The Basics of Blinds and Betting

chips and cards
Blinds, bets and bluffs.

Before you can play the game, you're going to have to learn what betting options you have, when you have them and how to make them.

Depending on what style and limit of poker you're playing, the ante or blind structure will vary. I've added a series of tables at the end of this article to allow you to easily find the type used for the game you're about to play.

Antes, Blinds, Brings and Postings

Antes: An ante is a small set amount which all players must contribute before any cards are dealt.

Blinds: Similar to an ante, but not everyone has to contribute. There are two blinds, the small and the big. The small blind is placed by the player directly to the left of the dealer (dealer button), with the big blind to the left of the small.

In a Limit game, the small blind is half the minbet (the lower of the two limits) and the big blind is double that. For example, in a $4/$8 Limit game, the small blind is $2 and the big blind is $4.

In a No-Limit game, the game is usually referred to by the blind sizes. For example, a $2/$5 No-Limit game would be small blind $2, big blind $5.

Brings (Bring-In): In a Stud game, the person showing the worst up card (door card) must "bring it in." A $1/$2 Stud game would typically have a 25¢ ante. The player has the option to bring half the lower limit amount (50¢) or complete to the full bet of $1.

Posting: In a game with blinds, it's common for you to have to "post" before your first hand at the table. Posting is simply paying the amount of the big blind to be dealt your first hand. If this is required where you play, you also have the option to wait until you would be the natural big blind, or until the button passes you to post.

Betting Options

Call, check, raise, pass, re-raise, push, bet, check-out, three-bet and upstairs are just a few of the terms used in making bets on a poker table. It can seem daunting, but boiled down there are never more than three specific options you can pick from on any street.

All betting actions are made by either vocalizing them, or using a hand gesture. When learning the game, it's best to vocalize all intended action on your turn.

Bet: The first time someone puts money into play on a betting round is a bet. Action: Putting the exact amount of the intended bet across the line, into play.

Call: To match the bet made by another player to have acted before you. Action: Putting in any chips equal to, or less than the bet. Putting in one chip is always considered a call no matter what the value of the chip, unless stated otherwise before the motion.

Check: When no bet has been made, you can stay in the hand by choosing to check rather than bet. Action: Tapping your hand twice on the table, or making a "Keep on moving" sideways wave.

Raise: To increase the amount of the bet made by another. Action: Placing enough chips to make a legal raise in one movement. You are not allowed to place chips and then return to your stack to get more, unless you clearly state your intentions prior to the movement.

Push: A No-Limit term meaning you are betting all of your chips. Action: Pushing everything you have across the line.

Re-raise: You raise a bet, and re-raise a raise. Action: Same as a raise.

Check-out, three-bet, upstairs: All just poker slang for various actions. Not important in learning the game.

Betting Rounds:

A betting round ends when every player who has not folded has had a chance to play and has bet the same amount of chips. Let me make it a little bit clearer:

WSOP red shirt small stack
Not sure the bet is to you? Just ask the dealer.

  • If you are first to act, you have the option to Check, or Bet.
  • If someone before you has bet, you have the option to Call, Raise or Fold.
  • If the first player bets, and everyone calls, the betting round is finished. The original bettor has already had a chance to act, and does not get to act again on the betting round.
  • If the first player bets, the second player raises and the remaining players call, the original bettor now gets to choose an option on the new action. She can call, or re-raise. If she calls, the betting round is over. If she chooses to re-raise, then everyone else at the table has option again.

The Games

For quick reference, this is how five popular poker variants play out in terms of blinds and betting rounds and amounts.

Game Blind/Ante
Hold'em The game of Hold'em mostly only uses blinds. In higher-stakes games, or late stages of a tourney, you may see antes introduced in addition to the blinds.

Omaha Same as Hold'em.
Seven-Card Stud Typically uses an ante, and a bring. This can change from limit to limit, and room to room.
Five-Card Stud Same as Seven-Card Stud.
Razz Same as Seven-Card Stud.

Game Betting Rounds
Hold'em Four rounds total, plus blinds.
Omaha Same as Hold'em.
Seven-Card Stud Five rounds total, plus antes and bring.
Five-Card Stud Four rounds total, plus antes and bring.
Razz Same as Seven-Card Stud.

Game Betting Amounts
Hold'em Pre-flop and flop minimum bets are the lower limit, turn and river minimum bets are the upper limit.
Omaha Same as Hold'em.
Seven-Card Stud Typically bring is half the lower limit. First betting round and fourth street are the lower limit. Fifth, sixth and seventh street use the upper limit. NOTE: Ante and bring amounts, or usage, can change from limit to limit, and room to room.
Five-Card Stud Typically bring is half the lower limit. First betting round and third street are the lower limit. Fourth and fifth street use the upper limit. NOTE: Ante and bring amounts, or usage, can change from limit to limit, and room to room.
Razz

Same as Seven-Card Stud.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

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