Texas Holdem - Real Money Games, Rules & Strategy Tips

The basic Texas Holdem game rules, strategy and how to play Hold'em tips shown here are those that are generally agreed to and recommended by the experts on limit Holdem poker.

The rules for Texas Holdem vary from most other Hold'em type games in that the players are dealt only two cards, and can play either both, one, or no cards from their two down cards to make the highest ranking final hand.

An understanding of these playing strategy basics is needed for all levels of competitive play. However solid intermediate and expert poker usually requires extensive research of the more advanced game tactics and plenty of hours of actual casino and online playing experience.

Limit Holdem Poker Rules - 2 to 10 Players

  • Highest hand wins
  • Players may use one, both or neither of their hole cards to make their highest hand
  • Ace plays both high and low for straights
  • Three raise limit per round
  • Cards speak

The image below depicts the card distribution and betting procedure for Texas Holdem.

Card Distribution and Betting Procedure Illustration

How to play $2/$4 Hold'em with a double blind:

At casino Hold'em tables, a round plastic marker called the dealer "button" is placed in front of the player who would be dealing if a house dealer were not provided. The button is moved one seat clockwise after each game and the card distribution and betting starts to the left of that position.

Each player is dealt two cards face down. Then, a total of five community cards are dealt face up in the center of the table in three betting segments (3-1-1). After all the cards are dealt the players make the best hand that they can by combining either one, both, or neither of their two hole cards with five community cards.

Using the illustration above, a player holding an ace and a four would end up with two pair, jacks over fours with an ace. With this board, that player's two pair would be vulnerable to higher two pairs, trips, straights and flushes.

The betting procedure goes like this:

(1.) Before each player is dealt two down cards, the player at the immediate left of the button, called the "Small Blind" is forced to bet $1 (half the minimum bet). Then the player to his left and two seats to the left of the button, called the "Big Blind", is forced to bet $2. Each player is then dealt a two card hand. Then the player at the left of the big blind is first to act and he must either call the big blind's $2 bet, raise, or fold his hand. Continuing in turn clockwise, all the players around the table either call, raise or fold.

Typical Holdem Table - Game Betting Procedure Rules

When the betting gets back around to the small blind, he or she can fold and lose only the half minimum bet of $1 placed earlier, call the amount necessary to get up to the betting level or raise $2 if there is a raise left.

The big blind is then the last to act before any cards are turned up in the middle. The blinds are played in the first round only.

(2.) The dealer turns three cards up in the center of the table. This is the "Flop". As always, the player at the left of the button is first to act. There are no more forced bets and the players can all check around if they want to. Bets right after the flop are at the $2 minimum bet level.

(3.) Next up is the "Turn" card with more betting that now goes to the $4 level.

(4.) Finally the last, or "River", card is turned up. The last $4 betting round takes place. The players still in the contest reveal their hole cards and the highest hand wins the pot.

General Hold'em Strategy

Hold'em is basically HIGH card game. The players holding two good high cards have the best chance at the best hand or a draw to the best hand after the flop.

Only play strong hands that will stand a raise or multiple raises, from early betting positions. Play medium strength and other playable hands from the later positions if you have a good chance of seeing the flop at a reasonable price. Play strong high hands MOST of the time, and play them very aggressively.

Take all the raises you can get. If you don't thin out the competition, you reduce your chances of winning. Plus, your aggressive play before the flop can add credibility to any strong play you might want to use on the next round if a garbage flop falls and you want to try a steal. Be ready to fold your high pair if you get a lot of action with a threatening flop.


High Cards
A thru 10 (Aces, Faces and Tens)
Medium Cards
9 thru 7
Low Cards
6 thru 2
Suited Player Hand(s)
Both cards of the same suit.
Three of a kind with two of the three in your hand. (One in your hand and two on the board is "trips".)
Nut Hand
An unbeatable hand, sometimes called a "lock".
Flop Turn River
The community cards in the order of distribution. See top illustration.
Fast Play
Bet, raise and re-raise to get as many other players out as possible.
Slow Play
Just check or call along to keep other players in the game to increase the pot odds.
Check when you can and fold if you are bet into. Gladly accept all free cards offered.

Starting Holdem Hands

The starting hands shown here are in general power order groups with names that are easy to remember. More precise power ratings of each of the individual hands are available on the "Best of the Net" page, under "Texas Hold'em".

The Strongest Starting Hands

Pair of High Cards - AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010
Ace and High Card Suited - AK(S), AQ(S), AJ(S), A10(S)
Faces Suited - KQ(S), KJ(S), QJ(S)
Ace King - AK

Medium Strength Starting Hands

Face Ten Suited - K10(S), Q10(S), J10(S)
Medium Pairs - 99, 88, 77
Two High Cards - AQ, AJ, A10 (ace king ranks higher, above), KQ down to J10
Ace and Medium Suited - A9(S), A8(S), A7(S)
Medium Suited Connectors (No Gap/One Gap) - J9(S), 109(S), 108(S), 98(S), 97(S) down to 75(S)

Other Conditional Starting Hands

Low Pairs - 66, 55, 44, 33, 22
Ace and Low Suited - A6(S), A5(S), A4(S), A3(S), A2(S)
Low Suited Connectors (No Gap/One Gap) - 65(S), 64(S), 54(S,) 53(S) (lowest)

Strategy Tips

  • Fast play high pairs and very strong hands before the flop. This puts more money in the early pot and encourages weak and garbage hands to fold that could get a lucky flop and beat you.
  • Don't draw to the low end or both ends of a straight. If a 9 8 7 flops, you want to be playing the J 10 and not the 6 5 or the 10 6. (The low part is commonly called the "ignorant" end of the straight.)
  • Unconnected Medium and Low Cards are Usually Unplayable. This includes suited cards that can't flop a straight. Both ends of a straight such as 9 5 fall into this very weak category.
  • Play starting low pairs cautiously. 66 down to 22. Usually not from an early seat and from the late positions, only when the price is right. If you don't flop a set or quads you should usually fold.
  • Play aggressively when you have a two way draw after the flop. If you can make a straight AND a flush or trips etc., usually bet/raise your hand.
  • Bet an Ace or two high overcards after a garbage flop (a three suit "rainbow" with unconnected medium and low cards). Usually fold if someone raises.
  • Watch out for uniform flops, like 8 7 6, they can easily turn into straights that can overtake your high pair or other good hand.
  • Check the raisers chips. Players that are close to all-in often rush the betting just to get all their chips in a sink-or-swim last hand.
  • Beware of Suited Flops that can make a completed flush. In this case, you should usually hold the nut in that suit, or have trips or two pair that can fill up.
  • Get caught bluffing once in a while. It is a way to vary your play and not be too predictable. You win pots that you don't deserve when your bluff works. You lose a few chips when it doesn't work but it will get you calls from weaker hands down the line when you have a strong hand and need the action.
  • Study your opponents, especially when you are not playing hands and can pay careful attention. Do they find more hands to play than they fold? Do they bluff? Can they be bluffed? Do they have any "tells" (give away mannerisms) that disclose information about their hands etc.


Have fun and GOOD LUCK!

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