Texas Hold’em is a shared card poker game. Each player is dealt two private cards and there are five face-up shared (or “community”) cards on the table that can be used by anyone.
In the showdown the winner is the player who can make the best five-card poker hand from the seven cards available.
A standard 52-card pack is used and from two to 10 players can take part.
Texas Hold’em is usually played with no ante, but with blinds. But in tournament play an ante is often introduced at later levels in the tournament, while not at the start. When there are more than two players, the player to the dealer’s left places a small blind, and the next player to the left a big blind.
The big blind is equal to the minimum bet and the small blind is typically half that amount. When there are only two players (a “heads-up” game), the dealer places the small blind and the non-dealer the big blind.
The cards are shuffled and cut, the dealer “burns” one card and then deals the cards one at a time face down until each player has two cards. These are known as the player’s hole cards or pocket cards. Players may look at their two hole cards and must not show them to any other player.
The first betting round is begun by the player to the left of the big blind. The blinds count as bets, so the small blind need only pay the difference between the blinds to call. The big blind player acts last and is allowed to raise, even if the other active players have all called.
After the first betting round the dealer burns one card and deals three cards face up to the table. These three cards are known as the flop. There is then a second betting round begun by the first active player to the left of the dealer seat.
When the second betting round is complete, the dealer burns a card and then deals one card face up to the table. This card is known as the turn or fourth street. There is then a third betting round, again begun by the first active player to the left of the dealer seat.
After the third betting round the dealer burns another card and deals one more card face up – the river or fifth street. There is fourth and final round of betting before the showdown, again begun by the first active player to the left of the dealer seat.
In a fixed-limit or spread-limit game, any betting round that has more than two active players at the start is normally limited to one bet plus three (sometimes four) raises. In the first (pre-flop) betting round the big blind counts for this purpose as the first bet. If a betting round begins with only two active players, there is no limit on the number of raises.
In limit poker, the betting limits are usually doubled before the third betting round. So for example a $10-$20 game would typically have blinds of $5 and $10, bets of $10 in the first two rounds and bets of $20 in the last two.
At showdown active players show their hands in clockwise order, beginning with the player who was the last to bet or raise in the final betting round. If everyone checked in the final betting round, the first active player to the left of the dealer seat is the first to show.
Each player makes the best possible five-card poker hand from the seven available cards: the player’s two hole cards and the five face-up table cards, which are known as the board. This can be in any combination: both hole cards with three from the board, one hole card with four from the board, or just the board cards without using the hole cards at all, which is known as playing the board.
For a hand to be considered for winning the pot, the player must show both hole cards, even if only one or neither of them is used to make the best hand.
The cards speak for themselves: the best hand is entitled to win the pot if shown, even if the owner does not realise that it is the best hand.
As always, poker hands consist of just five cards. The two unused cards have no bearing on whether one hand is better than another.