Despite all of the crazy cardplayer lingo, the most popular poker game in the world is also suprisingly easy to play. If you can keep track of two cards, you're ready for some Texas Hold'em!
The objective of Texas Hold'em poker is to make the best five-card hand you can, using a combination of the two "hole cards" you are dealt and the five community cards on the board. You can use one, both, or none of your hole cards in making the hand.
"Blinds" are designed to stimulate betting, forcing one player to post the minimum bet and another player to post half the minimum bet each hand. The player to the immediate left of the dealer's button posts the "small blind," and the player to the immediate left of the small blind posts the "big blind." The size of the blind depends on the game. For example, in a $2/$4 game, the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2. After the blinds are posted, each player is dealt two cards, face down, called hole cards. Texas Hold'em is played with a single deck of cards, shuffled every game.
After the blinds are posted, two cards are dealt face down to each player in clockwise manner around the table, starting with the player to the left of the dealer button. The player may call the big blind, raise any amount within the raise limit guidelines for the game, or fold and surrender his hand. The betting proceeds clockwise around the table and continues until all players have either bet the same amount of money or folded. In Limit games, bets and raises are restricted to one bet and three subsequent raises per round (on the initial deal, the big blind is counted as the first bet). In No-Limit games, you can raise from the big blind to all your chips ("all-in"). If no player raises the big blind by the time the betting returns to the player who posted it, the player that posted the big blind can either check (no additional bet), raise, or fold if he wants. If no players call the big blind, the player who posted the big blind wins the pot.
After the first betting round completes, the first three community cards, known as "the flop," are dealt face up on the board. Betting begins again with the first active player to the left of the dealer. He can either check, bet, or fold. Poker play continues clockwise around the table with each player having the option to either check, bet, call, raise, or fold. When all players have either folded, called the last raiser, or put all of their chips in the pot, the betting round is complete and the cards are dealt for the next round.
After the flop betting round completes, another card, called the "turn card," is dealt face up on the table. The betting process is the same as after the flop, except in Limit poker all bets must be made at the higher bet limit (For example, in a $2/$4 game, betting after the turn would start at $4). The turn card is also called "fourth street."
Play continues clockwise around the table with each player given the same set of options (check, bet, call, raise, or fold). When all players have either folded, called the last raiser, or put all of their chips in the pot, the betting round is complete and the cards are dealt for the next round.
After the turn betting round, one last card, called "the river," is dealt face up on the table. No more cards are dealt. Betting begins again with the first active player to the left of the dealer. He can either check, bet, or fold, with betting at a minimum of the higher blind level (Again, in a $2/$4 game, betting on the river would start at $4). Play continues clockwise around the table with each player given the same set of options (check, call, raise, or fold). When all players have either folded, called the last raiser, or put all of their chips in the pot, the betting round is complete. The river is also known as fifth street.
After betting concludes the showdown occurs.
After the final betting round ends, "the showdown" occurs to determine the winner. The player with the best hand wins the pot except in the case when he goes all-in in response to a bet or raise and doesn't have enough chips to cover the bet. In that case, the player only wins the amount that he contributed to the pot. Any player who wins a part of the pot reveals his two hole cards to the rest of the players. The player who raised displays his cards first. If no players have raised, then the first active player to the left of the dealer displays his cards first.
The winning player receives the entire pot (except for players that go all-in and can't cover the bet or raise).
You are playing No-Limit Hold'em with five other people, for a total of six players. Blinds are $25 and $50 and you are the big blind, so you post $50 in chips. You have $1,000 in chips in front of you after you post the blind. The first player to act folds. The second player to act raises to $200. The third player folds. The fourth player folds. The small blind, who has $25 in the pot already, calls for the additional $175.
You look down at your cards - Ac and As (the Ace of Clubs and the Ace of Spades)! Sure of your good fortune and knowing you have the best starting hand possible, you push your chip stack into the center of the table and scream "All-in!" You have $1,050 in the pot.
The small blind folds. If he wanted to call, it would have cost him an extra $850.
The second player also goes all-in. He has $2,500 in chips. But don't worry. Because you're all-in already, you don't need to cover the difference. There are only two active players, and you're both all-in, so you turn up your hole cards. The second player reveals Kd Ks, and groans.
The dealer lays out the flop - 2c 3c Kc. Oh no! The second player has three-of-a-kind Kings, known as "trips" or a "set." He smiles. But the game isn't over yet. There are two more cards to come.
The dealer sets down the fourth card, or "turn." The 9 of hearts. The second player's smile widens.
Down comes the "river," or fifth card. The Jack of clubs. The second player frowns. His set has just been busted by your Ace-high flush. He takes back the difference between your $1,050 bet and his $2,500. You rake in his chips, "doubling up." Isn't Hold'em easy?
For more information on how to play, check out our article on Poker Hand Rankings.
If you feel you're ready to take on the action yourself, play a few hands.
*If you're confused by any of the terminology, be sure to consult our handy Poker Glossary.