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Adjusting From Home Games to Casino Games

Most people who play poker seriously started by playing in home games. The structure of these games is simple. Generally, everyone would ante a certain amount (say, $0.25) and then the betting was structured as to have a minimum and maximum bet. For example, the bets and raises would range between $0.25 and $2 each round.

The play at home games was generally: bet, call (or perhaps bet, raise, call.) Most hands would go to a showdown, and typically the person who had the hottest cards would win at the end of the day. Games were mostly luck and a little bit of skill.

Internet poker and casino poker are very different from this typical home game in 3 ways: the ante structure, the betting structure, and the competition.

Ante Structure
First, unless you are playing 7-card stud, there is no ante; instead, there are blinds. The person to the left of the dealer must pay the small blind and the person after him must pay the big blind. These are forced bets. All the other players are not forced to pay anything to receive cards (they do not need to ante), but they must match the big blind or any raise to the big blind to see the flop. Thus, a typical game, involving 6 people, with a small blind (SB) of 50 cents and a big blind (BB) of $1 would go as follows preflop:

Seat one: SB ($.50)
Seat two: BB ($1)
Seat three: Fold
Seat four: Calls BB ($1)
Seat five: Raises BB ($2)
Dealer (Seat six): Fold

Seat one: Fold
Seat two: Calls raise ($1)
Seat four: Calls raise ($1)

Then the betting would begin with the big blind (since the small blind folded) after the flop. For more information about blinds and betting structures, check out our Poker Rules section.

Betting Structure
In addition to the ante structure being different, the type of betting differs. The most similar to the spread limit (i.e. the minimum and maximum bet) would be no-limit. There is still a minimum bet, however, the maximum bet is the amount of chips in front of you.

There is a common myth in no-limit poker that if someone bets more chips than you have, you must fold. That is not true. If Tom bets $30 and I only have $15, I only must put in $15 to call. If I'm the only person in the pot, Tom is essentially betting only $15. However, let's say that the pot is between me, Tom, and Jane. Suppose both Tom and Jane have $50, while I have $15. Tom put in $30, I go all-in for $15, and Jane must call $30 to stay in. $15 from each player ($45 total) would be in the main pot. $15 from Jane and $15 from Tom would be in a sidepot. So, at the showdown, I would be in contention for $45 and Tom and Jane would be in contention for the $45 main pot plus the $30 sidepot. If I have the best hand, and Jane has the second best hand, I would win $45 and she would win $30. If Jane's hand were better than mine, she would win the entire $75.

Closely related to no-limit is pot-limit, where you can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the size of the pot.

The final form of betting is known as limit (also called fixed-limit). This type of game has fixed bets. For example, in a $2-$4 game, the size of the bets are $2 or $4, depending on which round it is. In Texas Hold'em and Omaha, each bet preflop and at the flop (when the first three cards come out) is $2. If someone wishes to raise, he must do so by $2. Thus, in a 4-handed situation, this would be a typical case:

Seat one: Check
Seat two: Bet $2
Seat three: Raise $2 (to $4)
Seat four: Call $4

Seat one: Fold
Seat two: Call $4

The bets on the turn (when four cards are out) and the river (when all five cards are out) would be the higher amount: $4. So, taken the above example, this is how the turn betting may happen:

Seat two: Bet $4
Seat three: Fold
Seat four: Raise $4 (to $8)

Seat two: Call $4

Finally, skill pays off more on the internet and in the casino. People are actually try to win because the money exchanged is often more than just nickels and dimes. You should not just call to the river 'just to see what he has' and such. You must use strategy if you expect to win in the long run.

Someone whose only poker experience is playing at home games will probably lose in the long run on the internet or in a casino if they do not learn solid poker strategy. The other strategy articles on this website will help you to become a winning poker player.

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