- Texas Holdem For Dummies
- How To Play Texas Hold’em – Very Basics
- How To Play Texas Holdem – TAG Poker
- How To Play Texas Holdem – 3 Essential Technical Skills to Win
- How To Play Texas Holdem – Free Practice
- How To Play Texas Holdem Strategy – Warp Up
Texas Holdem For Dummies
Go through 15 minutes crash course for How To Play Texas Holdem to understand the basic rules/strategies of Texas Hold’em & win the most popular poker variation.
As seen from the fact that all established tournaments including World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour & European Poker Tour feature the no-limit variation of Texas Holdem, there are no online poker sites that don’t provide Texas Hold’em.
Online Poker is not a game of luck but heavily relies on skill. We share 3 easy but essential basics of the Texas Holdem Strategy for beginners with charts, tools & advanced tips, which enable you to beat almost all opponents who play without knowing such essential winning strategies.
It is often said that “Texas Holdem takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master”, so after going through this guide, you may want to check PokerStars Free Poker School for continuous improvements.
BTW, Texas Holdem beginners should take advantage of various bonuses (both welcome & reload) poker sites offer, suggest taking a look at Complete Guide to Online Poker Bonus Hunting for Dummies to rake real cash while developing your poker learning curve.
How To Play Texas Hold’em – Very Basics
What is Texas Hold’em Key Rules?
If you are already familiar with Poker & Texas Holdem, just skip this section.
There are many poker variations that can be categorized into 3 as below;
- Draw Poker: Players deal with a complete hand, hidden, and then improve it by replacing cards, the most common is a five-card draw.
- Stud Poker: Each player receives a combination of face-up cards and face-down cards in multiple betting rounds, the most common is five-card stud & seven-card stud, and these 2 variants are further played in other different formats.
- Community Card Poker: Each player’s incomplete hidden hand is combined with shared face-up cards, the popular games are Texas hold ’em & Omaha hold ’em.
Texas Hold’em Simple Rules
Texas Hold’em is defined as Community Card Poker and as illustrated above, there is no house to compete with but competition among players.
The Dealer button moves clockwise one position around the table, which means that players take turns to be the dealer, the Small Blind, and the Big Blind (these 2 players are named “blinds” because they are forced to bet before anyone even sees their cards).
If a hand of poker is played all the way to its conclusion, there will be four betting rounds during which players can commit their chips to the pot – 3 options of “Call” (matching the size of the current bet), “Raise” (increase the size of the current bet) & “Check” (not wish to commit any more chips to the pot, just passing the betting turn).
Finally, there is an option of “Fold” (just give up the game & chips you already bet) at any time.
The game sequence is;
- The Pre Flop (1st Round): It’s played with a rotating dealer (or button). The small blind (immediate left to the dealer) & big blind (one further seat from the dealer) each post small bets to initiate the action. Every player is dealt two face-down cards called “Hole“. Players go through a round of Pre Flop betting (betting starts Under The Gun after the Blinds and finish at Dealer, and players are wagering based solely on the strength of their two concealed hole cards).
- The Flop (2nd Round): The first three face-up community cards called “Flop” are dealt & each player checks what hand can be made by combining 2 hole cards and 3 community cards. Players go through another round of betting.
- The Turn (3rd Round): The fourth face-up community card is known as “Turn” is dealt & each player checks what hand can be made by combining 2 hole cards and any 3 out of 4 community cards. Players go through another round of betting.
- The River (4th Final Round): Fifth face-up community card is known as “River” is dealt & each player checks what hand can be made by combining 2 hole cards and any 3 out of 5 community cards. The final betting round ensues.
- Showdown: Remaining players show their cards (“Hand“) to determine the winner. The winner collects all the pot chips.
There are only 10 Poker Hands (Royal Flush is the strongest) that you might have heard of;
As long as you understand the above basics, you can start.
How To Play Texas Holdem – TAG Poker
There are various poker play styles which are;
- TAG – Tight Aggressive
- LAG – Loose Aggressive
- Nit – Exceptionally tight player
- Maniac – Loose and crazy
- LP – Loose Passive
- TP – Tight Passive, etc.
We strongly recommend you take the TAG (Tight Aggressive) approach because the majority of Texas Holdem winning players are TAG players and there isn’t a great counter-strategy to deal with a good TAG.
Simply, you as a TAG player enter the pot only with strong hands (selective with starting hands) and proceed by playing aggressively on the later betting rounds. You may make proper bluffs though you end up having a strong hand more frequently than a LAG.
Aiming to be a TAG is the first & foremost Texas Holdem’s winning strategy.
How To Play Texas Holdem – 3 Essential Technical Skills to Win
The golden rule is “Don’t allow the specific result to alter your decision making and you should base it in mathematics”.
We would like you to always make a call of mathematically correct, which will give you far better chances to achieve those objectives than not doing so.
From this perspective, you need to understand Texas Hold’em mathematical logic & master the following 3 key strategies to determine your actions;
- Preflop Technical Skills: Position, Winning Rate & Hand
- Post flop Technical Skills: Pot Odds, Equity & EV
- Mental Technical Skills: Bluffing, Fold, Opponents & Table Selection
In the beginning, you may feel a bit overwhelmed but once you start playing, you will get used to them relatively quickly because all in all they are quite simple (suggest you do practice in free play site as explained later).
Pre Flop Skills: Position, Winning Rate & Hand
Watch the below video to understand the action you should take in each position;
Basically, you should not “Limp” (bet the absolute minimum needed to stay in a hand, namely “call at pre-flop”) rather than “Fold” or “Raise” mainly due to the following reasons;
- You can’t win the pot before the flop like you could if you raised
- You give the players behind attractive pot odds, making it more likely you face multiple players and thus less likely you win the pot
- The only exception is when other players already limped, so-called over-limping, which can be good because you are getting great pot odds to join the action so you may have a chance of hitting something good on the flop.
Pre Flop Hands Strategy
Pre Flop Hands Strategy Key Point (1) to be TAG player
Texas Holdem’s hand’s strategy is very important. See the below Hand Matrix. It displays all the possible hands you could be dealt preflop.
You can see which range of hands you should play from a given situation because it is the best, quickest, and easiest way to know what hands to play.
This matrix is structured based on the winning rate % of each combination. The winning rate of the top left “AA” the highest rate of 85% while the right-bottom “32o” is 35%.
The ranges that follow (each color represents your current position), are the hands you should Raise First. In other words, these are the hands you should play pre-flop when the action folds to you, and you should play them by raising (see the definition of 1 – 3 number as well).
The best way to approach raise first is to pick a range of hands that you believe is strong enough to play from a given situation, then raise with all of them using raise size. You should use a consistent size to give away as little information about what you might have as possible.
Using a raise size anywhere between 2.5 times and 4 times the size of the big blind when you have a hand worth playing (smaller raise seems to work best in online games, while a larger size works better in live games).
Remember, following the above preflop ranges is relatively easy to do but having the discipline to keep sticking to them is difficult. Don’t allow yourself to get impatient and play a hand not worth playing.
Pre Flop Hands Strategy Key Point (2) to be a TAG Player
Never try to play too many hands. Play fewer hands (Tight) & aggressively (BTW, Aggressive is meant to be the poker players who raise more than call and are not afraid to put chips at risk, while Passive poker players tend to avoid confrontation and play with a fear of losing).
The best approach is to play a tight range of strong and/or playable hands, and you need to play those hands aggressively. Playing all of your hands aggressively, including the more speculative ones like 7♠ 6♠ or 5♥ 5♣, allows you to disguise the strength of your actual hand.
Therefore, when you raise, your opponents won’t know whether you have A-A, A-K, or 7-6, which makes you super tough to play against. Tight and aggressive often wins the game (although it also depends on the opponents’ type at the table, which we explain in the mental strategies)
You should use a consistent size to give away as little information about what you might have as possible. A raise size anywhere between 2.5 times and 4 times the size of the big blind is said to be good when you have a hand worth playing.
Post Flop Skills: Pot Odds, Card Equity & EV (Expected Value)
Watch the below video which concisely explains about Pot Odds Probability & Equity related to Poker EV as the parameter enabling you to decide on your action;
Formula to Determine Your Betting Action
As explained in the video, assuming the Pot has $80 and if you need to bet $40 to call (the total pot will become $120 by adding your bet), then;
Pot Odds = Risk vs Reward ratio = $120 : $40 = 3:1 = 25% 1 Risk / (3 Reward + 1 Risk)
This 25% is Break-Even in Expected Value (EV), which means if our “Hole” card has more than 25% “Equity” (the portion of the pot that is yours based on the likelihood you’ll win the hand or % of the time you should win a poker hand), we have Positive EV, therefore, we should “Call”, which is another way of expressing EV as;
EV = Hole Cards Equity (Outs %) – Pot Odds %
Note: Standard EV formula is as follows, just FYI;
Standard EV “0” (break-even) = (winning probability 25%) x (win amount $120) – (losing probability 75%) x (losing amount $40) = $30 – $30 = $0
How to Calculate Hole Card Equity “Outs” – Simple 4 & 2 Rules
Then, how to calculate our hole card equity, namely your chances of completing your hand to win the pot? We count our “Outs”. An out is a term used in the after-flop betting rounds to describe any card among the unseen cards in the deck, which will substantially improve the value of your hand on the next card turned up.
See the below table showing the puts examples & equity %. Let’s take a look at Open-Ended Straight Draw example, the hole cards are 9♣8♦& the flop cards are 7♣6♥3♠, which can be improved to be Straight with open-ended, means 5 or 10 in any suit can make it.
So, there will be 4 cards of 5 & 4 cards of 10 out of 47 remaining cards (total 52 cards – 2 + 3 known cards). The equity can be calculated as probability of 8 cards / 47 cards = 0.17 = 17%.
You don’t need to calculate in the above way, the dirty trick is to use 4 & 2 rules. After counting your outs, then multiply by four if two cards are still to come, or two for only one card to determine the equity (%).
That figure is the approximate percentage chance of hitting your drawing hand. In the above example;
On the Flop: 8 x 4 = 32% (with 2 cards to come) On the Turn: 8 x 2 = 16% (with 1 card to come), which are close to the % in the below table.
As you may be aware, this Open-ended straight draw is identical to Example 2 in the video.
Note: Standard EV formula using the Video Example 2 is as follows, just FYI;
EV = (winning probability 16%) x (win amount $65.5) – (losing probability 84%) x (losing amount $24) = $10.48 – $20.16 = – $9.68 (negative EV)
You can calculate equity manually but you can use Software that allows you to calculate the equity % by filling in your hole card & estimated the opponent’s concealed card.
Watch the below video explaining how to use Equilab software;
In the beginning, calculating odds and outs seems to be difficult and time-consuming. But this process is critical to make the right decisions.
If you continually play draws without getting the right odds, you will lose money in the long run, that is the essence of EV as you know.
Mental Skills: Bluffing, Fold, & Table Selection (Locate Fishes)
Semi-Bluff Aggressively with Your Draws If you want to truly crush poker, you need to bluff effectively. But bluffing ineffectively is one of the fastest ways to lose your money at the table. So, how do you keep your bluffing frequency under control?
The most effective way to bluff is to let the cards you have dictate if you are going to bluff or not.
This means bluffing with hands that have outs to improve to the best hand on a later stage, such as straight draws, flush draws, or even just an overcard or two to the board. Think of these draws as your backup plan in case your bluff gets called.
Fold When You’re Unsure Want to know the biggest difference between a bad player and a professional player? It’s the good player’s ability to lay down a good hand like the top pair when they think they are beaten.
This sounds very simple, but it is very hard to do in practice partly because of the way our brains are built. We are naturally curious and we naturally want to win. When we fold, we surrender our chance to win the pot and we don’t get to satisfy our curiosity by finding out what our opponent has.
Calling too often and in the wrong situations is the second fastest way to lose at poker (after ineffective bluffs). Whenever you’re unsure whether to call or fold versus a bet or raise, do yourself a service and fold.
Pro Tip: When you fold in one of these situations, make sure you note down the details of the hand so you can try to figure out if you made the right fold after your session. Studying and/or discussing these sorts of hands is a great way to consistently improve your skills and fill in the gaps of your poker knowledge.
Table Selection Strategies
Remember you generally need to be better than half the players at the table to achieve a positive win rate. If you want a very good profit, you need to play against the worst players, so seek the good table with the following characteristics;
- At least one player is limping regularly
- There are many multi-way pots
- Re-raises are either very rare or very frequent
In online poker, make the best use of the table statistics provided by poker sites. Choose an online poker table with a high average pot size and a high percentage of players seeing a flop. This is a key online poker strategy new players usually miss.
If you’re in a game with 2+ of the above points, you’re in a great position to be profitable. If none of the above points is observed, leave to find a more profitable table.
Don’t forget “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker”. Besides, If you’re constantly competing against the most difficult opponents, your game/table selection skills must be poor.
How To Play Texas Holdem – Free Practice
In case you’re new to online poker, don’t jump in to bet your real money, but start practice with the Free Play site of Pokerist;
How To Play Texas Holdem Strategy – Warp Up
On this occasion, allow us to briefly share our Global Extra Money (GEM) site’s vision, which is “Enabling Ordinary People to Make Extra Income by Consistently Beating Online Bookies, Casino & Pokers with Advantage Plays”.
Our policy is “Betting On Luck Is For Losers, Stop Gamble Betting But Bet on Only +EV To Win Reliably“, and it is effectively our way to promote Responsible Gambling under the regulation we strongly support GamCare & BeGambleAware being explained in about us.
We employ 6 Advantage Gambling methods. Unlike Matched Betting or Arbitrage Betting we can’t create risk-free guaranteed profits in the Poker room but in comparison with casino games, Poker is pretty much a skill-based game.
It’s said that well over 90% of recreational poker players (called “Fish”) lose money. Our tools are the basic but quite competitive technique to beat most of these recreational players. Unbelievably, there are always players who don’t care about odds and call too often.
These players may occasionally get lucky and win a pot, but mostly and surely they will be beaten by skilled players.
So, go to Softest Online Poker Sites – Latest List to Prey Fish where you can also find How To Locate Fish in the poker table.
Once you realize that any of the other players at the table are highly skilled, move on to another table and take advantage of the guppies there.
Anyhow, don’t forget to use HUD (heads-up display – it’s software that displays your opponents’ gaming statistical history) to spot fishes. The best HUD for the beginner is;
Since: 2007 (one of the HUD pioneers)
License: Lifetime up to 3 PCs
Feature: Easy to install / Multi-language support
Support Sites: 12 Major Poker Sites + Free Hand Grabber
Note: With all the features of Full stats (customizable to make the feed less cumbersome), In-depth analysis (adjustable based on skill level) & Post Game Analysis (focusing on your core skills by finding your leaks) make HM3 the best HUD for Beginner/Casual Players (Active forum is available).
The above software is the tracking software not only for HUD but also to analyze your poker hands namely finding your leaks & studying opponents to spot their weaknesses.
For full details, go to Best Hud for Poker – Head-Up Display Software.
How Much Can You Make from Online Poker?
Some may have an ambition to Play Online Poker For A Living, but the harsh reality is that it’s getting tougher & tougher lately.
However, Make $1,000 a Month from Online Poker is something you can achieve as long as you are committed & disciplined.
After running through this guide, you may feel that figuring out poker odds and probabilities are the most overwhelming tasks though a little study and memorization can make seemingly daunting tasks simpler & easier.
Once you learn & practice the essential strategies we cover in this article, you will be well ready to voyage your long-term poker journey which could consistently bring you extra income.
Joshua Walker (bio)