Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker game in the world. But despite the game’s massive popularity, there are still people out there that have yet to give the game a try. Taking a seat for the first time at a Texas Hold’em table might be a bit intimidating.
But don’t worry, we here at TheSportsGeek have got you covered!
In this article, we are going to tell you everything that you need to know about playing Texas Hold’em, so you can sit down at the table for the first time with confidence! Before we get too deep into providing our top tips for beginners playing Texas Hold’em, let’s first tell you how the game is played. Let’s get started!
How To Play Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em is what is known as a flop-based poker game. Unlike draw or stud poker, in flop games, players share community cards.
There is a dealer button that moves around the table clockwise, to force the action on the opening round of betting. Each Texas Hold’em hand starts with the players to the left of the dealer button posting forced bets, known as blinds. There is a small blind and a big blind, with the big blind generally being twice as much as the small blind. All players will then receive 2 cards face down, these are known as hole cards.
The action starts to the left of the big blind, with each player acting in turn, and having the option to call the big blind, raise, or fold.
Once all action has been completed on this opening round, the dealer will place 3 community cards on the board, known as the flop. These cards will play in all player’s hands.
On the flop:
The action will start on the first player to the left of the button and go clockwise around the table. Again, all players will have the opportunity to act on their hand by checking, betting, calling, or raising.
Once all action on the flop is complete, the dealer will reveal an additional community card, known as the turn. The betting action will follow the same pattern as the flop until all action is completed.
Once all action is completed on the turn, a final community card will be dealt, known as the river. There is one final round of betting on the river, and when all action is completed, players will show their hands, and the best 5-card poker hand, using any combination of the 5 community cards and their 2 hole cards, will win the pot.
At the end of the hand, the pot is pushed to the player with the highest-ranking poker hand, the dealer button is moved one place to the left, and the entire process repeats the following hand.
A Beginner’s Guide On How To Play Texas Hold’em: Top Tips
Now that you know how Texas Hold’em is played we can get into the good stuff! Below you will find our top tips for beginners, to help give you the courage to try out a new game, and the confidence to win once you do sit down at the table!
Let’s get this started by focusing on the most important tip for new players, focusing on your decisions, not the results!
Focus On Making The Right Decisions, Not The Short Term Results
This concept is likely the hardest one for new players to understand. Poker is a savage game. You can play a hand perfectly at every stage of the game, and still lose.
Bad Luck Is A Good Thing?
For those of you out there that like to complain about your bad luck and tell your endless bad beat stories, please remember, that if luck weren’t part of the game, you wouldn’t be either. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a game that is all skill and zero luck, like chess. Do you see millions of new players flocking to a chess board to play against the best players in the world? Of course not, as a novice doesn’t stand a chance against a chess grandmaster.
But that isn’t the case in Texas Hold’em, as a player that has no clue what they are doing can sit with the best players in the world, and at least for a single hand, beat them fair and square.
That luck factor is the lifeblood of Texas Hold’em, and you have to take the good with the bad as it comes and not let it negatively affect your decision-making process. Experienced players will tell you that is the magic of Texas Hold’em, as that element of luck keeps new players coming to the game, but for new players, they can quickly start to question their decisions based on the short-term results.
You must avoid that at all costs, as you don’t want to adjust your strategy just because lady luck decided to kick you in the gut.
“If there weren’t luck involved, I would win every time.” – Phil Hellmuth
If you get your money in ahead and lose, chalk it up to bad luck and move on. Don’t dwell on spots where you did all the right things, and the outcome didn’t go your way.
Trust me, the cards don’t have a memory.
You are going to get your fair share of lucky spots too, so let the cards fall where they may and focus on making the right decisions instead.
Play Within Your Bankroll
Most new players when they are playing Texas Hold’em for the first time don’t even understand the concept of a bankroll. And in reality, that is OK. But what isn’t OK, is playing above your means.
What Is A Bankroll?
For a regular or pro poker player, your bankroll is the money that you used to play poker. These funds aren’t generally co-mingled with living expense money, as they are used solely for financing poker play. If you don’t have money to get into the game, you can’t play, so having a bankroll is important.
If you are independently wealthy and losing a thousand bucks doesn’t hurt you, great, play as high of limits as you want. But if you are like most of us, and you feel the sting when losing a couple of hundred dollars, then you need to make sure that the level of game you are playing matches your appetite for risk.
As is the case with all forms of gambling, you never want to risk money that you can’t afford to lose. Poker is one of the few games in the casino that you can play profitably, but especially while you are brand new, you aren’t going to have an edge, so should expect some bumps in the road.
If you do your homework, you will eventually get to a place where you are profitable when playing Texas Hold’em. But if you are playing too high and get busted before that day ever comes, you’ll never know what you could have accomplished playing Texas Hold’em.
Game Selection Is Key
Part of not going broke as you start your Texas Hold’em journey is making sure that you are playing in the right games. If you are the 10th best poker player in the world, but you are at a table with the 9 players better than you, you are the fish in the game!
Mike McD famously said in the movie “Rounders” that if you can’t find the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker. Making sure that you are playing against competition that you can beat is a key to success when playing Texas Hold’em.
It’s not always easy to know if the players at your table are skilled or not, but if you do find yourself in a game where you are clearly outclassed, you must swallow your pride, get up from the table, and find a better spot.
As a general rule:
The lower the buy-in and limits are for a game, the lower the skill level will be, but you have to be very honest with yourself and have the strength to know when you are outmatched. As a beginner, you want to be playing beginner type of games. Don’t feel like you need to take a shot like Mike McD did in “Rounders” where he wanted to sit with world champion Johnny Chan to test his skills. Take the path of least resistance, pick a soft spot, and exploit it for max value.
And spoiler alert, you aren’t as good as Johnny Chan right now anyway, so hold on to your cash instead of getting an expensive poker lesson.
It Is Always Free To Pay Attention!
If you watch the World Series of Poker on TV, you might see players wearing headphones to listen to music or reading books at the table. They do this to pass the time, as poker can get a bit boring at times. Do NOT fall into this trap!
Those players can get away with not paying attention because they have years of experience at the tables. You don’t. If you are playing poker to make money, you need to treat it like any other job. You need to do your homework before and after a poker session, and when you are at the table, it needs to be all business. Pay attention!!
When you are in a hand, it can be very hard to pay attention to what the other players might be doing, as you also have to pay attention to your hand as well. You know when is a great time to focus on your opponents? When you aren’t in the hand!
“Nobody is always a winner, and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn’t play poker.” – Amarillo Slim
The other players at the table are giving away a wealth of information all of the time, and you need to pay attention and absorb as much of that free info as possible. Does the player in the 3 seat have a tell where they play with their chips when they are bluffing? Does the 5 seat overbet when they have the nuts?
All of this info can be attained simply by paying attention. They say nothing is free in this world, and while that is true in most other areas, it is always free to pay attention at the poker table and doing so will pay dividends tenfold down the road.
Put your phone away, take your headphones off, and watch what is going on around you when playing Texas Hold’em!
Texas Hold’em is not for the faint at heart. The game is intended to be an all-out war with chips and cards and the more aggressive players are going to be rewarded for their courage. A lot of players confuse playing tight with playing weak, but that is the exact wrong strategy.
You may have heard the term tight is right and while a tight style of play is key to winning, particularly when you are first learning the game, you need to remain aggressive when you do enter a hand. Calling is weak. Raising is strong. If you are the first player to enter the pot, you want to give them the Nuke Laloosh treatment and announce your presence with authority. If your hand isn’t worthy of a raise, it isn’t worthy of a call either, so instead of playing a weak hand in a weak manner, wait until you have a strong hand that you can play aggressively.
There is a fine line between playing aggressively and just spewing chips, and as a beginner, you are likely going to cross that line more than once. But as you start to learn the game, you are always going to want to lean heavier towards the side of being too aggressive, rather than not being aggressive enough.
“Poker is war. People just pretend it is a game.” – Doyle Brunson
When I first started playing Texas Hold’em, I was given some sage advice by a more experienced player. He told me, that when you raise, 1 of 3 things can happen.
You win the pot right there as all of the other player’s fold
The other players call your raise, and you win a big pot
The other players call your raise, and you lose
In his somewhat oversimplified math, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! Good things happen when you take the lead in hands as the aggressor and staying aggressive is something you are going to need to focus on when you are learning how to play Texas Hold’em poker.
Don’t Get Discouraged
This last tip is more about mental conditioning than anything else. Texas Hold’em takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master, and you aren’t going to be able to be a world-class player on day 1.
Or day 1,000 for that matter!
You are going to have plenty of bumps and bruises along the way as you start to learn how to play Texas Hold’em and you have to be mentally prepared for those swings. Even the best players in the world are going to have downswings, as losing is quite simply part of the game.
“The name of the game is No Limit Texas Hold’em, the game that takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.” – Mike Sexton
When these inevitable roadblocks do appear, don’t let them discourage you. Do your best to remain focused on correct decision-making and proper strategy and if the cards don’t go the way you might like, shake it off and get back to the grind in your next session.
In poker, when a player starts to play poorly, we call it going on tilt.
Tilt is an old-school reference to when pinball machines used to get tilted and stopped working. I love that reference as a poker player on tilt is worth just about as much as a pinball machine on tilt, and that is basically nothing!
How To Play Texas Hold’em At Home
Now that you have seen TheSportsGeek’s top tips for beginners playing Texas Hold’em, you might be thinking you are ready to get in on the action, but you either don’t have a poker room nearby, or you just don’t think you are ready to sit down at a live table.
Don’t worry, you don’t even need to walk into a casino to get in on the Texas Hold’em action, as the best games are now online!
Online poker has been booming for decades and when you log on to an online casino, you are going to find tons of games, at all limits, to try out your new Texas Hold’em tips.
Not sure where to play online?
Make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s online poker sites page, where we bring you exclusive offers at all of the best online poker rooms.
On top of the convenience of playing poker from the comfort of your own living room, online poker has a lower rake, better promotions, and the best game selection in the world.
Many of today’s top Texas Hold’em players cut their teeth on the virtual felt, and there has never been a better time to get in on the action than right now!
Thank you for reading and I wish you good luck when playing Texas Hold’em for the first time! Going from a beginner to a world champion is going to be a long and winding road, but if you stay on the right path, you too can achieve poker immortality.
PLACE YOUR BETS NOW!