The rules of Texas Hold’em Poker are fairly easy to follow and the short guide below will give you an overview of how the game is played. To teach you the basics we look at how one single hand of poker is played and we analyse each aspect of it as it unfolds.
How A Poker Game Starts...
Before every hand is dealt, two players at the table must place small bets into the pot before they receive any cards. These are known as 'Blind Bets' or the 'Blinds' and each player at the table takes his/her turn at making these bets.
The two players who are seated to the left of dealer button start off the game by paying the blinds, the dealer button is rotated around the table to ensure that everyone at the table pays an equal amount of blinds. If you play at an internet poker room this is done for you automatically.
The First Cards Are Dealt...
Now that the blinds have been paid the real game can start. Each player at the table is dealt two cards face down, you may look at your two cards but you cannot look at the other players cards, nor should you show your cards to anyone else.
Your two cards are known as 'Hole Cards'. Based on how good these cards are you should determine whether or not you continue in the game. For example if you are dealt two aces then you should continue, but if you are dealt a three and a seven then you should probably fold and take no further action in that hand. We'll talk more about which cards you should play later on in the guide.
For this example we will assume you have been dealt two aces and that you are going to play those cards until the end of the hand.
The First Round Of Betting...
The dealer will now ask each player in turn if they would like to fold their cards or give them the option to 'Check', 'Call' or 'Bet'. Only the player who paid the big blind can 'Check' in the first round of betting. A 'Check' simply means you're making no bet but you still want to continue in the hand.
Because you didn't pay the blinds in this hand you must make a bet equal to the size of the biggest blind bet to continue in the game. Lets say the big blind was £1, to stay in the game you must add another £1 into the pot. You can also raise the stakes by betting £2 then each of the following players must then bet a minimum of £3 to stay in the game (£1 to call the original bet and £2 to match your bet).
So now you have made your opening bet and many of the other players at the table decide that their cards aren't worth playing and they fold. Only you and two other players at the table will now take part in the next stage of the game.
This stage of the poker game is known as the 'Flop'. The dealer will now place three cards face up in the centre of the table. Remember, the aim of Texas Hold'em poker is to make the best five card hand from the two cards you are dealt in the beginning of the game plus three of the five cards dealt face up on the table. The best five card hand any player can make is known as a royal flush - which is the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of the same suit.
For this example the following cards have been dealt by the dealer in the centre of the table: Seven ♣ , Ace ♠ and Two ♣. you already had a very good hand when you got dealt a pair of Aces at the beginning of the game and now you can use the Ace from the flop to make an even stronger hand - 3 of a Kind Aces.
Let's assume magically that we can see the other players hands! We note that another player also has 3 of a Kind, he has two sevens from the begining of the game and using the seven in the centre of the table to make 3 of a Kind Sevens.
You still have a better hand than him, as Aces are ranked higher than Sevens. The last player in the hand is holding 10 ♣, 9 ♣ and at the moment this player has the worst hand - but importantly this player may still be able to make a flush by using the last two cards to be dealt in the centre of the table. A flush (any five cards of the same suit) will beat your 3 of a Kind Aces!
So now the three players in the game will be asked again by the dealer if they intend to fold, check, call or bet. You're the first player to be asked by the dealer for your decision - lets say you decide to 'Check'. This is when you make no bet and the other players can now also 'Check' too. If any one of the players had made a bet then you would need to match his bet to continue to the next stage.
As all the players 'Checked' the next stage of the game is played out and the dealer will now deal another card into the centre of the table. This is known as the 'Turn' card and the table cards now look like this:- Seven ♣ , Ace ♠ , Two ♣ and 4 ♥. So now the dealer again asks for the remaining players to Fold, Check or Bet.
You decide that your hand is probably the best at the table so you enter a bet of £6. The other players must at least match this bet to continue in the game. The player who was hoping for another Club ♣ card to make a 'Flush' decides that it is too risky to gamble any more money. The chances of hitting a Club ♣ with just one remaining card to be dealt by the dealer are too risky so he folds his cards.
The other player who is has 3 Sevens decides to call your bet and adds £6 to the pot. This now sets up the last act of the game known as the 'River'.
The River is the last card dealt by the dealer into the centre of the table. The table cards now look like this:- Seven ♣ , Ace ♠ , Two ♣ , 4 ♥ and Queen ♥. Now all five table cards have been dealt there are no more cards to be played in the game - players must now decide to check, bet or fold.
You still believe that your hand is the best and you think hard about making a big bet, but you are worried that a big bet may scare your opponent into folding. When you have a good hand like Three of a Kind Aces you want to win as much money as possible, so you decide the best way to extract the maximum money out of your opponent is to trick him into believing you have a weaker hand than you really do. And more importantly, a weaker hand then him!
To achieve this you make a very small bet of £1, your opponent senses that your small bet is because your cards are weak. He wants to force you into folding your cards so that he can win the cash without revealing his own hand, so he raises your bet by £10 in the hope of making you fold.
Your trap has worked and you call his £10 bet instantly... you must both now reveal the two cards you were dealt at the beginning of the game, your three Aces beats his three Sevens and you win that hand and all the money in the pot!
So that's how a basic poker game is played, obviously there is much more strategy and deception in most hands of poker than we have illustrated above but we didn't want to make things too complicated just yet. The example above is intended just to show the mechanics of a poker game as it is played on the Internet or in real life.
You now have a basic understanding of how the game is played, but you may not know which are the best cards to play, which cards should always be folded and the order in which winning hands are ranked. Don't fret, we can show you all those things in the following pages.
Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the order of winning hands - If you don't know that a Flush beats a Straight or Three of a Kind beats Two pairs then check out our easy to follow guide to Poker Hands.