Betting Options

If you are first to act in the pot or the round has been checked to you, then you have two options - you can either check or bet. If someone has already bet then you can call, raise, or fold.

Before you decide which action to take, you have to think one step ahead of it. What will happen after you act? What are the other poker players going to do? Then what?

If you check, and another player then bets, should you fold? Call? Raise? Think one step ahead because your options are already much broader than much checking or betting.

Think about why you might want to make certain actions. The flop will help you to assess your poker hand. Do you have the best hand? If you have, then you should make such an action that will maximize your chances of winning the pot.

Straightforward Play

When you are starting the game, you want to play your hand in a straightforward manner. Bet or raise when you have the best hand, check when you don't have and call or fold depending on whether you are getting sufficient pot odds to draw. It is easy for a beginner to develop what's called Fancy Play Syndrome (FPS). That means you slow play too much, check-raise too much, semi-bluff too much and generally spend too much trying to be deceptive. It doesn't work.


If no one has bet you can,

First Round Second Round
Check fold to a bet
Check call a bet
Check raise a bet

If someone has bet, you can

First Round Second Round
Call fold to a raise
Call call a raise
Call re-raise if raised

Following are the symptoms of Fancy Play Syndrome


Slow-play means that you are playing a strong hand weakly. You are checking and calling instead of betting and raising. There are times to slow play, but not many of them. You should consider slow-play when you have an unbeatable hand like a straight flushes, four of a kind, or the best possible full house. You should consider it but not always. Especially with weak hands you can consider slow-playing.


A check-raise means checking a hand with an intention of raising when someone else bets. For a check-raise to work you have to have a bet from another player. So if you are not sure that another player will bet it is not an idea to try for a check-raise. Even when you are sure that another player will bet, you might often do better by just betting yourself because they might then raise giving you a chance to re-raise.


A semi-bluff is a raise where you don't have the best poker hand but you have some chance to make the best hand later. It is a bet that has two ways to win. It can win as a bluff if the rival folds, or if the rival calls, you can still win by improving on the next card. Raising with the flush draw when you think your rival may be weak and might fold is an example of a semi-bluff.

Free-card play

A free-card play is similar to a semi-bluff. Like a semi-bluff, it is a bet or raise with a hand that is possibly not the best hand but has some chance to make a best hand. The difference is that the semi-bluff depends on some chances that the player will fold to your bet-raise. A free-card play depends on the other players checking to you on the next betting round. A free-card play only makes sense if you are in last position, last to act. The idea is that the bet size on the flop is one half the bet size on the turn so by making an extra bet on the flop, you save having to call a bet on the turn when the bet size is larger.

A lot more attempts at deceptive play really make your hand easier for good players to read and the bad players are not paying attention anyway. You should play straightforwardly because they don't expect that the players will play so straightforwardly.

It is again much easier for a beginner who tries to play tight to become tight-weak. A tight-weak player is a player who plays very tight but when he does play a hand, he easily becomes victimized by the aggressive player that he does not have the best hand. Later we shall see that there are many reasons where the players may be betting or raising other than having the best hand.

You should play tight in your pre-flop hand selection. On the flop you should defend against two things: developing FPS and being pushed off a hand by a player with FPS. A main feature of FPS is aggression when aggression isn't called for. Aggression for the sake of aggression is not a good idea. Being deceptive so that you can impress your friends or show the other players how tricky you play is also not good. Play poker aggressively but don't develop FPS habits. Also be aware that many players are infected with FPS and there are some players who often don't have much of a hand when they are betting or raising.

In certain game conditions, your play on the flop is more of a crucial factor toward becoming a winning player than any other point in the game. It is a very significant round to master.

Continue: Texas Holdem Pairs

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