Texas Holdem isn’t just another poker variant; it’s “the” poker game – the most popular, the most strategic, and by far the most common in major live poker tournaments like the WSOP. If you want to learn the rules & how to play poker, start with Texas Hold-em.
In this article, we will be covering two major topics – Texas Hold-em Rules and Texas Hold-em Starting Hands. With this information, a player is ready to begin his conquest of Texas Hold-em. With a basic understanding of the game, we strongly recommend continuing your growth of knowledge by reading our Holdem strategy guide. We offer a comprehensive 3-part guide that can be found at the bottom of this article.
Texas Hold-em Rules – The Basics
Texas Hold-em is a game for 2 – 10 players, employing a standard 52-card deck. Players start with two cards, called Hole Cards, that are only seen by the player they were dealt to. As the hand goes on, five Community Cards are dealt to the centre of the table. Each player may use these 5 cards in combination with his own 2 Hole Cards to develop the best possible 5-card poker hand.
Texas Hold-em Rules – Betting Structure
Texas Hold-em can be played in all limits – Fixed Limit, No Limit and Pot Limit. No Limit Texas Hold-em is the most common structure, so we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Texas Hold-em also requires Blind Bets – the Small Blind and the Big Blind – forced bets that two participants much place before the first cards are dealt. We’ll define these below, as well.
No Limit: A No Limit (NL) betting structure specifies the minimum bet/raise according to the stakes of the game. The minimum wager equals the high bet. Playing stakes of $2/$4 would set the minimum stake at $4. There is no maximum bet/raise amount set. A player may wager as many chips as his stack holds, if he so wishes.
Small Blind: Blind bets are also determined by the stakes, equaling the low bet. In $2/$4 NL Texas Hold-em, the Small Blind would be $2. The Small Blind is placed by the player left of the Dealer Button.
Big Blind: Placed by the player left of the Small Blind, the Big Blind is equal to the high bet. At $2/$4, the Big Blind is $4.
Texas Hold-em Rules – The Game Begins…
The Blind bets are placed and the Hole Cards dealt. The player left of the Big Blind starts off the first betting round by Calling the Big Blind, Raising or Folding. All players must act in clockwise fashion around the table. Note that Blind bettors will only need to add chips to their blinds to Call or Raise. When all players have acted, choosing to Call the current bet or Fold their hand, the game continues. If everyone Folds at any time, the last player wins and the hand is over.
The Flop: A group of 3 Community Cards are dealt. The second betting round takes place. The player left of the dealer button starts every betting round from here on out.
The Turn: A fourth Community Card is dealt, followed by another round of betting.
The River: The fifth and final Community Card is dealt, then the final betting round.
The Showdown: If two or more players remain active in the hand, a Showdown must take place. This is where each player reveals their best 5-card poker hand from the 7 cards available to them. The highest ranking poker hand, according to standard poker hand ranking rules, wins the pot.
Texas Hold-em Starting Hands
Texas Hold-em is the modern classic poker game, beloved by all, but secretly feared by those who haven’t developed a keen instinct for the game. It has become the most popular of all the poker variations, now more so than stud, draw or omaha. If you want to win at Texas Hold-em, you’ll need a good Texas Hold-em strategy, and the foundation of any good poker strategy is “Starting Hand Selection”.
A player can save a lot of chips that would have otherwise been lost to the whirlwind of competition by simply knowing when to fold before the flop. Starting hand selection isn’t just a suggestion of the better hands, but a strict menu that should be followed diligently. You either have a good starting hand, or you don’t – you either bet, or you Fold. It’s that simple.
We recommend that you also read our more in-depth article on Starting Hand Selection which includes information on all 8 Skylansky starting hand groups but for the purposes of this article we have simplified the groupings to get you started.
There are three levels of Starting Hands, each worthy of betting on in most cases, but some more valuable than others; meaning you may wish to Raise/Re-Raise on one hand, but merely Call the Blinds on another. Therefore, we’ve grouped the Texas Hold-em Starting Hands as such:
– Premium Starting Hands
– Great Starting Hands
– Good Starting Hands
Premium Starting Hands
A Premium Starting Hand in Texas Hold-em is one that should be heavily played from any position. We’ve listed each of these below in order of appreciation. Probability-wise, these are the absolute best possible Starting Hands one can be dealt in Texas Hold-em.
Great Starting Hands
Great Starting Hands in Texas Hold-em aren’t quite as valuable as Premium Starting Hands, but are still strong enough to warrant a player moving on from any position. Again, these starting hands are listed in order of appreciation.
Pocket Pair, 6 through 10
High Suited Connectors (ex: Jh-Qh)
High Connectors (ex: Qc-Kh)
Good Starting Hands
Last but not least is what we consider Good Starting Hands in Texas Hold’em. Well first list the Good Texas Hold’em Starting Hands, then we’ll explain if/when to play them.
Pocket Pair, 2 through 5
Low Suited Connectors (ex: 6d-7d)
Ace + Any Suited Card (ex: Ad-6d)
These are situational hands, which means if the situation doesn’t call for it, don’t play it. In this case, the situation would be 1.) If you can Check from any position; or 2.) If you can Call a Bet (not a Raise) from late position. A Raise should only be placed from the Button or Blind position if no one else has placed a Raised, and only two other payers at most remain in the hand (i.e. Bluff)
Poker has three main betting structures
Limit – fixed betting structure where the each bet is set, players can raise and re-raise but only in fixed multiples – usually maximum of 3 raises.
Pot Limit – Players can bet up to the amount in the pot – beware you can end up putting in a lot more than you might think playing.
No Limit – Exactly what it says on the tin – anytime a player bet all his money on the table.
To continue developing please read our Texas Hold-em Strategy Guide