- the pre-flop,
- the flop,
- the turn, and
- the river.
We'll break down each of these rounds, how they work and how you should be playing each one. The greatest players adapt their overall advanced poker strategy based on the round they are in, amongst many other factors (e.g., position, stack size, style of the opponents).
Texas Hold'Em Betting Rounds Explained
In Texas Hold'em there are four betting rounds, one round before any community cards are dealt (called pre-flop) and three after the community cards are dealt (called post-flop). This is how each of the betting rounds work:
The pre-flop round of betting starts with the blinds being posted. The two players to the left of the button post the small and big blind, and depending on the game there may be an ante posted by the players.
The action starts to the left of the big blind and goes clockwise around the table. Players have 3 options when the action gets to them:
- Fold - The player puts no extra money into the pot but relinquishes their hand.
- Call - The player matches the current bet that has been made - if they are the first to act or if all players before them have folded then they match the big blind (this is called a limp)
- Raise - The player puts in a bet that's at least double the amount of the big blind.
The betting round ends once all players have had a chance to act and when all players who haven't folded have put in the same amount of money. If only one player is remaining after a bet then the hand ends and that player wins the pot.
Once the pre-flop betting round ends, the first three community cards (called the 'flop') are dealt. This is done by dealing the top card face down (called the 'burn card'), followed by dealing the next three cards face up. Once these cards have been dealt the next betting round starts with the player who is to the left of the button.
The first player has two options, they can either check or bet (there is no need to fold as they are not facing a bet). If the player chooses to bet they need to bet at least the size of the big blind. If the player checks that means that they do not make a bet and the action moves clockwise to the next player.
This betting round continues until all players have made an action and when all players who haven't folded have put in the same amount of money.
After the flop betting round has ended, the fourth community card (called the 'turn') is dealt. Again, the dealer deals the top card face down, then the next card face up. Once the card has been dealt the next round of betting starts with the player to the left of the button.
The players' betting options are the same as they were on the flop as all post-flop betting rounds work the same way. If you are playing limit hold'em the turn is where the size of the bet doubles.
Once all players have made an action and all bets have been matched, the betting round ends.
This is the final round of betting in Texas Hold'em. Once the turn betting round ends, the fifth community card (called the 'river') is dealt - after dealing the 'burn card' face down for the third time.
Again, all betting options are the same as the flop and the turn; if not bet has been made then the players can either check or make a bet themselves, if they are facing a bet they can match it (call), fold their hand or make a raise.
At the end of this betting round if two or more players are remaining then the players' cards are turned face up and whoever has the best five-card poker hand wins the pot.
In my opinion, pre-flop strategy is the most important out of the four betting rounds as it's the foundation for the rest of our game. If we don't get this right then we can't expect to be able to play a solid post-flop strategy.
Raise, Don't Limp
The first thing to note is that if we're first to act and we want to play a hand, we want to be raising and not limping - usually between 2-3x the size of the big blind. This is because when we raise, we give ourselves two ways to win the pot - either we have the best hand at the end of the hand, or we get our opponent to fold pre-flop and we win. If we limp, we cannot get our opponent to fold. Try to learn more about three-betting (re-raising) and how powerful such a move can be.
Check Your Position
We need to make sure we're positionally aware - meaning that we change our pre-flop strategy based on what position we're in and the action that's gone before us. We're going to want to be raising tighter from earlier positions and looser from later positions as we're more likely to be out of position from an early position so we need a stronger hand to compensate.
Don't Always Play In The Blinds
It's also important not to be too invested in hands from the blinds just because you have money in the pot already. A lot of players feel like they have to play very weak hands against raises because of the investment but a lot of the time it's better to fold those hands and concentrate on playing a solid range from every position.
This is the first of the post-flop betting rounds we play in Texas Hold'em and is one of the tougher streets to play as ranges are at their widest. This not only makes it harder to deal with our opponents but it makes it hard for us to know where exactly the hand we're playing falls within our range and what we should do accordingly.
Cbetting Is Powerful
While it's been years since the c-bet (continuation bet) was first discovered to be a powerful weapon against your opponent, it still has held on to a lot of that power and allows you to take a lot of pots down on either the flop or the turn through pure aggression. A lot of players find it hard to optimally defend against c-bets as solvers call and raise a lot of weak hands against c-bets. This means human players are going to be overfolding, meaning we win the pot more often than we should.
Folding Isn't Weakness
One mistake I see a lot of players making is not being able to fold multiple hands in a row in post-flop scenarios, especially against the same player. They view having to fold as a weakness and it's easy for egos to get involved when the same player keeps betting into you and you have to fold. However, money saved is money earned and if your hand isn't a call or raise against a bet, it's much better to fold and save the money than getting dragged into some ego war which can cost you your stack.
After the flop comes to the turn, ranges start to narrow as we've had two betting rounds of action to define both our and our opponent's ranges so we should be starting to figure out what our opponent's ranges look like.
Continuing With Draws
If we've been the aggressor pre-flop and on the flop, betting the turn when we have a draw is a great way to make sure we're keeping up the aggression but have outs to improve if we get called. The stronger our draw is (flush draw, open-ended straight draw, etc.) the more comfortable we're going to be betting but it's important that we also keep betting with our marginal draws such as our gut shots.
If we've called on the flop with a draw then there are still times we can consider calling against a turn bet. This is going to be based on the size of the bet we're facing, as well as what we think our opponent will do on the river if we make our hand. If we think they will continue betting and maybe even pay off a raise then it can be worth it to draw to our hand even if we don't get quite the right odds.
Release Mediocre Hands
Hands that we've called with on the flop such as bottom pair and middle pair should often be folded to turn aggression from our opponents. These kinds of weak starting hands can often be good against just one street of aggression, however, when we're facing two or more post-flop bets our hand is only beating a bluff and if we call all of our weak hands we're going to be way overcalling.
This is the final betting round of the hand and the point where we should have the clearest idea of our opponent's range. This is often the most expensive street as the pot is at its biggest, so making the right decision is very important.
Whether you know you're likely to have the best hand or if you know you're likely to not have the best hand, you're going to want to bet (as a value bet and a bluff respectively). It's important when making these bets to remain balanced and not change your sizing depending on whether you're bluffing or value betting.
Whether you're making your bluffs smaller to avoid losing as much when you're called or making them bigger to get your opponent to fold more, a good player will pick up on this and will be able to play nearly perfectly against you - which is not good when this is the most expensive street!
Check When Unsure Of Your Hand Strength
There will be times when we get to the river but we're unsure whether we have the best hand and it can be tempting to bet to "find out where you're at". However, what we'll find in these scenarios is that we'll fold out all worse hands and only get called by better - losing all value from our hand - or get raised by some better hands and some bluffs, meaning we lose even more value.
We're better off checking in these scenarios, as when our opponent checks there's a good chance we win the pot, and by checking we allow our opponent to sometimes bluff which will earn us more when we can make the call.
Poker Betting Rounds: FAQ
Answers to the most common questions about betting rounds in poker and Texas Hold'Em.
What are the betting rounds in a Texas Hold'Em game?
There are four betting rounds in Texas Hold'em: pre-flop, Flop, Turn, and River. The pre-flop betting round begins after the two hole cards have been dealt, the Flop betting round begins after the first three community cards are dealt, and the Turn and River betting rounds begin after the fourth and fifth community cards are dealt respectively.
What does it mean to "play on the button"?
To "play on the button" means that you're playing a hand from the "button" or "BTN" position. Each seat at the table has a name based on how many players are at the table and where it is relative to the blinds. The button is considered the best position as you are guaranteed to be in position post-flop.
How does a player "play in position"?
A player "plays in position" by being last to act post-flop. Being able to play in position is considered a big advantage as you get to see what your opponents do before you have to make a decision.
What is a continuation bet?
A continuation bet is a bet made by a player who has made the last aggressive action on every previous street. For example, Player A raises pre-flop and is called by Player B, the flop is dealt and Player A makes a bet - this bet is a continuation bet. However, if in the same scenario Player A checks and Player B makes a bet, this is not a continuation bet.
Should you "slow play" in any Texas Hold'em game?
Being able to "slow play" hands in Texas Hold'em is an important part of a poker player's arsenal. However, the point of slow playing is to be unpredictable and have hands in spots that other players won't expect so it shouldn't be something you do all the time, just once every now and again.
Texas Hold'em gives you four opportunities to make money from your opponents - the pre-flop, flop, turn, and river betting rounds - so make sure you maximize every chance you get!