Without the blinds in poker, there would be no incentive to enter pots with anything but premium hands. However, once you add forced bets to the mix, everything changes. Each time you enter a game of poker, regardless of whether it’s in a live casino or at an online poker site, there will be blinds.
This constant pressure of having to pay the blinds means you can’t sit and wait for the best hands. Obviously, you can if you want to. However, you’re running the risk of letting your stack dwindle away. This is why blinds are important. They force the action and dictate the dynamics of the game. We’ll explain how below and why you need to think about the blinds before making a bet when you play poker.
No Limit, Pot Limit, and Fixed Limit Betting
Bets Fixed by Size of Big Blind
Bets Determined by Size of Pot
No Limit on Bet Amount
Raises Only Multiples of Big Blind
Raises Determined by Size of Pot + Amount to Call
No Limit on Raise Amount
The blinds act as a starting point for every poker bet. For example, if the blinds are $1/$2, you’ll base your pre-flop raise on the value of the big blind (i.e. $2). From this, the second variable that affects betting is the game format. Regardless of the variant - Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, or whichever, there will be three-betting structures: No-Limit, Pot-Limit, and Fixed-Limit.
Fixed Limit games are a great place to start practicing your bet sizes. The reason for this is that there are strict limits on the amounts you can bet and raise. Your bets are fixed by the value of the big blind. For example, if the stakes are $1/$2, a call costs $2. In turn, a raise has to be $2, which means your total bet is $4 ($2 call + $2 raise). In simple terms, you can never bet or raise more than the size of the big blind.
Your bets can be as big as the pot in Pot-Limit Games. So, if there’s $10 in the pot, you can make a poker bet up to that amount. This rule also applies to raising. If there’s $10 in the pot and someone ahead of you bets $5, that means there’s now $15 in the pot.
With regards to raising, you also have to factor in the price of calling before calculating your maximum bet size. If there’s $15 in the pot and you’d have to call $5 to continue, that means (in theory) there’s $20 in the pot. Therefore, the maximum raise you can make is $25 (i.e. a $20 raise + the $5 call).
As its name suggests, No Limit poker games mean your bets aren’t restricted. Even if there is only a small amount of money in the pot, you can push your whole stack in. For example, let’s say you’re in a No-Limit Hold’em game and a player bet $10 into a $30 pot.
You’ve got a weak hand but think that a big bet will make the other player fold. You move all-in for $150, your opponent folds and you take the pot. This is the beauty of No Limit games. Basically, this poker betting structure allows you to put as many chips into the pot as you wish (as long as you match or exceed the minimum bet or raise).
The Online Poker Betting Rounds
Your poker betting strategy is defined by the blinds and whether or not the game has a Fixed, Pot, or No Limit structure. In general, these variables will determine how you size your bets. What they won’t determine, however, is determine how you play your poker hand. You can choose to make the following moves:
Call or Fold
Where you match the last biggest bet made. For example, someone bets $5, you want to continue, so you can match their bet to “call”. If you don’t want to match the last biggest bet, you can fold - give up your hand.
Checking is where you move the action along to the next person without putting any money into the pot. You can only check if you’ve matched the last biggest bet. So, if no one raises pre-flop, the big blind can check because they’ve already met the required bet. Similarly, if no one bets post-flop, you can check.
Bet or Raise
A bet in poker is when you’re the first person to put money in the pot. The amount you put in will be determined by the size of the blinds, the size of the pot, and the betting structure (Fixed, Pot, or No Limit). Raising is where you increase the cost of continuing in the hand after someone has made a bet.
For example, if a player bets $2, you can raise it to $22 (in a No-Limit game). A strong move in poker is the check-raise. This is where you check, let a player bet, and then raise. This is a sign of strength because it looks as though the check was designed to trap your opponent/s.
If someone makes a bet and someone else raises, you’ll have the option to re-raise when the action gets back around to you. The size of your re-raise will depend on the betting structure and how much money is in the pot. However, you’re increasing the cost of staying in a hand after someone has raised.
Betting Rounds and Blinds
All games are played over a series of streets/rounds. Bets are permitted on each new street and the action proceeds until one player remains or a showdown is reached. The end of one betting round signals the start of the next. If it’s a cash game, the blinds never increase in value. If it’s a tournament, the size of the blinds will increase at set time intervals. So, the blinds won’t always be the same size from one round to the next.
To explain how streets and betting rounds work in practice, here’s a typical Hold’em hand:
Players receive two cards. This is the start of a round and is known as pre-flop. Betting occurs and if there are two or more players still in the pot, the hand moves to a street known as the flop.
The Flop: the dealer puts out three community cards. Betting occurs and if there are two or more players still in the pot, the hand moves to the next street.
Turn: the dealer puts out a fourth community card. Betting occurs and if there are 2+ players still in the pot, the hand moves to the final street.
The river: a fifth community card comes out. Betting occurs and if there are 2+ players still in the pot, the hand moves to a showdown.
A showdown in poker is where two or more players reveal their hands. This only happens after all bets have been matched on the final street. When players show their hands, the strongest one wins. Although certain variants can have different rules, the standard hand rankings in poker are:
Ah Kh Qh Jh Th
5d 6d 7d 8d 9d
Four of a Kind
Ah Ad As Ac 8s
Ad Ah As Kd Kh
5c Jc Tc 2c 9c
2c 3s 4h 5h 6s
Three of a Kind
Ad Ah As 6c 3s
Ad Ah Kd Kh 2c
Ad Ah 8c Kh 9s
As 6c 9c 2h Jd
When to Bet vs Check/Call vs Check/Fold
Every situation at the poker table is different. However, there are certain variables you can think about before you check, bet, call or fold:
You should always think about the way other players perceive you. If they think you’re tight, they’re more likely to fold when you bet. If they think you’re loose, they’re more likely to call. Therefore, if people think you’re tight, you can try bluffing in certain spots. Conversely, if you’re seen as loose, you should bluff less.
Is your opponent tight or loose, passive or aggressive? If they’re tight and they bet, you should be more inclined to fold strong hands. If they’re loose, you can call with a wider range. Basically, you need to use your opponent’s image against them and check, bet, call or fold accordingly.
How Much in the Pot?
If there’s a lot of money in the pot and you only have to call a small bet, it’s probably OK to do it with a wide range. In contrast, if a bet represents a significant percentage of your stack, you’ll need a strong hand to call. What’s more, if there’s a lot in the pot and you don’t have a big stack, you might not be able to raise as a bluff because an opponent will be priced in to call. Basically, you need to weigh up the cost of making a move based on the size of the pot, your stack, and your opponent’s stake.
How to Size Your Poker Bets Properly
Instead of carefully determining the best size of bet to use, they mash the bet-pot button or just bet a random number. Don't fall into this trap. The game of poker hinges on precision and by making appropriately sized bets, you can increase your edge over your competition.
We've talked before about the importance of making every play for a reason. This is crucial when you're making a bet. Is it a value bet? Or are you trying to make the player fold? Your ultimate goal will affect the size of bet you decide to make. Rather than hammering that bet-pot button, take some time and think about your goal. A little finesse will improve the likelihood that your bet will get your mission accomplished.
A quick note about mixing up your play: you obviously don't want to make the exact same bet in the same circumstances all the time. This will make you incredibly easy to read. You can vary your bet sizes, while keeping your ultimate goal in mind.
Poker Bet Sizing: Know Your Goal
Want Your Opponent to Fold?
You've decided that the goal of the bet you are about to make is to make your opponent fold. Here's a rule of thumb: Bet as little as possible to get the job done
Now I'm not opening the door for you to start min-betting every hand. Not only will you look like a fish, you'll likely be one. What you need to understand is that you can save money while accomplishing your goal.
If you raise pre-flop in position and are called, and you wish to make a continuation bet, there's no reason to bet the whole pot. Often a half- to two-thirds-pot bet will get the job done just as well as that larger bet while risking less chips. Most opponents will fold to the smaller bet just as often as they will to a full-pot-size bet. If your opponent is dead-set on calling, he's going to call no matter what the bet size. So by betting the smaller amount, you save money when you are called!
How to Size Your Poker Bets Example:
$1/$2 NL six-max; $200 effective stacks. You're the button. Folded to you, you raise to $7 with J 10 . The SB folds and the weak BB calls. The flop comes K 3 8 . The BB donk-bets $2.
You decide that you are going to raise his min-bet. Obviously your goal here is to get your opponent to fold. There's $17 in the pot. So how much should you bet? The mistake we see a lot of players making in this spot is making it $16 to go. Massive overkill.
A player like this is probably leading out with a weak one-pair hand or ineffectually trying to steal the pot. This player is just as likely to fold to a $10 raise as to a $16 raise. Those times he does call, you're saving $6. There is no need to risk the extra $6 when the $10 raise will win the same amount of times!
Want Your Opponent to Call?
When you are making a bet that you want to get called, you're making a value bet. The idea is that you have the better hand and you want your opponent to pay you off with a worse one. That said, your rule of thumb, like your goal, is the exact opposite of what it was in our previous example. You want to bet the highest amount you think your opponent will call.
This means that sometimes you're better off making a bigger bet that will get called fewer times rather than making a smaller bet that will get called more often. Know your opponent. You're the one who has been playing with them. You should know their tendencies. Some players may always think an overbet equals bluff; others will think an overbet always equals the nuts.
Same goes for betting a smaller amount - some players are always going to be drawn in by irresistible odds. Always pay attention and use the information you've gained throughout your session to decide what bet size is going to make you the most money.
Why Bet Sizing Really Matters
Of course we all know how to bet, but I guarantee that most of us do not put much thought into our regular bet sizes. However, we are making bets every single hand we play. If you can save an extra dollar here or make a few extra dollars there, all that money adds up over time. So take a few extra seconds and think about bet sizing. I'm sure your win rate will thank you.
Bets in poker are designed to move the action along. You always have to match the last biggest bet if you want to stay in a hand. If no one matches the last biggest bet, the player remaining takes the pot.
How many times do you bet in poker?
The number of times you bet in poker depends on the game you’re playing and the moves you decide to make. If you want to take part in a hand, you’ll have to make at least one bet. In Texas Hold’em, you can bet after you receive your two hole cards, after the flop, after the turn and finally, after the river. There may be fewer betting rounds depending on the action, if everyone but one folds prior to the river, there are no further betting rounds.
How do you win a bet in poker?
You can win a bet in poker by making everyone else fold or by having the best hand at showdown.
How does a round of betting work in Texas Hold’em?
A round of betting in Texas Hold’em starts with everyone getting two cards. From there, betting takes place before the flop, after the flop, after the turn, and after the river.
Who bets first in poker after the flop?
The first player to bet after the flop is the small blind if they’re still in the hand. If not, the big blind will bet first. If the big blind has also folded, it’s the first active player to the left of the big blind.