No Limit Texas Hold’em
The three key points about No Limit Texas Hold’em:
- No Limit Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker game of the 21st century. Many factors contribute to its meteoric rise in the early 2000’s: its simplicity (you can learn the game in five minutes), the rise of online poker, the broadcasting of big poker tournaments on television (including the World Poker Tour), and the memorable victory of an amateur player called Chris Moneymaker (you couldn’t make it up!) at the World Series of Poker 2003.
- In Texas Hold’em, every player receives two private cards, and must make the best hand possible using their two private cards and the five community cards which are available to every player. To make this five card hand, every player can, according to the situation, use two, one, or none of their hole cards and combine them with three, four, or even five of the community cards.
- No Limit Texas Hold’em is, as the name suggests, played with No Limit rules: this means that the betting amounts and number of raises is unlimited: every player can, at any time, bet as much as they wish, including all the chips they hold!
Here are all the different card combinations you can have in Texas Hold’em, in descending order, from the highest ranked to the lowest. Don’t forget that in Texas Hold’em, you have seven cards available to construct your five-card hand: your two hole cards, plus the five community cards spread on the board.
1. Straight flush
You’re holding a straight flush when your five cards combine a straight and a flush. Pretty simple! So you will need five cards in numerical order that belong to the same suit. When two players hold a straight flush, the player holding the highest card wins. An Ace-high straight flush is also called a Royal Flush: the best possible hand in poker!
2. Four of a kind
Four cards of the same rank. Four Aces is the strongest four of a kind, while four deuces is the lowest combination (but it will still win most of the time: it’s very unusual that you will witness two players holding “quads”). In Texas Hold’em, two players can hold the same four of a kind: for example, if four Jacks are dealt among the community cards. In that case, the player holding the highest fifth card (called the “kicker”) will win the pot.
3. Full House
Three cards of one rank and two of another rank form a full house. Full houses are ranked in descending order: three Kings and two deuces beat three Queens and two fours. If two players hold a full house, the player holding the highest three of a kind will win the pot.
Five cards of the same suit: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds or Clubs. When two or more players hold a flush, the player holding the highest card will win the pot. If two players hold the same highest card, the next highest card will be used to determine a winner. If two players hold the same second highest card, the third highest card… You get the idea.
When your five cards form a numerical sequence, you are holding a straight. If two players hold a straight, the player holding the highest card wins. An Ace can act both as the lowest and the highest card. Thus, Ace-2-3-4-5 and 10-Jack-Queen-King-Ace (the highest possible straight) are two perfectly acceptable ways to form a straight.
6. Three of a kind
A three of a kind consists of three cards of the same rank. Three aces make the best possible three of a kind combination. When two players hold the same three of a kind, the kickers will be used to determine a winner.
7. Two pair
A pair and another pair! Like, let’s say, two Kings and two fives, or two Queens and two sevens. When two players hold two pairs, the player holding the highest pair wins. If two players hold the same highest pair, the highest second pair wins. If two players hold the same two pairs, then the kicker will be used to determine a winner.
8. One pair
Two cards of the same rank, two Aces being the highest pair, and two deuces being the lowest. When two players hold the same pair, one or more kickers will be used to determine a winner.
9. High card
Kind of a desperate situation since you’re holding nothing: no pair, no flush, no straight, just five random cards. When two or more players are holding high card hands, the player showing the highest card wins, deuces being the lowest and Aces the highest. If necessary, the second, third, fourth and even fifth card can be used to determine a winner. For instance, Ace-King-Jack-5-2 will beat Ace-King-Jack-4-2.
How a hand is played
A Texas Hold’em hand starts with forced bets, called “Blinds”. The player seated directly to the left of the button posts the small blind, and the player to their left posts the big blind (generally, double the amount of the small blind).
Texas Hold’em is played with a maximum of nine players. Each player receives two private hole cards.
The betting rounds and communal cards
The first round of betting starts with the person sat to the left of the big blind. Each player has the option to call (equal the existing bet), raise (increase the stakes), or fold (quit the hand) in turn, with action moving clockwise round the table.
The first round of betting ends when the biggest bet has been equalled by one or more players. If the raise of a player is called by no other player, the pot is won by the raiser without needing to show their cards. This rule applies throughout the hand.
The second round of betting starts after the flop: three cards, face up are dealt to the middle of the table. These three communal cards are available to every player in the hand to be used with their two private cards to make the best five card hand.
The first player to act is the person seated to the left of the dealer button. Each player may bet, raise or fold in turn, with action moving clockwise round the table. Just like in Texas Hold’em, it is possible to check (not make a bet) when no bets have been placed before your turn. If one or more players bet after you have checked, action returns to you and you have the option to fold, call or raise. If all players check in a round of betting, then we go straight to the next round.
The third round of betting takes place on the turn: one card, dealt face up to the middle of the table. Just like on the flop, this fourth community card is available to all players remaining in the hand.
Once the third round of betting is over, the fourth and final betting round takes place on the river: one card, dealt face up to the middle of the table which is once again available to every player in the hand.
Once all bets have been called in the fourth round of betting, the players remaining in the hand go to a showdown. The last player to have raised must show their cards first. If there was no bet on the last round of betting, the player to the left of the button must show their cards first. The hands are always then revealed in turn clockwise around the table.
The winner of the pot is the player who shows the best five card hand, according to the hierarchy listed earlier on this page. If one or multiple players reveal an identical hand, the pot is shared equally among them. Once the pot has been awarded to the winner(s), a new hand can begin.