The Easiest Way to Learn Texas Holdem

Texas Holdem and Chips

Texas holdem is the most popular poker game in the world and the easiest game to find online and in poker rooms.

If you’ve never played it or seen it played before it may look complicated at first. But it’s an easy game to learn how to play. But just because it’s easy to play doesn’t mean it’s easy to win. Like most poker games, Texas holdem has a large amount of strategy involved if you want to have a chance to be a consistent winner.

On this page, you can find book and software recommendations, and a step by step guide on the easiest way to learn Texas holdem. It starts with learning the rules, and then you practice in specific ways that slowly lead up to playing in your first game in a poker room.

The steps are designed so you can take it slow and minimize your chances of making a mistake. Take as much time as you need with each step and don’t move on until you’re comfortable.

Mistakes at the real money tables cost money, so make sure you understand how to play before putting your money on the line.

Texas Holdem

  1. Harrington on Hold ’em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments, Vol. 1: Strategic Play

Harrington on Hold ‘em was written by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie and published in 2004. This book focuses on the tournament side of Texas holdem, and if you want to compete someday, this is a great book to read. The authors take a look at winning strategies, the thousands of hands they’ve played, early to middle tournament stages, and more.

  1. The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How to Think Like One

The Theory of Poker was written by David Sklansky and published in 1999. Topics covered in Sklansky’s book include:

  • Variations of the game
  • Fundamental poker rules
  • How to play effectively
  • Bluffing
  • Odds
  • Semi bluffing
  • The psychology of play

This book teaches you how to get in the mindset of a professional to play smarter and win bigger.

  1. Getting Started in Hold ’em

Getting Started in Hold ‘em was written by Ed Miller and published in 2005. Miller focuses on putting amateurs on the highway to high pay outs and winning strategies. Topics covered in Miller’s book include:

  • Hand valuation
  • Protecting your hand during the game
  • Pot equity
  • Implied odds
  • Stack size
  • Tournaments
  • Domination
  • Value
  • Semi bluffing
  • Free card plays
  1. Small Stakes Hold ’em: Winning Big with Expert Play

Small Stakes Hold ‘em was written by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth and was published in 2004. This book focuses on aggressive plays to make in small stake games. The authors walk you through each step to take you through examples and teach you to think like professional players do. Some topics covered include:

  • Odds
  • Pot equity
  • Position
  • Hand categories
  • Playing over cards

The book also has 50 quizzes to test your strategy and tune up your decision making.

  1. Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold’em

Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book was written Phil Gordon and published in 2005. Gordon uses his real-life experiences to fill this book with examples and strategies he’s used and learned from other professional poker players. Gordon covers basic strategies, pot odds, implied odds, and more. This book is written in an easy to read format that’s more laid back than the average book.

Texas Holdem Software

  1. Poker Genius

Poker Genius software has these available features:

  • Set the rake amount, starting chips, number of players, length of each round, and if you want to simulate a tournament
  • In game advisor to train beginners and gives advice on what moves to make with a pie diagram presentation
  • Hand evaluation
  • Showdown calculator
  • Player statistics
  • The history of your hands
  1. Poker Academy Pro

Poker Academy Pro is training software that focuses on improving your game play and helping you rake in more profits. Some features include:

  • Hand evaluator
  • In-game advisor
  • Statistics
  • Tournament clock
  • Showdown calculator
  • Online play
  • Poker drills
  • Zip mode allows you to play over 200 hands an hour
  • Dealer options

Know the Rules

Texas holdem is a poker game so you need to understand two sets of rules. The first set includes a few basic poker rules that are the same across most games. The second set includes the rules that are specific to Texas holdem.

Most poker games, including Texas holdem, are played with a standard deck of playing cards that includes 52 cards. The deck has four suits, and they are spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Each suit has 13 cards which are ace, king, queen, jack, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, and two.

Unless the rules specify otherwise the ace can count as the highest card of the suit or the lowest, acting as a one. The cards in each suit are ranked from the ace high down to the two low in the same order listed above with the king second highest, then queen, etc.

The other important general poker rule to understand is the rank of hands. Texas holdem and most other poker games use five card hands. At the end of the hand, the player with the best five card hand wins the pot.

Here are the five card hands ranked in order from highest to lowest:

Royal Flush. A royal flush is an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 all of the same suit. An example of a royal flush is the ace of clubs, king of clubs, queen of clubs, jack of clubs, and 10 of clubs.

Straight Flush. A straight flush is five cards all of the same suit in sequential order. An example of a straight flush is the nine of diamonds, eight of diamonds, seven of diamonds, six of diamonds, and the five of diamonds. If two or more hands have a straight flush the one with the highest ranked card wins.

Four of a Kind. Four of a kind is four cards all of the same rank. Examples of four of a kind are the jack of spades, jack of hearts, jack of clubs, and the jack of diamonds or the eight of spades, eight of hearts, eight of clubs, and the eight of diamonds. If two or more hands include a four of a kind the one with the highest ranked four of a kind wins.

Full House. A full house is three cards of one rank and two cards the same rank that isn’t the same as the first three. An example of a full house is the king of hearts, king of clubs, king of diamonds, seven of spades, and seven of clubs. If two or more hands have a full house the hand with the highest ranked three of a kind wins.

Flush. A flush is any five cards of the same suit. An example is a queen of hearts, jack of hearts, seven of hearts, six of hearts, and two of hearts. If two or more players have a flush the hand with the highest ranked card wins. If two or more hands have a flush and the same high card the next highest card is compared until one hand is determined to have the higher hand. If two or more hands have the exact same ranks for all five cards, they tie.

Straight. A straight is any five cards in sequential order that aren’t all the same suit. An example is the jack of spades, 10 of clubs, nine of hearts, eight of spades, and seven of diamonds. If two or more players have a straight the one with the highest ranked card wins.

Three of a Kind. A three of a kind is three cards of the same rank. An example is the four of spades, four of clubs, and four of diamonds. If two or more hands include a three f a kind the three of a kind with the highest rank wins. If two hands have the same three of a kind, the hand with the highest ranked fourth card wins. If two hands have the same three of a kind and fourth card, the one with the highest fifth card wins.

Two Pair. Two pair is two cards of the same rank and two other cards of identical rank. An example is the queen of spades, queen of clubs, seven of hearts, and seven of clubs. If two or more hands each have two pair the hand with the highest ranked pair wins. If the highest ranked pair is the same in both hands the hand with the highest ranked second pair wins. If both pairs are the same the hand with the highest ranked fifth card wins.

One Pair. One pair is two cards of the same rank. An example is the 10 of spades and 10 of hearts. If two or more hands have a pair the ne with the highest ranked pair wins. If two or more hands have the same ranked pair the hand with the highest third card wins. If two hands have the same ranked pair and third card the hand with the highest ranked fourth card wins, and if two hands have the same first four cards the fifth card is compared for the highest hand.

High Card. High card is how hands are ranked that doesn’t include any of the hands listed above. When two or more hands only have a high card ranking the hands are compared, and the hand with the highest ranked card wins. If the same high card is in each hand, the second card is compared and so on until one hand has a card that’s ranked higher.

Now that you know the basic poker rules you need to know the exact rules for Texas holdem. The easiest way to learn is to follow along as a hand is set up, dealt, and concluded.

Before each hand, one player is designated as the dealer. In home games, this person usually deals the cards for the hand, but in a poker room one person who isn’t playing always deals. The person designated as the dealer usually has a white button that designates them as in the dealer position.

The first player to the left of the dealer button is the small blind and the player to the small blind’s immediate left is the big blind.

The small and big blind make forced bets before the cards are dealt. The blind amounts are set by the house rules and are usually directly related to the limit of the game. You’ll earn more about limits shortly. The small blind is usually half the big blind.

Once the blind bets are made each player receives two cards, dealt one at a time starting with the small blind and going to the left around the table until each player in the hand has two cards. These are called the hole cards, and they’re dealt face down.

After the hole cards are dealt play starts with the first person to the left of the big blind. This person may fold by giving their cards face down to the dealer, call by placing an amount equal to the big blind into the pot, or raise.

Play continues around the table to the left with each player having the opportunity to fold, call the last bet, or raise. This continues until each player has folded or called the last bet. The small blind can fold; call by placing the difference between the last bet and their blind into the pot, or raise. If the pot hasn’t been raised the big blind can check or raise.

After the first betting round has been completed play starts with the dealer discarding the top card of the deck, called burning a card. Then the dealer deals three cards face up in the center of the table. These are the first three of the five community cards that will be dealt throughout the hand, and this is called the flop.

Players use their two-hole cards and the five community cards to complete their best possible five card hand. Players can use both of their hole cards and three community cards, one of their hole cards and four community cards, or neither of their hole cards and all five community cards to form a five-card hand.

The second betting round now takes place with the first player remaining in the hand to the left of the dealer button. This player can check or bet. Play continues to the left, and each player can check if a bet hasn’t been made, make a bet, or raise if a bet has been made. This continues until each player has called the last bet or folded.

Now a fourth community card is placed face up beside the flop after the dealer burns another card. This is called the turn.

The first player remaining in the hand to the left of the dealer button starts the action on this betting round and can check or bet. Each remaining player to the left can check if a bet hasn’t been made, or call or raise if a bet has been made. This continues until each player has folded or called the last bet.

A card is burned, and the dealer places the last face up community card in the center of the table. This is called the river.

At this time the final betting round is conducted. It starts with the first remaining player to the left of the dealer button who can check or bet. Play continues to the left with each remaining player either checking, calling, or raising. A player can only check if no bet has been made on the round.

Once each remaining player has checked or called the last bet the players reveal their hole cards and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

Before the next hand starts, the dealer button is moved one player to the left and the blinds move over as well.

Texas holdem is available in limit, pot limit, and no limit. Most games are either limit or no limit.

In limit play, the bet limits for each round are set, and in no limit, a player can bet as much as they want up to the total amount they have in their stack. Limit games are designated with the lower betting limit listed first and the higher limit listed second. The lower limit is the minimum amount of the bets on the first two betting rounds, and the higher limit is the amount of the bets on the last two rounds.

Here’s an example:

A 10 / 20 limit Texas holdem game has bets of 10 on the first two rounds and bets of 20 on the last two betting rounds. This means that all bets and raises are the same amount, 10, on the first two rounds and the same amount, 20, on the last two betting rounds. The blind is set from these limits with the big blind equaling the lower betting limit, in this case, 10, and the small blind equaling half the big blind, being five in this case.

The blinds are set by the house in a no-limit games, but all other bets can be any amount the player wants. The only stipulation is a raise must be at least twice the previous bet unless the player moves all in and doesn’t have enough to double the last bet. The player can move all in even if they don’t have enough to double the last bet.

Now that you know the rules of Texas holdem it’s time to make sure you can pay without making procedural mistakes. Following is a step by step plan to get you ready to start playing.

Watch Hands

One of the best ways to see how Texas holdem works is to watch other people play. You can watch them in a poker room, on television, or on YouTube.

Parts of the World Series of Poker are televised every year, and many of the World Poker Tour tournaments are also on television. You can watch some of the best players in the world compete by watching these tournaments.

You can also start learning about strategy as you see how they play their hands. One thing you should understand about televised tournaments is they don’t usually show the boring hands so it may look like some players play almost every hand. Winning poker players only play their best hands.

YouTube has thousands of videos of poker hands you can watch. Just like televised tournaments, most of the hands available are exciting, and you don’t see the players who fold hand after hand waiting for a good hand to play.

If you watch Texas holdem in a poker room, you can see how the game is played, and you get to see the boring hands as well.

Once you feel comfortable with the flow of the game, you’re ready for the next step.

Play for Free Online

You can sign up for a free poker account at one of the many available online poker rooms and start practicing for free. If you eventually want to play for real money online, your choices of rooms depend on where you live, but to play for free, you can play at just about any online poker room.

The reason your choices are limited by where you live for real money play is because the laws are different from country to country and sometimes region to region. You don’t need t worry about any of this right now.

Once you sign up for a free account, find the free money tables and join a game. The best thing about playing online is the software takes care of everything except your betting decisions. The dealer button and blinds are handled by the software, and all the cards are dealt.

When it’s your turn to act you have the available choices presented and you click on your action.

You should start with a limit game, so you don’t have to worry about how much to bet. Once you’re comfortable playing limit, you can try a no limit game if you want to see how they work.

The only problem with playing free Texas holdem online is it can teach you bad strategy habits. Players play too many hands and make bad decisions. Keep this in mind as you learn how to play. When you start playing for real money you’re going to need to play better than the players at the free tables if you hope to be a long-term winner.

Play with Family and Friends

Now it’s time to get together with family and friends for a fun game of Texas holdem. You can use poker chips or pennies, but just play for fun so everyone can have a good time and learn together.

Use a quarter or something similar for the dealer button and have the person with the button deal the round. After each round move the button and deal one player to the left.

Take your time and help each other learn how to play together. Before long everyone will know the basics and you can enjoy hours of fun as you learn.

You can also start learning some basic strategies that can help you when you play for real money later. Pay attention to how certain hands do from different positions and how often you hit hands you’re drawing to on the turn and river.

Don’t worry about being perfect, but the more you learn now, the more you can win later.

Play Micro Limits Online

Now it’s time to step up to real money play. The good news is you can play micro limits online and only risk a few dollars.

Micro limit tables are available as low as .01 / .02 so you can play for pennies. You can find limit and no limit tables and can slowly move up in limits as your game improves.

These games play just like the free games, but the best are real. The overall level of play isn’t much better than at the free tables so if you work on playing well and improving you should be able to figure out how to win more than you lose.

Start with a deposit of $10 or $20 play at the lowest limits available. As you learn how to win you can move up to the next limit. But always play at a limit that requires only a small amount of your bankroll to play. This way you don’t have to worry about busting out if you make a few poor decisions.

Play in a Poker Room

Once you’re able to win at the micro limit tables, it’s time to consider playing in a live poker room. The lowest available limits in most poker rooms is 5 / 10 or a no-limit game with a $200 buy in.

I strongly recommend playing limit Texas holdem while you’re learning because one mistake won’t cost you your entire stack. You can sit down at a 5 / 10 limit game with $200 and have enough to play for a long time and get a feel for the game.

Fold most of your hands and only enter the pot with your best hands. This may seem boring for a while, but it helps you have the best chance to win when you do play. When you fold, pay attention to the other players so you can learn more about how they play.

This will help you play better against them later when you have a good hand.

If you’re nervous when you start, don’t be afraid to tell the dealer that you’ve never played live before and ask them if they can help you make sure you don’t make a mistake when placing your blinds. The dealer is there to keep the game flowing and will help you.

In some poker rooms, you must wait until it’s your turn in the big blind to start playing or you can post a big blind on your first hand no matter where you sit.

Don’t worry about making a few mistakes. Even seasoned players make mistakes sometimes, and it’s not a big deal.

One of the biggest mistakes made by new players is playing out of turn. Don’t do anything until it’s your turn to act. Even if you plan to fold sit quietly until it’s your turn.

Many other players may try to help you if you announce you’re new, and this is fine but don’t take strategy advice from them blindly. If they help you with the procedures and rules, it’s great, but not everyone knows the best strategies so only do the things you think are best.

When you make best count out your bet from your stack and slide the entire bet toward the pot. Don’t throw it into the pot. This way the dealer can make sure it’s correct.

When you make a raise don’t ever say that you call and raise. You only say you raise. If you say you call first and then try to raise this is called a string bet, and poker rooms don’t allow them. If you plan to raise count out the amount of the call and your raise, announce that you raise, and push both the call amount and raise amount forward at the same time.

You can talk to the other players at the table but don’t talk about the current hand while it’s being played. This is especially true if you aren’t involved in the hand.


Texas holdem is a fun game and easy to play. The easiest way to learn how to play Texas holdem is to follow the step by step guide above.

Start by learning all the rules and then play for free. Don’t risk too much money until you’re comfortable and learn some of the best strategies.

Petko Stoyanov
Get in touch with Petko
About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.