The rules of Texas Hold'em

The following are the official rules of
Cambridge Pub Poker Texas Hold'em tournaments

Tournament Director

It is the Tournament Director's role to control the tournament, setting blind levels, solving arguments and breaking down tables.

Tournament Directors are to consider the best interest of the game and fairness as the top priority in the decision making process. Unusual circumstances may require that exceptions be made in the interest of fairness and fun. The TD's decision is final.

The dealer

Whilst in most cases the player with the dealer button is the player who will deal the cards, this does not necessarily have to be the case. Any player who is proficient at dealing can deal the cards instead.

To decide who will be dealer first on each table, all players are dealt or draw one card from the deck, with the player who draws the highest card starting with the button. In case two players get the same high card, the suit, in descending order of, spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs will determine who deals first.

This procedure is used again if a table is re-seated and 50% or more of the players are new to the table, and at the start of the final table.


All players arriving at a poker tournament prior to the start of play begin with an equal amount of chips, worth 10,000 points. Players that registering before 8.30 p.m. receive a bonus chip worth 1,000 points.

Play continues with players betting chips against each other until one player remains with all the chips.


If the player in the small blind position is eliminated then the dealer button moves to the empty position as if the player were still at the table and the player who had the button on the previous hand deals again. This is called a “dead button”. The blinds rotate as usual.

If the player in the big blind is eliminated, the small blind position is 'dead' as above and only the big blind is posted. The following hand the blind structures will return to normal. This ensures every player is posting a big blind and there is forced action on every hand and no-one is posting more or less than anyone else.

Shuffling and dealing cards

The Dealer must shuffle the cards at least three times, and the cards must be cut every hand. If concerned about the shuffle, cut, or other preparation of the cards any player may call for a reshuffle before the cards have been dealt.

A player must be sat at their table at the start of a deal in order to play a hand. If a player leaves the table during play, for any reason, their hand immediately becomes dead.

If a player returns to the table while the cards are being dealt - too late!

A player is considered to have left the table when they have left the room or gone out of sight of the table. This specifically includes going to the bar, going outside for a smoke, or simply going to the loo.

In case it's not obvious, this means that you cannot play a hand by waving through a window, and cannot call a bet, or remain in a hand while having a fag!

Absent or late players

Players can join a tournament up until the end of the second blind increase. A late player entering a tournament will be docked 10 times the amount of the big blind currently in play. Players can join later at the TD's discretion but with a maximum of roughly 30% of the original chip allocation - e.g. 3,000 for 10,000 chip tournaments.

A player who has left the table for whatever reason but has not left the tournament is always dealt a hand, and will be put up for blinds if in a blind position. If a player is not present when their first card is dealt, the hand will be automatically folded after all cards have been dealt.

Misdeals and mucked cards

If two or more cards are exposed due to dealer error, it is a misdeal. If only one card is exposed, or seen by someone at the table, the dealer continues, and then replaces the seen card with a new card, and the seen card then becomes the first burn card.

The burn cards and pile of folded cards must be kept separate until the hand is completed. If at any time a player's cards (face down) touch the pile of folded cards the cards are dead. They must remain in the pile and the player loses all action on that hand. The current dealer is the only player allowed to touch the folded cards. No player is allowed to turn over any cards in the pile, even the dealer. After completion of the hand, the current dealer will collect all cards and pass the dealer button onto the next player.

A hand is declared dead if: a player folds or announces they are folding when facing a bet or raise, throws their hand away in a forward motion causing another player to act behind them, cards touch the fold pile (face down), or if cards are thrown into another players hand (face up or down), in this situation both hands are dead. Once a hand is dead and/or in the fold pile it can not be retrieved or made live again and the player may take no further part in that round.

Players, including the dealer, are not allowed to review the mucked or folded cards. Once cards have touched the stack of folded or burned cards they are dead and cannot be played under any circumstances, which means that any dispute about what they might or might not have been, should be irrelevant.

The final table and heads up play

When only 2 players are left in the round the table is said to be 'heads up'. For this situation special rules apply as follows:

The dealer places the small blind.
The big blind is dealt the first card.
Pre-flop the dealer acts first
After the flop the dealer is second to act (play returns to normal).

State your intentions

A player must state their intentions (call, raise) before placing chips in front of them. If a player does not state raise, any single chip placed by a player will be an assumed call and the dealer will return the change. Multiple chips placed by a player will be an assumed raise for the total amount placed out. All chips must be placed in one motion to prevent 'string betting' where players keep adding chips one at a time to see other players' reactions.

All chips must remain visible and on the table at all times unless you are moving to a new table. A player's highest chip denomination must be visible to all players at all times.