Texas Hold’em has been exploding in popularity throughout the world in recent years. Card rooms in every city and country and online poker rooms are bursting at the seams with players trying to be the next big winner in the game.
Texas Hold’em is not only fun, challenging, and lucrative, but is a game that presents the rare opportunity for the average Joe to climb the ranks of the game and compete with the best in the world.
Unless you’ve been living under a large rock lately, you’re well aware that the game is exploding in popularity in all parts of the globe. The boost in popularity can be directly attributed to two things that have happened over the past 10-15 years and one tenant of the game that has always been true.
The first major change over the past couple decades is the creation and rise of online poker.
New players now have the ability to study and practice their skills without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes. Online poker also affords players the ability to play multiple games at one time, giving them the ability to get in exponentially more practice and experience in shorter periods of time. Typical live poker games will play on average about 20 hands her hour. Online poker tables sometimes can get 100+ hands in per hour. Multiply this by playing several tables at once, and you can see how much quicker you can gain experience. This leads to more players getting involved in the game and more players wanting to test out their new skills.
The second major change over the past couple decades is the rise in coverage of poker by TV and media outlets.
Poker professionals have been glorified as celebrities and high rollers. This has led to tons of people wanting to try and climb the ranks of poker to be one of these big guns. TV and media have also shown just how much money there is to be made in poker and you can understand why that is appealing to viewers.
Poker at the highest levels has always had very minimal barriers to entry. The recent rise in coverage has brought this to light and has ignited the popularity. If you’re a football fan, the highest level in football is the Super Bowl. Can you walk out and play in the Super Bowl if you want to? Of course, you can’t. The highest level in poker is the World Series of Poker Main Event. This is a $10,000 buy-in event that is touted as the world championship of the game. Can you walk out and play in the World Series of Poker Main Event? Yes, you can. Anyone who has enough cash to buy into the highest level poker tournament is free to do so. This means that any Average Joe has the chance to go head to head with the best in the world and if they win, be crowned champion.
Texas Hold’em is very different than most other casino games you’ve probably played or heard about before. For this reason, it becomes an attractive option for many players and gamblers looking for a challenge. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest reasons you might want to try your luck at Texas Hold’em.
There’s a famous quote that says Texas Hold’em takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. One of the great characteristics of the game is that it is incredibly simple to learn the basics and get started playing quickly. The second part of the quote is what will keep you coming back for more. Though the rules and basic gameplay are simple, the strategy needed to win the game consistently will keep you occupied for a lifetime.
Almost every other game in the casino contains what is known as the house edge. This is the percentage advantage that the casino has over the player. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, it is mathematically impossible to beat a game with a house edge in the long run. One of the greatest things about poker is that you are not playing against the house. Therefore, there can be no house edge! You are competing against other players in a game of skill where the better player will be able to win money in the long run.
The casino takes a small percentage from each pot, known as the house rake. This is merely a nominal fee that you are paying for the casino to facilitate the competition between the players.
Unless you are currently a star athlete, like the rest of us, you will probably never get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Poker is different, though. With enough practice and hard work, you have the ability to compete at the next level. The only barrier to entry to playing at the highest level is having enough money to buy into the game or tournament. There are hundreds of stories professional poker players who started learning at the lowest levels online and worked their way up gradually to the highest levels. With proper bankroll management and some hard work, there is nothing in your way stopping you from being the next big thing.
Let’s start by getting something clear. Anyone who tells you that poker is 100% luck has 0% idea what they are talking about. We say this with love of course. Poker is most certainly a game of skill where the better players will win in the long run. If you happen to become one of these better players, you can consistently win and consistently make money at poker. To be blatantly honest with you, it is very challenging to win at the highest levels. However, you don’t have to win at the highest levels to make a living from playing poker. There are thousands of poker players who make a living at mid stakes and even low stakes. You might be surprised how much money you can make consistently at lower stakes poker.
Why on Earth would we ever want to play a game that wasn’t insanely fun? Poker is a great mix of strategy, excitement, camaraderie, and a great way to escape from the stress of the world. Unlike some other games that can get repetitive quickly, every hand of poker is totally different. It’s a game that will constantly keep you on your toes and constantly want to come back for more. Texas Hold’em was specifically designed to be a more exciting version of traditional poker. If you’ve ever thought about giving it a try, we can guarantee that you will enjoy every minute of it.
If we’ve inspired you to try and be the next big thing in poker, you’re at the important and logical first step. Before we can dive into strategy and tips on how to be a better player, we need to make sure that you fully understand all of the rules and how the game is played. Though it is a simple game to learn, there are a few important nuances we are going to point out that are important for you to be aware of.
Before we jump head first into important nuances, game flow, and most importantly how to win, it’s important that you understand the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. Trying to ride a bike before you read the instruction manual on how to put it together is a recipe for disaster. You might think you’re cruising along great until the handlebars fall off and you end up in a pile of bushes. The same reigns true for poker as trying to learn how to win at the game before understanding the most basic rules is a recipe for a crash and burn.
We’ve put together a comprehensive rules section for you to make sure you are up to speed on the game. Other players will take full advantage of these rules and use them to their benefit, so we highly recommend even from a strategic standpoint that you take a few minutes and look through this section.
Texas Hold’em games are broken up into individual segments known as ‘hands.’ For the sake of understanding the rules, you should think of each hand as a separate game. At the end of each hand, the game resets, and everything starts over. When we get into the strategy section, we will address this point again. For now, though, think of each hand independently.
There are two ways for a player to win a Texas Hold’em hand. The first way is to have the superior, higher ranked poker hand at the end of the hand. (To avoid any confusion, the five card poker hand you make is also referred to as your hand). The second way to win is to get every other player to fold and be the only player holding a hand. This does not have to be at the end of the hand but can occur at any point.
When we refer to having the superior, higher ranked hand, we are talking about the standard five-card poker hands. Each hand that you could possibly make is given a ranking relative to the other hands.
In Texas Hold’em, each player is only dealt two cards. You might be asking yourself right now, how in the heck you make a five-card hand when you are only dealt two cards. This is done by the use of community cards. These are five more cards that are laid out in the middle of the table and are able to be used by all players. You create your winning hand by using any combination of your two cards and the five community cards in the middle of the table.
This means you can use both of your cards and three of the community cards, one of your cards and four of the community cards, or none of your cards and all five of the community cards. It does not matter which cards other players choose to use to create their hand. The cards are not picked up off the table, and any card can be used by any amount of players. You do not have to designate which community cards you are using until the game goes to showdown, which we will discuss shortly.
Texas Hold’em starts with every player at the table being dealt two cards. These are commonly referred to as their ‘hole cards’ or their ‘hand.’ After each player is dealt a hand, there is a round of betting. Players have the option of matching any bets and continuing in the hand or not putting in any additional money and folding their hand. If you fold your hand, you are out of the game until the next hand starts. If there is only one player left in the hand after this round of betting, the hand is over, and that player is awarded the pot. If there are two or more players left, the dealer will proceed to put out three community cards known as The Flop.
After the flop, there is another round of betting between all of the players that are still remaining in the hand. Players have the option again of matching all bets or choosing to put no more money in the pot and folding. If after this round of betting there is only one player left, then the hand is over, and that player is awarded the pot. If there are still two or more players left, the dealer will proceed to put out the fourth community card known as The Turn.
Following this, there is another round of betting. Players have the option again of matching all bets or choosing to put no more money in the pot and folding. If after this round of betting there is only one player left in the hand, the hand is over, and that player is awarded the pot. If there are two or more players remaining, the dealer puts out the fifth community card known as The River.
Again, there is a final round of betting where players have the option of matching the other bets or folding their cards. If at the end of this round of betting there is only one player left, that player is awarded the pot. If there are two or more players still remaining in the hand, the hand goes to what is called Showdown. This is the point of the hand where all players will flip over their hole cards, and the pot will be awarded to the player with the highest ranked five-card poker hand.
As we mentioned, there are several rounds of betting in Texas Hold’em. The first round of betting occurs immediately after the cards are dealt before any Community cards are put out. This is commonly referred to as pre-flop betting. When the hand begins, there are always two forced bets that are on the table. These are known as the small blind and the big blind.
If you are playing in a cash game, the size of the small blind and the big blind will always be the same.
These forced bets are put in place to induce action on every hand. Each hand, the small and big blind will rotate one position clockwise so that the same players are not forced to pay them every hand. The big blind is always directly to the left of the small blind and is always twice the size of the small blind. This means, when you are the big blind, you are forced to put in $2 (using our $1-$2 No Limit Hold’em example) no matter what when it is your turn to be the big blind. After that hand completes, the blinds will shift one position, and you will now be the small blind and be forced to put in $1. Following this hand, the blinds will shift again, and you will not be required to pay them until they come full circle around the table again. Players will be forced to be the blind an equal amount of times as other players.
As the blinds are forced to put out their bets no matter what, the first person to have a decision (known as acting), is the player directly to the left of the big blind. This player has three betting options they can do with their hand – fold, call, or raise. If the player does not like their cards and does not want to play the hand, they can throw away their cards, known as folding, and are not required to put in any money to the pot. If the player makes this choice, they are out of the hand until a new hand is dealt.
The second option the player has is to call the current bet. Continuing with our above example, this would mean the player would have to put in $2 to match the current bet. If the player does this, they are still in the hand and their turn is over. The action moves to the player to their left who again has the same three options. Action in Texas Hold’em always goes clockwise.
The third option the player has is to raise the current bet. This means the player has the option of putting in more money than the $2 and typically occurs when a player likes their cards. The amount the player can raise is dependent on the style of Texas Hold’em that is being played. In No Limit Texas Hold’em, a player has the option to raise to any amount they want. Let’s say for this example that the player decides to raise the bet to a total of $5. Once the player does this, their turn is over, and action is now on the player to their direct left. The player to their left now has the same three options to fold call or raise. The difference now is that it is no longer $2 to call the bet, but it is now $5 to call the bet and stay in the hand.
This process continues around the table until all players that wish to remain in the hand have the same amount of money in the pot.
The action now goes to Player 1 who was also the small blind and has already put $1 into the pot. Player one has all three options just like every other player at the table. If they decide they don’t like their cards, they can fold and only their $1 small blind goes into the pot. If they decide to call the bet of $7, they only have to put in $6 more because they already have $1 in the middle ($6 + $1 = $7). They also have the option of raising if they would like. For this example, let’s say that player one decides to fold their cards. The action then goes to player two who was the big blind and has already put $2 into the pot. Player two also has all three options. If they were to choose to call, they would only have to put $5 into the pot because they already have put $2 in ($5 + $2 = $7). For this example, let’s say player 2 decides to call the bet.
At this point, there are three players still with cards, or “in the hand.” Player 6 has $7 in the pot, player 2 has $7 in the pot, but player 3 who just called the original bet only has $2 in the pot. Because of this, the action would go back to player 3 who would again have all three options – fold, call or raise. If player 3 would like to continue with the hand, they would have to put $5 into the pot. If player 3 decides to raise, then the action would continue around the table as the other two players would have to match that amount to continue. Once a player just calls a bet and all the players in the hand have the same amount of money in the middle, the action is “closed, ” and the dealer will put out the flop.
After the Flop is put out, the same process above happens again with a few small differences. First, since there are no forced blinds after the flop, the action will begin with the player who was the small blind. If that player is out of the hand, then the action will start with whoever the first player to their left that still has cards is. With no blinds, the current bet is $0. This means that to call the current bet, a player doesn’t have to put any money in the middle to stay in the hand. This is referred to as checking. All of the players in the hand decide to check, then all of the players get to move on to the next round without putting any more money in the middle.
You are probably asking yourself, what happens if a player wants to stay in the hand but does not have enough money or chips to do so. In the old days, you would be forced to fold your hand. Players with more money could win hands by pushing the other player out of the pot. Thankfully, the world realized that this was an absurd rule and now allows players the option of going all-in. If at any point during any of the betting rounds you do not have enough money or chips to continue, you can put in the middle what you have and announce that you are all in. You will be allowed to keep your hand until Showdown to try and win the pot with a superior hand. You are only entitled to win the amount of money you have put in the middle from each player.
Still need some more? Here’s a great link to a short video from Caesar’s Palace Poker Room in Las Vegas.
Texas Hold’em Poker can be played in a variety of different formats. Though the game is played the same and the rules are mostly congruent, the style in which it is played can vary. The three main variations that each have their own sub-variations are cash games, tournaments, and sit and gos. Let’s take a look at the different variations. For now, we will just describe them and their differences. Later, when we get into the strategy section, we will talk about what you need to change for each different format to be more successful.
Cash games are the format of Texas Hold’em that most people are familiar with. Sometimes referred to as ring games or live action, cash games are poker games where players buy in for specified amounts of money and are free to join or leave the game whenever they choose. The chips in a cash game represent “real money.”
Players typically buy-in to cash games between hands if there is an open seat available. Players can play for as short as one hand or for as long as they want to. Technically, if there are players, cash games can go on forever as they have no predetermined end time. When a player is finished playing, they proceeded to cash out. Cashing Out refers to turning in your chips and receiving the amount of money they are worth. For example, let’s say you buy-in to the game for $150, and you play for 20 minutes and win $100 more in chips. If you then decide to cash out, you will be given $250 in cash for your chips, a $100 profit.
Unlike tournaments, which we will discuss shortly, if a player loses all of their chips in a cash game, they have the option of keeping their seat in the game and buying more chips immediately. This is one of the perks of cash games. You truly can play for as long as you want and you always have the option to try and win back any money you lose. This is great if there is a terrible player in the game who got lucky against you. As you are also free to leave the game at any point, you’re never obligated or required to stay longer than you want to.
Tournaments are vastly different than cash games. The best way to understand how tournaments work is to view them similar to how tournaments in other disciplines are run. Let’s say you are a really fast runner and decide that you are going to enter into a running tournament. The buy-in for the running tournament is $100, and there are 10 runners in the tournament. All of the money is going to the prize pool to pay out the winners of the race. The race starts and halfway through you are in the lead! If the race were a cash game, you could stop at this point and collect some winnings. However, as this race is a tournament, you must finish the race to collect any winnings and only 1st,2nd, and 3rd place will receive prize money.
Poker tournaments are typically the exact same. Entrants pay a fixed price for entry and will receive a designated amount of chips. These chips do not represent actual dollars. For example, you may buy-in to a $100 tournament and receive 10,000 in tournament chips. The tournament did not magically give you $10,000 for your $100 buy-in. These are merely tournament units that are used to “run the race.” A tournament will go until one player has all of the chips. Typically, the top 10-15% of players in a poker tournament will receive prize money. The prize money will increase as you get higher up in the finishing spots.
The biggest advantage of playing tournaments is it allows players to win large sums of money for a low investment. It is not uncommon for first place in a tournament to be 50-100 times the entry fee, sometimes more. This means for a $100 buy-in, you have the chance to win $10,000 or more if you can beat out the other players entered in the tournament.
Many players also see tournaments as a lot more fun than regular cash games. As the tournament progresses, the excitement level rises as you get closer to the payouts. Once all the players who are not receiving payouts are eliminated, it is referred to as being “in the money.” This is because every remaining player will at least be receiving some form of winnings. After the players are “in the money,” every player knocked out means the amount of money on the line gets bigger and bigger adding to the excitement.
The only drawback to tournaments is that they must be completed. Much like the race, you can’t quit part way through if you get bored or need to go somewhere. You have to finish the tournament out, or you will forfeit your chance to win and your buy-in money.
There are a ton of different types of tournaments, all with slight variation differences. The format of most of them is the same as we just described, but with some differences. We’ve included a breakdown here of all the different types of Texas Hold’em tournaments you might encounter.
Sit and gos are a very common type of poker tournament you will see, especially if you are playing online. A sit and go is simply a poker tournament that has a set number of entrants instead of a specified start time. For example, a regular tournament might be a $100 buy-in that starts at 2:00 pm. There could be 10 people or 10,000 people in the tournament, depending on how many sign up and show up at the registration time.
On the other hand, a sit and go example could be a $100 10 player sit and go. This tournament will start as soon as 10 players are signed up. This could be at 2:00 pm, or 2:13 pm, or whenever, you get the picture. Sit and gos can have any number of entrant slots from 2 players up to several hundred. If a sit and go does not ever reach the needed number of entrants, it will not start and is canceled or held until enough players register.
Sit and gos are great because they happen on demand and don’t have to wait for a specified start time. As the number of entrants is capped, you can also predict how long the tournament is going to take. If you go to play the $100 tournament from our previous example and 10,000 people show up, you’re going to be playing for a lot longer than you had originally planned. An 18 person sit and go will always have 18 players, never more and never less.
Understanding the rules and how to play Texas Hold’em are only small pieces of the winning equation. The real key to being a consistent winner of the game is learning, understanding, and applying the proper strategies. As the strategy is so important to conquering Texas Hold’em, we have created and dedicated an entire section of the website to teaching you the secrets of winning.
We’ll start at the foundation of your game and discuss the fundamental mistakes player’s make, how to avoid them, and how to capitalize on your opponents when they inevitably make them. These fundamentals include starting hands, factors affecting starting hand selection, trouble hands, bluffing, and raise sizing. After this, we will walk you through tournament specific strategy including early, middle, and late stage play, bubble play, short stack play, and several other tournament specific concepts that will elevate your game. We’ll discuss cash game-specific strategies including game selection, tracking and analyzing sessions, and the use of software.
For those of you that want more, we’ll walk you through advanced concepts including floating, attacking limpers, advanced continuation betting, and building hand ranges. We’ll also walk you through live poker and online poker specific strategy including game selection, pattern reads, and tells.
This information comes directly from an experienced and successful poker pro with several million in winnings and 10+ years of experience playing for a living. This information would normally cost thousands of dollars for you to learn, but we’re giving it to you completely free.
Click here now to enter our Texas Hold’em strategy section.
At the end of the day, playing Texas Hold’em online and playing Texas Hold’em live in a casino are the same game. That being said, there are several differences when it comes to the experience as well as the associated strategies to beat the game. Live poker is great if you are looking for a social experience or reason to get out of the house. It gives you the ability to look your opponents in the eye to try and make your reads and decisions. Players with strong body language reading abilities tend to do very well at live poker.
There are a few drawbacks to live poker that you should be aware of when deciding where you want to play. Live poker games are typically a lot slower paced than online games. You are also only able to play one game at a time. This may be sufficient for a lot of players, but if you are looking to increase your volume and play more hands, live poker does not accommodate this. Poker rooms are also notorious for being smoky, crowded, and not the cleanest of spots on the block.
When you play Texas Hold’em online, the game is considerably faster, and you are able to play as many tables as you would like to. This allows you to get more hands played and cut down on your variance (This is discussed in depth in the strategy section. Trust us, though, this is good for you). The comfort factor of online Texas Hold’Em is also a major benefit. You are able to play from the comfort of your own home, and you don’t have to deal with hiding your emotions and tells from the other players. Though the game is more fast-paced, it tends to be a much more relaxing experience.
Some players don’t like online poker because they are too used to playing live in the casino and can’t imagine trying something new. If this is you, we highly recommend checking out online poker because in certain games and tournaments there are a lot more bad players waiting to give you their money. Successful players know you have to adapt and go where the action is.
Poker has always been regarded as a gentleman’s game. This does not mean the game is only for men but refers to the fact that there are several etiquette rules that are expected to be followed. Most of these etiquette tips are not mandatory, but we highly recommend abiding by them. If you choose not to, you will probably have a bad experience and potentially will be asked to leave the poker room by the poker staff. Here are a few of the most important etiquette tips to follow.
For this reason, you should make your decisions as quickly as you can without making mistakes. You are certainly entitled to take your time, and we recommend that you do. What we are referring to here is excessively taking way too long, especially on simple decisions. If you do respect this and act quickly, people will be more understanding if you do ever need to take a while on a big decision.
The best way to avoid accidentally doing this is to immediately show your cards at showdown when instructed to by the dealer. The best way to avoid intentionally doing this is not to be an a******.
An etiquette suggestion that is actually a rule in most poker rooms is that players are not to talk about the current hand that is going on. For players that are not in the hand currently, this means not talking about what cards they folded and not discussing strategy or any observations they might see.
(The fourth card to a flush comes out in the community cards)
“Ohh, someone must have the flush now.”
Other players in the hand might not have realized this, and it can lose the hand for another player.
“Wow, he looks nervous. I bet he is bluffing.”
It should be obvious why this is not ok to say. You’re effectively helping one of the other players in the hand. Poker is a one person to a hand game.
(The flop comes out King – King – 7)
“Dang. I folded a king.”
This let’s other players know that there is only one king left in the deck which can be a huge advantage to some, but not all of the players.
You would think this is an easy one to follow, but players have the hardest time abiding by this. Out of all of the etiquette suggestions, this one can have the biggest impact on gameplay. That makes this one the most important to follow.
These are just a few of the extremely important live poker etiquette rules that you should follow if you are planning to play in the casino. We highly recommend that you read our complete list of live poker etiquette tips so that you are better prepared to act properly in the casino.
If the above description makes you think live poker sounds like being in school or timeout, you might be interested in checking out online poker. Online poker requires you to abide by absolutely no strict etiquette rules or guidelines. The game is played from the comfort of your own home where you are the poker room manager, and you set the rules.
Online Texas Hold’em is also the best option if you’re serious about improving your game and have dreams of playing at the next level. The secret to becoming great at anything is focused practice. This means, to excel at something, you need to get as much practice as possible and ensure that you are practicing the right things. If you watch poker on TV or follow along in the media, you’ll notice that all of the new top professionals have come from the online poker realm. This is predominantly in part because online poker allows a player to get exponentially more practice in a much shorter period of time.
A typical Live casino Texas Hold’em game will play about 20 to 25 hands per hour. An online poker table can sometimes play upwards of 100 hands per hour. If you add in the fact that online poker allows you to play multiple tables at once, you can quickly see how much more practice you can get in playing online. Online poker also allows players to track better and more efficiently analyze their hand histories and sessions due to the digital nature of the platform and available software programs. This will allow you to get infinitely better than someone who is trying to remember hands they played live in the casino or scribbled down on a napkin.
Online Texas Hold’Em is also much more exciting due to its faster gameplay, bigger prize pools, and your ability to find a game 24/7. Players will also feel like they are sitting at a much more comfortable real table as the interfaces and lobbies are expertly laid out for a better user experience and easier gameplay. Here are a few screenshots of what it looks like to play online poker. Notice how clean the layout is and how easy the buttons are to select what you would like to do.
If you are ready to have some fun and take your game to the next level, it’s time for you to check out the exciting world of online poker. With so many different site options to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming to find the online poker room that best fits you. To help you on your journey, we have put together a list of our favorite and most trusted online poker sites. The sites have incredible bonuses, expert customer service, and most importantly are filled full of bad players waiting to give you their money. Check out these options, and you will be playing Texas Hold’em safely from the comfort of your chair in no time!
Definitely not! Sure, there is some aspect of luck to Texas Hold’em in the short run. However, in the long run, the better and more skilled players will win. Most top professionals are in agreement that Texas Hold’em is about 65% skill and 35% luck. These are by no means official statistics, but merely anecdotal input from the top players making a living from Texas Hold’em. Short-term variance can allow a bad player to beat a good player, but with enough hands played the good player will always overcome the bad player. This is because Texas Hold’em is a game of skill.
Here is a great article from the NY Times about a federal judge ruling that poker is a game of skill.
A quick Google search shows that there are tons of different strategies and strategy guides to beating Texas Hold’em. If you haven’t read it already, we have provided an extensive strategy guide that breaks down every different aspect of the game from beginner mistakes to advanced concepts. This is a fantastic starting point for players of all skill levels who are looking to take their game to the next level. This guide would normally cost thousands, but we are giving it to you for free.
There is no such thing as the single best strategy to beat Texas Hold’em has the game is always evolving and very situationally dependent. Best advice is to develop a strategy that fits your personality and style that is also able to adapt to different situations.
These are just a few of the frequently asked questions about Texas Hold’em. If you still have questions, check out our entire list of FAQ for answers.