Learn the rules of poker (Texas Hold’em) for beginners (dummies)
This is the second part of our article series on the rules of poker, and more precisely about its most widespread variety - No-Limit Texas Hold’em. The first part can be found here - How to Play Poker: Ultimate Guide to the Rules of Poker (Texas Hold’em) - Part 1. This article explains the progress and sequence of actions at the poker tables in a detailed way and will answer the question of most newbies - 'what are the rules of poker'.
Playing the game in Texas Poker
Texas Hold'em rules are pretty simple - a lot easier than it might seem at the beginning. We have tried to describe all the pecularities in detail so that even dummies could understand the subtleties of the game without problems. This article could have been called Texas Hold'em poker rules for dummies. At the same time here you will find not only basic rules of Texas Hold'em poker, but also a detailed explanation of complex aspects.
Every player at the table in a game of Texas Hold’em is dealt two pocket cards (pocket cards are oftentimes called with one word - ‘hand’). After the cards are dealt every player has an option to place a bet or surrender. There are four betting rounds in the game - preflop, flop, turn, and river, which we will explain more closely further on. Betting rounds are also called ‘streets’. During the betting rounds 5 community cards are dealt to the table in three stages: the first three on the flop, then one more and then another one. Because this cards are considered community cards, any player can you them to form his poker hand. It turns out that every player has seven cards in his disposal (2 pocket cards and 5 community cards), he has to choose those five that will allow him to form the strongest possible poker hand (combination). Depending on the community cards strength, every player can use either 1 of his pocket cards and 4 community cards, or both pocket cards with 3 community cards, or even none of his pocket cards, using only the community cards on the table. Community cards are used only to form poker combinations. None of the player can take them, but at the same time, for example, 3 players can use the same community card to form their hands.
Example. There are 3 players in the hand with completely identical cards - . Imagine, that Player 1 has - , Player 2 - , and Player 3 - . Community cards are - . Thus, every player will use community cards to form identical combinations - two pairs, Kings and Queens (we will describe combinations in a more detailed way later in this article).
The winner will be considered the one whose 5-card combination will be the strongest, or the one who will be able to force out of the game other players with the help of betting and will remain alone on the showdown. After the end of each hand, all players muck their cards and the deck is shuffled, thus, each and every hand starts with the completely new cards dealt to players.
Briefly, the rules of Texas Hold’em look like this (details are below):
- Two players sitting on the left to the dealer post blinds: small blind and big blind;
- Every player receives 2 pocket cards;
- The first betting round starts (preflop);
- First three community cards are dealt on the board face up (flop cards);
- The second betting round occurs (flop);
- Next community card is dealt face up (turn card);
- The third betting round occurs (turn);
- The fifth and last community card is dealt on the board face up (river card). Thus, there are 5 community cards dealt on the board face up;
- The last betting round proceeds (river).
- If after the last betting round there are more than one active player, the players proceed to the showdown. Players should use any of their two pocket cards and 5 community cards to form a 5-card poker hand. The pot is won by the player with the strongest combination of cards.
Let’s get into more details...
Playing order in poker
Texas Hold’em has its own rules of players taking turns at the table:
- Betting at the table always happens clockwise;
- After any player at the table takes an action (you will discover possible actions at the table later on in this article), he can’t reverse his decision and the turn goes to next player sitting after him (clockwise, again), i.e., sitting to his left;
- In the first betting round (preflop) the first player to act is the one sitting to the left of big blind;
- Starting from the second round of betting (on the flop, turn, and river), the betting always starts with the player sitting to the left of the dealer (small blind);
- All bets that have been made in each betting rounds are put into the pot;
- The betting round is finished when all the players have made equal bets or folded their cards. Then the game goes to the next phase - flop, turn, river or showdown.
- If one of the opponents (let’s call him Player A) made a bet and his bet was raised by another opponent (let’s call him Player B), then Player A has one more decision to make: fold his cards, call the bet or make another raise;
- If one of the players has less money in his stack than his opponents bet, the player is considered all-in. In this case, two pots are formed - the main pot and side pot. Both pots are played apart from each other among all players who participated in the hand. Example: On the flop Player A has $10, Players B and C - $15. Pot on flop = $20. Player B bets $15 and gets a call from Player C. If player A will also call this bet, 2 pots will be formed: main pot = money, that have already been invested into the pot + players bets in the limit of the player stack with less money in it: in our case - Player A, i.e. $20 + $10 (Player A) + $10 (Player B) + $10 (Player C) = $50. The side pot is formed out of the difference between all the bets and main pot, thus, side pot = money, that have already been in pot + players bets - the main pot. In our case = $20 + $15+ $15 +$10 - $50 = $60 - $50 = $10. Player A will fight only for the main pot (because he has been investing his bets only in this pot), but players B and C - for the main pot and side pot. First the side pot between players B and C is played, then there is turn for the main pot between all the players at the table.
- If more than one player reached the showdown, players are showing their cards and players hands are compared one to another. The pot is won by the player with the strongest poker hand at the table.
- If only one player reached the showdown, he collects the full pot.
- If two or more players have similar poker hands, pot is split among both of them.
Poker has a rule, according to which player is taking part in the game only with the amount of money he has in his stack (stack - the amount of chips one has before him on the table). You can add chips to your stack only between hands. You cannot take money out of your stack - the only option is to leave the table with all your money. As was already mentioned before, in case a player has ran out of money in his stack during the betting rounds, he continues to participate in hand, but he is not participating in further betting rounds anymore and thus the side pot is formed at the table.
Players actions at the poker table
Every player, depending on the betting activity at the table, can choose one of the following actions during the game:
- Place a bet;
- Make a raise of the previous bet - bet the bigger amount than any of the opponents before;
- Make a re-raise - this is an action during the betting round when a player raises the raise of a player before him;
- Call the bet - make a bet equal to the bet of the opponent before. In other words, this means to bet the same amount of chips your opponent have put into pot before you;
- Check - this means not betting any amount of chips. You can play check only when the amount of your previous bet equals the amount of your opponents bets, i.e., if nobody has made any bets before you in the current betting round. For example, you’re on the big blind, one of the players had made a call, i.e., called your big blind bet, and all other players folded their cards. In this case you can perform a check;
- Fold - meaning not to participate in the betting rounds anymore and muck your cards. This action can be performed during one of the betting rounds, when a player deliberately refuses to continue his participation in a given hand by mucking his cards. As a rule, fold is performed in a situation when a player has weak cards with a low probability of forming a winning combination. After the hand is folded player loses all his chips that he had previously put into the pot during the betting rounds.
In the game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em players can make bets of any size during each betting round. However, there’s a limit on the minimum size of your bet. The size of the minimal re-raise is calculated by the following formula:
The size of the previous re-raise + amount of chips needed to call
For example, let’s imagine that you’re playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em with $1/$2 stakes. There was no raises before you. Minimum raise amount in that case will be equal $4 ($2 (that we would need to call) + $2 (as a raise to the previous bet before you, in our example - the size of a big blind).
The maximum bet size is unlimited. If the amount of the bet equals the whole player’s stack (stack - the amount of money player has on a table in front of him) - he is considered all-in.
The rules of preflop, flop, turn, and river. Determining the winner on showdown
1. The rules of preflop in No-Limit Texas Hold’em
Betting between players involved in the hand starts immediately after posting the blinds, when the cards are dealt to players. On preflop players are making bets, based only on their own pocket cards. The betting starts with the player who is sitting directly to the left of a player sitting in a big blind position. Then the right to act is passed to the next players clockwise.
Player can make the following decisions on preflop:
- Refuse to play with his pocket cards and fold the hand by clicking the “Fold” button;
- Call the big blind and take a look on the decisions of other players at the table;
- Raise the bet by clicking the “Raise” button, i.e., make a larger bet then the size of a big blind. On preflop players on blind are always making their decisions last. However, on the other streets (betting rounds, i.e., flop, turn, and river) they will be acting first.
One question most of the poker beginners always ask: “Why I can’t play check on preflop, if I don’t want to raise, call or fold?”. The answer is simple - blind in No-Limit Texas Hold’em are considered bets. According to No-Limit Texas Hold’em rules, you cannot continue betting unless you have called the bets of your opponents.
Based on the preflop betting activity, you can make conclusions about your opponent's hand strength. Thus, players with strong starting hands will have to play aggressively and make raises on preflop, to force out of the hand as much opponents with weaker hands as possible, and don’t let them see the flop community cards. An aggressive way of playing your starting hands on preflop will give you an advantage and initiative. Initiative in No-Limit Texas Hold’em always stays with a player who made the last raise on preflop.
When all the players have called the bets or folded own pocket cards, the preflop betting round is considered complete. If no one has made any bets and all players have folded their cards, the pot (which will consist only of the blinds) will be taken by the player sitting on the big blind position (it can be called BB). But if one of the players will make a bet and no one will want to call it, this player will win the whole pot (consisting of blinds and his bet). If any of the players will make a bet and his opponent will decide to call it, the preflop betting round will be considered complete and all players still active in the given hand will proceed to the next betting round - flop.
2. The rules of flop in poker (No-Limit Texas Hold’em)
After the preflop betting round is complete, according to the rules of Texas Hold'em, all the players remaining in the hand, have the opportunity to see three community cards, i.e., flop cards. The betting round with the three community cards on a table is called the flop.
Second and all the following betting rounds begin with the player who sits on a position of small blind. Starting from the flop, the last action in the betting round will always be taken by a dealer, i.e., player on the ‘Button’.
Player can make the following decisions on flop:
- Skip his action and don’t make any bets (by clicking the ‘Check’ button). On postflop (on flop, turn, and river) every player has an option to check until any of his opponents will make a bet.
- Make a bet (by clicking ‘Raise’ button). In No-Limit Texas Hold’em the player chooses the size of his bet on his own, but it can’t be lower than the size of the big blind. After any player has made a bet on flop other players lose an option to skip the action (check). They would need either to call this bet, or to make a bet of larger amount, or fold their cards, refusing to continue the participation in the hand.
After all the bets on flop had been called the betting round is considered complete. All the made bets are summed with the pot and players still active in the hand are proceeding to the next betting round - turn.
3. The rules of turn in poker (No-Limit Texas Hold’em)
After the second betting round (flop) is finished, according to the Texas Hold’em rules players still active in the hand are granted an option to see one more community card - turn card. The betting round with four community cards on a table is called ‘turn’.
The fourth community card, turn card, is also available to use drawing your poker hand. Players still active in the pot are going through one more, third betting round. The turn playing rules are the same to the ones on flop.
All the bets made are once again summed up with the overall pot and players still active in the hand are proceeding to the next betting round - river.
4. The rules of river in poker (No-Limit Texas Hold’em)
After the third betting round (turn) is finished, according to the Texas Hold’em rules, players still active in the hand are given an opportunity to see one more (and the last) community card - river card. The betting round with the five community cards on the board is called the ‘river’.
The river playing rules are the same to the ones on flop and turn.
River is the final, fourth betting round in No-Limit Texas Hold’em. All five community cards are placed on a board and every player has to form his combination using five cards. Every player sees seven cards in total (two pocket cards and five community cards on a table).
After all players had made their bets the showdown occurs, where the winner of the hand is determined.
5. Determining the winner of the hand (Showdown)
Showdown is a moment of truth in No-Limit Texas Hold’em (or simply poker in our series of articles). On a showdown players open their cards and determine who has the strongest combination (the strongest hand).
Player can use two of his pocket cards and three community cards on a board to form his combination; besides, player can use only one of his pocket cards and four community cards, or even all five of the community cards. This doesn’t change anything. The main thing - player has to have exactly five cards in his final hand - no more, no less.
Player with the strongest poker combination wins the hand and takes the pot. If one or more players have equal poker combinations, this players split the pot equally.
In the case where during the No-Limit Texas Hold’em game none of the players have called the opponent bet and everyone folded instead, the last player to bet will win the pot automatically, because he’s the last active player in the hand. In this case player has an option to show his cards, because none of his opponents had called the bet and he has no one to compare the strength of his cards with.
It’s important to remember that in Hold’em, no suit has an advantage over another.
After the winner of a given hand is determined, the next hand starts. The dealer’s ‘button’ moves clockwise to the next player, and two players after him post blinds. Right after that all players receive their pocket cards. Thus, everything returns to the preflop stage.
Now the second part of our article series about rules of playing poker can be considered complete. If you would like to continue studying the poker rules for beginners, please read the third article of the series - Ultimate Guide To The Rules of Poker (Texas Hold’em) - Part 3: Poker Hands.
Knowledge base's sections
The best about poker
- How to get satisfaction from playing poker
The psychology of poker
- Five reasons why I've made money and continue doing this playing poker
The psychology of poker
- Poker table positions (positions in poker)
Fundamentals of poker
- The fundamental theorem of poker
- Slow play in poker
Fundamentals of poker
- The probabilities of getting specific starting hands on preflop