You’ve heard poker metaphors used in politics, business, or everyday life. You may have watched dramatic poker scenes in “Casino Royale,” “Molly’s Game,” or “In Time.” Poker is a vehicle for life lessons and personal development, and we’re all in on bringing those teachings to women. But what is poker and how do you play Texas Hold ’em for beginners?
Texas Hold ’em Rules
Poker is a card game for 2-10 players (per table) that utilizes chips to make bets and keep score. The most popular form of poker is No Limit Texas Hold ’em so that’s what we’ll learn here. While there are multiple poker variants, the goal in any poker game is to win all the chips. You can win chips in two ways:
1. By having the best hand when it’s time to show your cards.
2. By getting your opponents to fold before they are able to show their cards.
At the start of each hand of Texas Hold ’em:
- Each player is dealt two cards that only they can see and use.
- Throughout the hand, five community cards are brought that all players can use.
- Before, between, and after the introduction of the community cards, players have the option to bet on their hand, forcing their opponents to match or raise the bet to continue in the hand.
So what determines who has the best hand? It’s whomever can use any combination of their two cards and the five community cards to make the strongest 5-card poker hand.
Poker Hand Rankings
These are the possibilities for poker hands. Any hand of a certain category is stronger than any hand in a lower category. For example, any full house beats any straight. If two players have the same category of hand, the winner is whoever uses the highest cards (ace is the highest, 2 is the lowest.) If players have the exact same five-card hand, they evenly split the chips in the middle.
How to Play: Game Flow
Let’s look at the turn-taking process in a given hand of No Limit Texas Hold ’em. Before any cards are dealt, one player will have the dealer button (which rotates one spot every hand) and the two players to their left will put out a small and big blind respectively. Usually, the small blind is one chip and the big blind is two chips. The big blind is the starting “bet” in any hand.
These “blinds” are the chips that motivate other players to enter the hand. If there wasn’t a requirement for some players to put chips in the pot before seeing their cards, nobody would have a reason to play anything other than the best possible cards.
Now we’re all set to play the hand! There are four betting rounds in a hand of Texas Hold ’em – here’s how they each work:
- Every player is dealt two cards.
- The player to the left of the big blind takes the first turn.
- They can either put out chips equal to the big blind (call), put out at least double the amount of the big blind to raise the current bet, or push their cards to the dealer facedown without putting any chips in (fold).
- After that player takes their turn, the player to their left has the same options: either call the current bet, raise the current bet, or fold their cards.
This process continues around the table until everyone but one player has folded their cards or until two or more players have matched the bet. A player cannot raise again unless a different player has re-raised.
In the case where everyone but one player has folded, the hand is over and the last remaining player wins all the chips in the middle. If two or more players are left, we move on to the flop.
- Next, three community cards are brought face up. This is known as the “flop.”
- The player closest to the left of the dealer button (who still has cards) takes the first turn.
- They can either check (pass the turn without betting) or bet any amount they want.
If that player checked, the player to their left has the option to check or bet. If the first player bet, the player to their left can either match the bet (call), raise the bet to at least double, or fold their cards without putting chips in. This process continues around the table until either:
- Every player has checked. Then we move on to the turn.
- A player bets or raises and every other player folds. In this case, the last player left wins all the chips in the middle.
- A player bets or raises, at least one player calls and nobody else re-raises. Then we move on to the turn.
Then, one additional community card is brought face up. This is known as the “turn.” The same betting process from the flop repeats. If there are still two or more players after this round of betting, we move onto the last betting round: the river.
Finally, the fifth and final community card is introduced. This is known as the “river.”
The betting process repeats one last time except now if there are multiple players left after the action is complete, the players show their cards.
The player who can make the best poker hand between their two cards and the five community cards wins the chips in the pot! We shuffle up and deal the next hand to start the process over again.
That’s all there is to know about how to play one hand of No Limit Texas Hold ’em! Even though this may feel like a lot of steps, a hand of Texas Hold ’em usually only takes between 30 and 90 seconds. Poker is like chess: easy to learn but challenging to master and the best way to get a feel for the game is to take a seat at the table.
Interested in learning more about poker? Join Poker Power for poker lessons, poker strategy, and discover how to use the power of poker to advance your career. We’re a by-women, for-women organization teaching 1,000,000 women the game and its virtues – we’d love to see you in class!