This is another introductory post for those unfamiliar with the basics of poker. It will be most useful for those who have never played poker or those looking to confirm their understanding of the game.
A poker hand consists of a series of rounds of betting. At the start of the hand or between rounds of betting cards are dealt to players, community cards are dealt that can be used by all players and/or players reveal some of the cards in their hands. The number of rounds and what happens depends on the particular game being played, and each game gives names to the various betting rounds; in Texas Hold ‘Em the rounds are called in order Preflop, Flop, Turn and River. Seven card stud takes a more straightforward approach and calls them Third Street, Fourth Street, Fifth Street, Sixth Street and finally Seventh Street, which is sometimes also called the River.
There are two common ways to determine who begins the betting. If the cards players have are all face down, there is generally a dealer button, and betting proceeds clockwise starting with the player to the dealer’s left. If the players have face up cards, the player with the best face up hand will act first.
An intuitive explanation for betting is that it goes around clockwise. Each player has the chance to bet. If one does, the others must either fold (give up), call (match) the bet, or raise and make an additional bet of their own, which in turn must be called, until all players have either made the most recent bet, called the most recent bet or have folded.
Formally, each player has these choices when it is their turn to act:
When it is a player’s turn to act, he must do one of the following:
1) He can fold, leaving the hand and giving up all claims to his hand and the pot, including any chips bet during this betting round.
2) If no one has previously bet, he can check, meaning he declines to wager.
3) If no one has previously bet, he can bet.
4) If another player has previously bet, he can call that bet by matching its size.
5) If another player has previously bet, he can raise by betting an amount larger than the amount previously bet. Players who have already bet must now make up the difference between their bet and the new bet when it becomes their turn, or fold.
If all players check, the round of betting ends with no betting. If one player has made a bet or raise and all other players that remain in the hand have called that bet, this also ends the betting round.
At the beginning of the first betting round, some players called blinds are usually be forced to make wagers to begin the betting, which forces all players except the one forced to make the largest wager to always either put more money in the pot or fold.
How much players are allowed to wager is almost always either (fixed) limit, pot limit or no limit. If the game is Limit Poker, then each betting round has a predefined wager size and players must bet or raise exactly that amount. No other bet size is allowed. There is also a limit to the number of raises that players can make if there are more than two players in the hand, which is typically three raises plus one initial bet. When playing Pot Limit or No Limit, players must always bet at least the amount of the largest initial blind bet. A raise of a bet must increase the bet by at least as much as the bet, and a raise of a raise must be at least as large an increase as the previous raise. In Pot Limit bets cannot be bigger than the current size of the pot, including all wagers made previously in the round by all players including the one making the wager. In No Limit, as one would expect, there is no limit on how much can be bet so long as they have the required chips in front of them.
No matter what, no one is allowed to bet anything that they did not have in front of them, in what is called their stack (of chips), when the hand began. All poker is played for table stakes. If a player doesn’t have more chips, that player can no longer wager. If a player does not have enough chips left to place a bet but still has at least one, he may always make a bet or raise consisting of all his remaining chips, announcing that he is “All In.” Similarly, if a player has an insufficient number of chips to call a wager, or calling would require all his chips, he can choose to be similarly All In and risk all of his chips.
Once a player is All In, they no longer need to wager to stay in the hand. In exchange, they are not eligible to win any chips that they did not match, including the initial blinds and antes. If a player is All In and there are bets that this player did not fully call, any remaining wagers are placed into a separate pot called the Side Pot. If another player then goes All In as well, an additional side pot is created, and so on. When the hand ends, the highest hand eligible to win each pot wins the chips in that pot. An intuitive explanation for this is that the other players are free to bet amongst themselves but that the player who is out of chips is not involved in that.