players have the luxury of waiting in line to see how big the pot becomes and then can decide whether to carry on playing or fold.

Play Your Starting Hands

Do not be shy if you have good starting hands. You want to get the most out of these cards, so do not let the other players see the flop for free: start the raising in the preflop round. Then, this also sets the stage for you to raise further in the next round, but be careful as the remaining players will also most likely have strong hands.

Draw Out Good Hands

One of the most difficult skills to learn is how to raise the pot when you have a good hand. Raising early may result in other players folding, and this will leave you with a handful of opponents to play against. If you carry on raising in large amounts, then you may eject every other player in the game, and end up winning a modest amount. The goal is to aim for pots that are significantly larger than the starting pot, so be patient with your raises and try to anticipate how the other players will react.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best hole cards?

High pocket pairs are the strongest hole cards. A pair of Aces, Kings or Queens are your best bet.

Do I need to use both hole cards?

You do not need to use both hole cards. But, if your best 5-card hand only uses one of your cards, then you must remember that those 4 other cards can be used by the other players too. This increases the chance of them matching or even beating your hand. This does not change the fact that your best hand uses only 1 of your hole cards, but only that it poses more risk against the other players.

When should I go all-in or call an all-in?

All-ins are risky and seldom used by players. Still, if you think you have the best hand and want to attack the pot, you can go all-in. Some players also use it before the river, to intimidate other players (who may or may not be close to securing a strong 5-card hand). This move is a bit of a gamble, so it is better for newcomers to avoid it.

Is Texas Hold'em easier to learn than other poker variants?

Texas Hold'em is one of the most simple variants of poker. Variants such as Omaha poker are better learnt once you have a base understanding of Texas Hold'em. Then, you can also explore variants such as Hi-Lo, Stud Poker, and more.

Conclusion

There are many excellent online poker rooms and casinos where you can start playing Texas Hold'em. A lot of these establishments offer free games with which you can build your confidence and then advance to penny games. Be warned though, that once you play poker for money, tactics change and you will have to be more wary of your opponents. This makes the game infinitely more fun as you can always learn new skills and try to build your strategy. You will also find tonnes of online tournaments out there, for players of all budgets. These can provide bundles of fun and if you get better you may have a chance to win a prize from some massive pools.

All in all, Texas Hold'em is definitely worth learning and can be played at any level. The poker community is gigantic, so you will always find exciting gaming opportunities and level playing fields where you can improve your game.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.