Without betting, Poker would just be a game of luck, and the best hand would always win. Betting is the key to Poker, and minimizing losses when holding a poor hand while maximizing wins with good hands is what Poker is all about.
Every betting interval requires a check or a bet from the first player to act. Each player to the left of the first player to act may either check or bet if no one else has bet. Whoever makes the first bet is said make the opening bet. If a bet has been made, other players may fold, call, or raise.
When a player folds, he goes out of the hand. He loses any chips he has contributed to that pot and has no further interest in the hand. After the final betting round, a showdown among the players still active in the hand determines the winner.
Here are some other key terms to describe the action that occurs during the betting phase:
Ante: A token sum of money contributed by each player before the cards are dealt. Antes are used in Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Stud/8, Razz, and many other games.
Blind bet: A forced bet by one or more players before the cards are dealt. This takes the place of an ante. The requirement to post a blind bet rotates around the table from hand to hand so each player pays his fair share. Blind bets are common in Texas Hold’em and Omaha. In most casino games, there are two blinds: a big blind and a small blind. These blinds are considered live, which means that players who post the blind have the opportunity to raise when the action gets back around to them.
Call: To equalize the amount wagered by putting the amount of money wagered into the pot.
Check: A check is a bet of zero dollars. By checking, a player retains the right to call any bet made by player who acts after he does, or even to raise. But if someone’s already bet when it’s your turn to act, you can no longer check, and must either fold, call, or raise.
Checkraise: To check and then raise if one of your opponents bets. This is generally done to trap players for a bet or two, when the checkraiser has a very powerful hand.
Raise: To increase the amount wagered by an amount equal to your opponent’s bet — or by a greater amount, if the game is spread limit, pot limit, or no-limit.
Different types of games call for specific kinds of betting:
In a fixed limit game, no one may bet or raise more than a predetermined number of chips. This limit, however, usually varies with the round of the game. In Stud Poker, betting limits usually double when the fifth card is dealt. Thus, a $10–$20 game means that the first two rounds of betting are based on limits of $10, while the last three are in increments of $20. In Texas Hold’em, with four betting rounds, betting limits usually double on the third round.
Spread limit games are similar to fixed limit, but the bettors can wager any amount within the limits. A limit might be $2–$10 any time, which means that wagers can be made in any amount within those limits at any time, with the proviso that a raise must be at least the equal of the bet that preceded it.
In pot limit, bets or raises are limited only by the amount of money in the pot at the time the wager is made. A player who raises may count her call as part of the pot. If there is $10 in the pot and someone wagers $10, a raiser may call that bet, making the pot $30 and then raise the entire pot. When she is done, the pot will contain $60.
In no limit, a player may bet or raise any amount of chips she has in front of her at any time.
In most limit games, a bet and either three or four raises per betting round are permitted.