Texas hold'em is the most popular of the community card poker games. Described by Doyle Brunson as "The Cadillac of poker games", it is now the most popular poker variant played in casinos in the western United States, and the game played by the final event of the World Series of Poker, widely recognized as the world championship of the game. It is commonly played in the rest of the world as well, but Seven-card stud and other local games may be more popular in some places. It is generally played with 2 to 10 players, but can be played with more (theoretically 23, but beyond 12 players the size of the table is the limiting factor). It is a very positional game, since betting rounds all begin at the dealer's left.
The descriptions below assume that you are familiar with the general /Game play of poker, and with poker /Hands. They also make no assumptions about what /Betting structure is used. In casino play, it is common to use a /Fixed limit and two /Blinds, one for half of the first-round betting limit and one for a full bet. The limit for the third and fourth betting rounds is generally double that of the first two rounds. It is also not uncommon for the fourth bet to be larger still, and for the big blind to be less than the normal first-round bet, in which case it is treated the same way a sub-minimum /Bring-in is treated in stud poker. /Antes may be used instead of or in addition to blinds. The game also plays very well at /No limit, and many /Tournaments (including the above mentioned World Series championship event) are played that way.
Play begins with each player being dealt two cards face down. These are the only cards each player will receive individually, and they will not be revealed until showdown, making Texas hold'em a /Closed poker game. A first "pre-flop" betting round now happens, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind (or the dealer, if no blinds are used). Now the dealer deals a burn card, followed by three face-up /Community cards called the /Flop, followed by a second betting round. This and all subsequent betting rounds begin with the player the dealer's left. After this round, a burn card and single comunity card called the /Turn are dealt, followed by a third betting round. Finally, a burn and a single community card called the /River are dealt, followed by a fourth betting round and /Showdown if necessary.
On showdown, each player plays the best five-card hand he can make from the seven cards comprising his two and the /Board (the five community cards). A player may use both of his own two downcards, only one, or none at all to form his final five-card hand. If the best five-card hand he can make is to play the five community cards, then he is said to be playing the board, and is entitled to split the pot with others playing the board if no one can play a better hand. It is common for players to have closely-valued hands. In particular, /Kickers often are needed to break ties (but one must be careful not to break the only-five-cards rule from Poker/Hands), straights often split the pot, and multiple flushes may occur (where the ranks of the cards in each flush must be counted carefully to determine a winner).
Here's a sample final showdown:
4♣ K♠ 4♥ 8♠ 7♠
Alice's best five-card hand is 8♠ 7♠ 6♦ 5♦ 4♥, making an 8-high straight. The best hand Bob can play is 4♣ 4♥ 4♦ A♣ K♠, for three 4s with A and K kickers. Carol can play A♠ K♠ 9♠ 8♠ 7♠ for an A-high flush. Finally, David can play K♠ K♥ K♦ 4♣ 4♥, for a full house, which wins.
Here's a sample deal. The players' individual hands will not be revealed until showdown, to give a better sense of what happens during play. Bob, to the dealer's left, posts a blind of $1, and Carol blinds $2. Alice deals two cards face down to each player, beginning with Bob and ending with herself. David must act first because he is the first player after the big blind. He cannot check, since the $2 blinds plays as a bet, so he folds. Alice calls the $2. Bob puts an additional $1 with his $1 small blind to call the $2 total. Carol's blind is "live" (see Poker/Blind), so she has the right to raise here, but she checks her option instead, ending the first betting round.
Alice now burns a card and deals the "flop" of three face-up community cards, 9♣ K♣ 3♥. On this round as on all subsequent, Bob begins the betting. He checks, Carol opens for $2, and Alice raises another $2, making the total bet now facing Bob $4. He calls. Carol calls, putting in an additional $2. Alice now burns and deals the "turn" card face up. It is the 5♠. Bob checks, Carol checks, and Alice checks, ending the round. After burning, Alice deals the final "river" card of the 9♦, making the final board 9♣ K♣ 3♥ 5♠ 9♦. Bob bets $4, Carol calls, and Alice folds (Alice's holding was A♣ 7♣; she was hoping the river card would be a club to make her a flush). Bob shows his hand of Q♠ 9♥, so the best five-card hand he can make is 9♣ 9♦ 9♥ K♣ Q♠, for three 9s, K and Q kickers. Carol shows her cards of K♠ J♥, making her final hand K♣ K♠ 9♣ 9♦ J♥ for two pair, Ks and 9s, with a J kicker. Bob wins the pot.
Here's another situation that illustrates the importance of breaking ties with kickers and card ranks, and use of the five-card rule. After the first three rounds, the board and players' hands look like this (though the players don't actually know the other players' cards):
Board (after three rounds)
8♠ Q♣ 8♥ 4♣
At the moment, Bob is in the lead with a hand of Q♠ Q♣ 8♠ 8♥ K♥, making two pair, Qs and 8s, with a K kicker. This just beats Carol's hand of Q♥ Q♣ 8♠ 8♥ 10♦ by virtue of his kicker. Both Alice and David are hoping the final card is a club, which will make them both a flush, but David would have the higher flush and win if that happens. For example, if the final card was the 7♣, David's flush would be Q-J-7-4-2, while Alice's would be Q-10-9-7-4. Alice could still win, though, if the final card were the J♦, as that would give her a Q-high straight. On this deal, however, the final card was the A♠, which didn't help either of them. Bob and Carol still each have two pair, but notice what happened: both of them are now entitled to play the final A as their fifth card, making their hands both two pair, Qs and 8s, with an A kicker. Bob's K no longer plays, because the A on the board plays as the fifth card in both hands, and they can't play six cards. They therefore split the pot.
See Community card poker for more variations.