Introduction to No-Limit Texas Hold’em – NLHE Basics

The Tip Top Fox introduces you to basic No-Limit Texas Hold’em game mechanics, including hand rankings, the blinds, and the showdown

This section is the perfect place to start if you have little or no poker experience. Here, we will talk you through the basics of a No-Limit Texas Hold’em game.

No-limit Texas Hold’em (NLHE) is the most popular poker variant. Played using a standard 52-card deck, the objective of an NLHE game is to win all of your opponents’ chips. There are two ways to win a hand, either by having the best hand or by betting to induce your opponents to discard – ‘fold’ – their hand. 

No-Limit Hold’em Hand Rankings

Each player is dealt two ‘hole’ cards, which only they can see. A player may use any combination of their two hole cards and the five community cards on the board, shared by all players, to make the best possible five-card combination. 

If two or more players remain in contention for the pot once all five community cards are dealt, a hand reaches ‘showdown’. If a hand reaches showdown, the remaining players reveal their hole cards, with the chips in the pot going to the player with the strongest hand. The order of poker hands (starting with the strongest first) are as follows:

  • Royal flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind 
  • Full house
  • Three of a kind
  • Two pair
  • One pair
  • High card

Blinds and the Button:

The dealer ‘button’ signifies the order of play and moves left (clockwise) one seat at the start of every new hand. This occurs before cards are dealt or any betting action takes place.

The two players to the left of the button must make compulsory bets – known as the ‘small blind’ and the ‘big blind’, so-called because players have to make these bets prior to receiving their hole cards.

The player seated to the immediate left of the button is the ‘small blind’. The player sitting to their left is the ‘big blind’. The small blind is usually half the value of the big blind.

No-Limit Hold’em Betting Rules

In No Limit Hold’em players are able to raise any amount from their stack as long as it’s at least twice the amount of the big blind or the last bet/raise.

If a player bets all the chips in their stack, they are declared ‘all-in’. An ‘all-in’ player cannot win or lose more chips than those they have invested. Any further rounds of betting between the other players are collected in a side pot. At showdown, the ‘all-in’ player can only win the main pot while the other players can win both the main and the side pot (as they have invested chips in both). 

The action continues clockwise around the table, with each player receiving the option to bet, raise, or fold.

Community Cards and the Showdown

Once all players are dealt hole cards, each has the chance to bet or fold. The action starts with the person to the left of the big blind and continues clockwise around the table. This is the first of a potential four rounds of betting, and is referred to as the ‘pre-flop’ stage.

After the initial pre-flop betting comes ‘the flop’. These are the first three community cards. Then there is the second round of betting. Players now have the additional option of ‘checking’ – opting not to bet – if they’re not facing a bet. 

The fourth community card – known as the ‘turn’ – comes next, with another round of betting. 

Finally, the fifth community card – known as the ‘river’ – follows, with a final round of betting. 

If two or more players opt to remain in a hand until the end, then a ‘showdown’ takes place. This is where players reveal their hands and the winning hand takes the pot. 

It is important to note a pot can be won at any point if all remaining players have folded their hands.

No-Limit Hold’em Game Types

While the basic mechanics of No Limit Hold’em are the same regardless of whether you are playing in a cash game or a tournament, each format requires a different approach and playing style.

Visit our strategy section for articles on how to improve at the different game types.

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