Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is a simple poker game to learn how to play. Here are the bare basics of how to play Texas Hold’em poker.

  • Goal = Win Chips
  • Each player is dealt two cards face down
  • There is a round of betting
  • Three community cards are dealt face up on the table, called the flop
  • There is a round of betting
  • A fourth community card is dealt face up on the table, called the turn
  • There is a round of betting
  • There is a fifth and final community dealt face up, called the river
  • There is a final round of betting
  • Make the best ranking 5 card poker hand you can with your 2 cards and the 5 community cards
  • After the last round of betting hands are turned face up and ranked. The highest ranking hand wins the pot.

That is the basics of the game in a nutshell. Once you learn the rank of hands and play a few hands it will become a very easy game to play. It is a very difficult game to play really well and to consistently win money. As Mike Sexton says, easy to play, hard to master.

Let’s take a look at more Texas Hold’em 101 basics.

Play Texas Hold’em Poker Online

Once you have a grasp on the basics of Texas Hold’em, it’s time to put in some table time playing in the games online. Playing Texas Hold’em online is probably the easiest way to really learn how to play. You can play for free and play anonymously. Do not worry about playing bad or making mistakes as you are learning the ropes. You do not know your opponents and they don’t know you. Just visit the good poker sites list and you can choose from a focused selection of legit and honest poker sites. Texas Hold’em is played at all of them and is the most popular game available. Just find any site and you can play holdem. If you are playing a less popular game like Omaha then you really have to do a bit more shopping around to find a good game.

Types of Texas Hold’em

There are three types of Texas Hold’em.

  • No Limit
  • Fixed Limit
  • Pot Limit

The differences in the three types of Hold’em are only in the way you can bet your chips. In no limit, there is no limit to how many chips you can bet at any point in the hand. IE, you can go all in. Limit poker is where each bet is a fixed amount. IE, $5/$10. Pot limit is where you can bet up to the amount of money in the pot. No limit is the most popular type.

Styles of Hold’em

  • Ring Games, aka Cash Games
  • Tournaments

The cash game is where you buy in with “$100” in chips and play as long or as little as you want and take your money off the table at any time. You can add chips at the conclusion of any hand. You can not take money off of the table (in most casinos and it is always bad etiquette, it’s called going south) and continue playing, however you can take all of your chips and give up your seat at any time, even after 1 hand if you wish.


  • Sit-N-Go’s – 1 table tournaments, up to 180 person tournaments that start as soon as enough players register
  • Freeze-Out – Standard tournament. Buy in for a certain amount and then get a certain amount of chips to play with. IE, a $5 tournament gets 2000 chips to play with in the tournament. You have to play until you win all the chips or are eliminated (or a chop is reached by the ending players). Lose your chips and you are out of the tournament and can not re-enter
  • Re-Buy Tournament – you can lose all of your chips and re-buy another entry and get a new starting stack to play with.

With tournaments the sizes range from heads up, 1v1 to fields with thousands of players. Here are the basics of what to know about online poker tournaments and where to play them.

The sites with the biggest variety and most overall traffic are Bovada Poker for US players and 888 for virtually everyone else. From SNG’s to multi-table tournaments you can play them at these two sites. You can play tournaments at all of the sites and many tourney lovers do indeed have multiple accounts for finding exact tournaments they want to play.

Texas Hold’em Tips & Basic Strategies

Most of these tips and strategies are designed for beginner texas holdem, not the high stakes ultra competitive cash games where it requires many, many levels of thinking.

  • Play Tight With your Starting Card Selection.  One of the biggest mistakes new players (and old vetrans alike) make is playing too many starting hands.  If you are brand new, I suggest you start off playing as a ‘rock.’  This means you are playing the top 10 starting hands.  AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AKs, AKo, AQs, AQo, 99.  If you stick to only playing these hands when you start off you will avoid loosing large amounts and you will probably be a winner.  This is not an ideal strategy, but to start out, it is fine to play super tight.  Tight is right.  Once you get more familiar with Texas Hold’em you can open up your starting hand requirement.
  • Play Aggressively when you do play.  This means raising or betting instead of checking and calling.  If you have one of the top 10 Texas Hold’em hands listed above you should be raising pre-flop, not just calling the blind and seeing the flop.  Be the bettor and the raiser, not the checker and the caller.   When you bet or raise you give yourself additional ways of winning the pot other than just ‘hitting’ your hand.  You could bet and someone could fold a better hand, this is impossible if you are only calling or checking.
  • When you get check-raised on the turn, it usually means a monster.  Especially when playing Limit Texas Hold’em.  Most limit players will simply call you on the flop and stick the raise in on the turn.  This is also true when playing no-limit but even more so when playing on limit.  When you get check raised on the turn, you have to fold your hand unless you have a monster yourself or a draw to hit one and the pot is fairly large.
  • Show down the winner.   I know this sounds obvious, but if you are a beginner you are most likely playing in low stakes online games or even playing Free Texas Hold’em Online, right?  Well at those levels the other players are sticking around and seeing the river, and showing down their hands… IE, they will not fold.  This means that you have to have a hand that can win at showdown against other reasonable hands.  If you have bottom pair on a board of AKT95, your 56 is probably not good if there has been action before you.  Fold this hand and do not take it to showdown.
  • Be super tight when it comes to calling a raise!  Hands like KJ, QT, A9 etc… not good hands to be calling medium to large raises with.  If you have someone raise it is fine to let these hands go unless the player is just constantly raising and raising pre-flop.  These hands are often dominated by hands like AK, AQ, KQ etc… Dump them and save money in the long run.  These hands are sometimes fine to play when there have be no raises, but you need to be tight when it comes to calling raises generally speaking.
  • Pay attention to your position – Closest to the Button is the best position.  The more people who have to act before you the better.  If you do want to open up and play a wider range of hands like some suited connectors and smaller pocket pairs, make sure you can do so when you have a good position.  The button is best.
  • Play within your bankroll.  If you deposit $100 to an online poker room you can not afford to be playing at the $50 max buy-in tables (if the $100 represents your entire bankroll or as much as you want to wager).  A general rule of thumb is you need 500x the BB to play in that game.  If you were playing $1/2 no limit you would need to have 500x $2, or $1000 in your bankroll to safely play in this game.  If you lose on your first session you need to move down to .50/1.00.
  • Take advantage of the freerolls offered at the major online poker sites for excellent table time practice without risking any of your bankroll.
  • Invest in your poker education.  Read poker strategy articles and watch online poker training videos like the ones you get from signing up for our newsletter.

Common Odds

  • 1 out of 16 hands you will get a pocket pair
  • 1 out of 222 hands you will get AA
  • If you hold two suited cards you will flop a flush about 1 out of 119 times
  • You will hit a set (three of a kind) about 1 out of 7 times you see the flop with a pocket pair
  • Open ended straight draws get there by the river about 31.5% of the time
  • Inside or gutshot straight draws get there about 16.5% of the time

Rank of Hands

If you want to learn Texas Hold’em and develop a strong strategy it is important to first learn Texas Hold’em hand ranks (what Hold’em hands beat what) and learn which Texas Hold’em starting hands are the best to have pre-flop.

These are the basics of Texas Hold’em and it is critical for new players to commit the hand rankings and top starting hands to memory before moving on to anything more advanced in Texas Hold’em. Without knowing “what beats what in Texas Hold’em” you will not understand how the game works, and strategy on how to play the game.

Let’s start with what Texas Hold’em hands beat which. It is always super important when playing to know what Texas Hold’em hands can beat yours so you can figure out which hand is the ‘nuts’ based on the cards on the board.
Below is a list of Texas Hold’em hands in rank from best hand to worst.

Texas Hold’em Hand Ranks

Royal Flush
Five cards consisting of the A, K, Q, J, and Ten all of the same suit.
example: Ah,Kh,Qh,Jh, and Ten of h (h=hearts).

Straight Flush
Five cards in sequential order all of the same suit.
example: 4d,5d,6d,7d and 8 of d (d=diamonds).

Four of a Kind
Four cards all of the same rank.
example: K,K,K,K,6

Full House
Five card hand consisting of three cards of one rank, and two cards of another same rank, or three of a kind plus a pair. This is also called a ‘boat’ or a full boat.
example: K,K,K,6,6

Five cards all the same suit.
example: 3c,5c,9,Jc, and A of c (c=clubs).

Five cards in sequential order (suit does not matter)
example: 2,3,4,5,6

Three of a Kind
Five card hand consisting of 3 cards of the same rank.
example: 5,5,5,J,7

Two Pair
Five card hand that consists of two cards of the same rank.
example: 5,5,7,7,J

One Pair:
Five card hand that consists of two cards of the same rank.
example: 5,5,7,9,J

One of the best ways to memorize the ranks of hands is just by playing some practice games online. Download Texas Hold’em Games for free at a respected online poker room There is no charge and you do not ever have to deposit any real money until you are ready. Based on the above chart of Texas Hold’em Hand ranks, you now know that if you have a flush, your opponent(s) will need either a higher flush or better to beat you. Being aware of all possible hands based on the board is a vital skill needed to enhance your Texas Hold’em playing skills, this is called ‘Reading the Board’. You should ALWAYS try to figure out ‘the nuts’ on every hand. Figure out the nuts, the near nuts and what the future nuts could be on the turn and river. Now that you know the best hands according to five-card hand ranks, let’s talk about what are the best two cards to have in your hand during pre-flop betting in Texas Hold’em.

Top 10 Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

In the chart below, we will list out the top 10 Texas Hold’em starting hands. In this list, you will notice that some starting hands have a “s” next to them, and others may have an “o” next to them. When referring to starting hands in Texas Hold’em, a “s” means that the two starting cards you hold are suited, and the “o” refers to two starting cards that are off-suit (ie, NOT suited – are of two different suits).

Also, keep in mind that these Texas Hold’em hands are ranked based on their worth PRE-flop (before any community cards are on the board). You will want to learn how to bet each of these top 10 starting hands based on your position at the table. For now, let’s focus on learning what the best starting hands are in Texas Hold Em and committing them to memory. Please note we are talking about your individual hole cards.

Ten Best Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

  1. AA (pair of aces)
  2. KK (pair of kings)
  3. QQ (pair of queens)
  4. JJ (pair of jacks)
  5. AKs (ace king suited, big slick)
  6. AQs (ace queen suited)
  7. TT (pair of tens)
  8. AKo (ace king offsuit)
  9. AJs (ace jack suited)
  10. KQs (a king and a queen of the same suit)

Where To Play Texas Hold’Em Online Today

  • Bovada Poker
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  • Sportsbetting Poker
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