While in online gameplay, the click of a button puts your money into the pot, live play requires some additional knowledge of rules and etiquette for how players should conduct themselves at the table (when betting, when in a hand, when not in a hand, etc.).
These rules are enforced so that gameplay can follow a standard, systematic, and fair approach that protects players in a hand from being exploited in one way or another from another player’s actions.
A string bet is one example of an action (or type of bet) that is prohibited at the poker table.
Read on to find out what a string bet is, why it’s illegal, how to avoid doing it in your live game, and more!
What Is a String Bet?
Betting is permissible on any street of action for all poker variants (in accordance with the rules of the game). However, in live poker, it isn’t just about the amount of money you put into the middle, but also how you put it into the middle.
A “string bet” is an illegal type of bet in live poker. It refers to a bet or raise in which the player does not put all his or her desired amount of chips into the pot in one motion, and does so, instead, in multiple motions.
To help illustrate what a string bet is, let’s say you’re playing in your local casino’s $1/$2 live poker game. You’re involved in a hand with one other player where the pot is $200 on the river, and it’s your turn to act. You have two “standard stacks” remaining (20 x $5 chips, totalling $100 in each stack). You decide to bet big with your hand and slide each remaining stack of $100 into the pot, one after the other, betting $200 and going all-in in the process. However, the method you used to put your chips into the middle (one stack at a time and not both at the same time) is illegal and is an example of a string bet.
In this instance, the bet that would stand would only be $100 – the amount of chips you put into the pot during your FIRST forward motion of moving chips.
String Bet Types and Rules
There are many different forms of string betting:
Types of String Bets:
- The Reach-Back: This play is the most ordinary form of string bet. As in the example above, the desired bet of chips is not made in one complete forward motion. Usually, one amount (or stack) of chips is slid into the pot first, followed by a second (or many more) forward motions. Another instance could be when a player doesn’t verbally announce “raise” beforehand, and first places forward calling chips, followed by the amount of the raise on top (in a secondary forward motion). In this latter instance, the action would be considered a call.
- The Drop-Down: This is where a player picks up a stack of chips in hand, and then one by one drops them onto the table (across the betting line). In this instance, only the first chip (or group of chips that simultaneously are released) will be counted as the bet.
- Verbal String Bets: This one is most often found in Hollywood films with characters saying, “I’ll see (call) your $5,000, and raise you $5,000!” In this situation, they cannot declare call first and have it followed by a raise. Whatever action said first is binding. Therefore, if you say “Call,” then it’s a call, regardless of what you might say or do afterwards.
Casino-Dependent String Bets:
The following examples will be penalised in most casinos. However, some cardrooms will have a leniency towards them. When in doubt, always apply one singular forward motion with your bets to ensure you won’t be penalised, and include the following as well into your general “do not do” list.
- The Double-Wrist: This is when a player cuts out X number of chips from their stack, applies forward motion of the wrist (i.e. to the “line”), and then tosses the chips into two spread out parallel lines with each other. If this were considered a string bet, then only the first “parallel line” of chips would be counted as a bet.
- The Peel-Off: While technically not a “string bet” as per definition, this illegal bet is quite similar in nature. It occurs when a player takes a large stack of chips into their hand, applies forward motion and/or places the chips across the line. They then cut out only a certain number of chips from the stack in hand into smaller, easier-to-read stacks, and then peels back the remaining chips that he or she doesn’t wish to be a part of the bet. This move is illegal because it looks like the player might be betting more than they intend to bet. This is a tactic that players could use to angle their opponent into giving off a read on the strength of their hand. Like a string bet, this move takes into account the same underlying rules of forward motion. In this instance, the whole amount of the stack used during the original forward motion would be used as the bet, instead of the smaller, “cut out” amount.
The One Action to Eliminate All String Bets
If you never want to be caught (even accidentally) making a string bet, there is one fail-safe way to ensure you won’t be penalised somehow:
Verbally declare the amount of money you wish you bet or raise!
If you say, “Bet $22,” or even just, “$22,” then that action is binding, and you now must ultimately put $22 into the pot. However, because you verbally declared the amount of your bet beforehand, you can make as many back-and-forth motions as you please when placing your chips into the middle.
If you only declare “raise”, and continue to put out calling chips, then your betting action is not complete. Be sure that when you continue to place the remaining raise into the pot, you either verbally declare the ultimate amount of your raise first, or put all your raising chips forward afterward in one, smooth forward motion.
In summary, any rules regarding string betting are superseded by any verbal declaration of a bet or raise amount made beforehand. As a result, if you’re the type of poker player who doesn’t like to talk at the poker table, be sure to know exactly how you want to place your desired amount of chips into the middle beforehand (all in one smooth motion).
Below are some more tips you can follow regarding string betting:
String Betting Tips (What to Do / What to Avoid)
- Call the Floorman to Resolve Disputes: If you ever believe that a string bet was called incorrectly or not called at all, call over the floorman to resolve the dispute.
- Know Your Casinos Rules: Some casinos play by the rule of forward motion (i.e. if you have chips in hand and a forward motion is made, then that is the bet). Other casinos play by the rule that a bet is made only when chips have crossed the line of the betting circle around the table. Knowing which of these motions constitutes a bet will help you avoid making unintended string bets in your game. (If in doubt, ask the dealer or floorman beforehand, or pay attention to how other players are legally placing their bets forward.)
- Denominations of Chips: If you’re playing larger stakes games, or are deepstacked and making large bets relative the denominations of chips you have in front of you, plan ahead how you want to make your bets. For example, if you’re playing a live cash game and want to make a raise to $350, it will be easier to do so using $25 and $100 chips, instead of 3.5 stacks of smaller, $5 chips (i.e. sliding them out altogether).
- Verbal Declaration: Of course, as aforementioned, always remember that verbally declaring your intentions for how many chips you want to bet or raise will eliminate any possibility of string betting. This play also might be a better course of action if you have smaller-value chips in front of you and are making large bets.
- Say Your Bet Amounts the Same Way: Ensure that if you’re using the “verbal declaration” tip to avoid any possibility of making string bets in your game. Be sure to say your bet amount in the same way and with the same intonation every time, so as not to give off any tells (i.e. regarding whether your hand might be strong or weak).
Why Is a String Bet Illegal?
S betting is illegal because by doing it, it is possible for the bettor/raiser to gain information about their opponent’s hand strength unfairly. By looking at them when they are placing out their chips, they can gauge their opponents’ subsequent reactions as they continue to put more chips into the middle using multiple forward motions.
The rules regarding string betting have been put into place to protect all players from being exploited.
1) Teddy KGB in the Final Hand in “Rounders”:
- The Play: When Teddy KGB is making his last bet after the Ace on the river, he picks up his stacks one at a time and drops the chips slowly one by one into the middle while saying “Bet…it…all!” If he said, “All-in,” or something similar before betting, then that declaration would be binding, and he could put his remaining chips in, however, he’d please. As it stands, his bet on the river should only be counted as the value of the first chip to have touched the felt when he commenced making his bet. Hollywood movies include many such examples of string bets to add dramatic effect to the scene.
2) Daniel “Jungleman” Cates Raises ¾ of Stack, Check-Folds Flop:
- The Play: While playing a tournament in the Premiere League, Jungleman wakes up with 99 in the BB and about 20bb left in his stack. Facing an UTG raise from Patrik Antonius, he decides to go all-in, but doesn’t verbally declare it beforehand, and instead reaches for his 2 chip stacks in the largest denominations of chips and pushes them forward first. Before he can place the other two stacks of his in, Patrik instantly announces, “Call,” assuming Jungleman was going all-in. However, as per the rules of string betting in poker, the raise stands to be 315k instead of his entire 435k stack. Jungleman is then able to confidently check-fold the AT2 rainbow flop that comes out because of the range of hands he puts Antonius on and how well that would connect with this board versus his pocket nines. In this instance, as per the rules of string betting in poker, the ruling was correct, as Jungleman didn’t verbally declare going all-in before pushing his 2 largest stacks forward. The resulting flop play was unusual to see, but still legally correct regarding how the hand played out.