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How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker: A Complete Beginner's Guide

Rules, how to play, and beginner tips

New to poker?

Look no further, this complete beginner’s guide will walk you through everything you need to know about Texas Hold‘em poker. From the basic rules and terminology to strategies and tips, we’ve got you covered.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to start playing and dominating your next poker night.

Let’s dive in and get started.

Table of Contents

What Is Texas Hold’em Poker?

There are dozens of different types of poker—but Texas Hold ‘Em is the most popular with over 100 million players worldwide.

The goal of the game is simple: win as many chips as possible by either having the best five-card hand or persuading other players to fold.

Rules

Texas Hold'em is played with 2 to 10 players using a standard 52-card deck.

Each hand of poker has four stages, with a round of betting after each.

  1. Pre-flop: Each player is dealt two cards face down. These are called your “hole cards”. Make sure to keep these hidden from other players.

  2. Flop: Three community cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. These cards can be used by any player to make their hand.

  3. Turn: A fourth community card is dealt face-up in the middle.

  4. River: A fifth community card is dealt face-up in the middle.

At the end, all remaining players show their hands. The player with the best five-card hand using any combination of hole and community cards wins all the bets (the “pot”).

Players can also win by making everyone else fold before the last stage is over.

Hand Rankings

The best poker hand combinations, from highest to lowest, are:

  • Royal Flush: A hand with an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of the same suit. This is the highest possible hand in poker.

  • Straight Flush: A hand with five cards in sequential order and of the same suit, such as 9-8-7-6-5 of spades. The highest possible Straight Flush is the Royal Flush.

  • Four of a Kind: A hand with four cards of the same rank, such as four Aces.

  • Full House: A hand with three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, such as three Kings and two Queens.

  • Flush: A hand with any five cards of the same suit, such as five diamonds.

  • Straight: A hand with five cards in sequential order, regardless of suit.

  • Three of a Kind: A hand with three cards of the same rank, such as three Jacks.

  • Two Pair: A hand that includes two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, such as two 4s and two 7s.

  • One Pair: A hand that includes two cards of the same rank, such as two 7s.

  • High Card: A hand that includes none of the above combinations. The highest card in the hand is used to determine the winner in case of a tie.

A chart showing Texas Hold'em poker hand rankings

Poker hand rankings

Betting

Betting is an essential part of the game and knowing how to bet correctly is key to winning.

During each betting round, you can take the following actions:

  • Check: Make no bet and the action moves on to the next player.

  • Bet: Make a bet. Other players must match your bet, raise, or fold.

  • Call: Match a previous bet.

  • Raise Increase the previous bet.

  • Fold: Give up your hand.

The betting order is based on where you’re located on the table. This is called your “position”.

Betting Order

At the start of each poker hand, one player is designated as the dealer, also called the “button”. The player to the left of the dealer bets first and the action continues clockwise around the table with the dealer going last.

The betting order is important and has a significant impact on your decisions and strategies.

For example: Being later in the betting order gives you the advantage of making more informed betting decisions. You have more information to work with because you can see what all the other players do before you make your move.

Blinds

Before cards are dealt, two players must make mandatory bets called “blinds”.

  • The player to the left of the dealer is called the “small blind” (SB).

  • The player two seats to the left of the dealer is called the “big blind” (BB).

Blind amounts vary depending on the stakes being played. The SB is usually half the amount of the BB.

For example: If you're playing a poker game with $1/$2 stakes, then the SB is $1 and the BB is $2. If you’re the BB, you must put in $2 before cards are dealt.

The dealer, BB, and SB rotate one player clockwise after each hand.

How to Play

Now that you’ve learned the rules, let’s walk through each stage of a game.

Blinds

Before cards are dealt, the BB and SB must make their mandatory bets.

Pre-flop

After the BB and SB make their bets, the dealer deals two cards face down to each player, starting with the player to their left and going clockwise.

Once all players have their hole cards, the first round of betting begins. The player to the left of the BB starts this betting round and the action continues clockwise. Players can choose to fold, call (match the BB), or raise (bet more than the BB).

This betting round ends when all players have folded, called, or raised to the same amount.

The Flop

The dealer deals three cards face up in the middle of the table.

After the flop, the SB starts all betting rounds. Players can choose to check, bet, call, raise, or fold.

Betting continues until all players have checked, called, raised to the same bet, or folded.

The Turn

The dealer deals another card face up in the middle of the table.

Another round of betting begins and continues until all players have checked, called, raised to the same bet, or folded.

The River

The dealer deals one final community card face up in the middle of the table.

The final round of betting begins and continues until all players have checked, called, raised to the same bet, or folded.

Showdown

A showdown happens if there are two or more players remaining after the final betting round.

In the showdown: players reveal their hole cards to determine the best hand. If two or more players have the same best hand, the pot is split equally among them.

After the pot is awarded, the dealer button moves to the next player in a clockwise direction, and a new hand begins.

Beginner Tips and Strategies

Now that we have the basics down, here are some beginner tips and strategies to help you start on the right foot.

  • Starting hands: Starting hands are the foundation of your game. As a beginner, it's important to focus on playing strong starting hands which give you the best chance of winning.

  • Position: Your position at the table is crucial. Sticking to playing hands in a late position makes it easier to make better decisions because you have more information about your opponents' actions.

  • Bet sizing: Keep your bet sizes consistent and avoid making overly large or small bets. This will help you avoid giving away too much information about your hand strength.

  • Bluffing: It’s best to avoid bluffing until you understand the game better. Instead, focus on playing strong hands and making good decisions based on your hand strength and your opponent's actions

  • Patience: Poker is a game of patience. Don't get too frustrated if you're not getting good cards or if you're losing a few hands in a row. Stick to your strategy and wait for the right opportunities to make a move.

Developing Your Poker Skills

The best way for you to start developing your poker skills is by studying and consistently practicing.

  • Books: There are many books written by experienced players and experts that cover everything from the basics of the game to advanced strategies, such as "The Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky and "Harrington on Hold'em" by Dan Harrington.

  • YouTube: YouTube videos are a great free resource for learning the game. Some popular channels are: Joe Ingram, Doug Polk, and Daniel Negreanu.

  • Forums: Connect with other players, share tips and strategies, and ask questions about the game. Some popular poker forums are: TwoPlusTwo, CardsChat, and PokerStrategy.

  • Analyze: Review your hands, keep track of your results, and look for areas of improvement in your game.

  • Practice: Start by playing free or low-stakes games. This will allow you to get comfortable with poker and experiment with different strategies without risking too much money.

Developing your poker skills takes time and patience, but with the right mindset and approach, you can become a skilled poker player.

Ready to Start Playing?

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