Texas Hold'em, commonly referred to simply as Hold’em, is the most popular game of poker, both online and in real life.
The game is largely responsible for the poker boom in the early 2000s. This was also around the time when online poker became available to the masses due to a vastly improved internet infrastructure across the globe. TV broadcasts further contributed to making poker mainstream. Legends like Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, or Daniel Negreanu were celebrated like rock stars.
Texas Hold'em is also played at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker every year, where the winner takes home millions of dollars! Another reason for its insane popularity is the fact that it is easy to learn but hard, if not even impossible, to actually master.
What is Texas Hold'em and how is it different?
As Texas Hold'em is now the gold standard when it comes to poker, this is the game most people have in mind when thinking of the card game.
The biggest difference compared to more traditional poker variations is that all players share a set of community cards that can be combined with each player’s hidden private cards (or hole cards) to form a winning hand.
This creates an interesting dynamic between players as each individual is constantly challenged by a guessing game about which card combinations can potentially be formed by their opponents with the help of the community cards.
How to play – Texas Hold'em rules
Texas Hold'em rules are best explained by looking at the different stages of the game. But let’s clarify some basics first. One player is always classified as the dealer. That position on the table is called the “button”. This is always the case, even if there is a dedicated dealer present.
The two players to the left of the dealer are called the small blind and the big blind. They must always put down a small mandatory bet. In most cases, the value of the small blind is half of a big blind. This is to animate people to play more hands instead of just waiting around for the best card combinations. After each round, the button is moved to the next player on the left.
The game begins by dealing two face-down cards to each player. These are the so-called hole cards. The cards are then dealt clockwise starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
When each player has received two cards and the blinds have placed their mandatory bets, the real game starts.
The player to the left of the big blind has three options. They can call the bet, which means that they put down an equal amount to the big blind. Their second option is to raise the bet, and finally, they can also decide to fold.
Betting continues until each player who wants to stay in the pot has bet the same amount.
After the initial betting round is completed, the first three community cards will be dealt. This is called the flop. Each player can combine the community cards with the hole cards in their hands to form a poker hand out of five cards in total.
Now, it is time to estimate the strength of your hand. Which combinations do you already have and which combination could you possibly achieve with the help of the two community cards yet to come?
Action on the flop
The player to the left of the dealer, the small blind, acts first. They can either check or put down a bet. The other players can then react in the same way as previously described by checking and calling or raising the bet.
It is now time for the fourth community card which is called the turn card. This gives all players the chance to improve their hands and is followed by yet another betting round.
After the turn, the fifth and final community card is added to the board, the so-called river card. Now it’s time for the final betting round. If the bets of the players who still want to continue playing are equal, a "showdown" follows.
It is also important to know that in “No Limit Texas Hold’em” players can go “all in” at any point of the game, even if they can’t cover the whole bet with their remaining chip stack. They can still win the hand but will only receive as much as they invested in the pot in return. The remaining money goes to the player with the second-strongest hand.
During the showdown, players reveal their cards to determine a winner. The player with the best five-card combination wins the round. When you noticed that you have lost, you don't have to show your cards. This is called a "muck" in poker.
If two players have a hand of equal value, the pot is split up between them. If the five cards on the table are higher than the combination held by the remaining players, the pot will also be split.
Texas Hold'em poker hand rankings
- Royal Flush – Five cards in a sequence starting with an ace in the same suit
- Straight Flush – Five cards in a sequence, all in the same suit
- Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same rank
- Full House – Three of a kind with a pair
- Flush – Any five cards of the same suit, but not in a sequence
- Straight – Five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suit
- Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank
- Two Pair – Two different pairs
- Pair – Two cards of the same rank
- High Card – When you can't make any of the hands above, the highest card counts
Texas Hold'em strategies and other helpful tips
As we mentioned, a regular Texas Hold'em game is relatively easy to learn but hard to master. The game’s theoretical aspect is immensely complicated and goes far beyond the scope of this article.
However, we don’t want to leave you empty-handed, so we are going to point out some tips and tricks that will immediately improve your Texas Hold'em strategy…
One of the most important things is to be aware of your position at the table. The most profitable position is the button as you are always last to act. This means you have an informational advantage over the other players and can afford to play with a wider range of cards.
The worst positions are the blinds. Not only do you have to invest some money in the pot without knowing your cards first but you will also have to act before everyone else.
For that reason, it is a good strategy to tighten the range of hands you play from this unfavorable position and try to minimize your losses.
GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing Texas Hold'em:
- Always keep your position at the table in mind
- Play tight in early positions
- Loosen up in later positions, especially when on the button
- Fold marginal hands when you’re unsure
- Don’t slow play your strong hands too much
- You might lose a lot of value by not betting
- Follow what's happening at your table to correctly size your bet
Play Texas Hold'em at online casinos
When playing Texas Hold'em online, you mostly compete against other players on poker sites designed for this purpose. But there are also plenty of Texas Hold'em casino games out there that you can check out.
If you don’t want to worry about getting bluffed every single turn, this might be the right choice for you since this type of game is played against the bank.
You can find Texas Hold’em in almost every live casino or as a regular RNG- or video-based game.
If you are just learning how to play Texas Hold'em, you can take advantage of a range of free games. As mentioned, RNG games usually allow players to test the waters with play money without the need of making a deposit.
But there is even a better option for free Texas Hold'em online. Almost all big poker sites offer daily freeroll tournaments that you can sign up for. As the name suggests, they are entirely free of charge, but you can still compete against other players. You can even win some real cash if you are lucky and/or skilled enough.