How to Play No Limit Holdem

It's often said that No Limit Texas Hold'em is a game that takes minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.  While we do have some strategy articles that can help you with the "mastering" part, in this article we're going to focus on the "learning" part with a fast guide to the basic rules of playing the most popular poker game in the world: No Limit Texas Hold'em.

No Limit Hold'em Rules: Key Terms

Let's highlight a few key terms before we dive into a discussion of the rules of the game.

  1. NLHE: A commonly-used abbreviation for No Limit Texas Hold'em.
  2. Button: The dealer button.  The button is used to track who holds the dealer position, which rotates (clockwise) one seat each hand.
  3. Blinds: Blinds are forced bets players must put in before seeing their cards.  Most games of NLHE have two blinds - a small blind (SB) and a big blind (BB).  The SB is generally half the size of the BB.  Like the button, blinds also rotate around the table, moving one seat each hand.
  4. All-in: Since this is NLHE, players can bet with "no limit" - going all-in is a short way of saying that you are committing all of your available chips to the bet you're making.

No Limit Hold'em Rules: Gameplay

NLHE is a pretty simple game as poker variants go.  There are four potential rounds for each hand: Preflop, flop, turn and river.  The first round is the "preflop" round.  Whoever has the button is the dealer, and the two players to the left of the dealer must post the SB and BB before the cards are dealt.  Everyone then receives two cards face down.  Players must now decide if they would like to move to the next round with their cards, starting with the player to the left of the BB.  If they don't want to stay in, the player folds and hands in their cards.  To stay in, players can call (put in an amount equal to the size of the BB) or raise (increase the amount). 

If at least two players are still in after all decisions have been made, we move on to the next round - the "flop." On the flop, the dealer places three cards face up in the middle of the table.  This is called the flop.  Players use these community cards (shared by all players) and their two cards to make the best five card hand possible.  Another round of betting takes place, this time starting with the player closest to the left of the button.  Players may check (making no bet) if no players acting before them have chosen to bet, and can choose to call, fold or raise if they are facing a bet. 

If only one player remains at the end of this round, he or she wins the pot and the hand ends; if more than one still remains, we move on to the third round: The turn.  The dealer reveals a fourth community card, and the remaining players engage in another round of betting.  If more than one player still remains, we move to the river.  A fifth and final community card is revealed, and a final round of betting takes place.  If more than one player remains after this round of betting, all remaining players show their cards.  The strongest hand wins the pot, the button and the blinds are moved over one seat, and the next hand is dealt.

There are more rules and nuances to deal with specific and unusual situations, but those are the absolute basics of No Limit Texas Hold'em.  Learn about more games in this section, or start playing a little NLHE online with our guides to the top poker sites for new players.