texas hold'em rules: limit and no limit

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Texas Hold'em Poker Rules

Texas Hold'em is the most popular form of poker on the internet. Each player has two hole cards and shares five community cards. To win at Texas Hold'em you must:

  • Have the best five card poker hand on the last round of betting.
  • Or 'bluff' to convince the other players to concede to your bet and fold.

In this beginner's guide, you'll learn how to play poker, understand basic Texas Hold'em rules, how to bet, betting types, limit betting and our top tips. Texas Hold'em is easy to learn, and the rules are simple, so you can be up and playing at the tables in no time.

jeff photo

Texas holdem is so popular for many reasons. The game mixes skill & luck in a very engaging way. You wouldn't be able to play 1 on 1 w/ Lebron James and compete but in texas holdem a beginner and an advanced player could sit down and the beginner could win at a decent frequency.

It is fun to take imperfect information & make high level decisions. Poker attributes can be applied to many real life situations & skill sets. It is also similar to golf where when you play with someone, you learn a lot about a person; how they conduct themselves at a table, handle high stress situations, deal w/ adversity, how they win & lose etc.

There is also a way to keep score & ego's can be satisfied here. Many people like to be able to control their own outcomes. Let's say you are a "fun" player, being out classed some is still fun/challenging let's say compared to playing roulette or blackjack where you are at a set automatic disadvantage versus the house. There is also an element of risk as well as some math involved. Poker is a great all around game for all skill levels!

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Jeff Gross

Professional Poker Player with $4.5 million in online and live winnings and CardsChat Ambassador

How Texas Hold'em is Dealt

  • Texas Hold'em uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards.
  • Each player is dealt two cards, one at a time, facedown. These are known as 'hole cards', 'down cards', or 'pocket cards'.
  • There is an initial betting round. Three common cards are then dealt in the middle of the table faceup, these are known collectively as 'the flop'.
  • This is followed by the second round of betting. A fourth common card is then dealt faceup, this is known as 'the turn'.
  • This is followed by a third round of betting. A fifth and final community card is dealt. This is known as 'the river'. A fifth and final betting round follows.

Making Your Hand

Each player determines their five-card poker hand by making the best combination of the five common cards, known as 'the board', and two individual cards. You may use both of your hole cards, one card only, or none of the hole cards.

Can you figure out what each player's best poker hand is and who has the best hand? Test yourself first, then look below to see how you did.

Let's break this down

  • Notice that the very best hand started out as just two 6s in Jono's hand but became four 6s by the end of the deal for the best hand.
  • There's also a full house, held by Mona who uses her two queens with the queen and two 6s on the board to make queens full. This is the highest full house that is possible. There is no flush.
  • A player in this hand would have to have two diamonds to make a flush -- combining them with the three diamonds on the board. If there had been four diamonds on the board then Mary, with her one jack of diamonds, would have had a flush.
  • Look at Horace and Erin's hands. They each have two pair, aces and 6s. But Erin's hand is better since hers is aces and 6s with a king kicker and Horace's is aces and 6s with a queen kicker. This happens a lot in Hold'em. The fifth card often separates a winner from a loser.
  • Finally, the worst two hands don't use their two hole cards at all. Their best hand consists of just the five cards on the board. They cannot improve it by using their hands. So, they would 'play the board' as it is known in this game. If the board is the best hand anyone can make, then all players still in the hand tie and split the pot.

Check out our guide page for more information on poker starting hands.

Poker Hand Trainer

Use our poker hand training tool to go from fish to shark in no time!

Want to know what to do in every poker situation? Not sure how to strengthen your poker hand knowledge? That's where our training tool comes in.
  • Hit the 'Deal' button to get started
  • Rank each of the hands, from strongest to weakest, by clicking on the + icon next to each player
  • Hit 'Check Order' to see if you were correct. In the event that you're wrong, you can choose to either try again or see the correct rankings
  • Hit 'Deal' again and you'll see the next round of cards and repeat the ranking process
  • Once the hand is complete you can start again with another hand
Happy ranking and good luck!
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How to Bet in Texas Hold'em

General Betting Rules

There are many different forms of Texas Hold'em. They divide into three broad categories of betting structure: limit, pot limit, and no limit. We'll describe the two most common: limit and no limit. Let's begin with some elements and definitions that are common to all forms of the game. There are four rounds of betting in Hold'em:

  1. Pre-flop: the round of betting when each player has two hole cards only.
  2. Flop: the round of betting when each player has two hole cards and there are three exposed common cards.
  3. Turn: the round of betting when each player has two hole cards and there are four exposed common cards.
  4. River: the final round of betting when each player has two hole cards and there are four exposed common cards.

Pre-flop Betting

The betting begins in all forms of Hold'em with what are known as 'blinds' or 'blind bets'. A blind bet is a bet that must be made without a player knowing his hole cards -- when he is blind so to speak. Typically, in the modern form of Hold'em, there are two blind bet types:

  • Small blind
  • Large blind or 'Big blind'

The large blind is usually double the small blind.

The small blind is made, or 'posted', by the player sitting to the immediate left of the dealer. The large blind is posted by the player to the left of the small blind -- two to the left of the dealer.

Who Bets First in Texas Hold'em?

Each player to the left of the large blind places the first bet. They have a choice of making one of three betting actions:

  • Call: They may call the bet by placing in the pot an amount equal to the large blind.
  • Fold: They may fold, declining to call the bet, and ending their play of the hand, no longer competing for the money in the pot.
  • Raise: Or they may raise, increasing the bet for all subsequent players.

Please note that if no player raises the large blind, they may raise his own blind bet. This is what is known as 'last action' pre flop. It is an exception to the general rule that a player cannot raise themselves.

For example, if we were playing a five-person game of Texas Hold'em with a $1 small blind and a $2 large blind, the action might go like this:

1
Hye
Small Blind of $1
Joe
Large Blind of $2
Jim
Call Large Blind $2
2
Ann
Raise Large Blind to $4
Gob
Fold
Hye
Fold
3
Joe
Call Raise $2
Jim
Call Raise $2

Once all players have either called the last bet or raise, or folded and ended their play of the hand, the betting round ends and the next round of dealing, the flop, takes place.

Flop Betting

Flop Betting

There are no blinds on this or any subsequent rounds of betting. The first player to the left of the dealer has the option of initiating the betting or checking. A 'check' means that the bettor with the first betting option passes that option to the next player, who then has the same two options of either betting or checking. Once a bet has been made, however, there is no more option to check. A player must either call the bet, fold, or raise.

Once all remaining players have called the last bet, raised, or folded and ended their play of the hand, the betting round ends and the next round of dealing, the turn, takes place. The next round also follows if all players check.

Turn Betting

Turn Betting

Betting after the turn is the same as betting on the flop. The option to bet begins with the player to the immediate left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise around the table, ending when all bets are equalized, or all players check. If a player bets or raises and then all remaining players fold, the player who initiated the last bet or raise wins and is awarded the pot.

River Betting

River Betting

Betting on the riveris the same as betting on the flop and on the turn. The only difference is that when betting ends, either with everyone checking or all bets and raises being called, the players remaining in the hand expose their hole cards and the pot is awarded to the highest hand. Should a player make a bet or a raise that is not called by any other player (all remaining player folding when it becomes their turn to act), then the player making the uncalled bet or raise is the winner of the hand and is awarded the pot.

Limit vs No Limit Hold'em

Limit Betting

In limit Hold'em, the betting amounts are pre-determined and limited to a fixed sum.

So, for example, a game could be played with a $2 limit. This would mean that all bets (except for the small blind) would have to be $2. The small blind would be $1, and the large blind would be $2. If players wanted to bet or raise, it would have to be by $2 only. They could raise a $2 bet by $2 making it $4 to call, but they could not initiate the betting at $4 or raise by $4.

Limit Hold'em is generally played 'table stakes'. This means that no player is required nor is allowed to bet more than the amount he had sitting in front of him on the table when his hand began.

Here are some examples of the typical limit Hold'em games and the standard blinds and buy-ins that you'll be likely to find:

Limit Small Blind Large Blind Minimum Buy-in
$2/4 $1 $2 $30
$3/6 $1 $3 $50
$4/8 $2 $4 $50
$5/10 $2 $5 $100
$6/12 $3 $6 $100
$8/16 $4 $8 $150
$10/20 $5 $10 $200
$15/30 $10 $15 $300
$20/40 $10 $20 $400
$30/60 $15 $30 $600
$40/80 $20 $40 $800

No Limit Betting

The main features of no limit Hold'em betting include one of three betting actions:

  • Fixed size for blind bets
  • No limit on raise sizes
  • Betting up to your entire stack

No limit Hold'em is played exactly like Hold'em. The difference? The maximum and minimum bets and raises that are made by each player. No limit has blinds just as limit Hold'em, but there is no pre-determined betting amount that must be bet. For example:

  • If you have $150 in chips in front of you, you can bet all of it at once, but you can't bet more than that amount.

Since games are played with the 'table stakes' rule, bets are only limited by either the size of your stack or your opponent's stack. If a player bets more than you have in front of you, you can call the bet for your entire stack as going 'all-in'. For example:

  • If you start a hand with $300 and the opponent bets $500, you can call for $300.
  • If you win, you will get $300 of his $500 bet.
  • The remaining $200 goes into the side pot.

The below example shows the last round of betting. There is $50 already in the pot from previous betting rounds.

Player Stack Betting Action
Roger $185 Bets 20
Portia $500 Raises to 100
Zongo $50 Calls for 50 all-in
D'Mali $100 Folds
Kreena $300 Calls 100
Dorch $250 Folds
Ming $100 Folds
Roger $165 Folds
  • Portia raised Roger's bet of $20 to $100, but Zongo only has $50.
  • Zongo calls the $50 and Kreena calls the full $100.
  • Everyone else folds.
  • The dealer makes the main pot, with the $50 from the previous betting rounds, the $20 from Roger (who folded when his bet was raised), and $50 each from Portia, Zongo and Kreena.
  • The dealer also makes a side pot, made up of the $50 remaining from Portia's raise and $50 remaining from Kreena's call.
  • The main pot is $220 (50 + 20 + 50 + 50 + 50) and the side pot is $100.

The side pot is awarded first, to the player who has the better hand, in this case it would be between Portia and Kreena. Once that's been decided the main pot is awarded to the best hand among the remaining players: Portia, Zongo and Kreena.

As you can see, the only limit in no limit Hold'em is the stack size of the players. Your betting limit is not pre-determined, but it will always depend on either the size of your stack or your opponent's stack.

Buy-ins in No Limit

Most casinos limit the buy-in - the initial stack size - for each player, establishing a minimum and a maximum, especially for those games with relatively small blinds. Typically, these limits on stack size correspond to the size of the blind. For example, you might see 'no limit games' with the following blinds and buy-in limits:

Blinds Minimum/Maximum buy-in
$1/2 $40/300
$2/5 $100/500
$5/5 $100/1000
$5/10 $500/2000
$10/25 $1000/5000
$25/50 $5000/no maximum

From Omaha and Three-Card Poker to Five-Card Draw and Razz, you can learn more about the poker rules of these variations here. Or if you think you're ready to start playing poker online, then check out our best real money Texas Hold'em poker sites.

Texas Hold'em Rules FAQ

Is Texas Hold'em easy to learn?

The basic rules of Texas Hold'em are quite simple. If you've played any form of poker, you're already familiar with hand ranks and standard betting options like bet, check, call, fold and raise. From there it's simply a matter of remembering the betting rounds; small blind, big blind, pre-flop, the flop, the turn, and the river.

Beyond the basics, it's a matter of how scientific you want to be by learning how to count outs and calculating card odds and pot odds.

Can I practice online for free?

Absolutely. Top sites offer free play options where you can gain experience and improve your skills for free.

How does Texas Hold'em differ from other poker variations?

The differences between Texas Hold'em and other poker variations include:

  • The numbers and names of betting rounds
  • How many player and community cards are dealt
  • When player and community cards dealt

Is Texas Hold'em easier than other variations?

Once you understand the betting structure, Texas Hold'em is as straightforward as other variations.

What makes Texas Hold'em so popular?

Texas Hold'em has an appealing betting structure. Beyond that, the combination of televised poker tournaments like the World Series of Poker and the viral nature of word-of-mouth online rocketed Texas Hold'em to prominence.

Is there a limit to the number of players in Texas Hold'em?

A comfortable full table is typically 10-12 players. However, it depends on how many burn cards there are in the deal. There are usually three, which including the five community cards leaves 44 cards for player hole cards. Since each player receives two cards, the theoretical limit per deck is 22 players.

Is there a minimum number of players needed?

At least two players are needed.

Does Texas Hold'em offer better winning opportunities?

In general, winning opportunities in poker are proportional to the number of unforced betting rounds. Since Texas Hold'em has four streets, it has more winning opportunities than variants with less than four streets, and less winning opportunities than variants with more.

How do I know whether to bet or fold?

But the only way to get scientific about betting is to do the math. That means diligently counting outs and calculating and comparing card odds and pot odds.

Card odds indicate your chances of receiving an out card that makes your hand a winner. Pot odds indicate the value of the pot relative to how much you must bet to win it. When card odds are equal to or better than pot odds, it's reasonable to stay. Otherwise, it's more reasonable to fold.

Poker Odds for Dummies and Poker Strategy are great guides to poker odds and Texas Hold'em strategy. Also, when playing online you can leverage counters and odds calculators, so you don't have do the math manually.

How likely is it that other players will bluff?

When to bluff in Texas Hold'em is up to you. The likelihood of other players bluffing depends on several factors as well as your gut-feeling. But intelligent bluffing is based more upon being able to rate your hand quickly and accurately.

Knowing your hand's strength is vital to knowing when to appear weak or when to bluff being strong. Appearing weak with a strong hand can entice other players into additional pot contributions. Bluffing strong can frighten them off when you're weak.

How do you calculate outs in poker?

First start by deciding what hand you need to win the pot in your current game. Then consider which cards can help you complete that combination. If you're holding the 7♥ and 7♦ and you believe you can win with three of a kind, you have the 7♠ and 7♣ to complete your hand. This leaves you with two outs. The more outs you have, the better, and a lower number of outs means you have little chance of successfully getting the necessary card.

What is the side pot in poker?

The side pot is money between two or more players that goes above and beyond what one all-in player can afford. When one player goes all in, the side pot is the money that the other players bet after matching the all-in player. The side pot can only be won by one of the players that continues betting after the all-in move.

What hand beats what in poker?

The best hand in poker is a royal flush - and nothing beats that! After that, you have a straight flush, four of a kind, a full house, a flush, a straight, three of a kind, two pair a pair and then a high card. Check out our poker hand rankings guide for more information.

How many people do you need to play Texas Holdem?

You need a minimum of two people. The game can be played with anywhere from two-10 people, but most casinos today keep games to a maximum of six-eight people for the best gameplay experience overall.

In the poker game Texas Holdem, how many cards are dealt to each player?

Each player is dealt two-hole cards facedown. Five community cards are dealt in the middle of the table faceup.

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