Betting Rules

Since winning money in poker is the objective, betting is a critical part of the game. For some reason, the structure of the betting seems to be the most difficult area for a new player to grasp.

When you make a bet in poker, your chips go into the middle of the table along with every other player’s bets. This collection of chips in the middle of the table is called “the pot.” Once a player puts chips into the pot, they remain in the pot. You cannot retract your chips from the pot once they are in. The winner of the hand collects the pot.

Fold, Check, Call And Raise

There are four fundamental aspects to betting that are common to all forms of poker: the fold, the call, the check and the raise.

Fold

If a player wishes to discontinue the hand and surrender the pot to their opponent(s), they fold. This is done by passing your hole cards to the dealer face-down. It is a breach of etiquette to reveal your hole cards to the table when folding if there are other players still in the hand. Folding is often called ‘mucking’ or ‘mucking the cards.’ The folded cards go into a pile next to the dealer which is called the muck. All mucked cards do not play any further part in that particular hand.

The advantage of folding is that it costs you nothing further. As such, if you think your hand is a losing hand, you can fold and you will lose no more than you have already put in the pot. However, if you continue playing with a losing hand, it may cost you more money to reach the showdown. Therefore, folding is a way of saving money when you are in a losing proposition - an important aspect of the game.

The disadvantage of folding is that your opponents may have been betting a hand that is weaker than yours. Therefore, when you fold instead of calling or raising, you may throw away the winning hand. In a sense, you are walking a tight-rope when you fold because you don't want to lose money on a losing hand, but you don't want to mistakenly throw away a winning hand either. It's a fine balance at times, which is one of the reasons that poker is so exciting, intricate and challenging.

Check

This is used when you do not wish to bet and you are not required to call. Let's say you are playing hold'em and the flop is dealt. The first player checks, the second player checks and it's now your turn. You can check too, simply because no one has bet. While you are not betting or calling when you check, you still remain in the hand. If you check and then a player behind you bets, you will then be obliged to either fold, call or raise. You cannot check if someone has already bet.

Call

Calling is the act of matching the size of the last bet. If a player bets $20 and it is your turn to act, you will need to call that $20 bet by putting $20 in the pot. Once the bet is called by you (and any other players in pot), the betting round is concluded and the next card will be dealt. For example, if you are in a hold'em game and a player bets $50 on the flop, you can call by matching his bet and putting $50 in the pot. The betting round is then concluded and the dealer will then deal the turn. In other words, every betting round will end with a call. If there are several players in a hand, all players must call the size of last bet before the hand goes any further. Effectively, they are agreeing on a price by calling. For example, if players A, B, C and D are in a hand and player A bets $10 on the turn, players B, C and D will all have to "call" (match) this $10 bet before the river is dealt. However, if player A checks, player B bets $10 and player C raises to $20, Players D and A will have put $20 in total into the pot if they wish to call. Player B has already put $10 into the pot, so he only needs to put in another $10 to call player C's raise.

When you reach the river, the showdown will occur if one player bets and the other player(s) call. If no one bets (ie. everyone checks) then the showdown occurs at no additional cost to any player.

Raise

If a player has already made a bet, you can raise that bet. The size of your raise depends on the "structure" of the game. For example, in a hold'em game with a limit structure, a bet on the flop is fixed at a particular level. Let's say that all bets on the flop are fixed at $15. If a player bets $15, you can raise to $30 (call their $15 + bet another $15). In other words, every raise is an incremental increase of $15. If you raise, your opponent will then need to match your $15 raise if they wish to continue with their hand.

Alternatively, this player may raise you again, which is commonly refered to as reraising. To reraise, he will call your $15 raise and then raise another $15 himself. This means that he will have bet a total of $45. You would then either fold, call or reraise again.