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Poker Betting

by Randy Ray

One of the basics involved in learning how to play poker is to understand that it is a game of betting. If there is no betting involved, it's not poker. No one can play poker with even a minimal level of competence if they don't understand poker hand rankings and poker betting.

Order of Betting

Poker BettingIt's critical to understand that you don't bet out of turn during a poker game. All players act in turn according to the rules of the game, and even though these rules vary from game to game, 2 things don't vary:

  • Betting goes clockwise around the table

  • Betting when it's not your turn is BAD

How to Bet

Online, betting is pretty easy, because you just click on the button that corresponds to the action you want to take. But in real live poker, you're going to either use some combination of hand signals and chip movement or speak up. Either way, you need to know how to bet.

To bet into a pot, you can just announce that you'd like to bet. Or, if you're not the vocal type, you can move the chips in the amount of your bet forward in front of you. Don't throw the chips into the pot though. This is called "splashing the pot", and it makes it difficult to ascertain whether or not you put in the right amount.

Raising works the same way, only you announce "raise" instead of "bet". Be careful not to get your chips in two motions, one for the bet and the other for the raise. That's called a "string bet", and it's not allowed. (String betting can be used to gauge other players' reactions to your call before raising.) This is a common beginner's mistake in live poker.

Folding is really easy. You announce "fold" and/or move your cards toward the dealer so they can muck the cards.

Checking is also pretty easy. You announce "check", or you just tap the table with your hand.

I prefer to announce my action verbally, although most players just use the chips and hand motions when they bet.

Types of Betting Action

Opening bets

The first person to put money into the pot is opening the action.


Someone who calls is someone who matches the amount already bet so she can continue to play.


Someone who raises is increasing the amount of the bet. Most games have a cap on how many times a pot can be raised into. To stay in the hand, other players have to call all the raises too.


Someone checks when they decide not to bet or fold.


Folding isn't really a betting activity but an absence of betting activity. You fold your hand when you throw it into the muck and give up any claim to the pot.

Antes and Blinds - Forced Bets

All poker games have some kind of forced bet to make sure there is action. Otherwise a player could fold until he had the best possible hand. In most community card games, like Omaha and Texas holdem, this forced bet is a blind, which is forced bet that rotates around the table. Most of these games have a big blind and a small blind, which is half the size (approximately) of the big blind.

Stud and draw games are usually played with an ante. Antes are paid every single hand. In some tournaments, blinds and antes are used in the later rounds.

The difference between a blind and an ante is that the blind is only paid once every few hands (depending on how many players are at the table), while the ante is paid every hand.

Betting Limits

Poker games are defined not only by the rules of the game being played, but also by the betting limits. In community games, these are usually defined as limit, pot limit, or no limit games. Most stud and draw games are always played as limit games.

In a limit game, the betting limits are clearly defined, and all bets and raises have to be made according to those limits. The limits are generally at a lower level during the 1st couple of betting rounds, and then bigger in the next couple of betting rounds. So in a $3/$6 Texas holdem game, betting would be done in increments of $3 during the first 2 rounds, and $6 during the last 2 rounds.

In a pot limit game, the size of the pot is the maximum bet that can be made.

In a no limit game, a player can bet all of the chips he has in front of him any time.

In the even that one player has more chips than another, the player with more chips doesn't automatically win like you see in the movies. (And the opposing player doesn't have to run get the mortgage for his house to cover his underage either.) The amount that the shorter stack can win is limited to the amount he's able to add to the pot. Amounts beyond that are put in a side pot that the short stack doesn't have a claim to.

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