The Mechanics of Online Poker – P2

Mandatory Action

One of the ways a card room guarantees it will be able to generate revenue through the rake and ensures the game will not simply be one in which everyone folds every hand is by forcing some players to put some money in the pot each hand. For this action, there is no choice on the part of the affected player as to whether they’ll put the money into the pot. There are four kinds of mandatory spending: antes, bring-ins, blinds, and time.

Antes are chips each player must put into the pot before the cards are dealt. The chips go into the center of the table and add to the amount of money that hand’s winner will collect. Antes are typically found in Stud games, and most tournaments for any type of game, and typically range from 5¢ to $5 in real money games.

Bring-ins are found in Stud games. In seven-card Stud, as you’ll see in Chapter 4, each player is given two cards face down and face up. The player with the lowest face up card is forced to make a bet called the bring-in. In a $5–$10 Stud game the bring-in is typically $2, and if the player decides to only “bring it in” each of the other players is only com- pelled to match the $2 to stay in the hand. The player may also choose to “complete the bet” and throw, well, click, in $5. In case two or more players have the lowest card show- ing, such as a 2, the lowest suit is responsible for the bring-in. The suit order, from low to high, is clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. As such, if one player has the 2♠ showing and another has the 2♦, the 2♦ is responsible for the bring-in. Play then continues clock- wise around the table.

Blinds are forced bets for players in “board games” such as Hold ’em and Omaha. Be- cause all betting is done with each player’s cards unseen by the other players, there is no way to have a bring-in. The solution to this problem is to force two players in each hand to put money in the pot “blind,” that is, before they see their cards. A plastic disk called the Dealer button rotates one seat clockwise around the table after each hand. The player immediately to the left of the button must put up half the small bet, and the next person must put up a full small bet. As an example, if the game is $2–$4 Hold ’em, in which the first two rounds of betting are in $2 increments and the second two are in $4 increments, the “little” or “small” blind must put $1 in front of himself before the cards are dealt, while the next person, the “big” blind, must put $2 at risk. To stay in, all other players must also put in at least the $2 the big blind posted. As opposed to an ante, which is “dead money” in the center, these blinds are “live” in that the blinds count toward their total obligation to stay in. If there is no raise to the big blind’s $2, the little blind must only put in $1 more to stay in (or raise to $4 by putting in $3). If there is no raise, the big blind may choose to “let them live” and not raise or raise as they wish.

Time is an alternate means for the card room to generate its income. Rather than taking
a percentage of each pot, each player is required to give the dealer a specified amount of money at a prescribed time interval. Paying time generally starts at the $10–$20 level and replaces the rake. We doubt you’ll see this online, but if you ever sit down in a brick-and- mortar card room, don’t be surprised.

Player Actions

Now that we’ve talked about what happens before a hand is dealt, we can now move on to what happens once you’ve got the cards in your hot little virtual hands.

✦ Check. When a player checks, it means they take no action, neither putting chips into the pot nor folding. It is not possible to check during the first round of bet- ting because of the mandatory actions described in the previous section. There will always be some bet you’ll need to match to stay in the hand. In the other rounds a player may decline to bet if no player acting before them has bet.

✦ Bet. This is when you like your hand to the point that you’re willing to put some money behind it. Betting amounts may be fixed or may vary, depending on the game.

✦ Call. You like your hand enough to stay in and match the current bet. If the
big blind is $2 and no one has raised to $4, for example, it will cost only $2 to stay in. If one or more raises have happened, you must match the total amount it is “to go.”

✦ Raise. When you feel it is in your best interest to force your opponents to put more money in the pot, you may raise. Raising says to your opponents “I have a good hand! How good is your hand?” If someone “re-raises” you, they’re saying “My hand’s better than your hand!” Of course, that may not always be the case. Bluffing is a very common tactic, especially at the higher-dollar and no-limit games. Future chapters talk about when to bluff and how to go about deciding if your opponent is bluffing.

✦ Fold. Living to fight another day, you give up your hand and all the chips you’ve put into the pot to that point. Fresh cards, please…

✦ Check-raising is allowed. In this case, a player wanting to make the pot larger will decline to bet at their first opportunity, hoping another player will bet. When it comes to the player who originally checked, they raise! Traditionally, check- raising was frowned upon in “friendly” games. For some, this is still the case. In any brick-and-mortar or virtual card room, however, it is allowed and is seen as a legitimate tactic.

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