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Understanding poker rules is clearly critical to success at online poker. With so many variations of poker games, this is one of the elements you'll need to focus on as a poker beginner. Texas Holdem, Stud, Omaha, and Draw Poker all have different rules, though you will see that there is a central theme to the rules of poker - namely cards in the hand, cards on the table, and betting rounds.
There are many valuable online resources which explain the rules of poker games, from dedicated poker rules sections on the poker rooms through to individual sites focussed on all of the different poker elements.
The first element of poker rules to understand is the card or hand rankings - or which hands are better than others. This is followed by knowing how the game is played in order to find a winner - who posts the blinds and for how much, how many cards are dealt to each player, and how many are placed on the table and in which order. The final element is in the betting rounds or sequences.
Here we're going to focus on the betting rounds in poker games. Poker betting is a central key to understanding the rules of any poker game:
The First Betting Round
Blinds or antes
Before any cards are dealt, some or all of the players must put in mandatory bets known as blinds or antes (see below). This is to create an initial pot to compete for. If no player was forced to bet, players could sit around waiting for the very best hands before playing, and it would cost them nothing. When the mandatory bets have been placed and the cards have been dealt, the first betting round starts.
When playing with antes
An ante is a forced bet that all players must put in before the cards are dealt. It is usually about 10% of the small bet.
When the cards have been dealt, the player to start betting is decided by the rules of the specific game When the first player has bet, the betting turn moves to the left around the table.
When playing with blinds
A blind is a forced bet that some but not all of the players have to put in before the cards are dealt. Usually, it is the two players to the left of the dealer who must each put in a blind. The first player must put in a smaller bet called the small blind, while the second player must put in a bigger bet known as the big blind.
If you are in the small blind position when the betting comes around to you, you can either fold, call or raise. Since the small blind counts as a bet, it is a bit cheaper for you to call. If, for example, the small blind is $1, to call a bet of $4 you need to put in another $3. Calling means matching the last bet, and since the blinds are live, you can include your small blind when you calculate the amount needed to call.
If you are in the big blind position, when the betting comes around to you, you can still fold, call or raise. Since the big blind also counts as a bet, now it is even cheaper for you to call. In order to call a certain bet, you need to put in an amount equal to that bet minus the size of the big blind.
If, for example, the big blind is $2 and a player has bet $4, you call by simply putting in another $2.
Checking in the big blind
If you are in the big blind, the first betting round is a bit special. When the betting turn comes around to you, if no player has raised your big blind, you have the right to either check or bet.
Standard betting round
In each betting round there will be a pot which has been determined by any earlier rounds. The player that will start the betting depends on the type of game played. Play moves from any player to the player on his left, until the round of the table has been completed.
Betting actions - Fold, check, bet or raise
There are choices on which betting action to take when it is your turn to bet. With a weak hand, you can fold and take no further part in that hand. In this case, you cannot win and any cash you've placed in as blinds will be lost.
If no player has placed a bet before you any betting round you may check, which means you bet nothing and are passing the action to the next player on your left.
If a player before you has bet in this betting round, you cannot check. You can fold, but if you want to play on in the hand, you have to either call that bet or raise.
You call by putting in a bet of the same size as the last bet made before you.
You raise by putting in a bigger bet than the last bet before you.
Ending the betting
When all players have either folded or put an equal amount of bets into the pot, the betting round is over. Now the next card is dealt. Or, if it was the final betting round, the remaining hands are compared to find out who wins the pot. This is called the showdown.
Winning without showing your hand
If you put in a bet or a raise and all remaining players fold, you win the pot without showing your hand. This is a common event in poker, and it is the reason why it is possible to bluff in poker. You don’t have to show a winning hand to win the pot.
If more than one player remains in the hand when the last betting round is completed, there is a showdown. This means that the remaining players show their cards to decide who has the best hand.
The showdown starts with the player who was first to put in the last bet. That is, the player who made the bet that the other players called.
Not showing when you lost
In a showdown, when a player before you has shown a hand that beats yours, you do not have to show your hand.
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