Let's start with a quick rundown of the rules. Because Texas Hold'em is the most played variant of poker, we'll use this version as an example to explain the various rules of the game.
Small Blinds and Big Blinds
In Texas Hold'em, there are two blinds: a Small Blind and a Big Blind. Two players are needed to make forced bets in order to ensure that there are enough chips in the pot to play for. With no money in the pot, all players may be tempted to fold much more often, significantly slowing down the action of the game.
The small blind is placed by the player immediately to the left of the dealer. The player to the left of the small blind then pays the big blind (which is typically twice the amount of the small blind). The stakes of the game you're going to play will be determined by the amount of the blinds. In most cases, you want players to buy in for at least 100 times the large blind.
The highest and lowest sums a player may bet in an online Poker room are determined by the blinds. In a $1/$2 game, for example, the table minimum is typically $40 (20x the large blind), while the maximum is usually $200. (100x the big blind).
Hole Cards and Betting Rules
Each player receives one card at a time until they have two face-down cards. These are your hole cards, and you'll only need them when assembling your final 5-card Poker hand.
A round of Texas Hold'em has a minimum of one betting round and a maximum of four. When every player but one has folded, the hand is over. The fourth and final betting round of Texas Hold'em concludes with several players remaining in the hand.
The remaining players then join in a Showdown, with the highest hand winning the pot. If two players have the exact same highest hand, the pot is divided evenly.
Pre-Flop Betting Round
The player to the left of the big blind begins the pre-flop betting round. Only one player may act at a time in Hold'em. There are three choices available to each player:
- Fold: the player doesn't buy their way into the pot, toss their hand away and wait for the current round to end;
- Call: the player matches the big blind's sum (this is also known as "limping in" before the flip);
- Raise: the player raises the stake by increasing the large blind sum.
Following the first player's action, the player on their left has their turn to make a move. If the previous player raised, you must call that amount; if no one has bet, you must raise. A raise in Limit Hold'em is always the amount of one bet plus the amount of the preceding wager. For instance, if the large blind is $25 and the first player to act wants to raise, they will wager a total of $50 (the big blind plus one extra stake).
If the following player wants to re-raise, they must wager a total of $75 (the prior stake plus one more bet). Two criteria must be fulfilled for a Texas Hold'em wager round to end:
- All players have had their say;
- All players who haven't folded, have staked the same amount of money.
The Flop is dealt after the pre-flop betting round is completed. This is accomplished by placing the top card of the deck, known as the "burn" card, facedown on the table, followed by three cards face-up in the center of the table. The three community flop cards are the cards that all players may utilize to construct their best 5-card Poker hand.
The first post-flop betting round starts after the flop is dealt. There are two minor differences in the rules of a post-flop betting and pre-flop betting round:
- The next player holding a hand to the left of the dealer is the first to act.
- The first player has the option to check or bet. Since no wager has been placed, calling is free.
A player must pay out $25 to make a wager in the first post-flop betting round, as stated above.
The dealer then ‘burns' another card face-down out of play, followed by a single card face-up in the center of the table alongside the three flop cards. After the third betting round is completed, the Turn is dealt.
The third wagering round in Limit Hold'em is similar to the post-flop betting round with one exception: the amount of a bet in this round, as well as the final betting round, is doubled, indicating that a stake in the game now costs $50.
The River and Showdown
The River is dealt if more than one player remains after folding on one of the preceding streets. Dealing the river is the same as dealing the turn. This is the last addition to each player's hand, and no further cards will be dealt. Rules for betting after dealing the river are identical to the turn betting round.
The remaining players now join in a Showdown once the river betting round is finished. The player with the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot at this stage. A Texas Hold'em Showdown plays out as follows:
- The player who bet on the river is the first to disclose their hand by default. It's allowed for other players to reveal their hand first if they wish to do so.
- If there was no betting on the river, the person to the dealer's left must open their hand first. Then, the other players follow clockwise around the table.
- When a player has a losing hand, they may either show their cards or throw away their hand and surrender the pot.