The Play of the Holdem Game

In many countries and places, the most popular form of casino or card room poker is Hold'em. You will find people playing more of Hold'em in card room than any other forms of poker. Because of this procedural details are becoming more and more standardized. This page gives an introduction to the mechanics and procedures of Hold'em as typically played in a card room.

In a card room players are expected to follow fixed playing procedures which are intended to keep the game running at the normal pace. Several poker players act in turn and act quickly. If you are not accustomed to playing in a card room then for you the play would seem very fast but as time passes you will be get used to gradually. Because the card rooms charge their fee by raking a small amount from each pot (there are exception to it) the more pots, the larger the total rake. So they have a financial incentive to keep the games fast paced.

The Dealer Button

To keep the game running smoothly and to guard against card manipulation by the players, the casino provides non-playing dealer. In Hold'em, the action at each betting rounds begins with the first active player to the left of the dealer. There is a big disadvantage to having to go to first and big advantage in going last. So a player-dealer is designated for each hand and the designation is passed around the table with each hand. This player-dealer does not actually deal the cards but the deal and the play proceeds as if that player were the dealer.
This player-dealer is designated by having a large, round "button " placed in front of him. The button is passed to the left after the each hand. The player who has the button in front of him is said to be "on the button." He is last to act for each betting round except the first round.

Betting Limits

In Hold'em there are two kinds of poker betting limits: structured and spread limit. The common at the low limits is "spread limits," for instance 1-4 which means, at each betting round, you can bet anywhere from $1 to $4. In spread limit games, the bets on the first round will be at the minimum and the players will bet the maximum on later rounds.

Typical spread limits, you might see are 1-4, 1-5, 2-5, 2-10, 1-4-8, 1-4-4-8, or 1-4-8-8.
Games designated by two numbers such as 1-4 allow bets the range of $1 to $4, ay any betting round. A designation such as 1-4-8 means that bets up to $4 are allowed at any round until the last round, when the allowable range is $1 to $8. Many card rooms would designate that game as 1-4-4-8. When describing the limits of a spread limit game, a 1 is the first number in the description. There are few exceptions such as 2-10 and 2-4-8-8 but many clubs will designate games as 1-4-8-8 even if the actual minimum bet is $2.

"Structured limits" are where the betting at every round is fixed, 10/20 is an example. The bet on the first two betting round is $10 on the second two rounds would be $20.

A "variation " is structured betting with an option on the last bet, for example 3/6/12 or 10/20/40. In 3/6/12, the bet on the first round is $3, the bet on the flop is $3, on the turn is $6 and on the river bet is either $6 or $12 at the option of the bettor. Spread limit games also have the limit double on the last betting round.
Hold'em is sometimes played as a pot-limit or no-limit game, or sometimes as a variation such as pot-limit with the restriction on the maximum allowable bet. Most casino games are played as either spread or structured-limit games.

The advice given is geared toward to the structured game with two betting levels. However, spread and structured-limit games with three betting levels each have some significant considerations that are inimitable to the betting structure.

The Blinds

Typically card room games are played without an ante.
Because poker is generally struggle among the players for the right to the money in the pot, without some seed money for the pot there's nothing to struggle over and no game. We need some procedure to get the pot started. In Hold'em, the blind bets are what used to get some initial money in the pot.

In Hold'em, the action at each betting round starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer button. Blinds are forced bets put out by either the first or the first two players. Generally, it is the first two players. The blinds replace the function of an ante in getting some initial money into the pot. Some games uses a single blind most use two blinds, the second one larger than the first. In a structured game, the second blind (called the big blind) is the size of the pre-flop bet. In a 10/20 game, the big blind is $10 and in a 3/6/12 game, the big blind is $3.

The small blind is put by the first player to the left of the button and is half the big blind. In a game such as 3/6 where the big blind is an odd number, the small blind is sometimes rounded up, sometimes down, $1 or $2. It is usually rounded down. Spread limit games have smaller blinds than a corresponding structured-limit game does.

Blinds are "live " which means that the player posting the blind will be last to act during the first betting round. Even if no player raises that is, they all only call the big blind bet the player who posted the big blind has an option to raise.


A "straddle " is the third blind, voluntarily put out by a third player. It is sometimes referred to as a "kill." Card rooms do not have standard procedures about straddles. Some card rooms don't allow them at all. Some allow them, but only by the player to the immediate left of the big blind, the under-the-gun (UTG) position. Some require them under certain conditions. Although the term kill is sometimes used for any straddle, it is reserved to refer to a required straddle.

Sometimes straddles are live and sometimes not. When they are live, you are actually buying the last position in the betting; you have the option to raise after everyone else has acted. Some card rooms consider a straddle put out by the UTG player as live, but other straddles must act in turn, without the option of acting after everyone else.

Some card rooms have games with a required kill if certain conditions are met such as winning the last pot. These are called as kill or winning blind games. Depending on the poker card room, if the pot reaches a certain size or if the same player wins two bets in a row, the winner is required to straddle an amount twice the size of the big blind and betting limits for that hand are doubled. Sometimes this can change he ration of bet size to initial blinds enough so that important changes in playing strategy are called for.

Sometimes a straddle is the size of the big blind, sometimes twice the big blind. Sometimes it doubles the limits of the game sometimes it doubles the bet size before the flop only. Sometimes the bet size is not affected.
Are you confused? Yes, you should be. The range of straddle rules is confusing. If you are a beginner, it is advisable to avoid straddle or kill games until you possess some kind of poker experiences. If you find yourself in such a game, just ask more and more questions.

Continue: Texas Betting Rounds

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