How To Play

Learn how to play poker in minutes with our guide to the basics

How to Play Texas Hold’em

You can play hold’em heads up (with just two players) or with as many as can fit round a physical table, but online especially, tables tend to seat either six or nine players maximum.  Whether played in cash games or tournaments, hold’em hands follow the same rules:

All community card poker games start with the posting of blinds: small, compulsory bets to the left of the dealer (the small blind) and to the left of the small blind (the big blind).  The deal moves around the table clockwise, one place every hand, so every player posts the blinds once an orbit.

Players receive two face-down (hole) cards and, over four betting rounds, five community cards (known as the board) are dealt.  Players make their best five-card poker hand using any combination of cards from the board and their hand.

Hand Rankings

The hand rankings for Texas hold’em (highest to lowest):


Royal Flush

A straight flush, ten to ace


Straight Flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit


Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank


Full House

Three cards of the same rank, plus a pair



Five cards of the same suit



Five cards of consecutive rank


Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank


Two Pair

Two pairs of matching ranked cards


One Pair

Two cards of matching rank


High Card

Five unpaired cards

For hand examples and more detail on the basic actions in poker, see Rules of Poker.



First betting round (preflop): once blinds are posted and hole cards dealt, action moves clockwise from the big blind (the current highest bet), with every player given a turn to call (match a previous bet), raise (increase the bet) or fold (throw their hole cards away and wait for the next hand to start).

N.B. At any point in a hand, to keep playing and move on to the next betting round, players must have matched the round’s highest bet or moved “all in” – committed the whole of their stack, whether it matches the full bet or not.  An all-in player’s hand remains live to showdown, with any further action between players with more chips taking place in a side pot.

Once all players have acted, the flop (three cards) is dealt face-up for all players to use: Spade_10 Diamond_1 Diamond_4

The Flop

Second betting round: Betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button (the dealer position) for the rest of the betting rounds.  In turn, players may bet or check (decline to bet, passing the action on).  If a bet is made, all players must at least match it (call) to move on to the next stage, the turn.  If all players check, the turn card is dealt for free: Spade_10 Diamond_1 Diamond_4 Spade_11

The Turn

Third betting round: The remaining players again act in turn, choosing to check, bet, raise (if a bet is made) or fold. If more than one player remains after this betting round, the fifth communal card, the river, is dealt: Spade_10 Diamond_1 Diamond_4 Spade_11 Diamond_8

The River

Fourth betting round: Players have one final round of betting on the river. If there is more than one player left in the hand at the end, the hole cards are revealed (the showdown), and the player with the best hand wins the pot.  

Of course, not every hand reaches showdown! At any point in a hand, if all but one player folds, that player wins the pot, and does not have to show their hole cards.

The Showdown

Example Showdown: using the board above Spade_10 Diamond_1 Diamond_4 Spade_11 Diamond_8, four players reach showdown. Player A’s hole cards: Spade_1 Club_4. This makes their best five-card hand two pair, aces and fours Club_1 Diamond_1 Club_4 Diamond_4 Spade_11

Player B’s hole cards Heart_1 Club_10. This makes a higher two pair, aces and tens Heart_1 Diamond_1 Club_10 Spade_10 Spade_11

Player C’s hole cards: Heart_13 Spade_12. This makes a straight Spade_10 Spade_11 Heart_13 Spade_12 Diamond_1

Player D’s hole cards: Diamond_11 Diamond_10. This makes Player D a flush Diamond_1 Diamond_11 Diamond_10 Diamond_8 Diamond_4 – the winning hand.

Chopping Pots

More than one player can hold the same five-card hand at showdown.  They may have the same hole cards (making the same two pair, or straight), or the board can itself be the best five-card hand available (for example, the board could run out as a Royal Flush – an unbeatable hand).  In this case, all tied hands win at showdown, the players splitting the pot evenly. 

Variations of Texas Hold’em

Texas hold’em can be played with anywhere from two players to a full table (usually a maximum of nine players) and with different betting rules (see: No Limit, Fixed Limit and Pot Limit below).  

The most popular hold’em variant, found widely online, is Short Deck (also known as Strip Deck or 6+ Hold’em), in which all cards under six are removed.  Playing with a 36-card deck alters the poker hand rankings so that a flush beats a full house.  Aces still play both high and low for straights, so the lowest straight in Short Deck runs A-6-7-8-9.  

Three-card hold’em can be played just as the two-card version, keeping all three hole cards and using any combination of the (now eight) available cards to make your best five-card hand.  However, Pineapple hold’em is a more common three-card variant.  In Pineapple, players are dealt three hole cards instead of two, and discard one of them before the first round of betting (preflop).  The game then plays out just like hold’em.  

Crazy Pineapple starts the same way as Pineapple, with three hole cards being dealt to every player, but the discard takes place after the flop.

Any tweak applied to a community card game can work with Texas hold’em: for example, it can be played as a “double board” game, in which two flops, turns and rivers are dealt and the pot split between the winners of the two boards, or even as a high-low game (although this is uncommon). 

How to Play Texas Hold’em Games Online

There is no shortage of options when it comes to playing Texas hold’em online.  Many players were first introduced to the game of poker watching televised no limit hold’em tournaments and cash games, and low-stakes online games or freeroll (free-to-enter) tournaments in this simple format are convenient and cost-effective ways of learning how to play.  

WPT Global offers cash games at a range of buy-in levels (starting at microstakes) that can familiarise new players with the mechanics of the game quickly, allowing them to gather experience much faster than is possible in a live game.  Starting out is as simple as registering an account (in countries and dependencies in which WPT Global offers services) and taking a seat with players from around the world, whenever and wherever is convenient.

Learning to play online, you don’t need to be able to count chips, shuffle cards, or work out the size of the pot - it’s all displayed and your options highlighted when it’s your turn to act. In Texas hold’em, like all games, practise makes perfect, and playing online can speed up the learning process at stakes far lower than those available in a brick and mortar card room.

Of course, online is now the home of high stakes poker, too.  The biggest cash games (and heads up grudge matches) are now more likely to be played remotely than in person.  There’s nothing to stop a new player from rising through the levels online to challenge the top players in the game - Texas hold’em is the most widely-offered poker variant at the largest range of buy-in levels.


How to Play Texas Hold’em?

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Poker Rules

It takes 'a minute to learn but a lifetime to master', said Mike Sexton; he was referring to the world’s most popular variant, no limit Texas hold’em, but all community card games (and most poker games in general) have the same basic rules and hand rankings. Learn them, and you’re on the road to learning, and mastering, the game of poker.
If you are interested in playing poker online you can learn how to play Texas Hold’em, play PLO, play Omaha, play short deck poker or play Global Spins poker you can play online in our multi table games or in poker tournaments.
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