Betting in Poker

If there are no bets to you (it is checked to you):

Bet: You can put in one bet into the pot. The other players must call that bet, or else they must fold.

Check: You can choose not to put in any money into the pot. If no one bets, then the game continues with everyone still in the hand. If someone else bets, then you have a decision to make...

If there is a bet to you:

Fold: You don't put in any more money, but you are out of the hand and cannot win any money. Any money you have put into the pot up to this point is lost.

Call: You put in money equal to the amount bet. You stay in the hand. Play continues and the next card is dealt, unless someone else raises. (If there are no more cards, then there is a showdown.)

Raise: You put money into the pot equal to the amount bet so far, plus additional money (the raise). Now, all the other players must call your raise or fold. They may also reraise you.


Showdown

If there is more than one player left after all the cards have been dealt, and everyone has called on the last round of betting after that card is dealt, then those players show their hands. Whoever is holding the best poker hand wins all the money in the pot. If there is a tie, then all tying hands split the pot in equal amounts.

Hands are shown starting with the last person to raise or bet out, then proceeding clockwise (the normal direction of play). Any player may choose to muck his hand (fold without showing).

The poker room will also take a rake from the pot before it is distributed to the winner or winners. The rake is the house's share and is usually a few cents on the dollar.


Win by default

If everyone except one player folds, then that player gets all the money in the pot, minus the rake. He does not have to show his hand to the other players.


Betting tactics

Reraise: Suppose someone else raises you, but you feel that you have a very strong hand. You can reraise your opponent to forfce him to put in another bet to stay in. Some poker rooms will let two players reraise each other indefinitely. Others will cap the total number of bets at 4 or some other number. Most online poker rooms cap you at 4 bets in each betting round. (The betting is only capped for limit poker; no-limit and pot-limit games do not have betting caps).

Check-raise: Suppose you hold a strong hand, and you are greedy. You want to take more than just one bet from your opponent. So you check, your opponent bets, and you raise him. Now he calls, and if your hand is as good as you think it is, you just won two bets from him. Check-raising is a powerful tool, but it can be dangerous, because your opponent might also check. Then you win no money from him. Or he might have an even better hand then you and reraise you.

Check-call: If you have a decent hand, but you think there is a good chance your opponent might have a better one, you may wish to avoid a raise. In this case, you can check and call.


Blinds

Why don't players just fold until they get pocket aces?

This is prevented by forcing each player to pay a "tax" on the hands he plays. This tax comes in the form of blind bets commonly called blinds. Each hand, one player at the table puts in a big blind (BB), and the player in front of him puts in a small blind (SB). In most games, the small blind is half the size of the big blind. The big blind is usually the size of a small bet in a limit game.

For example, in a $2-$4 Limit game:
Small Blind: $1
Big Blind: $2
Small Bet: $2 (preflop and flop)
Big Bet: $4 (turn and river)

The blinds are paid regardless of whether the player likes his cards or not. The other players must call (or raise) the blind bet, or else they must fold. The player in the small blind must make up the difference between the BB and SB in order to stay in the hand. So if the big blind was $2 and the small blind was $1, the player in the small blind would have to pay $1 to call.


Position

Poker Positional Play 101

There are many different forms of poker that you can play, but they all have one thing in common - position is power. Good players in one form of poker can still dominate in a brand new type of poker, even if they don't understand the nuances of the new game, just by maximizing the effect of position.

What is Position?

If you are relatively new to the game, position is something you're going to hear a lot more about in the future. What it refers to is how close to the dealer's button you are during a hand and what side you are on.

The dealer's button - the 'button' - is the best position on the table. The position directly clockwise to the button is the small blind and the next position over is the big blind. The two blind positions require special strategy and are covered in other strategy posts on this site. Other forms of poker are typically set-up in a similar manner.

Here are a few terms you will need to know before we continue:

Early position:This refers to the first few seats to the left of the big blind. While you don't have to put in any money involuntarily, you have to act early on in each round of betting.

Late position: This refers exclusively to the button and the seat one to his right. A player in late position will be the last to act in most situations.

Middle position: All the seats between early and late position. It's not the worst spot to be in, but not the best either.


The Advantages of Position

By now you probably get the feeling that position is one of the most important concepts in the game, but you might not be sure exactly why. If you looked at a breakdown of your past playing stats, you would find that you win far more in late positions like the button than you do in early position. Here are three key aspects of late position that make it so powerful:


1. You Have the Most Information

Poker is a game of information, the more you know about your opponent's hand, the better you can play against it. At the start of a hand, everyone is on a level playing field, but as players in early and middle position are forced to act, they reveal information about their hand. This occurs in every round of betting, meaning that position is just as important on the river as it is before the flop.


2. Let's You Control Pot Size

When you are in late position, you are the last to act, which gives you the choice of closing off betting for the round.

Scenario: Pretend you have a medium-strength hand, like a medium pair on the flop, consider what you would do in different positions.

If you are in early position, you have to make the tough choice of betting to get value out of weaker hands and not giving draws a free card or to check and try to induce a bluff. If you bet, you give away information about your hand and also risk being raised and often being forced to fold, even if you might have the best hand.

On the other hand, if you are in late position, you can keep the pot small with your medium-strength hand. You can either bet small if checked to or check behind if you want to try and get to a showdown. If someone has made a bet before you, you can then decide if you want to commit that amount or fold your hand. In this scenario, you didn't have to waste a bet to find out you didn't have the best hand.


3. It's Easier to Bluff or Value Bet

You will find yourself in many pots where a round of betting is checked around to you in late position. If you wanted to bluff at the pot in any other position, you would have to make a normal sized bet, but in this case everyone has already shown weakness. In many cases you can make a bet that is smaller than normal and get everyone to fold. On the other hand, if you have a great hand, knowing that your opponents likely have weak hands means you can value bet a bit smaller as well and get called more often.

That might seem like a contradiction, but it isn't. A smaller bet in general will get called more often, but even if you get called when you are bluffing, you lose less and overall will profit more.


Taking Advantage of Position While Playing

While all of this sounds great, it would have no purpose if you couldn't use it to play better poker.

Beginner players who are trying to learn start off by using a hand chart that lists all the top hands to play. When put into practice this means that they play the same amount of hands from each position. If you want to use the power of position, you need to limit how many hands you play in early position while expanding the amount of hands you play in position.

While the exact range of hands you should play in different positions will vary based on table conditions and your ever-changing skill level, you should have a general trend that leads to you playing the most hands on the button. Experiment with the range of hands that you play in each position and keep track of your results in order to see what is part of an optimal strategy.

Position is a concept that will constantly influence your results. This is a part of the game that you should spend a lot of time thinking about and experimenting with.


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UTG Under the Gun (first to bet)
BB Big Blind
SB Small Blind
D Dealer

Poker Betting Structures

Limit Poker

Limit poker, also called fixed-limit poker (FL), is just what it sounds like. Bets and raises are limited to a fixed size; you cannot make a smaller or larger bet. For, example, if you play a $1-$2 Limit game, the bet sizes would be:

Preflop: $1 (AKA a small bet)
On the flop: $1
On the turn: $2 (AKA a big bet)
On the river: $2

The above table shows how much one bet would be at any stage of the hand. So before the flop, one bet would be $1. If a player bets $1 and another player wants to raise him, that player must raise exactly $1, so the final bet would be $2.

On the river, one bet would be $2. If a player bets $2 and another player wants to raise him, the player must raise exactly $2, so the final bet would be $4.


No-Limit Poker

No-limit poker (NL) involves the most strategy of all the betting structures. It is also a very fun game, although it is very intense. In each hand you could potentially win or lose your entire stack. There is no limit to the maximum bet you can make in any betting round. However, there is a minimum bet amount, which is equal to the big blind.

For example, in a $1-$2 no-limit game, the small blind posts $1 and the big blind posts $2. All players must call or raise the big blind ($2) or fold.

Let's suppose another player bets $200, but you only have $80 at the table? You can go all-in on your $80. If you win the hand, you get only $80 from your opponent. If two other players bet $200, and you only have $80, then you would win $80 from each of them ($160 total). Then the winner between the two of them would get the remaining money (the sidepot).


Pot-Limit Poker

Pot-limit poker (PL) is a popular game in Europe and online. It is very similar to no-limit poker. The minimum bet is again equal to the big blind, and the maximum bet is the amount of money in the pot.

Many people play pot-limit because they find no-limit games to be very fun, but they think that pot-limit is less dangerous than no-limit. It is true that another player cannot put you all-in unless the pot is as large as your stack. However, you are at a huge disadvantage if you are playing scared. If you fold out of fear of building the pot, then you are playing too tight. And if you refuse to bet strong (build the pot) when you have a good hand, then you are not getting value on your winners.

Pot-limit is just as risky as no-limit, and you should not play if the stakes are too high for you.

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