Your Ultimate Guide to Poker Betting Basics

There are lots of variants of poker out there, but all revolve around betting. And if you want to get into playing poker, or want to improve your play, it’s vital to understand how poker betting rules work.

Here we explain the basics of how to bet on poker, including the general rules of poker betting and common poker betting terminology. We’ll cover calling, raising, buy-ins and royal flushes.

How does betting work in poker?

Different variants of poker will have different twists on poker betting, but most forms of poker are played as variations on the following:

  1. Players place forced bets before the cards are dealt.
  2. The dealer distributes each players’ cards.
  3. Players then place bets based on their cards, either calling or raising or checking. Some players may fold, bowing out of that round. Some forms of poker have structured rounds of betting, such as the pre-flop, flop, turn, and river of Texas Hold’em.
  4. After the rounds of betting finish, if there are still players remaining, the showdown happens, where players show their hands of cards and the winner is revealed (the player with the highest value hand).
  5. Sometimes the showdown won’t be reached, and all players except one will fold, leaving the one remaining player as the winner of that round. Sometimes that player will have the best hand, but sometimes they’ll hold a weak hand but will manage to successfully bluff the other players into thinking they’ve got a strong one.

How to Bet in Poker – Poker Betting Actions

In most games of poker, when it’s your turn to bet, you’ll have four different options:

  1. Call: You match the amount of the previous bet placed.
  2. Raise: You increase the amount of the previous bet. The next player to bet then must meet that bet if they want to stay in that round. Raising when the previous player also raised is called a re-raise.
  3. Fold: You discard your hand, bowing out of that round of betting, forfeiting what you’ve already placed in the pot (whether you dramatically push your cards into the middle of the table or not is up to you).
  4. Check: At the start of a round, before the first open bet has been made, you pass the action on to the next player to your left without placing a bet but without folding, staying in that round of betting.

Betting Order

Betting in poker typically moves clockwise around the table, with the first player to the left of the dealer placing the first bet. There are some variants on this for different versions of poker though:

  • In games of poker that use a blinds system (an initial round of forced bets), the first player to the left of the big blind begins. Bets then move clockwise around the table.
  • In games that use antes and a bring-in system (another round of forced bets), it’s typical that the player with the weakest face-up card is the first player to bet. The action then moves clockwise around the players.

Blinds and antes in poker

Lots of variants of poker require players to place “forced bets” before the cards are dealt. This means the pot begins with money already in it, and players making commitments, before the action commences.

The most common types of forced bets are blinds and antes:

Blinds in poker

With poker variants that use blinds, like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, two players post blind bets before the cards are dealt. They’re called blinds as the bets are made ‘blind’ without any cards being seen.

The first player posts a “small blind” and the next player to their left posts the “big blind”, which is double the small blind. The cards are dealt, then the first player to the left of the big blind places the first bet.

Responsibility for posting the small and big blind usually rotates clockwise around the table.

Ante bets in poker

With ante bets, used in draw poker and stud poker, all the players at the table put an equal amount of money (or chips) into the pot before the cards are dealt. This ensures that each player has an incentive to bet, and that players will lose money if they fold. The value of the ante bet will typically be determined before the game begins.

Some forms of poker combine both blind bets and ante bets, with ante bets being placed before the small blind and the big blind.

Poker-hand rankings: from strongest to weakest

Most variants of poker use the same ranking of poker hands, meaning once you’ve learned it, you’ll easily be able to pick up new versions of poker.

Poker hands are ranked from the highest to the lowest, as:

  • Royal Flush – you hold an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10, all of the same suit.
  • Straight Flush – you hold any five cards that form an unbroken sequence, all of the same suit, such as a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
  • Four of a Kind – four of your five cards are all of the same ranking, such as four 2s or four Queens.
  • Full House – three of your cards are the same ranking, and the other two are of the same ranking, such as three Kings and two 3s.
  • Flush – all five of your cards are of the same suit.
  • Straight – you have five cards that form an unbroken sequence, not of the same suit.
  • Three of a Kind – three of your cards are the same ranking, whilst the other two are of any ranking.
  • Two Pairs – you have two pairs of cards of equal ranking, such as a pair of 3s and a pair of Aces.
  • One Pair – you have two cards of the same ranking, like two 7s.
  • High Card – you can’t make any of the hands above, so your hand is valued as the highest ranking single card you have.

Buy-ins and Poker Chips

In poker games played in casinos – and in plenty of other cash games – players bet using coloured poker chips. In most cases, different colours of chips have different values, giving players options when placing bets and making it easy to identify how much is being bet and how much the pot is worth.

When you sit at a poker table for a cash game, you’ll have to “buy-in”. The buy-in is the amount of money you need to have with you to sit down at the table. You’ll exchange your buy-in for poker chips.

Poker betting limits

When it’s your turn to place a bet in poker, you may have limits on how much you’re allowed to bet. These limits, or lack of them, come in four common types: no-limit, pot-limit, fixed-limit and spread-limit:

No-limit poker bets

With no-limit poker games, any player can bet any value of chips they want to on one single bet, after the blind bets are made. A player can even bet all of their chips at one time, called “going all-in”.

Pot-limit poker bets

Unlike no-limit games, with pot-limit games, the maximum bet that can be made is determined by the size of the pot in the middle of the table.

Most pot-limit games limit the highest raise to the total value of the pot. If the pot is £100, then the highest bet that can be made is £100. Some versions of pot-limit use a half-pot-limit. So if the value of the pot is £100, the highest bet that can be made is £50.

As a round of poker progresses, the pot grows. This means that the stakes of pot-limit poker games typically rise over time, with players making larger raises as the pot increases.

Fixed-limit poker bets

With fixed-limit betting, the maximum amount that can be bet is determined at the beginning of the round by the dealer. Some casino tables will operate with the same fixed limit for every round.

Spread–limit poker bets

A game of poker that uses spread-limit betting allows players to make raises within a specified limit.

The specified limit could be a “one to five limit” which means each player can bet between £1 to £5, with £5 being the highest raise. Some spread-limit games allow for a higher final bet in a betting round, like “ten on the end”, where players can bet up to £10 on the final bet.

Simple poker betting strategy

Poker is a game based on probability. But it also involves psychology and being able to successfully bluff the other players you’re competing with for the pot. If you’re holding a strong hand, it sometimes doesn’t pay to go all-in, whilst if you have a weak hand, you don’t have to always fold. Try to use the following poker betting strategy:

  1. Play fewer hands, but play those hands aggressively: If you try to play too many hands, especially when you have weak hands, you’ll bleed away your chips. It’s typically more effective to fold on weak hands but to bet aggressively on stronger hands, making calls and raises.
  2. Don’t go all-in on strong hands: You should play aggressively on strong hands, but don’t go all-in. If you think you have the best hand at the table, you want to place bets that other players will call, to ensure they stay in the betting and that you can grow the pot as much as possible.
  3. Know when to bluff: If you bluff too often, the other players at the table will realise and will begin to call you on it. You need to bluff with thought. Bluff on hands you have cards to improve on, like straight draws or flush draws.
  4. Fold when in doubt: As well as bluffing too often, another way to lose quickly in poker is to call too often. If you have a strong hand, play aggressively. If you have a hand with options, you can bluff aggressively. But if you’re unsure whether to call or fold, it’s sensible to fold.
  5. Attack when your opponents show signs of weakness: If another player checks, it’s usually because they have a weak hand. Call and raise to try and get that player to fold.

Is online poker betting different?

The vast majority of online poker betting games use the same rules as the real-life equivalent. If you’re playing Pot-Limit Omaha online, the betting rules will be the same as real-life Pot-Limit Omaha.

Whatever type of poker you’re playing online, make sure you understand the poker betting rules of that game before you bet serious money. You can usually find the rules of a game in the information menu.

Although the same poker betting rules are typically used online, online poker betting tends to be faster-paced than real-life betting, and usually for smaller amounts of money.

Play poker with Grosvenor Casinos

Now that you’ve learned the basics of poker betting rules and poker betting strategy, you can try your hand at poker with Grosvenor Casinos. You can play poker in person at one of our 52 casino venues in the UK or you can join one of our poker tournaments.

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