Poker Rules - Let’s Get Started!

Texas Hold'em is made up of 4 betting rounds. In cash games, you exchange cash for chips. In tournaments, you get you’re a set amount of chips, and the buy-in goes into a collective prize pool.  

Kindly note: This guide is for Texas Hold'em cash games only

At Texas Hold'em tables, there are two forced bets called the small (SB) and big blinds (BB). The player seated directly to the left of the dealer button is the SB, and the player seated to the left of the SB is the BB. The Big Blind bet is usually double the Small Blind.

The size of the blinds also determines the table stakes. In NLHE (No Limit Hold'em) players normally buy in for the maximum - 100 x the BB.

For example, at a 1¢/2¢ cash table with 1¢/2¢ blinds, the maximum buy-in would be S2.00 (100 x 2¢).

Although 10-handed games still exist – mostly live – online Hold'em is generally played on a single 9-handed or 6-handed table. All players have one single purpose – to felt their opponents by taking all their chips.

But, how do you do this consistently?

To play Texas Hold'em well, you need to be familiar with the rules before building your winning strategic plan.

You should be familiar with the rules involving:

  • Table Set Up – You should know the stakes (blind levels), minimum and maximum buy-in amounts.
  • Betting – Know the number of rounds and the betting structure – fixed limit, pot limit or no limit.  
  • Showdown – Make sure you know the poker hand rankings, so that you don’t look like a nut when you flip up your hand, expecting to win, and you don’t!

Trivia Snippet: Pocket Kings rule in Hold’em but did you know that each King represents a famous historical king: Spades=King David, Clubs=Alexander the Great, Hearts=Charlemagne, Diamonds=Julius Caesar!


Selecting the Right Table


When selecting a cash game table from the Pacific poker lobby, make sure that the blind levels (stakes) are within your bankroll limits. Unless you're a cash game specialist, you might lose a hand or two at the beginning. You should have money behind in your account to top up your stack to the original buy-in.

The poker rules state that to be dealt straight in, you must post a BB. However, you also have the choice of sitting out until the blind come around. By seeing where the Button is, you can figure out how many hands you will have to wait. Most players choose to come in on the blinds.

The button moves in a clockwise direction around the table so that everyone gets a chance to be the button at least once in each orbit. So, if you decide to jump into the action early, without waiting to post, this also means that you would get to be the button quicker. But it’s at a cost – one BB.

Another Piece of Poker Trivia: In the early days of poker, the dealer button was more commonly called the “buck”. The player on the button would do double duty as dealer. If you didn’t want to or couldn’t deal, you would be allowed to “pass the buck”.

Betting Rounds

Every hand in Texas Hold'em is made up of 4 betting rounds – one pre-flop, after the flop, one after the turn and a final betting round on the river.

Round 1 Betting - Pre-flop

Now that you’re settled in, the blinds have been posted, and each player has two hole cards, the betting action can begin.

The first player to act is seated on the left of the BB and is known as under-the-gun (UTG). They have the following 3 options:

  1. Fold their hand
  2. Call the minimum amount - equal to the big blind
  3. Raise - the minimum raise is 2 x BB in NLHE games

Action flows around the table in a clockwise direction with each player having the same options. In No Limit Hold'em, if you want to raise a prior raise – called 3-betting - you must raise at least the amount of the previous raise.

For instance, at a 10¢/20¢ NLHE cash table, the UTG player decides to raise the minimum, which would be 40¢ (2 x BB). What’s your minimum 3-bet? It would have to be at least 60¢ (the previous bet + the amount of the previous raise).

It can be a little confusing for beginner players, but when you’re playing online these amounts are pre-set, so you cannot make the mistake of being short on your 3-bet raise.

Also, if a player decides to raise a previous bet or raise, then the players who have already acted must either match the new bet or fold.

At the end of the betting round – and before we can move onto the next one - the poker rules state that every player remaining the hand must have acted and put the same amount into the pot. Both conditions must be except when a player is all-in for less than the bet/raised amount in the pot.

Round 2 Betting – Post-Flop

As soon as the flop comes down, we can get started on the second round of betting. The betting rules for this round are the same as Round 1 – with two minor changes.  

  1. First to act in this round is the active player closest to the left of the Big Blind. The SB player, or if they are not in the hand, the next active player to their left, is first to act in this round.
  2. As there are no forced bets in this round – no prior betting action - the opening player can check in addition to having the option of betting the option of checking, as well as betting.

As in the prior round, the following two conditions must be met before we can move on to the third betting round:

  1. All active players must put the same amount into the pot (unless all-in)
  2. All active players must have had a chance to act in the hand

Round 3 Betting – After the Turn

The rules for gameplay in this round are the same as in the second round. Congratulations if you made it here because you should have a hand that could win at showdown.

There’s nothing in the rules that say that you can’t continue, but this is where your poker maths and odds strategy should come into play. Making a draw is substantially harder on this street, so make sure you know the odds if you intend to keep on drawing.

Round 4 Betting – The River (Final Betting Round)

As long as two or more players make it to Round 4, you’ll get a river card.  The betting round rules and structure is exactly the same as post-flop and post-turn.

If there’s only one person standing on the river, we won’t see a showdown. However, if more than two players remain, we’ll get to flip them up!

The Showdown

At last, you get to show what you’ve been holding out for – a monster hand – or perhaps, not. In any event, you must show to win but, luckily, you can muck your hand if not and still hold onto what’s left of your table image!

Still confused about who goes first? At Pacific Poker, winning hands are shown automatically when called. No need to fuss over that! The pot is then shipped to the winner.

Evaluating Hands

According to the standard poker rules for Texas Hold'em, the best 5-card hand wins the pot at showdown. That’s why it’s a must that all players – especially beginners – know the poker hand rankings.

You can use one, two or none of your hole cards, in combination with three, for or all the community cards to form the best hand.

As soon as the hand is over, the pot is shipped to the winner, the button moves one spot clockwise, and the process starts all over again. Did you say, who’s on the BB?