Betting Rounds

If you’re learning how to play poker, you need to understand how betting rounds work. While the rules may differ based on the type of poker game you play, many fundamentals remain the same.

In each game round, players take turns to either match the previous player’s bet, raise the bet, or fold and forfeit their cards for that hand. When all of this has been completed, the betting round is over.

In Texas Hold’Em, the most common poker game, there are five rounds to the game. The action begins pre-flop, followed by the flop, the turn (also known as fourth street), the river (fifth street), and the showdown. In each round following the flop (and before the showdown), the dealer will add an additional card to the community cards until the showdown.

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The Actions

The following are the main actions that a player can take during a poker game:

  • Check: A check can only be used when a player is not facing a previous bet or raise. When players check, they pass the action on to the next player without betting anything.
  • Call: A call is when a player matches the amount of the previous bet or raise.
  • Raise: A raise is what it sounds like–when a player raises, they up the bet from the previous player. Therefore, other players must now equal the bet if they want to continue in the hand.
  • Fold: Folding is when players choose to forfeit their current hand and no longer compete for the current pot. Check out our guide to folding in poker to find out how and when to fold.
  • Check-Raise: A check-raise is a combination of two actions, the check and the raise. First, a player must check on their first action and then raise after an opponent makes a bet. This action depends on another player making a bet during the betting round; if that does not happen, a check-raise cannot occur.

Blinds and Antes

Blinds and antes are mandatory bets that must be placed in the pot every hand. A blind must be placed by a specific player during a round. An ante is typically made by all players on the table (with some exceptions).

In a standard game of Texas Hold ’em or Omaha, there will be a big blind and a small blind, with the big blind typically twice the size of the small blind. This bet must be placed at the beginning of each hand.

After each hand, the blinds will shift clockwise to the next players on the table.

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Main Pot and Side Pots

If you’re playing a multiway hand, you may end up in a situation where one of the players is all in, but the remaining players still have chips left behind. In these situations, the pot is split into a main pot and a side pot. The main pot contains all the chips bet up until the point the first player is all in. This is the maximum amount that the all-in player can win.

However, as the other remaining players are still playing in the hand with chips remaining, a side pot is formed. Any further betting action goes into the side pot, and these remaining players can win both the main and the side pot. Once the hand is over, all players left in the hand turn their cards face up. All participants in the hand compete to win the main pot, but only the people who weren’t all in at the time of the first player’s all in can win the side pot.

The situation can occur when a player wins the side pot but loses the main pot. This happens when a player cannot beat the player who is all in but has the best hand of the remaining players.

Buy-Ins

In every poker game you play, you need to provide some sort of buy-in. This buy-in acts as your stake in the game. There are two types of buy-in depending on whether you play tournaments or cash games.

  • Tournaments – You pay a set amount of money to buy-in to at the start of the event. You’re given tournament chips to play with, which have no cash value. Some tournaments may allow you to rebuy/re-enter if you lose all your chips early enough in the tournament or add more chips for a set fee at the end of a rebuy period.
  • Cash Games – You exchange your money for casino chips with a cash value. You use these chips to play with, and you exchange the casino chips for cash when you’re done.

No matter what format of poker you play, you will need to buy in before you can begin.

The Different Kinds of Bets

When we talk about betting in poker, it’s quite a broad topic, so let’s break it down into different types of betting. Each type of betting is used in different scenarios during the game and for various strategic reasons. 

Value Bet

A value bet is made when you have what you believe is the winning hand and hope to extract value and get a call from your opponent. While this sounds relatively simple, there are still some things to consider. First, you do not want your opponent to fold in this situation, so be sure not to bet too high. To ensure you get this right, you must assess several factors, including the player’s profiles and potential hands.

Continuation Bet

A continuation bet, or a C-bet as it is commonly known, can be an incredibly effective bet to play in the right circumstances. In its simplest terms, a C-Bet is when you raise before the flop and then raise again during the flop. This tactic is a way of expressing your confidence in your hand. It can be a handy aggressive technique, especially in the latter stages of a tournament.

Probe Bet or Information Bet

A probe bet is made out of position on the turn or the river when an opposing player has not made a continuation bet in position. It is typically a small bet made to try and ascertain some information about an opponent’s range.

The Slow Play Bet

A slow-play betting style is a clever form of deception that can be used when a player has a strong hand. Using this approach, a player will play a strong hand in a deliberately weak play. They will make passive moves such as checking or calling their opponent’s bets instead of raising. It is the opposite of fast-playing. The aim is to lure the villain into launching a bet or big bluff and then raising their bets.

Overbet

An overbet is precisely what it sounds like–a very large bet typically made by people with a good range to either bluff or intimidate other players into folding.

All In

Even if you’ve never played poker, you’ve undoubtedly heard of someone going “all-in.” An all-in bet is when players place every chip they currently have into a single bet. In No-Limit Texas Hold ’em, an all-in bet can happen on any street, at any time in a hand. Needless to say, an all-in bet is often the riskiest bet to make.

No Limit vs. Limit vs. Pot-Limit Betting

There are three types of Texas Hold ’em formats that limit the amount a player can bet. In the battle of No Limit vs. Limit vs. Pot-Limit betting structures, No Limit is by far the most popular of the three. The other two are rarely run in casinos anymore. While they can be found online, and each has WSOP bracelet events, people don’t find the games as exciting as No Limit Hold ’em. To find out why let’s break down what each of these limits means for how the game is played.

No Limit 

No Limit is the most common type of poker game, and its rules are pretty self-explanatory. There is no limit on the number of chips a player can bet at any time. The majority of these games will use a blind and ante system. For example, a game with $3/$5 stakes means that the small blind posts $3 and the big blind posts $5 each round.

Given that the game has no limits, players are free to go all-in with their entire stack at any point. If you’ve ever watched poker on television, it was likely a game of No Limit. No Limit Hold ’em is often favored by TV shows due to the possibility of explosive all-in moments.

Here’s an example of a hand that you could play in No Limit Hold ’em but would be against the rules of Pot Limit or Limit:

It’s a $1/$2 cash game where everyone is sitting with $1000, and Player A raises UTG to $10. It folds around to Player B in the BB. Player B 3bets to $50, and Player A calls. The flop comes J♣9♠5♥, and Player B bets $150 into a pot of $101. Player A moves all in for $950 total, and Player B calls.

In this hand, every single aggressive action was for more than the size of the pot, and you can see how quickly stacks of $1000 can find their way into the middle of the table.

Pot Limit Betting

Pot Limit is the second most popular type of poker game after no limit. In this game, the maximum amount that can be raised has to be equal to the amount in the pot. Seems relatively straightforward, right? You may think so, but it can get a bit more complicated.

When making a pot-sized bet, you’ll need to consider the size of the pot, any outstanding bets, and then the amount you’d need to call the last bet. The first person to bet doesn’t have any of these issues to contend with, but the next person will have a slightly more complex equation.

To raise, they will have to sum up the amount of the pot from before the bet, the last bet, and then the amount needed to call. For example, if the pot size is $50, and the previous person raised the maximum, the maximum raise will be $150. To make a call, the player will need to wager another $50. This can be made simpler by simply multiplying the last raise by three and then adding it to the size of the pot.

Let’s look at a Pot Limit Hold ’em hand example to see this in practice:

It’s a $1/$2 cash game where everyone is sat $200 deep, and in the CO, Player A wants to raise to the size of the pot. To calculate that, we can multiply the last bet by 3, then add the size of the pot before that bet. In this case, $2 x 3 + $1 = $7, so the maximum amount Player A can raise is $7. 

On the BTN, Player B now wants to 3bet to the size of the pot. For this calculation, we multiply the last bet ($7 by Player A) by 3 and then add that to the pot size before the bet – $7 x 3 + $3 = $24, so the maximum amount Player B can raise is $24. Player A decides to call the 3bet, and we see a flop.

The flop comes 8♥7♥6♣. Player A checks and Player B bets the size of the pot, which is $51 after each player put in $24 preflop plus the $1 small blind and the $2 big blind. Player A would like to raise this bet, so to figure out the maximum, we multiply the last bet ($51) by 3 and add the size of the pot before that bet: $51 x 3 + $51 = $204. This is more than Player A has in their stack, so Player A just moves all in for their last $176, and Player B folds.

You’ll find in Pot Limit Hold ’em that due to preflop raise sizes being capped to the size of the pot, you get much better odds when facing a 3bet compared to some of the standard raise sizes you see in No Limit Hold ’em. It’s also much harder to get stacks into the middle, so you’ll see a lot more turns and rivers in Pot Limit games.

Limit

Limit Hold ’em is the most restrictive game format of the three. You can only bet and raise in specific amounts based on your playing stakes. The betting rounds are split between preflop and postflop, where you play at half the stakes that the table is advertised, and the turn and river, where you play at the full stake level. Let’s look at an example:

The game is $1/$2 Limit Hold ’em, but the blinds posted are $0.50/$1 by the SB and BB. Player A wants to raise from the HJ, and their only option is to raise to $2. Player B in the SB wants to re-raise, and their only option is to raise to $3. Player C in the BB would also like to raise; the only size they can raise is $4. Most Limit Hold ’em games have a cap of four bets for each street, so no one else can raise again after this raise. So the action goes back to Player A, who calls the extra $2, and Player B also calls.

The flop comes K♣8♠3♥, and Player C bets $1, and both Player A and Player B call. 

The turn comes the 9♠, and now the betting limits have doubled – so each player can bet and raise $2 up to a maximum of $8 (4x the $2 bet). Player C bets $2, Player A raises to $4, Player B folds, and Player C calls. The river is the 2h, Player C checks, Player A bets $2, and Player C calls. Player A shows 9♣8♣ for two pair, and Player C shows A♦8♦ for a pair of 8s.

Due to the fixed bet sizes, you’ll find that in Limit Hold ’em, you’re constantly being laid a good price to continue against a bet, and you don’t have to win very often for a call to be profitable, so expect to see a lot of speculative calls from your opponents when you play Limit Hold ’em.

Betting to Take Down The Hand:

Another term for a protection bet, “betting to take down the hand,” is done when you likely have the best hand but don’t want to see another card. Making this bet denies your opponent equity while still allowing you to get called by worse hands. This strategy is best employed with vulnerable hands susceptible to overcards on the turn or river.

For example, you have 7♠6♠ on the button in a $1/$2 cash game and raise it to $6. Your opponent calls and the flop is A♣7♦3♥. Now, you likely have the best hand with a pair of sevens on this board, but if you were to check back, you have no idea whether you still have the best hand if an 8, 9, T, J, Q, or K comes.

By making a small bet on the flop, you can get hands with decent amounts of equity, such as JTs, to fold, but they’ll still call hands like 54, 65, and 43. This protects your vulnerable hand while denying your opponent equity with two-overcard hands. If you get called, there’s still a chance you have the best hand, but you should proceed cautiously on later streets.

Betting Tips

  • Vary Betting Size: Players should vary and adapt their betting size depending on the opponent they are playing and the type of bet they want to place. For example, in some instances, a player may want to play a fast-bet game and raise the stakes quickly, while in others, a slow-bet approach may be more suitable.
  • Learn to Spot the Various Betting Types: Aside from understanding and being able to place all the different bet types, it’s also essential to know when others are using them. Recognizing the type of bet your opponent is playing will give you an insight into their style of play and their likely reactions.
  • Keep it Basic with Inexperienced Players: When playing against inexperienced or weaker players, there is often little need to take significant risks. In these instances, players can use their experience and know-how to take down their opponents while also playing a conservative game.
  • Manage Your Table Image: While it’s crucial in poker to be mindful of how your opponents play, you should pay equal attention to how you’re perceived at the table. Every other player at the table will watch how you play and adjust their strategy based on what they see, so if you know how you are perceived, you can be one step ahead of your opponents.

Poker Betting FAQs