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Texas Holdem Poker - How to play

Texas Holdem is by far the most popular poker variant played online, and the No-Limit version is the crowd-pleasing pinnacle of every major poker tournament. The relative simplicity of Texas Holdem rules, as demonstrated below, along with the communal nature of Texas Holdem hands, make the game easy to follow for beginners and exciting to watch for spectators. Don't let the simplicity of the rules fool you – there is much more to Texas poker than meets the eye. Texas Holdem strategy can take a lifetime to master, and there are as many Texas Holdem tips as there are players. Still, if you want to dive into the poker frenzy and play online Texas Holdem, all you really need to know to get started is how each round of the game is played.

General Texas Holdem Rules

Your goal in Texas Holdem, just like any other poker variant, is to take as much money as you can from each pot. You can do this by either showing the best five-card combination five-card combination at the end of a round, or by making all your opponents fold. Texas Holdem poker is typically played around tables with up to 10 players, though other variations exist. When playing online, simply look for an empty seat and click it to join a table.

A Single Round of Texas Holdem Poker

We will follow one round of Limit Texas Holdem. In Limit games, the amount each player can bet at each point of the game is limited (as apposed to ‘No Limit' games, where players may push all their chips into the pot whenever they can raise). For example, if you join a $5/$10 Limit Texas Holdem game, the minimum stake, or small bet, is $5, while the big bet (or maximum stake) is $10. These limitations will be further explained below.

The Dealer Button: After joining a table, you'll notice one player is seated behind a button marked "D". This is the dealer button. In offline Texas poker games players themselves take turns dealing the cards, but in online Texas Holdem the cards are automatically dealt by the software (or ‘virtual dealer'). The dealer button simply indicates the players' relative position in each new round. The button keeps rotating clockwise around the table, so everyone gets a chance to be the dealer at some point.

Blinds: Before the cards are dealt, the player sitting immediately to the left of the dealer posts the ‘small blind', and the player directly to his left posts the ‘big blind'. These automatic bets ensure that there is money to be won at each and every round of the Texas Holdem game. The small blind is equal to half the minimum stake, while the big blind is equal to the minimum stake. Continuing our example, in a $5/$10 Limit Texas Holdem game, the small blind will post $2.5 and the big blind $5, ensuring a $7.5 minimum pot in every round.

Pocket Cards: Each player is dealt two cards, face down. These are also known as ‘hole cards'.

1st Betting Round: Beginning with the player sitting to the left of the big blind, each player at his turn may choose to ‘call' or match the bet, ‘fold' his cards and forfeit the round, or ‘raise' the bet even higher. According to Limit Texas Holdem rules, the maximum raise during the 1st betting round is equal to the small bet (e.g. $5 in a $5/$10 game). The betting order proceeds clockwise, so the big blind position is the ‘last to speak' during this round.

The Flop: Three cards are dealt face up at the center of the table. These are known as ‘community cards' which may be used by all players towards assembling the best five-card hand.

2nd Betting Round: Another betting round takes place, only this time betting starts from the small blind position. In Texas Holdem poker lingo this position is called ‘under the gun'. The player concluding this betting round is the dealer. At this stage, the maximum raise is still set to the small bet.

The Turn: The fourth community card is dealt, face up.

3rd Betting Round: The stakes just got higher. This round is similar to the 2nd in terms of betting order, only now the maximum raise allowed is the big bet (e.g. $10 in a $5/$10 Holdem poker game).

The River: The fifth and final community card is dealt, face up.

Final Betting Round: The 4th and final betting round takes place. In Texas Holdem rules, betting rounds 3 and 4 are identical.

The Showdown: The last player to place a bet or make a raise during this hand must expose his cards for all to see. Other players who are still ‘alive' at this stage may choose to show or ‘muck' their hand. ‘To muck' means to fold your cards without exposing them, automatically losing the hand. The exposed hands are compared, and the player holding the best five-card hand wins the pot. In case of a draw, the pot is split between all drawing hands.

Start Over: The dealer button rotates one seat to the left, and the next round of Texas Holdem poker takes off.