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Basic poker rules

Start

Each player is dealt their “hole cards”— the two initial cards, presented face down. This is followed by a “pre-flop,” a stage of the game where you decide whether to Check, Bet or Fold. What a player should do is dependent entirely on the hole cards they hold, their “starting hand.”

Once all the betting has finished, three shared cards are dealt. Placed face up and in the middle of the table, they are called “the flop.”

Texas Hold'em Flop Seven of Clubs, Queens of Diamonds and Five of Clubs

The flop

The middle

After the flop, another round of betting takes place. Then a fourth shared card — the “turn” — is dealt.

Texas Hold'em Turn Seven of Clubs, Queens of Diamonds, Five of Clubs and Jack os Clubs

The turn

After the turn, yet another round of betting takes place. Lastly, the fifth and final shared card — the “river” — is dealt, followed by a final round of betting.

Texas Hold'em River Seven of Clubs, Queens of Diamonds, Five of Clubs, Jack of Clubs and Queen of Hearts

The river

The player’s goal is to make the best possible five-card poker hand, using their hole cards and the five middle cards.

To learn more about what the best poker hands are check out the poker hand rankings here.

Example:

If a player has 9-9 and the shared cards are 9-9-A-5-2, the player has four-of-a-kind. If the shared cards were J-Q-K-7-2, the player would only have two nines.

On occasion, the best hand is made by the river alone (the five shared cards).

If the river were 10-10-10-10-A and the player had 9-9, their hole cards would not play since the four-of-a-kind of higher value are already showing.

Finish

A hand can end in two ways.

One is when the players in a hand turn over their hole cards and the player with the best hand wins. This is known as a “showdown.”

The other is that one player bets so much that everyone else folds. This is the appeal of the game — a player doesn’t always need the best hand in order to win. Most hands in Texas Hold'em end in this fashion.

Recap

Now, let's go over how a hand works using only poker jargon and see if you have it figured out.

First, players are dealt their hole cards, after which the first round of betting takes place. Next, the remaining players see a flop, followed by another round of betting. Next, a turn card is revealed. A round of betting follows before the final river card and the final round of betting. The best five-card hand wins.

If this terminology still doesn’t sound familiar, please visit our Poker Glossary.