Legal online poker for real money has seen a nice upswing in the US the past couple of years. With more players at home and live casinos facing some restrictions, many players moved their Texas Hold’em action online.
New players began getting in the action, too. If you’re one of those new players looking to play Hold’em online, you’re in the right place.
The game of poker—and Texas Hold’em in particular—can look intimidating at first. But it won’t take you long to get up to speed. Below find everything you need to know about playing Texas Holdem online, from the best Holdem sites to basic Hold’em rules, hand rankings and strategy tips for beginners.
Where Can I Play Texas Hold’em Online?
As of 2021 just six US states currently offer legal Texas Hold’em online, although more states are scheduled to go online soon. Licensed sweepstakes online poker is also available in 49 US states. Here’s a look at the legal online poker states and the poker sites available in each. Use the exclusive USPoker links to claim your welcome bonus:
Free Texas Holdem Online
Players in US states not listed in the above table do have some other options including free (or play money) online poker provided by the legal online sites listed above. These offer a player a chance to learn the game and work on strategy and technique.
Check our free online poker sites & apps page for more. If you’re more interested in setting up an online poker home game with your friends, check our dedicated page here:
As mentioned, there is also another option to play Texas Hold’em free online and even win some real money. That’s via sweeps cash poker, with Global Poker the best-known of these sites. Games offered include:
- Texas Hold’em
- Crazy Pineapple
If you want to play Texas Hold’em for free, you can stick to their virtual currency called Gold Coins. You can win Gold Coins in games or tournaments or purchase more Gold Coins at any time. When you do purchase Gold Coins you are awarded another virtual currency called Sweeps Coins as a bonus.
Sweeps Coins can be used in separate ring games, tournaments, Sit & Go’s, and other events. Unlike Gold Coins, Sweeps Coins can then be cashed in for real cash prizes. Poker players will find a nice, safe online poker option with Global Poker. The platform is available throughout the US (excluding WA) and Canada (excluding Que.).
As of August 2020, Global had seen a boom in players and had run numerous large tournament festivals. The site has now topped 1 million players and continues growing. Sweepstakes poker offers a social gaming alternative with a real chance to turn your Texas Hold’em poker skills into real winnings.
Texas Hold’em Poker Rules & Game Play
Knowing how the game of Texas Hold’em works is important before hitting the tables. Taking advantage of free online play offered at legal online poker sites will help become accustomed to the ins and outs of how the game flows without losing any real cash.
To get started with real-money play online you can also take advantage of no deposit poker bonuses, which offer free money deposited in your account for real games.
How to Play Texas Hold’em
To start a game of Texas Hold’em, all players are dealt two cards face down. Unlike in a home game, a poker game in a casino features a designated house dealer. Players don’t have to worry about dealing the game themselves.
Instead a “dealer button” rotates around the table each hand to designate which player would have been the dealer. The player to the left of the button is the small blind and the person to that player’s left is the big blind.
These are forced bets that every player will make as the action is rotated around the table. The small blind is usually half of the big blind. Blinds make a player decide whether to:
- Fold – throw cards away and get out of the hand
- Call – match the bet
- Raise – raising the action to play for more
Blinds keep players from simply “checking” the action and seeing flops without committing any chips. A “check” means a player isn’t betting and instead passing the action to the next player (more on this later).
Players can also re-raise someone else’s raise. This is often called a three-bet because it is the third bet in the pot.
For example, blinds might be $1/$2 in a cash game and 100/200 chips in a tournament. To start the action, the player to the left of the big blind can call, fold, or raise and the action continues that way around the table.
If no one raises, then the small blind only owes half his bet to complete the big blind. If you’re on the big blind, you can simply check to see the flop because you’ve already paid your big blind.
This player can also raise however, if he or she chooses. Once all that action is complete, players will then see the flop.
When playing Texas Hold’em online, all this action is done automatically and players have the luxury of all chips counted out for them. It makes for some simplicity and players will also find the action quicker.
Texas Hold’em, unlike draw poker games, makes use of community cards. These are a limited number of cards that all players see and can use to make their best five-card hand.
Texas Hold’em derives from Seven Card Stud, in which all players are dealt three cards down and four cards up. Players can see some other players’ cards to determine the strength of their own hands. But in Hold’em there is a more limited number of visible cards and they’re all fair game for every player to use.
Once all the pre-flop action is complete, the dealer will burn a card (deal a card out of the game) and then spread three cards – known as “the flop.”
Once that’s dealt, the person to the left of the button can check or bet. The next player then has that option.
If an opponent bets, you have the option to:
- Call (match) the bet
- Raise the bet
- Fold (throw your hand away)
If no one calls, the bettor takes the pot and the hand is over. If other players call, the players will then see another card.
Just a reminder: checking means you don’t want to bet and you pass that action to another player. If the other players check around, the dealer will also continue on with another card, known as the turn card.
The Turn Card
Once all the action is complete on the flop, the dealer will burn one more card and then deal out a fourth card – known as the turn card. The same betting pattern follows as was seen on the flop.
The first player that remains in the pot to the left of the dealer button has the action first and can once again bet or check. Any opponents left can do the same and raise the action if desired. Once all the action is complete and the pot is good, the dealer will burn another card and deal the final community card.
One reminder: in No Limit Texas Hold’em, players can go “all in” and bet all the chips they have in front of them. In a cash game, a loss could mean digging in the wallet for more cash.
In a tournament, a player may be putting their life in the tournament at risk. Depending on their number of chips, a losing hand could send them to the rail (poker lingo for being eliminated). This makes for quite a twist and is one of the aspects that makes the game so intoxicating for so many.
The River Card
Once the final card is dealt, known as the river card, there is once again a round of betting. If a player bets, those remaining will call, fold, or raise. If an opponent calls, the betting player will show his hand.
This is called the showdown and the player who bet then reveals their cards. If their hand is better than their opponent’s, then they rake the pot. If the opponent has the best of it, the dealer will ship those chips their way.
Once the hand is over, the dealer button will then be moved to the next player and a new hand begins.
Split Pots, Kickers, All Ins & Side Pots
There are a few intricacies to remember when playing Texas Hold’em. Here are a few of those to remember.
Sometimes two players will have the exact same hand. For example, a flop, turn, and river might bring A♥♣K♠8♦3♥2♠. If there are two players that stay until showdown, they both may flip A♠8♥ and A♣8♣.
This means that there is a split pot and both players receive half the pot. The dealer will take care of this in a live game and online, the software client or poker app will take care of this scenario and divide the pot in half.
There is a scenario where two players seemingly have the same hand, but only one of them will rake the pot. A player holding A♠K♠ has a shot to beat an opponent with an unsuited Ace-King if the community cards brought three spades.
The same can happen if the board brings out four diamonds and one player has A♦K♠. Those cases can be rare, but not too uncommon.
It’s important to remember that a player’s best five cards make up his or her hand. If two players both have a pair of eights, the remaining cards will determine which player wins the pot.
For example, two players might see a board of K♥10♣10♠2♦7♦. One players holds A♠K♠ and the other holds K♣Q♦.
Both players have made two pairs, Aces and 10s, but the player holding A♠K♠ wins the pot. That’s because his kicker, an Ace, is higher than his opponent’s Queen.
Players will find these kinds of scenarios fairly common. It’s important to assess the strength of your own hand, and players will face tough decisions like this when at the poker table.
Online players will find this situation sorted out automatically by the software. It still can be frustrating to just miss out on a nice pot.
Going All In and Side Pots
It’s important to remember that in No Limit Texas Hold’em, a player can go all in for all in for all the chips at any time. However, other players can continue betting.
Those chips will be placed in a side pot and only those two players have a shot to win the side pot. If there are even more players in a pot and another goes all in, there could even be one or more side pots.
A player going all in can only win or lose the amount of chips they have put in the pot. A tournament player may have two other opponents in a pot and moves all in for all of his 30,000 chips.
Two other players may call, meaning he could triple up to 90,000 chips if winning the pot. If a player wins in this scenario he remains alive in the tournament and will take his portion of the pot.
This can be a bit tricky when dealing at your home game, but in online poker the entire scenario is easily handled. Playing online can be a great way to learn the features like this that go into playing Texas Hold’em.
Texas Hold’em Hand Rankings
Poker is a family of games and Texas Hold’em has become the most popular form over the last two decades. The game can be played in these formats:
- No Limit Hold’em — A player can bet all of their chips at any time.
- Limit Hold’em — This version of the game has fixed-limit betting and usually caps the number of raises.
- Pot Limit Hold’em — Bets are limited to the size of the pot.
The no limit variety has become the most popular form of poker in the world. This format can be found in the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event and World Poker Tour events. This is also the version most played at legal online poker sites.
To first play any form of poker, it’s important to know the ranking of hands. A hand’s strength is based on the odds of being dealt that hand.
One thing to remember: a player can use both hole (hidden) cards, only one of them, or simply play the five community cards to form their best hand. Here’s a look at the hands that can be dealt in poker from weakest to strongest.
This is when you’re dealt a hand that doesn’t make anything with the board, not even a pair. You simply have a “high card” as your best hand. It’s rare to win a hand with this hand. An example would be A-Q-9-3-2 after all cards are dealt, sometimes just called Ace-high.
A pair means that one of your cards has matched another card on the board or that both of your hole cards are the same. Obviously if you are dealt a pair of Aces, then you are in pretty good shape even before the flop. If you hold a hand like A-K (aka “Big Slick”), then you’ve made a pair if you see a flop like A-10-3.
This is also known as “top pair,” meaning that among the pairs now available considering the community cards, your pair of Aces are the highest possible.
This is when you make two pairs, which can be a nice hand depending on the situation and the board. If you’re dealt K-10 and see a flop like K-10-5, then you’ve made two pairs.
While this can be a nice hand, it’s certainly not unbeatable. And remember another two pairs can beat yours. If a Q fell on the turn, another player holding K-Q would have a better hand.
A board like this also opens up other possibilities for bigger hands as well (more on those below).
Three of a Kind
Often called “trips,” this is when a player gets three of the same card. If you’re dealt J-J and the flop brings 8-J-7, then you’ve hit not just trips but the best three of a kind possible considering all the community cards.
This is an excellent hand but not unbeatable. The sign of a great poker player is knowing when he’s beaten and being able to fold premier hands.
It’s important to consider the entire board and what possible hand combinations can be made. Connecting cards for a possible straight or three, or four cards of the same suit for a possible flush, might mean sending those trips into the muck.
This is a hand where five cards fall in sequential order. For example, you hold 8-9, and the board brings 10-7-K. You now have what’s called an “open-ended” straight draw.
That means any Jack or 6 and you’ve made a straight. A straight can be an excellent hand, but beware of making the sucker straight. That means you’ve made the low end of the straight.
For instance, if you held 6-7 on a board of 8-9-10, you’ve made a straight. However any player with 7-J or J-Q has made a high straight and the hand could be costly if committing too many chips.
Also a board with three of four suited cards could also be scary as your straight may lose to a flush. A pair on the board could also mean an opponent has drawn a full house. More on those below.
This hand is made when you have five cards all of the same suit. A player holding Q♦K♦ would be in luck with a board of 5♦4♦J♦9♣2♠. This has assured him of a King-high flush.
In this case however, a player with an A♦2♦ would have an even bigger flush. A player who lands small flushes like 10-high or Jack-high will have even more concerns with potential bigger flushes still available.
This is even more of a concern with four cards of one suit on the board. A player must determine if his hand is beaten by a bigger flush. Discerning opponents’ holdings, and if they’re bluffing, is a major part of the game.
This is a huge hand as well and means a player has made three of one kind and two of another – like A♥A♦A♣K♠K♦. A player holding pocket nines – 9♣9♠ – would have hit a huge hand on a board of 9♥10♦K♣10♠Q♥. This is obviously a huge hand but some caution might be needed.
An opponent going to the turn might also have an even bigger flush if they hold a Q-10 or K-10, and even 10-10 for four of a kind. Otherwise, in most instances this is a massive hand.
Four of Kind
As the name implies, this means you’ve simply hit four of the same cards. This could mean you hold a big pocket pair like A♥A♠ and hit two more Aces among the community cards.
A player might also hold one card that finds three more on the flop, turn, and river. A player holding A♦8♣ would celebrate (internally of course) on a board that included the other three eights in the deck, 8♥8♠8♦, and this would hopefully yield big rewards.
This is one of poker’s premium hands and rarely a loser. Losing with “quads” would be a real cooler indeed.
As the name implies, this hand is all five cards in sequential order but also in the same suit – 6♠7♠8♠9♠10♠, for example. This is a premier hand, the second best in the game.
Players getting this hand have a huge opportunity to win armloads of chips if they can get callers and action in the pot. If an opponent catches a massive flush or full house in this scenario, there is potential that all the chips could go in the middle of the table.
This is the biggest hand in poker and beats everything else. It’s also extremely rare to be dealt. Many players may even remember some of the times they’ve caught a royal flush.
The Royal Flush is basically the straight flush but includes all the face cards all in one suit – A♥K♥Q♥J♥10♥. It’s a rare hand indeed and only shows up on about 1 out of every 649,740 hands.
That means your chance of getting one comes out to 0.000154%. It’s a rare hand indeed, but a monster if you can get so lucky.
Types of Texas Hold’em Games Online
When you play Texas Hold’em online, you typically have quite a few options to choose from. Tournaments and cash games are different in regards to structure and game play. Both can be rewarding experiences and offer plenty of poker fun.
Texas Hold’em Cash Games Online
In these types of games, players are playing for real cash as they would in a casino poker room.
Live, a player will head to the cashier to purchase chips and then be seated at a table. Most players like to buy in for at least 50-100 big blinds. For example, a player heading to the Borgata in Atlantic City may want to play some $1/2 No Limit Hold’em. You may want to buy in for $200.
Online, it works exactly the same way. You make a deposit into your poker account (often via a convenient poker payment method such as PayPal or credit card). You can then buy in at any online table with open seats at the blind level you prefer. The maximum and minimum table buy-ins will be clearly marked for each table.
When playing online, players will find plenty of action and various stakes. That can mean playing for much less than what one would find in a live casino. Cash games at sites like PokerStars, WSOP.com, and partypoker have Texas Hold’em action as low as $0.01/$0.02.
This is a great way to learn the game before heading to a casino to play or jumping in a cash game with friends. Online poker sites also offer bigger stakes once your game has improved and you’re ready to play for more.
In a cash game online, players win and lose real cash just as they would in a casino. However, unlike you might see in the movies, players are playing for table stakes. That means you can only play what’s in front of you.
Once a player is all in for whatever is in front of him, he can’t reach in his pocket for more money to buy more chips to play during that hand. Win the hand and the player remains alive and doesn’t need to buy more.
If that player loses, he can buy more chips or head to the exit. Also, unlike in a tournament a player can get up and leave a cash game at any time. There is no time length set for how long a player must play. Many players like this aspect as they may not have the time commitment needed for a tournament, which can be several hours and a few days for even larger events.
Texas Hold’em Tournaments Online
In contrast to cash games, once a tournament player is all in and loses, her time in the tournament has ended. The goal in a tournament is to continue accumulating chips to hopefully make the final table and win the tournament.
In Texas Hold’em tournaments, chips don’t have any real cash value but are used as your “weapons” to battle with other players along the way. A player may buy in a $500 Texas Hold’em tournament and start with 30,000 in chips.
Throughout the tournament, the field keeps getting smaller as players are eliminated. The field is whittled down because the blind levels increase throughout the tournament. A clock is used to determine when blinds are going up.
Players will usually find this information in the form of a structure sheet at a casino or in the tournament lobby when playing online. Players on smaller stacks have some big decisions to make when the blinds escalate higher.
Those who have seen the World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour on television are probably familiar with tournament poker. These are hugely popular multi-day events, but casinos hold single day “daily” tournaments as well.
The action moves faster online so tournaments can finish quicker. There are numerous events at various online sites throughout the day. Sites like WSOP.com, PokerStars, and partypoker also hold major tournament festivals.
These series feature tournament guaranteed prize pools and numerous event of every buy-in level. An online tournament can be a lot of fun and offer an opportunity at some nice money for a small buy-in.
Texas Hold’em Sit & Go’s Online
A Sit & Go is a smaller tournament meant to finish quickly, sometimes under an hour or even less. While these can be found at a casino poker room, they’re more often associated with online poker at real money online casinos.
Online players will find heads-up Sit & Go’s, six-max, nine-handed, and event events with two or three tables. They’re a great way to practice some tournament skills in a shorter time frame. What makes these great events?
- Wide range of buy-ins – These can range from just $0.25 to hundreds of dollars.
- Quick events – A Sit & Go is perfect for people short on time, but enjoy tournaments more than cash games.
- Great mobile options – These smaller-field events can be great options for those using a mobile phone or tablet device.
- Work on your skills – Aspects of the game like heads-up and final table play usually come at the end of a long tournament. Sit & Go’s make this an easier element to work on.
Players who get their Sit & Go game together will have a chance to regularly get in the money in these events. Those skills also carry over to larger multi-table tournaments.
5 Quick Texas Hold’em Strategy Tips
There are numerous theories and styles when it comes to Texas Hold’em online. There are books, training sites, poker strategy coaches, poker mindset coaches, solver software, training apps, and probably a lot more.
These can help a player both at the live tables and online. Here are five quick few tips for new players looking to get started:
- Keep it simple – Playing fewer hands and picking good spots will help a player in the long run. That doesn’t mean just waiting for Aces, but playing fewer pots reduces those times when your hand finishes second or third.
- Play position – The player on the button has a built in advantage. He gets to act last after the flop and can also times some raises and bets well because of this. After the flop, if action checks around, a sizable bet will often take down a pot. Players in later positions in general have this advantage and preflop raises can pay off.
- Be willing to fold – Calling to be a hero can often turn you into a zero.New players tend to believe that every player is bluffing them. Certainly bluffs happen, but playing without folding can siphon off chips. Don’t be a calling station, folding can make those chips last for the long run and help you win more in better spots.
- Bet strong when needed – Avoid being passive or weak in most situations when you are dealt some big hands. Some players get a bit too fancy and try to extract extra chips out of opponents by checking these big hands. While might be a good play in some situations, for the most part it’s important to bet your big hands. Checking allows opponents to do the same and also allows them to catch an even bigger hand than yours. When in doubt, bet, raise, or fold.
- Don’t play above your head – It’s okay to play at micro or low stakes until you feel good about your skills at the table. That’s one of the great things about online poker. You can practice and get better at lower stakes. When you feel comfortable and are winning at one level, it may be time to move up. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Find a comfortable game with stakes that work for you and your bankroll.