Introduction to Texas Holdem Rules & Betting

Written by

Welcome to our Texas Holdem guide.

The idea behind this guide is to walk you through the basic rules and strategies to Texas Holdem. While a lot of sites have articles written on the same topics, they’re not as easy to understand as ours. They’re not packaged neatly into a handy guide like ours, either, leaving you to figure out what you should read and in what order.

So if you want to pick up the game of Texas Holdem quickly, and blend into any table you sit down at, this is the guide for you.

Our Holdem guide will be divided into 4 parts. We’ll start with rules and end with basic strategies. In the first part of our guide, I’m going to explain the rules of Texas Holdem, what (hands) beats what, betting formats and betting basics for beginners. Everything you need to know to play your first game of Texas Holdem.

Texas Holdem Guide » Part 2 » Part 3 » Part 4

Good luck and enjoy!

Texas Holdem Rules

Your first task is to learn the rules of Texas Holdem. The game appears to be complicated because there are 4 rounds, each with a new card and opportunity to bet.

But trust me, it’s not as complicated as you may think. I’m going to walk through a complete hand now. I’m sure you’ll pick it up quickly.

Note: All my examples will use 5/10 blinds.

Pre Flop

Pre flop is the first stage of a Texas Holdem hand. This is when the cards are dealt, players bet and decide whether or not they want to be involved in the hand.

The first thing that will happen is the blinds will be posted. The blinds are essentially antes that create dead money and encourage players to play, as opposed to sitting around waiting for good hand.

There are two blinds that need to be posted; the small blind and the big blind. The small blind is the first player to the left of the dealer button. This player will post $5. The player to his left (and two seats to the left of the dealer button) is the big blind. This player posts $10.

That’s it. The blinds will change each hand, as the dealer button moves around the table.

After the blinds have been posted, the dealer will give each player 2 cards, one at a time, starting with the small blind and moving clockwise around the table. Each players’ “hole cards” are dealt faced down.

After the cards have been dealt the first betting round will begin. The betting action starts with the player to the immediate left of the big blind, also known as the player under-the-gun or UTG. This player has the option to call the big blind, raise or fold.

Once the UTG player has acted, the action will continue clockwise around the table until each player has acted. Each player will have the option to call, raise or fold. The blinds will be the last players to act in an un-raised pot. The small blind will have the option to pay the difference between the small and big blind or “complete,” and the big blind can check his option. Both players can raise, too, if they choose.

The pre flop action will end once all the players but one have folded, or two or more players have completed the betting round and are ready to see the flop.

The Flop

The flop is the first community round.

The first thing that will happen is the dealer will place 3 community cards in the middle of the table (face up). All players can use these 3 cards to make the best 5-card poker hand.

After the flop has been dealt, another betting round will start. On the flop (and all subsequent rounds) the betting action will start with the first remaining player to the left of the dealer button and move around the table clockwise.

The betting options include check, bet, raise or fold. This depends on the action that took place before each player acts. If you’re not familiar with these betting options, I cover them in more detail below.

The betting round ends the same as pre flop. Either all but one player folds, or two or more players have ended the betting round and are ready for the next community card.

The Turn

The turn is also known as 4th street. It’s the 4th community card dealt that players can use to make their poker hand.

The betting round on the turn is the same as the flop.

The River

The river is the fifth and final community card that players can use to make their hand. It’s also known as 5th street. The betting action on the river is the same as the turn.


After the betting round on the river, and assuming two or more players are still in the hand, there will be a showdown. Players will show their cards so that a winner can be determined.

The showdown is simple. In an un-raised pot, the first player to the left of the dealer button will show their hand first. In a raised pot, the first player to show their hand is the player who raised last on the river. Then the action continues clockwise around the table. Each player can muck their hand (not show), or if their hand is better (and they want to win the pot, they can show their hand.

Then the pot is awarded to the best hand.

That’s an entire hand of Texas Holdem. Once the pot has been awarded the cards will be collected and reshuffled. The dealer button will move one seat to the left, new blinds will be posted and a new hand of Texas Holdem will be dealt.

What Hands Beat What in Texas Holdem

One thing that trips new players up is determining what hands beat what. It’s real simple for Texas Holdem. Here are the winning hands, from best to worst:

  • Royal Flush – AKQJT suited.
  • Straight Flush – 5 cards in a row, all of the same suit. For example, 34567 suited.
  • 4 of a kind – 4 cards of the same value. For example, 4444x.
  • Full House – A 3 of a kind and a pair. For example, 3-3-3-2-2.
  • Flush – 5 cards of the same suit. For example, A-8-5-4-2 suited.
  • Straight – 5 cards in a row. For example, 5-6-7-8-9.
  • 3 of a kind – 3 cards of the same value. For example, 3-3-3-x-x.
  • 2 Pair – Example: 2-2-3-3-x.
  • 1 Pair – Example: A-A-8-4-2
  • High Card – Example: A-K-J-3-2

In Texas Holdem you can make these hands (and win) using any combination of the community cards and your hole cards.

If there is a tie the pot will be split. It will be split however many times is necessary. For example, if 3 players have 78 and they all have straights, each of them will earn 1/3 the pot.

If two or more players have the same type of hand, the better or higher hand will win. For example, an ace high flush will beat a queen high flush.

Betting Formats and Actions

Texas Holdem is played in several variations and betting formats. They’ll impact the game in a number of ways including time, variance, dead money, betting caps and more.

In this section I want to take a couple of minutes to explain the different betting formats you’ll come across. That way you can choose which type of game you prefer, and at the very least understand how they all work. I’ll also explain the different betting options you have during each betting round in Texas Holdem.

What Kind of Betting Formats Are There in Texas Holdem?

Limit Betting – Limit (or fixed limit) betting used to be the most popular format before no limit took over. With this betting format there are a couple of things to be aware of.

On the pre flop and flop rounds, only the small bet ($5) is used. On the turn and river the big bet ($10) is used. And there is (usually) a cap of 1 bet and 3 raises for any round. This does vary from one casino to the next, though. Last thing — players can only raise one increment (small or big bet) at a time. In other words, if someone bets $5, you can only raise $5, to a total of $10.

Pot Limit Betting – What distinguishes pot limit betting from other formats is that the amount of money in the pot determines how much someone can bet. In other words, if there is $10 in the pot, the next player to act can’t bet more than $10. If they put $10 in the pot, making the total $20, the next player to act can only bet $20. Every time the size of the pot increases, the amount of money the next person can bet also increases.

No Limit Betting – No limit Texas Holdem is the most popular version played today. There is no limit to how much someone can bet. And at any time a player can push their entire stack in middle, going “all in.”

Note – For the pot and no limit betting formats, raises must be the minimum of the current bet to call. For example, if the amount to call is $10, the minimum raise must be $20. If it’s $26, the minimum you can raise is to $52.

Blinds – The blinds are forced bets that the first two players to the left of the dealer must post before the cards are dealt. The first player is the small blind and posts the smaller of the two bets, and the second is the big blind, and this player posts the bigger of the two bets. In a cash game the blinds never change. However, in a tournament and sit and go the blinds will change every so often, usually every 5-20 minutes.

Antes – Antes are a forced bet that each player must post before they are dealt cards. This is in addition to the blinds. They’re usually 10-20% the size of the blinds.

Caps – In a capped game players can only lose so much per hand. The amount you can lose per hand depends on the game.

Short, Standard, Deep Stacks – This refers to the maximum number of big blinds someone can buy in for (in a cash game). In short stack games the maximum is 40 big blinds. In standard games you can buy in for 100 big blinds and 150+ in deep stack games.

Blind Levels – You only have to worry about blind levels if you’re playing a Texas Holdem tournament or sit and go. The blinds will start low, around 10/20 or 25/50, and increase every 5-20 minutes. Each tournament will have a different structures and time frames.

Betting Actions

These are the betting options you have during a betting round in Texas Holdem.

Fold – You decide not to play your hand and toss it into the muck. If you fold you cannot win the pot.

Call – You call the last bet made. In an un-raised pot, you call the amount of the big blind. If someone raises, you must call the amount they bet.

Raise – A raise must be in increments of the last bet made. For example, in an un-raised pot at 5/10, the minimum you can raise is 10, to a total of 20. However, if someone raises to 35 (total), your minimum re-raise must be 35, to a total of 70.

Check – Checking is like saying, I pass. You give up your turn to bet (unless someone bets and the action comes back to you). It is possible for every player to check and the betting round to end with no additional money put into the pot.

Betting Basics for Beginners

From experience, I can tell you that most beginners don’t know how to bet correctly. They bet for the sake of it or for the wrong reasons. And when they do bet, their sizing is off, which doesn’t accomplish their goals and/or wastes chips.

My goal for the last section of our guide is to go into detail about how betting works in Texas Holdem, and to put you on the path to making correctly sized bets.

Mistakes Beginners Make When Betting

Lets start with the biggest mistakes beginner Holdem players make when they bet. The biggest mistakes I see are:

  • Beginners bet too big. (You don’t want to bet too small, either, but instead find a balance.) The problem with betting too big is that at some point the extra chips don’t do anything. In other words, at 5/10, betting 200 chips is going to do the same thing as betting 50. So why bet 200?
  • Your bets are transparent. A mistake players make is bet small with their premium hands (to keep other players in the pot), limp with weaker hands they don’t mind folding, and then betting huge with premium, but vulnerable hands. Betting like this makes it obvious to everyone what you have.
  • Betting for no reason. Sometimes players bet just for the sake of it.

Beginners make other betting mistakes, too, but a lot of that falls under specific strategies. That’s too much (and too advanced) for me to cover here.

How to (Size Your) Bet Correctly

With the common mistakes out of the way, lets look at the right ways and times to bet.

Pre Flop Bet Sizing

One of the concepts I want to drill into you is that you should only bet enough to get the job done. No more, and no less.

So how much do you bet preflop?

The standard is 3x the big blind. With blinds of 5/10, the standard raise will be to $30. Depending on the game and stakes you’re playing, however, your bet sizing can vary from 2-5x. For example, in tournaments a min-raise (2x) bet is very common for the later stages. And in micro stakes games, you can usually get away with betting 4-5x with your premium hands and the other players won’t know the difference.

Note: One important thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep your bet sizes as consistent as possible, especially the higher the stakes you play.

In the scenario that a player limps in before you act, the rule of thumb (if you choose to raise) is to raise 3x the big blind plus 1 big blind for every limper. For example, if 3 players limp into the pot at 5/10, you’d bet $60. I use the same rule of thumb for my 3-bets (re-raises), too.

Post Flop Bet Sizing

When you make a bet post flop your bets should (almost always) be in relation to the size of the pot. And the amount you choose to bet will depend on a number of factors including:

  • Your opponent
  • Your hand
  • The board texture
  • Your goal

To come back to my main point, only bet as much as you have to (when bluffing) and as much as you can (when betting for value). And these should blend (balance) as much as possible, so that your opponents cannot tell the difference. That way you don’t give away any information that can be used against you.

To give you an example:

On a drier flop (like A-T-3 rainbow) with 125 chips in the pot, a continuation bet of 75 chips is reasonable. If the flop is wet (has a lot of draws possible), then betting closer to 100 chips will work.

One thing you don’t want to do is over bet the pot. For example, if the pot has 500 chips in it, your bet should be less than 500 chips. I wouldn’t bet 550, 700 or shove all in (like many beginners do), regardless of the hand you have, or how vulnerable it may be. Betting close to the size of the pot is inducing enough mistakes from players on a draw as is, so only bet as much as you have to. There are exceptions, but these are advanced topics and not something I’d worry about right now.

Effective Stacks

One important concept to understand is effective stacks or effective stack sizes. You want to understand this concept because it will impact when and how much you bet.

To determine the effective stack size, just find the lowest stack size of the remaining players to your left. For example, if there are 5 players to your left and the shortest stack has 15 big blinds, that means effective stack sizes are 15 big blinds.

In this particular example, with effective stack sizes of 15 big blinds you might choose to fold your hand or push all in, as opposed to raising. However, if effective stack sizes are 50 big blinds, then you can resort to your default (betting) strategy. If effective stacks are 150 big blinds, then you’ll play a wider range of hands and will bet (and re-raise) more.

That’s the basic idea. It does get more complicated than this. But I wanted to give you the basics so that you can determine for yourself when it might make more sense to fold, raise or shove all in.

Have a Reason or Goal to Bet

If you’re ever questioning when you should bet, just remember that there are only 3 reasons for betting:

  • Value – You think/know you have the best hand and you want to earn as many chips as possible.
  • Dead Money – Money that is already in the pot, either from antes, blinds, players who folded or a combination of these things.
  • Bluff – You want the other player(s) to fold the better hand.

These are the only reasons for betting. Many players make the mistake of thinking that you should bet for information or to protect your hand. However, these reasons are byproducts of the reasons I outline above. If you’re betting to protect your hand, you’re usually betting for value. You’re getting value from hands that are drawing. If you’re betting for information, that’s usually a byproduct of all 3 reasons above. You’ll get your information based on what your opponent does.

The bottom line – if you’re thinking about betting, but you can’t decide if you should bet for value, dead money or to bluff, then you probably don’t have a good enough reason to bet and should check, call or fold instead.

Conclusion — End of Part 1 of Our Texas Holdem Guide

That’s it for the first part of our guide. You just learned enough to go play for your first game of Texas Holdem, not to mention disguise the fact that you’re a beginner. And if you are confused about anything I discussed here, just re-read the guide again. You’ll also find that any question you may have will be cleared up once you play a couple of hands.

In the next section of our guide I’m going to explain why you should pay attention at the table, whether you’re in the hand or not, as well as how to classify your opponents and how different types of opponents will impact your strategy. Following that we’re going to get into some math. I’m going to show you how to count poker outs, calculate card odds and pot odds so that you can correctly determine when you’re (profitably) drawing to a better hand.