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How to Play Poker: Betting Basics

Any experienced poker player will tell you there are two objectives that go hand in hand—pardon the pun—for every game you play: either win big or lose small. Here's how.


  • Step 1: Know basic rules Poker involves rounds of betting into a shared fund, or "pot," which accumulates in the middle of the table. Each round is followed by receiving or exchanging cards that depends on the type of poker you're playing. Betting begins with either the dealer or the player to the dealer's immediate left and proceeds clockwise around the table.
  • Step 2: Get familiar with terminology Most games begin with a "forced bet", a mandatory bet from every player before the cards are dealt. This bet may be an "ante", a set amount that each player must match in order to join the game before the dealing begins, or a "blind" bet, any amount the first player decides to place as his or her opening bet.
  • TIP: In Hold'em games with betting limits, it's traditional for the blind bet, or the "small blind," to be half the amount of the betting limit. It's also traditional for the next player's bet, or the "big blind," to be twice the small blind.
  • Step 3: Respond to bet After the opening bet, you must decide how to respond to whatever bet immediately precedes your turn: You may "fold" by refusing to match the bet and withdrawing from the game. You may "call" the bet by matching its amount in order to stay in the game. You may "raise" the bet—first matching the previous amount and then increasing it.
  • Step 4: All-in option In "no-limit" poker games, players also have the option of going "all-in"—matching and raising a bet with all their remaining money or chips.
  • Step 5: End betting & reveal cards The betting ends when the last player in the turn calls the preceding bet. At that point anyone who wants to stay in the game must match the final raise amount. Then it's time to cross your fingers and reveal your cards...
  • FACT: The annual World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas regularly ends with final pots exceeding one million dollars.

You Will Need

  • A standard deck of playing cards
  • Money or poker chips to bet with
  • A little mental acuity

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