This article is part of our section on the basics of poker. Previously, we have shared the ranking of hands and which hand is more powerful in poker.

You’ve learned now that all types of poker share some common characteristics. That is, they all involve rounds of betting and rounds of card draws where players receive (or replace) cards. The number of betting rounds an card draws is specific to each type of game. However, once you know how to bet, you won’t have a problem easily picking up another variation.

This section is split up into 4 parts: forced bets, general betting terminology, limits, and how to win. We’ll attempt to make the following overview of betting as general as possible to apply to just about all the different types of poker.

Starting a Game

You might of heard the term “pot” before. We aren’t talking drugs here… this is the communal fund where all bets go to during the game. It’s not hard to find, just look to the center of the table. The goal of the game is to win (capture) the pot. When you win, all the chips in the pot will be shoved to you.

To start a game, most forms of poker have some form of a forced bet. This comes in the form of an ante, blind, or bring-in. The idea of a forced bet is to make sure the pot starts off with some money for each and every hand. (It wouldn’t be much fun to win a hand worth nothing.)

There are 3 types of forced bets:
1. Ante – where each player places an equal forced bet into the pot. Antes occur before the dealing begins.
2. Blind – where one or more players places a forced bet into the pot before dealing. There are many variations on a blind bet, but the most common is where there are two bets, a small and a big blind. For example, if the player to the left (small blind) is forced to make a blind bet of $2, then the next player to the left (big blind) is forced to make a blind bet of $4.
3. Bring-In – where one player places a forced bet after cards have been dealt (but before additional action). The player is selected usually by the value of cards dealt face up on the initial deal.

Terminology in Game Play

So, the forced bet has been take care of, cards have been dealt, and the betting begins. Each player will take his or her turn as the betting round progresses (always to the left).

  • Check When a player checks, they are essentially betting $0 and passing the action on to the next player. You can only check when there is not a bet already on the table.
  • Bet If there were no bets on the table, a player places one by betting.
  • Call When there is a bet on the table a player who calls is matching the bet.
  • Raise If there is a bet on the table, the player can increase the bet by raising.
  • Fold – If a player chooses not to match bet, he or she folds and is thus out of the hand. Technically folding isn’t a betting action as it’s actually the action of not betting… but it’s worth including here anyway.

Limits

  • No limit – A type of game where a player can bet all of their chips at any given time. The sky is the limit for betting in No-Limit Poker. At anytime a player may bet or raise all of their chips in one motion. This is also referred to as going all-in.
  • Pot Limit – A type of poker game where the maximum bet cannot exceed the amount that has been accumulated in the pot at that point. The bets start out relatively small. The more bets placed, results in each bet there after to grow in size relative to the total amount in the pot.
  • Spread Limit – Structured betting limit where a minimum and maximum amount is set. As a result any bet must be in between these two limits. For example, if you were playing $1-$4 spread limit, the maximum bet or raise can only be in $4 increments and the minimum bet must be at least a $1.
  • Fixed Limit – A type of poker where the minimum bet and maximum bet is predetermined. A player may only raise/reraise an average of 4-5 times (depending as to where you play) per betting round.

How to Win

Regardless of the type of poker you are playing, the goal is to win the pot. It’s actually very simple – once you have all the chips, you are the winner! Of course, getting all the chips is not an easy task as it means you have to beat out every player at the table.

The word “hand” in poker has two meanings. First, it means the set of cards that are yours. Second, it also can refer to the unit of play where users get cards, bet, and then show their cards. So, if you have the best hand (the best 5 cards), you’ll win the hand and thus capture the pot.

When it comes down to it, there are two ways you win a hand.

1. Have the best cards – if there are two players or more who have not folded after all the rounds of betting are complete, then it’s time for a showdown. Really, it’s called the showdown because all remaining players must show their hand in order to determine who has the winning hand.

2. Be the last man (or woman) standing – if all other players fold, then you win the pot. It might be that you have a great hand, but alternatively you could be bluffing. A bluff is an attempt to force out all the other opponents by making them think that you have a great hand. It’s actually quite the skill to know when to bluff – some would say that it’s almost an art. In any case, if you successfully force all your opponents to fold, you win the pot without the need to show your cards.