Mastering the Basics of Texas Hold’em Poker


Mastering the Basics of Texas Hold’em Poker


Live dealer is holding a deck of cards and is dealing two playing cards on a green felt table, with stacks of poker chips on the left.

Mastering the Basics of Texas Hold’em Poker


A hand lifting two cards to discreetly show an ace of clubs and an ace of hearts, with stacks of poker chips to the right.

If you’re new to poker, you’ll want to ensure you’re familiar with Texas Hold’em. Known as the “Cadillac of poker,” it is the most popular variant of the game.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to start playing. From the game’s origins to the complete Texas Hold’em poker rules, this is your guide to mastering the basics.

What is Texas Hold’em?

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that ”Texas Hold’em” and “poker” are not interchangeable terms. You’ll often hear beginners talking about “poker” when they’re actually referring specifically to Hold’em. This is a common error.

Texas Hold’em is only one form of the game. “Poker” is an umbrella term for any number of card games where players aim to make a five-card hand. Other popular variants include Omaha, seven-card stud, and five-card draw. 

History of Hold’em

The origins of the game are a little unclear, though Robstown in Texas is officially credited as being its birthplace. It’s thought to have emerged in the early 20th century before its popularity boomed during the 1960s. Corky McCorquodale took the game to the California Club in Las Vegas, where it spread to neighboring casinos and exploded from there.

By the 1970s, with the formation of the World Series of Poker, Texas Hold’em was the game of choice for the Main Event. Its star rose further with the publication of several Texas Hold’em books, such as “Super/System” by poker legend Doyle Brunson. To this day, most major poker series use this form of poker for their showpiece tournaments. 

Similar Games

Texas Hold’em is also at the core of a number of other popular games. Omaha, originally dubbed Omaha Hold’em, is a spin-off that uses similar mechanics. The major difference is that each player must use two cards from a starting hand of four.

Many poker players have never heard of Greek Hold’em, but that’s another variant born from its Texan cousin. It’s thought to be the evolutionary link between the Texas and Omaha variants. It plays out exactly like Texas Hold’em; only you must use both of your hole cards.

How To Play Texas Hold’em Poker

An ace, king, queen, jack and ten of hearts are fanned out, lying face up on a green felt poker table with stacks of poker chips laying on top of them.

The rules of Texas Hold’em are straightforward, which perhaps helped to cement its popularity. To start, every player receives two private “hole” cards, which are face-down. 

There are four betting rounds in all, during which a total of five extra cards are turned face-up on the table. All participants may use these “community” cards to form their poker hand.

The object of the game is simply to win the pot. This can be achieved by playing a hand to its conclusion and seeing which player holds the strongest combination of cards. However, if you can force everyone else out of the pot, you’ll win without even needing to reveal the contents of your hand. This opens up the possibility of all kinds of strategic play, including bluffing.

Hand Rankings

No guide would be complete without ranking the different Texas Hold’em hands. Here, the hierarchy is identical to that of pretty much every other poker game. It looks like this:

  • Straight flush: Five connected and suited cards, the highest being a royal flush.
  • Four-of-a-kind: Four same-value cards, such as kings, with any other card.
  • Full house: A three-of-a-kind combined with a pair.
  • Flush: Five unconnected cards of the same suit.
  • Straight: Five connected cards, such as 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, of varying suits.
  • Three-of-a-kind: Three of the same value, such as jacks, with two random cards.
  • Two pair: Two unique pairs, such as two queens and two 5s.
  • One pair: A single pair, such as two aces, with three random cards.
  • High card: Any hand that doesn’t fit into the above categories. 

Playing a Hand of Hold’em

To help anchor your understanding of how Hold’em works, here’s an example of how a hand might play out. To begin with, the dealer gives everyone two cards each, starting from the left of the dealer position. This moves to the left by one seat after every hand.


The player sitting two to the left of the dealer must post a forced bet called a “big blind.” Whoever is immediately to the left of the dealer posts a half-sized bet, known as the “small blind.” 

This is crucial, as it ensures there’s something to play for in every hand. In poker tournaments, the size of the blinds increases, generating further action.


After the blinds are posted, betting takes place. Anyone can fold, throwing their hand away. Alternatively, they may call the bet, continue to play, or raise. This means anyone else wishing to play must add more to the pot.

After the first round is complete, three cards are dealt face-up, called the “flop.” A further betting round takes place before another card is revealed, known as the “turn.” After more betting, the fifth and final card is dealt, called the “river.”

If, after the last betting round, there’s still more than one player left in the hand, everyone reveals their hand. This is called a “showdown,” and whoever has the best hand wins the pot.

Basic Hold’em Strategy

A hand lifting two cards to discreetly show an ace of clubs and an ace of hearts, with stacks of poker chips to the left and rear, and three playing cards lying face up in the background.

Understanding how to play Texas Hold’em online effectively is more than just knowing the rules. Mastering strategy, as the saying goes, could take a lifetime. But you have to start somewhere, so here’s a look at the basics.

Table Selection

Becoming a winning online poker player isn’t necessarily about being the best. You simply have to beat other people consistently enough to turn a profit. That begins with table selection. 

If you’re new to the game, it makes sense to sharpen your skills at the micro-stakes first. Playing against other beginners gives you a chance to build a bankroll before moving up instead of diving straight in against the pros.

Hand Selection

Once a game is underway, the most fundamental part of your strategy is hand selection. Playing too many hands is a surefire way to lose money. But, and this is one of the most common mistakes made by new Hold’em players, so is playing too few hands.

With the former, you’ll run into too many better hands to make a profit. But with the latter, you’re too easy to read, so nobody will pay off your big hands.


Perhaps the most important aspect of playing a hand is your relative table position. When you act first, you can only guess at what the other players might do. Conversely, acting last gives you much more information, as you’ve already seen whether anyone has raised and how many players are involved.

Use this to your advantage. Don’t try to steal too many pots from early position, as you’ll get your fingers burned. However, you’re free to widen your raising ranges from the hijack, cut-off, and dealer button positions.

Play Texas Hold’em 24/7 at Borgata Online

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of Texas Hold’em, it’s time to give the game a try. Register at Borgata Online to participate in tournaments and cash games at a wide variety of stakes.

What’s more, there are plenty of other tables to play online poker for real money, including Omaha, seven-card stud, and mixed games.