Learn How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker – A Beginner’s Guide

There are many versions of poker, with players enjoying variations such as 7-card stud, 3-card draw, and Omaha Hi, but Texas Hold’em is undoubtedly the most popular poker format right across the globe. Whether you’re new to the world of poker, or a long-time fan of other variants, it’s great that you’re keen to learn more about how to play this version of the card game. 

Our team at Lucky VIP is going to take you through the basics of Texas Hold’em, and teach you what you need to know so you can enjoy the game. Let’s get going!

What is Texas Hold’em?

If you’re completely new to the world of poker, you might not be sure what Texas Hold’em even is. Texas Hold’em is based on the community-card game variant of poker. What this means is that players combine the cards in their hand with a pool of shared “community” cards. These are cards that are dealt during the game that are simultaneously available to all players at the table. Players can all use these cards to help them make the best five-card hand they can. This version of the card game can be played with just a standard 52-card pack, but most casinos use more than one pack of identical cards, all shuffled together.

Basic poker rules

Now that you have a basic idea of how the game works, it’s time to unpack the rules of the game.

Poker hands

As with any other poker game, there are “hands” – or combinations of five cards – that are stronger than others – and the person with the strongest hand wins. Here is a ranking of the different kinds of hands in Texas Hold’em, from strongest to weakest:

  1. Royal flush – This is the strongest hand in Texas Hold’em. It consists of an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10, which must be the same suit. For example, a hand comprising an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 of diamonds is a royal flush.

  2. Straight flush – This is a straight (five cards of consecutive value) that share the same suit. For example, a five, six, seven, eight, and nine of spades is a straight flush.

  3. Four of a kind – If you get four of the same value of card (in other words, the same card from each suit), this is considered “four of a kind”. The remaining card is known as a “side” card. For example, all four kings plus a 10 of hearts is four of a kind.

  4. Full house – If you have three of a kind (three cards of the same value from different suits) and a pair, this is known as a full house. For example, a queen of hearts, spades, and diamonds plus a pair of jacks is a full house.

  5. Flush – A flush is a hand with cards all from the same suit. For example, a two, five, seven, eight, and queen of spades is a flush.

  6. Straight – If you get five cards of consecutive values, but they aren’t in the same suit, this is known as a straight. For example, a three of diamonds, a four, five, and six of hearts, plus a seven of spades is a straight.

  7. Three of a kind – If you have three cards of the same value from different suits in your hand, this is called “three of a kind”. For example, a king of hearts, diamonds, and spades, with a queen of diamonds, and a jack of clubs would be three of a kind.

  8. Two pair – A “two pair” is when you have two pairs of cards of the same value, with one different card. For example, a pair of kings and a pair of queens, as well as a five of hearts, is a two pair.

  9. One pair – A hand with a single pair of cards of the same value, and three other different cards, is a pair. For example, a pair of queens, a jack of hearts, a nine of diamonds, and an ace of spades, is a pair.

  10. High card – A high card is the weakest hand, and is only of relevance when two players both have high card hands. For example, if one player has an ace, king, queen, five, and four of different suits, while another player has a king, queen, jack, five and four of different suits, the player with the ace will win the round.

Actions during betting rounds

During each betting round, players can decide to “fold” (drop out of the round), “call” (match the bet placed by another player during the round), or “raise” (increase the bet for the round). If no-one has placed a bet, players can “check”, which simply passes the decision to check or bet onto the next player. 

Everyone staying in the round must equal the bet on the table before the game can progress. If no-one has placed a bet, players can “check”, which simply passes the decision to check or bet onto the next player.

How a game plays out

Setup

A game of Texas Hold’em begins with a dealer being chosen, with the first player on the left of the dealer betting as the “small blind”, and the player to their left betting as the “big blind”. The small blind is half the big blind, while the big blind is the minimum bet for the rest of the round. This ensures there is cash in the pot for players as this version of poker has no antes (mandatory bets which every player has to make). 

If you’re concerned how this may be fair, don’t worry: in some games, the person that is the dealer rotates clockwise around the board, which in turn rotates the big and small blinds; but in games with a dedicated dealer or croupier, the big and small blinds rotate around the table clockwise regardless.

The dealer gives each player two cards face down (one at a time) in a clockwise direction, starting with the small blind. 

The betting rounds

The pre-flop

The very first round of betting before the community cards are revealed is called the “pre-flop” round. After the blinds have placed their bets, the remaining players decide whether they want to bet, call, raise, check or fold.

The flop

Assuming there are at least two players remaining at the end of the pre-flop round, the dealer will play three community cards face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the flop. In most games of Texas Hold’em, the dealer will “discard” the top card of the deck before revealing the community cards. This is called the burn card, and it is removed from play. 

The turn or fourth street

Again, the dealer usually discards another “burn” card before revealing the next community card. This is followed by another round of betting, where each player again gets a turn to bet, call, raise, check or fold. This round is known as the “turn” or “fourth street”. 

The river or fifth street

During this betting round, also known as the “river” or “fifth street”, another card is “burned” and the fifth community card is revealed. Players again decide whether to bet, call, raise, check, or fold. No more cards will be revealed after the fifth card.

The final showdown

If there are still players left after the final community card is revealed, players take part in a round known as the showdown. Each player reveals their strongest five-card hand during their turn, which usually consists of a combination of their own two cards and the community cards. 

However, in some cases, the player’s best choice may be all five of the community cards. This is known as “playing the board”. However, if they do this, they are likely to split the pot, as every other player can do the same thing. Ultimately, the aim is to use your two face-down cards to improve the community hand so that your hand comes out on top as the strongest.

The first player to bet during the river should be the first to reveal their hand to other players that remain during the showdown round, but other players can choose to reveal their hands first. If no bets were made during the river, the first player on the left side of the dealer that still remains in the game must reveal their hand. If a player knows they have lost they can choose to reveal their cards, or give up the pot without revealing their cards. 

How a tie breaker works

In the event that players have the same hand value, side cards with the highest card value – also known as “kickers” – are used to determine the winner. 

For example, if both players have a two pair consisting of two aces and two kings, but one player has a card with a value of eight and another with a value of nine, the player with the nine will win. This is because the hands are ace, ace, king, king, eight compared to ace, ace, king, king, nine. 

If both players both hold an eight, it is a tie and the pot will be split – but this happens very rarely. Generally, there’s a clear winning hand once they’re all declared, and the lucky winner gets to scoop the pot and take all the chips that have been wagered on that poker round.

Moving onto the next hand

And that’s the end of the  – the next round begins with the small blind moving one place to the left, and the same process repeats – and you have yourself a nice poker game in full flow!

Some basic poker strategies

Now that you have a basic understanding of the game, here’s a few strategies that you can use to increase your poker skills.

Bluffing

A bluff in poker is when you attempt to trick your opponent into thinking that you have a much stronger hand than you actually do, causing them to fold even though they would likely win against your hand. Bluffing is considered a skill as well as an art amongst high level poker players, and you’ll need to master it if you want to improve your chances of winning.

However, bluffing is not something that is recommended for players that are completely new to the game, as you’ll still be learning the basics. However, once you’ve gotten comfortable with the game, you can start learning how to bluff.

Understanding tilt and how to manage it

Another aspect of poker that can dramatically affect your game is tilt. This term refers to the declining mental state of a player, and how it can cause them to make poor decisions. Other players will then try to take advantage of the tilted player’s irrational state in order to win. A player who is tilted will usually make very aggressive plays.

There are many ways to manage tilt, including taking a break from the game, learning breathing techniques to help you destress, and even understanding that you can play the perfect hand of poker and still lose because of bad luck.

Mastering different styles of play

Generally speaking, a player will have a style that will be described as either tight or loose, as well as passive or aggressive.

A tight player is someone who plays fewer hands, usually when they think they have a good chance of winning, while a loose player will take their chances with a greater number of hands, even if their cards are not that strong. Think of someone who is more calculating versus someone who is more willing to gamble. 

This connects to the characteristics of passive and aggressive play. A passive player calls more often than they bet or raise, while an aggressive player bets or raises more than they call.

In order to improve your chances of winning, you’ll need to learn to adapt your style of play to different players and situations, as well as to avoid becoming predictable and easy to read by your opponents. 

Learn how to bet

Apart from your playing style and depth of your bank roll, there are many factors that affect how you place a bet. 

For example, during the preflop, it’s recommended that you don’t call if you have a reasonably strong hand. This is because raising will increase your odds of winning before the community cards are even revealed, or will help you thin out the opposition you might face in later rounds by forcing them out early if they have a less than ideal start.

Another aspect of learning how to bet is understanding how to respond to a raise. This decision alone is very complex, and is influenced by a number of factors, such as your hand, how many players have already committed to the pot, and how aggressive the player who raised is.

This is a very in-depth subject on its own, but is something that you will learn with time, as well as studying other player’s advice, but it’s something you should be aware of when you start playing the game.

Before you jump into a real game

Congratulations! You’ve learnt the basics that you need to know to be able to play a game of Texas Hold’em, but be warned: this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether you usually play live at a casino online, or enjoy visiting real brick-and-mortar casinos, Texas Hold’em is a game that’s notorious for being relatively easy to get into, but incredibly difficult to master.

You’ll likely need to spend more time learning about tells (what you and your opponents are giving away in their facial expressions and body language), how your table position (where you’re sitting in relation to the dealer) affects the way you bet, bluffing – and much more – before you can come close to mastering what this game truly has to offer.

It’s time to play poker!

Now you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to hit the tables and gain some experience! At online casino Lucky VIP, you can enjoy a premium online poker experience with 3 Hand Casino Hold’em, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, and Three Card Stud. If you prefer live dealer games over RNG-based poker, you can also join in the action at our excellent Live Caribbean Stud Poker, Live Three Card Poker, and Live Casino Hold’em Poker live casino games which are hosted by highly trained and professional poker dealers.

If you’d like to mix it up a little, we have many other casino games for you to play. If you like card games, we also offer blackjack, baccarat, and even solitaire!  Or, if you’d prefer to step away from cards for a while, you can also enjoy craps, online slots, roulette, and much more! 

To play at our online casino and enjoy all these excellent games, as well as our great rewards and promotions, all you have to do is register at Lucky VIP.