How To Play Texas Holdem Poker
When you know the basic Texas Holdem rules, we can move forward into actual gameplay and see how to play it.
We already touched on the concept of blinds when we talked about small blind and big blind in a section about poker positions, but I want to cover it a bit deeper since these two positions are vital to master to have success in Texas Holdem poker games.
Every single hand starts with a player on the button (dealer) dealing the cards and blinds putting up their forced bets.
For example, if you are playing in a $1/2$ cash game commonly known as NL200, you will have to place $1 before seeing your hand when you are in the small blind and $2 when you are in the big blind.
When Texas Hold’em hand begins, the player in the immediate left to the dealer posts a small blind, and the next player to his left post the big blind, and only then dealer starts dealing the cards.
If you are playing a tournament, the blinds will regularly increase, but it will always stay at the same level in cash games.
On top of that, you will find antes in some games, which is an additional forced bet that every player at the table needs to make before the hand starts.
Antes are mostly used in poker tournaments to increase the pot's size and give players incentives to fight for it.
When everyone gets their initial two cards, the action starts, and every player at the table can decide how to play Texas Holdem hand that they are holding.
Texas Holdem poker is almost always played as a No-Limit format, meaning that you can bet as much as you want even preflop since there are no rules to limit the sizing of your bets.
For example, if you are playing in a game with $1/$2 blinds, then you have an option to call $2 or raise. The minimum raise here is $4, but you can go as big as you want and even put all of your chips in the middle if you wish so.
The first player to act is the one sitting left to the big blind, and then betting action continues clockwise until everyone makes their decisions.
Since there is no option to check in the preflop round (unless you are sitting in the big blind and other players just call), you will have three options:
- Fold – throw away your hand and wait for a better situation to play. If you fold, you will not be able to play in this particular Holdem hand anymore.
- Call – match the big blind's amount, which is also known as “limping” in the preflop round with the hope of cheaply seeing the first free community cards.
- Raise – if you have a hand you want to play, you can increase the stakes by raising, which means betting more than the big blind.
When the first player makes his action, the second one can decide following the same logic and this continues clockwise until everyone makes their decisions.
The first three community cards In Texas Holdem are called the “Flop” and are dealt face-up in the middle of the table so every active player can use these cards to make the best possible combination.
In this round, the betting begins with the first active player to the left of the button (dealer) and continues clockwise until everyone makes their decisions.
This time, if nobody made a bet in front of you, you can opt to check without putting any of your money in the middle and pass the action to another player.
If all players agree to check, you will see the fourth community card known as the “turn.”
However, if someone decides to bet, then all players have to follow the action again and decide if they want to fold, call or raise and you will go to the next betting round only when everyone makes their decisions.
Since Texas Holdem poker is mostly played as No-Limit, players can bet as much as they want at any point in the hand.
When all of the betting actions on the flop are completed, the forth faced-up community card is dealt in the middle for everyone, known as the “Turn.”
Then another betting round begins with the first active player to the dealer's left and follows the same Texas Holdem rules for betting as on the flop.
When every player completes their actions on the Turn, the last card known as the “river” is dealt face-up on the board.
The river is the last community card in the Holdem game, and the last betting round starts when it is dealt.
All of the same rules are followed as in previous betting rounds, and once again, the action starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer.
If there is more than one player left in the hand after the last betting round on the river, we will move to the showdown.
This is the last phase of Texas Holdem hand.
Now you compare who has the best 5-card combination and determine the winner.
There are a couple of showdown rules in Holdem:
- The player who was the first to bet on the river has to show his hand first.
- If no one bet on the river, the player sitting to the left of the dealer has to show his cards first.
- The player may choose to muck (fold) his hand without showing if he wants to do that.
When the winner is decided and takes down the bot, another Texas Holdem hand starts.
It follows the same game flow starting with posting blinds and dealing the cards and then moving through all of the betting rounds once again.
Best Texas Holdem Hands and Preflop Strategy
When you know Texas Holdem rules and how to play this game, we can move to the actual strategy and cover the most important things for making sound decisions preflop.
Proper hand selection will make or break you in Texas Holdem games.
One of the most common mistakes players makes when learning how to play Texas Holdem is playing too many hands.
If you cannot pick the right spots and play too many hands, you will be bleeding money at the table.
Therefore, you should concentrate on only playing the strongest Holdem hands at the beginning, until you get more experience in the games.
This will help you avoid tough decisions after the flop and significantly increase your EV in the games. Here are the top starting Texas Holdem hands.
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Of course, it does not mean that you should only be playing these holdings, but you should surely stay away from playing random “trashy” hands at the beginning.
Your position at the table is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing which hands to play in Holdem.
While you want to play very tight from early seats at the table, you have to add more hands in your opening ranges when you move closer to the button.
Since most of your opponents at lower stakes will be playing random hands, this alone will give you a huge edge.
Having a good position directly correlates with your win rate, you should play more hands when you have it.
To get concrete ranges of which Texas Holdem hands to play, grab our detailed poker cheat sheet.
Aggression and patience
You should always be looking to play your hand aggressively in Texas Holdem games since if you have a hand that is worth playing, it is probably worth raising.
If you are the first player to enter the pot, you should be raising or folding.
There is almost no situation where you should be limping in the pot by merely calling the big blind, so always take the aggressive line if you decide to play.
However, when someone has called before you, and you hold a speculative hand like a small pocket pair or suited connectors, you can join the action and call as well.
You can even opt to call when facing a raise, but you should be playing the vast majority of your hands preflop by raising or folding since it gives you a couple of advantages in the hand:
- You can win the pot at once if everyone folds.
- If someone decides to call, you will have the initiative in the hand.
- You will be able to take down many pots postflop by simply c-betting.
This makes raising superior to calling, and that’s why you should be sticking to it for the most part.
Of course, this might reduce the total number of hands you can play, but that is also great for your bottom line.
If you have the patience to pick good spots and play it aggressively, you will instantly become a better player than most of your opponents at the lowest stakes.
So don’t fall into the trap of playing “mediocre” Texas Holdem hands, and you will be doing great. If you want to learn more about how to play when starting out, we put together a list of the best poker tips for beginners, so check it out.
Texas Holdem Poker – Play Your Cards Right Postflop
When you learn how to play Texas Holdem and master the basics of the game, your postflop decision becomes more and more important. You might even want to join one of the best poker training sites, which is probably the fastest way to learn more about the winning strategy.
Of course, you will not become a poker pro overnight, but let’s cover the most important parts of the Texas Hold em strategy when you are just starting.
C-betting and putting pressure
When used correctly, the continuation bet is probably the most powerful move in Texas Holdem, so make sure to take advantage of what it has to offer.
Continuation bet or c-bet is a bet that you make postflop after being the initial aggressor and raising preflop.
Essentially, it means you continue your aggression by betting after seeing community cards, which indicates strength and puts a lot of pressure on your opponents.
This simple bet will win a lot of money to you since your opponents will entirely miss the flop most of the time and will be forced to give up and fold when facing a c-bet.
So while it is not very easy to balance your play in this situation, when you are just learning how to play Texas Holdem, you do not need to worry about that and can be c-betting very aggressive.
Even if you do not take down the pot on the flop, you will have a chance to improve your hand on other streets or continue your bluff. To learn a bit more about effective strategies in this situation, read our continuation bet guide.
Another area where many players make a lot of mistakes in Texas Holdem is bluffing too often.
While you might get an impression from poker movies or TV shows that players are bluffing all the time, that is very far from the truth.
Of course, since these hands are very exciting and fun to watch, it is often shown on TV, but that does not portrait how the game runs. Most of the time, even the best players in the world keep folding hand after hand and can sit for hours without playing, but who would watch that, right?
If you try to build a picture of how Texas Holdem games actually look from merely watching TV and movies, you will probably lose everything faster than you understand what happened at the table.
The absolute best advice I can give to you when starting is to play only solid hands and restrain from bluffing too often.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t throw in an occasional bluff when you have a good situation, but that should never be your plan when going into the games.
Of course, you will need to add this weapon to your arsenal when you move up the stakes but when you are just learning how to play Holdem, avoid putting your money in the middle without having a hand.
Actual Texas Holdem rules do not specify how to pay different hand groups, but since you will have way more draws than made hands, it is essential to know how to get maximum value with it.
Many players have an illusion that they should try to hit their draws as cheaply as possible and only put some money in the middle if they make the hand.
While this sounds nice in theory, it is a recipe for disaster in real games.
Holdem's actual strategy should be quite the opposite since playing draws aggressively is often way more profitable for a couple of reasons.
- When you choose to bet or raise with your draw, you have a high chance of taking down the pot even without improving your hand.
- Even if your opponent does not fold after your first bet, you can easily continue betting on favorable cards and take down the pot later.
- You will build the pot for the times when you hit your hand, so you will win more when you hit it.
These are no small benefits, so it is quite clear that you should be playing your draws aggressively most of the time. Of course, that does not mean that you can’t simply call when holding the draw since there is a huge difference between holding inside straight draw and something like a nut flush draw in poker.
Like with everything else in Holem, you need some balance, so mix your strategy and include some calls in these situations, but be ready to put pressure on your opponent for the most part.
Adjusting to different players
Another thing that is vital to understand is that Texas Holdem is a very dynamic game, and you need to adjust versus different players to have better results.
However, everything stats from game theory optimal play.
If you are not sure what GTO poker means, you only need to know that it is essentially an optimal way to play Holdem versus unknown players.
GTO strategy makes you play unexplainable, meaning that you are guaranteed to win money no matter what your opponents do at the table.
It does not mean that you will win a lot if your opponents are good, but at least you know you will not be losing.
While this sounds amazing, this strategy is quite hard to learn and implement in Texas Holdem since there basically is an unlimited number of possible situations, but you surely can learn how to play in many of the vital spots using poker software available for studying it.
There are some situations when you can’t do anything better than just stick to game theory optimal play:
- When you are up against very good players.
- When you have no information about your opponents.
- When you are just not sure what you should do in any given spot.
So the GTO poker strategy is great for building fundamentals and using this as your baseline strategy when you have no information about your opponents, but when you play with the same players again and again, you will notice their mistakes and can exploit that to win even more.
If you are playing in live games, your only option is to observe your opponents to see where they are making mistakes. However, if you happen to play Texas Holdem online, then you can use tools such as Poker Tracker 4, which will get that information for you.
These tools will show your opponents' stats and tendencies, so you will be able to identify when to adjust your play to exploit others and make more money as a result.
Remember, always be ready to adjust to different players and use all available resources to make it as easy as possible.
Learning How To Play Texas Holdem Poker – Summary
We covered all of the most important Texas Holdem rules, so I am sure you are fully aware of how this game is played. Remember to stick to the fundamentals, and you will do great.
Play fewer hands but od it aggressively when learning how to play Texas Holde’em.
Also, be aware of your position at the table, preflop hand selection, and optimal strategies postflop based on your observations and your opponent's tendencies.
If you remember these simple tips, you will love Texas Holdem poker and will be able to build even advanced strategies on top of these fundamentals.