Because it is a poker-derived casino game, it is basically set up as "the player versus the house", and can be played even with only one player (and the dealer, against whom all players play). When multiple players play the game simultaneously, they do so independently of each other and cannot affect each other's hands or play. Players are told not to show each other their hands, though in many cases players do so without penalty.
Texas Hold 'Em Bonus (THEB) begins when all players have placed their Ante bet on the ante circle on the felt in front of them. The dealer then deals all players and themselves a two-card starting hand, just as in Texas Hold 'Em.
Each player must then make a choice: they may either fold or "call" a bet equal to twice the size of their ante. If a player folds, their hand is discarded and their play ends. If a player instead "calls", they place a wager equal to twice the size of their ante bet on the betting circle labelled "Flop" in front of them (immediately above the Ante circle).
Once all players have either folded or called, the dealer then deals a flop of three cards into the center of the table. Each remaining player may then place an optional bet equal to the size of the Ante (note: it is not equal to the size of the Flop bet!) into the betting circle labelled "Turn" if they choose to do so. There is no penalty for not betting. In some casinos, players must place tiny "check" buttons in their betting circle to indicate that they are declining to bet.
Once all players have either bet or not into the Turn circle, the dealer burns a card and then deals the turn card into the community cards. Once again, all players may choose to place an optional bet equal to the size of the Ante bet into the betting circle labelled "River". There is no penalty for not betting.
Once all players have either bet or not into the River circle, the dealer burns a card and then deals the final river card into the community cards. No more betting occurs.
The dealer then turns up their own, original, hidden two-card hand. The dealer had not looked at the hand prior to this, so they could not give off tells. Once turned up, the dealer makes their best five-card hand from their two downcards and the five community cards, exactly as a player would at the showdown of a standard hand of hold 'em.
Any player who can beat the dealer's hand, using the standard hand ranking of hold 'em, wins. They win even money on their Flop, Turn, and River bets, and push their Ante bet (do not lose it, but do not win anything) - though they do win even money on their Ante bet if the player's winning hand is a straight or better (or a flush or better in Atlantic City).
Any player who ties the dealer's hand, pushes. They receive all their bets back, including their Ante, and lose nothing - but also win nothing.
Any player who loses to the dealer's hand, loses. They lose all bets in all their betting circles, including the Ante circle.
Optional Bonus Bet
As with many modern table games, Texas Hold 'Em Bonus also includes an optional "bonus bet" which players can place prior to the deal, and which plays independently of the player's hand winning or losing. It's a separate wager on what the player's starting hand will be, regardless of whether it wins or loses. The "bonus bet" pays on a straight odds paytable according to the player's cards:
AA = 30-to-1 KK, QQ, JJ, or TT = 15-to-1 ... and so forth.
The bonus bet is generally paid by the dealer at the same time as the dealer is determining hand wins or losses, so even if you "fold" you would keep your hand available (although wise players would never fold any hand as good as one that wins on the bonus bet paytable!)
As with all bonus bets on table games, the bonus bet is not a good wager; the return is quite poor, much worse than simply playing the normal game.
Simple strategy is, interestingly, to simply almost never fold. Any hand that is better than 7-2 offsuit is worth calling the Flop bet. A reasonable strategy for later bets seems to be to bet only if:
- you have at least one pair or better
- you have ace high on the turn (but not to bet ace high on the river)
- you are four to a flush and have at least one overcard
One way to think of it is this way: you are playing hold 'em and are a chipstack leader at the table, and the dealer has just gone "all in" for a small amount, without looking at their cards. What cards would you call that small amount with? Those are the cards which you should "play".