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Short Guide to Texas Hold 'Em

Updated on November 20, 2014
Royal Flush
Royal Flush


There are 52 cards in a standard deck of cards, numbered 2-10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of four different suits (clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds).  Poker is a game of odds, luck, and skill.  The winner is chosen based on the best five played cards according to this chart:

The Hands

The hands are listed from left to right, top to bottom; the best hand is the Royal Flush in the top left corner.
The hands are listed from left to right, top to bottom; the best hand is the Royal Flush in the top left corner.
Green is for money!
Green is for money!

Texas Hold 'Em

Texas Hold 'Em is one of the most popular versions of poker played in the world.  All of the poker tournaments you see on TV are Texas Hold 'Em games.  There are rules and regulations surrounding the big-time games, but if you are just playing at home, here are a few tips to beating your friends.

1st Rule in my Poker Rule Book: Keep your face empty of emotion!  If you get good cards, don't let anyone know it!

2nd Rule: NEVER fold if you can check.  That's kind of a "duh" rule, but you would be surprised.

3rd Rule: Don't cheat!  You'll never learn that way.  Cheating includes: spying on your neighbor's cards, not speaking up when you see a card and no one else does (for instance, if the dealer picks the deck up and you see the bottom card), etc.

4th Rule: Try to be friendly and not call each other names!  This is a GAME and you competitive people get really mean sometimes!

5th Rule: HAVE FUN! Duh!

The "Lingo"

Commonly used terms:

Flop- The first three cards shown

Turn- The fourth card shown

River- The fifth and final card/all five cards shown in the center of the table

Bet- A bet is when you place chips into the center of the table

Call (or See)- When you match another player's bet

Fold- When you decide you don't want to play the cards you have

Raise- When you add more chips to another player's bet (i.e. raising the bet)

Check- When no bets have been made, on your turn you have the choice to check, which basically means pass without betting; however, if someone after your turn bets, when it comes back to you, you either have to call it, raise it, or fold (you cannot check if there is a bet on the table).

Limp- "Limping" in is when you call the bare minimum bet in order to see the flop

Other common terms:

Pocket- Your two cards are your "Pocket" cards

Bullets- when you have a pair of aces in your pocket

Chasing- When there is a possible winning hand but you are missing one or two cards yet you continue to bet, call, or raise trying to "catch" it.

Runner- That elusive card that you need to complete a hand

Chart showing what to do with your pocket cards and how strong they are in play
Chart showing what to do with your pocket cards and how strong they are in play
Pocket Aces
Pocket Aces

Playing your Hand

Playing poker is easy; winning, well that is another story. Remember that you aren't just playing the odds, you are playing other PEOPLE who want to WIN just as bad as you do! They will bluff, raise you with "crap" cards, and overall try to intimidate you into folding. SO, keeping that in mind, playing your cards becomes slightly tricky. Remember, even if you think you have a good starting hand (pocket pairs, suited face cards, etc.) you can easily lose to "lesser" cards if they are played right. Play your hands aggressively! If you think you have good cards, bet and raise others. Try to push people out of the hand, but if you think you are beat, FOLD those cards!  If you make someone question whether they should call your bet, GOOD! One thing I have learned is that Hold 'Em is a game of people more than cards.

Deuce Deuce
Deuce Deuce
King Queen Suited
King Queen Suited
Seven Deuce Off Suit
Seven Deuce Off Suit
Three Nine Off Suit
Three Nine Off Suit
Ace Five Off Suit
Ace Five Off Suit

Keep in mind that pocket pairs can get you into trouble because they don't have as many "outs." What I mean by that is when you have, say, pocket 2s, the best possible hand you are looking at is probably a full house or four of a kind. It is possible to catch a straight flush or royal flush, but that means almost all of the winning cards are going to be on the river. However, if you have say, suited King/Queen, the Royal Flush and straight flush are both possible. Also, there are only four 2s in the entire deck while there are plenty of aces, jacks, and tens to make a straight.

Then there are the "lesser" cards. Statistically, 7 2 off suited is the worst possible hand to hold in your pocket. Why? Well, even though you have a chance to catch a full house, the chances that someone has a higher full house are pretty good. Also, there is no chance whatsoever to make a straight or flush with these two cards. I'm not saying that you cannot win with 7 2 off suit, but based on Hold 'Em odds, this hand is the worst! Fold it!

Other combinations like 3 9 off suit, I feel, are equally as bad. The straight is out unless one of your cards plays and again, someone probably has you beat. The best hand you are likely to get is a full house, which is hard to catch anyway. Again, you should probably fold.

However, there are some cards that may not seem that good at first, but work out for you in the end. Like Ace 5 off suit. This is the sort of hand that can really win it for you if you play it right.  You have the ace, which if another ace comes out on the board you will have the highest pair even though your 5 isn't really a good kicker.  You can make a straight with this hand, but can also get beat with a six.  It's just one of those hands that sort of falls in the gray area (it's not great but it doesn't suck).

Overall, just play the cards the way you think they should be played.  If you think you have the best hand, play it big!  Try not to go all in before the flop though!

Some additional tips:

  • Be selective of the hands you play
  • Always be aware of the best possible hand and play accordingly
  • Tip your dealer when you win!
  • Only bluff if you have a 50% chance of making it work, and don't try to bluff more than two players
  • Never show your cards unless you have to or otherwise let others know what your hand was, this information should not be given for free!
  • Quit while you are ahead, but not while you are winning!  Push your advantage as far as possible.
  • Set a loss limit if playing for real money!  Once you lose it, quit playing!  Poker is not worth going into debt.


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    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      I love playing poker and we grew up playing it around the kitchen table. But Texa Hold 'Em has never been my favorite. I'm bookmarking this so I can read it later, then invite friends over to play! And congratulations for getting Hub of the Day!

    • Alyson Modlin profile imageAUTHOR

      Alyson Modlin 

      7 years ago from Burlington, North Carolina

      Thanks everyone for all of the kind words! I am so excited that I helped so many people with this Hub! Thanks for all the support you guys

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      LOL--I don't trust having a poker face, so I only play on the computer--not even online--I have a CD game.

      My strategy? Bluff until the rest fold. Hahaha.. of course, that would never work in a real game. Good article!

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      Congratulations on your hub of the day! I love Texas Hold 'Em and I loved this Hub! Easily understood directions for those unacquainted with the game, and great accompanying photos! Nicely Done! Voted up, useful, and interesting!

    • Painted Seahorse profile image

      Brittany Rowland 

      7 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Welcome to Hubpages and congrats on your hub of the day! Looks like I'll have to try Texas Hold 'Em sometime with my friends.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      I just learned how to play..Great hub!..I had beginners luck and took all his bucket of change...WHOO HOO!!

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 

      7 years ago

      Well laid out hub with basic instructions! The pictures really add to help understand the game. Now practice, practice, practice. There's no replacing experience :)

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Congratulations on being selected for the Hub of the Day! This is very informative and the photos are great! Nice job. Voting up and sharing!


    • TattooKitty profile image


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      BRAVO on being the hub of the day!! You did a great job of getting the key points of Texas Hold 'Em across in a concise and easy-to-follow manner! Thanks for reminding readers to play poker with their brains, not just their cards!!

      Voted up, useful & awesome ;)

    • pinkish profile image


      7 years ago

      I love playing this game with my friends. Great hub and congrats!

    • SlyMJ profile image


      7 years ago

      I'd really like to learn to play this game to a high level, starting in a safe environment. One day perhaps. Meanwhile this is a great article - informative and written with real flair.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I did not know how to play this game no matter how hard I read the directions over and over. I needed this visual hands on hub to explain things right down to simple easy terms to understand. The pictures were were very helpful.

    • roc6 profile image


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Nicely explained, its always easier to see it visually. Well done on getting Hub of the Day.

    • manthy profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Nice hub - I used to be addicted to Texas Hold em ;0)

      Now I hardly ever play, nice hub and cool pics


    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I play this on facebook all the time and am a true addict :)

      Congrats on your hub being selected for Hub of the Day!

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      This is really informative, and all the pictures help a lot. I've only played once before, and haven't wanted to join in again because I wasn't really sure how to play. Thanks for the great tips. Oh - and congrats on hub of the day.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice breakdown of the game. I love the hub....

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! Enjoyed your hub.

      I played poker for years with my lady friends. Every Monday. Our son went to a Catholic school and when he was young he once told the nuns and teachers I couldn't come to school because I was to busy playing poker. I was very embarrassed but they thought it was funny. Of course, that was not the reason I didn't make it to school that day I think it was because I had a doctor's appointment.

    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 

      7 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! I have played Texas Hold'em online (for play money of course) but wasn't sure of some of the terminology. This Hub has cleared that up for me. I am not a great player, but not the worst out there either. Thank you!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      Great hub. Congratulations on being selected hub of the day. Have you heard some of the names for certain pocket cards? For example, an ace and a king are called "Big Slick" (not sure why) and a jack and five are called "Motown" (jacks and five - Jackson Five - get it?). Anyway, I love to play Texas Hold 'Em.

    • jacqui2011 profile image


      7 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Great hub, great pics and very well written and easy to understand. Congratulations on being picked for "hub of the day." Worthy winner and so well deserved. Voted up and useful.

    • jacqui2011 profile image


      7 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Great hub, great pics and very well written and easy to understand. Congratulations on being picked for "hub of the day." Worthy winner and so well deserved. Voted up and useful.

    • Arlynne profile image


      7 years ago from Florida, USA

      Thank you for sharing these tips to us. Well, I don't know how to play poker. I've never played poker in my entire life.. =)..I got interested with your hub and I learned something. I'll share these one with my friends. We'll never know, maybe one of these days I'll play this game. =) voted up!

    • Terishere profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Texas Hold 'em!! I almost won the whole pot the one night playing against all men. Loved it!

      Congratulations on your nomination!!

      Great hub!

      Voted up


    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      The photos really help! Thanks for this. Will bookmark so I get to try it with friends. Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. It's as exciting as playing Texas Hold 'Em, I know. Participate in the Hubnuggets this way, Read and vote okay?

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Alyson Modlin, this is positively brilliant! Your photos and instructions are great. I've never played Texas Hold 'Em before, but it looks like a lot of fun, and now I won't feel so hesitant to join in when friends are playing :D


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