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What is Texas Hold’em?

Texas Hold’em is the single most popular poker game in the world. Although it wasn’t until the 2000s that No-Limit Texas Hold’em really took off, it’s a game that dates all the way back to the early 1900s.

Texas Hold’em differs from many of the other poker games like Seven-Card Stud and Five-Card Draw because it features community cards, which help mitigate the need to count cards.

You also draw only two cards as your starting "hole cards," making the game even more accessible to new poker players. Poker legend Doyle Brunson once referred to No-Limit Hold’em as the “Cadillac” of poker and it’s easy to see why.

The game is simple to learn and offers a unique combination of skill and luck, making for endlessly exciting game scenarios and lots of action.

How is Texas Hold'em Played?

Texas Hold’em is a community-card poker game that typically takes place over one table with 2-10 players. Every player is dealt two cards face down, which can then be combined with the following five cards dealt out on the board to create the best five-card poker hand.

Players do not have to have the best hand to win, however, as they can also win by bluffing their opponent out of a hand with a bet.

For one full hand of Texas Hold'em there can be up to four separate betting rounds - after the deal, after the flop (the first three cards are dealt to the board and called the "Flop"), after the "turn" card is dealt (fourth street) and after the "river" card (fifth street) is dealt.

Players have the option of checking, calling, betting, raising or folding in every round, depending on the action in front of them and the order of player around the table.

Texas Hold’em is also very much a "position-based" game, which means there is an order of play, a strategy to how you should play in each position in relation to the dealer and and two forced bets to start the action off every round.

These are called the "small blind" and the "big blind" (typically twice the small blind), and must be put into the pot before the hand. These positions rotate around the table, so you will need to put in one small blind and one big blind over the course of a full orbit of hands around the table.

Try our Beginner's Guide to Getting Started in Texas Hold'em to if you need some help to get going..

Why is Texas Hold’em So Popular?

Start playing online poker at the best poker sites and you’ll quickly find that 80% or more of all of the action at the tables is in No-Limit Texas Hold’em.

There are a lot of reasons why, but first among them is likely the ease of learning how to play and the massive amount of television exposure Texas Hold'em has got in the the last 6-8 years.

Texas Hold'em also works especially well online as it’s generally faster than most of the draw games and it’s easier to play with several tables open at once.

Perhaps the best element, though, is that new players are always getting into the game because it’s so simple to learn, which means competition is significantly less difficult than some of the other more specialized games.

These days Pot-Limit Omaha – the four-card version of Hold’em – is starting to gain momentum but it’s doubtful it will ever be nearly as popular as Hold’em.

What Beats What in Texas Hold'em?

See the complete hand rankings in our Poker Hand Evaluation page.

How to Make Your Texas Hold'em Hand

The rules of making your best hand in Texas Holdem are simple:

You always have to you use exactly five cards (out of seven that are dealt - two just to you and five in the middle for everyone) but you can use any combination of cards from your hand or the board cards.

If the best five-card hand (go back to the poker hand rankings if you're unsure) you can make is with all five cards on the board, that's your final hand.

You can also use just one hole card from your hand and four from the board, or two from your hand and three from the board.

Basic No-Limit Hold’em Terms

Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand, or the name for the physical dealer button used to denote the current dealer.

Blinds: Short for "blind bets," these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold'em, blinds take the place of the classic “ante” that’s found in Seven-Card Stud.

Burn Card: The card dealt facedown before any community card is dealt.

Check: Similar to a call, but no money is bet. If there is no bet or raise, the next player to act may check.

Fish or Donkey: A generally bad player

Fifth Street: See River.

Flop: The first three community cards dealt.

Fourth Street: See Turn.

Pre-flop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is pre-flop.

River: The final (5th) community card dealt; also known as fifth street.

Showdown: When players reveal their hands to discover the pot's winner.

Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Texas Holdem Game

Most people who play Texas Hold'em want to get better at it. Even those who play Texas Holdem online purely for recreation usually have more fun if they are winning. Becoming a Texas hold’em master will take some hard work and innate talent, but there are a few things you can do right away to start getting better:

1. Stop Playing So Many Hands

When newbie poker players start playing Texas holdem poker on the web, their most common mistake is playing too many starting hands. In other words they "limp in" (putting in the same amount as the big blind) or they call too many bets before the flop with hands that are too weak.

This is a common symptom in live poker too, but the impatience that characterizes web visitors in general probably affects web based poker players as well. As a consequence, when you play online poker on the web, it’s even more important than usual to make a list of starting hands that you are “allowed” to play.

For example, make a copy of a simple Texas Holdem starting-hand strategy and keep it beside the computer when you play your first few hundred hands or so. As a general rule, if you start out with the best hand, you are more likely to end up with the best hand.

If you play any two cards with the hopes of flopping something good, you will often make the second-best hand at best or nothing at all. This will result in you paying off your opponents far too much. This is true in all poker variations but especially in Texas hold em games.

Even if you don't make any hands, your chips will bleed away since you will pay for a lot of missed flops and not win enough when you finally hit. At the best online Texas holdem sites there are always people waiting for fish to swim in and play any two cards. You want to be one of the sharks waiting and not the fish.

2. Try Second Level Thinking

Don’t consider your hand in a vacuum. Sure you have a flush, but there’s a high pair on the board and one of your opponents is betting strongly. You have to consider that he may have a full house.

Alternatively, if a player raised before the flop and the flop comes with three low cards, you have to consider the possibility that he was betting high cards and missed, even if your hand is not that strong.

Many new Texas hold em players focus too much on what they have and not what they have in relation to their opponents. If you often think “I have a [insert hand] so I have to call,” and then lose, you might want to start analyzing your opponents’ possible holdings a little more.

3. Try Third Level Thinking

In online Texas Hold'em poker, once you’re thinking about what your opponent has, try thinking about what your opponent may think you have. This seems a little tricky, but just try to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes and try to imagine what you might conclude about the hand if you were in his seat.

In doing so, you will be able to make good value bets that your opponents might pay off and get rid of hands that look strong but are beat.

4. Find Your Comfort Level

To play your best Texas Holdem online, you should be playing at stakes that are not so high that you are afraid to make the moves you need to make, but not so low that you play carelessly.

If you’re not sure, err on the side of playing lower stakes. You can always move up if you’re convinced that you are not being challenged at your current level. Before you decide where to play, compare different poker site reviews to make sure that you find a poker site offering action at your preferred limit.

5. Analyze Your Play

This is easier to do in online poker with downloaded hand histories, but you can do it in live play too. Go over your hands and think about what you did right and what you did wrong, and how that affected your results.

If you pinpoint a real error, try to correct it mentally before your next session. All top texas holdem sites allow you to view all your played hands, and most of them give you statistics on your play – how often you fold, call and bet etc.

Use this information to your advantage. It can drastically improve your game, and improve your chances of building a bankroll from your first poker deposit.

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Texas Holdem Poker

Texas Holdem is a poker success story without comparison. From being a fairly small game only played by old-school Texas gamblers, it’s now played by millions of people online and offline all around the world.

In our toplist to the left we rate online poker sites based on the Texas Hold’em games they offer. Poker Junkie’s editors and visitors have rated the big Texas Holdem poker sites and guide you to the best ones in this category.

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