playing poker

First Round

The dealer distributes first one card face down to each player, starting with the small blind, and then another.  The cards are always dealt clockwise in any poker game.  When each player has two hole cards, as they are called, the deal stops and the action begins.  Here action means betting, raising , and betting.

  On the first round of betting, the action commences with the player immediately to the left of the big blind.  Just as in the deal rotation and the distribution of cards, the action in any poker game always proceeds clockwise.  The first player has three options.  Let’s use the $4-$ 8 game as our example.  He can fold his hand (choose not to play and relinquish his cards to the dealer), call $4, or raise by putting $ 8 into the pot.  In limit hold’em, the increments of all bets and raises are determined by the limits of the game.  On the first two betting rounds, bets and raises are in increments of the lower limit; on the last two betting rounds, bets and raises are in increments of the higher limit.  If the first player folds, each succeeding player has the same options. 

  If the first player opens for the minimum, that is, does not raise, each succeeding player can fold, call (by matching the opening bet), or raise, by putting $ 8 into the pot.
  Opening for the minimum has a special term.  It is called limping.  If the first player comes in for a raise, that is, initiates the betting by putting $ 8 into the pot, succeeding players must fold, call the new amount, or raise by an additional $4.

The Cap

 Limit games have another limit that comes into play, and that is a limit on the number of raises in any one round.   Some cardrooms permit one bet and three raises in any one round.  Other cardrooms permit one bet and three raises in any one round.  The total number of bets permitted is called the cap; that last bet is also called the cap.  Players use the word as a verb, also, when they say, “The betting was capped.”  You want to find out what the cap is before you start playing.  You can ask the house dealer when you first sit town, if you wish, although if you don’t want to be immediately pegged as a “newbie,” you might ask a floorman before you sit down.

Betting by the Blinds

On the first round of betting, the blinds act after everyone else.  After the button has folded, opened or called (as appropriate), or raised, the small blind acts.  Since the small blind already has chips in the pot, if he plays he adds only as much to the pot as to make the total equal the bet.  In our example of the $4-$ 8 game, we saw that the small blind has $2 that plays for him in the pot.  If players have limped and there have been no raises, he can participate by adding $2 to the pot.

  Just as any other player, the small blind can fold, call, or raise.  If everyone has folded except the small blind, the small blind has those same three options.  If anyone has raised before the action gets to the small blind, he can get in for $2 less.  For example, if there has been one raise, the total bet would be $ 8.  the small blind can play by adding $6 to the pot – or reraise by adding $ 10.

  The big blind is the last to act on the first round of betting.  If one or more players have called the initial bet- that is, the players have all limped – the big blind has two choices.  This situation is called the option.  He can elect to simply check.  This effectively ends the betting for the round.  However, the big blind has another choice when the action gets to the big blind without anyone having raised, the house dealer usually says something like “Your option” or “Option.” Sometimes the dealer just points at the player.  In an online cardroom, when the action similarly gets to the big blind, the software presents two choices, one prompting “raise” and the other “check.” The effect is the same.
  If, however, there has been a raise, the big blind now must either match the raise (call), raise the pot himself, or fold his hand.

The Flop

After the action is complete for the first round, that is, at the point that all the betting has been equalized, the dealer places three cards are called community cards, and each player uses them in combination with his own two cards.  Each player tries to form the best five-card hand from some combination of his two hole cards and the five community cards.
  Because community cards are part of every player’s hand, a flop of A-A-A is ordinarily nothing to get too excited about.  Yes, you have three aces, but so do all your opponents. If you have the remaining ace in your hand, however, some inner rejoicing may be appropriate.
  A second round of betting now begins.  This time the betting starts with the first active player to the dealer’s left.  (An active player is one who has met all the betting thus far.)  The first round of betting is the only one in which the betting does not start immediately to the left of the button – and that is because of the blinds.  The first player has two options.  He can check (make no bet but retain his cards) or bet.  Only in the first round must each player in turn bet or fold until a bet has been made – also because of the blinds.  If someone bets on the second round, each remaining player has three options: fold, call (equal the preceding bet), or raise.  The action continues around the table until the betting for that round has been equalized – with the same proviso about the cap as on the first round.