Poker is essentially a game of betting. Understanding the rules behind how poker betting works is extremely critical to generating a winning strategy.

In this guide to poker betting rules, we’ll discuss all the vital information to get us up to speed on how betting works in poker. 

Here is what’s coming up -

The Betting Options

The first step is to be aware of which betting options are available. 

Note the various options in the following table -

Option Explanation
Check Make no bet. The action passes to the player on our left
Bet Bet an number of chips. 
Call Match the current bet amount. 
Raise Increase the size of the current bet. 
Fold We don’t want to match the current bet and give up on the hand. 

Let’s see each betting option in more detail. 

Rules of Checking

For checking to be a legal option, there must be no bet made before us on the current betting round. If a player before us has made a bet, we must either call, fold or raise

Say every player checks on a particular betting round. The action then moves to the next betting round (or showdown if the end of the hand is reached).

Rules of Betting

A bet can be made on any street provided there is not already an existing bet in place. The maximum size of the bet will depend on the betting structure, which we’ll discuss shortly. If a player before us has already made a bet, we must call, fold or raise

Rules of Calling

A call is made when we want to match an existing bet on the current betting round. 

If no bet has been made before us, we must either bet or check

Rules of Raising

A raise is made when there is an existing bet on the current street, but we want to increase the size of the bet.

Other players must now call, fold or re-raise when facing the new bet amount.

Rules of Folding

A fold is made when there is an existing bet on the current street, but we are not interested in matching it. We discard our cards and forfeit any chance of winning the pot. 

If there is no existing bet on the current street, folding doesn’t make sense. We can continue in the hand by checking. Folding is still a legal option and is called open folding in this context. It’s something that good players seldom do. 


What Poker Terminology Do We Need to Know?What Poker Terminology Do We Need to Know?

Let’s discuss some basic guidelines to help make sure other poker players more easily understand us.

  • The term bet refers to the first bet on a betting round. Raises and calls are both types of bets. But using the term bet to describe raises and calls would potentially be confusing.
  • The term raise refers to increasing the size of an existing bet. The first bet on a betting round is technically a type of raise. But using the term raise to describe such a bet would potentially be confusing.
  • The term re-raise refers to increasing the size of an existing raise. Raising the first bet on a betting round is technically a type of re-raise. But using the term re-raise to describe a raise against the first bet on a betting round would potentially be confusing. (You should use the term raise instead). 

Terms are given to various bets in a sequence to help differentiate them. 

Note the following table -

Order in Sequence Type of Action Terms
1st (First bet) Bet One-bet
2nd (Second bet, first raise) Raise Two-bet
3rd (Third bet, second raise, first re-raise) Re-raise Three-bet
4th (Fourth bet, third raise, second re-raise) Re-raise Four-bet
5th (Fifth bet, fourth raise, third re-raise) Re-raise Five-bet

Check out this article on three-betting for more information about the sequence of betting

Betting Structures

The rules on how much we can bet centre on the betting structure. There are three main betting structures. 

Note the breakdown in the following table -

Betting Structure Overview
No Limit Players can bet or raise any amount from their stack at any time.
Pot Limit Players can bet or raise up to the size of the current pot at any time.
Fixed Limit Betting occurs in fixed increments.

Let’s see a breakdown of each betting structure.

  • No Limit

    Since the advent of No-Limit Hold’em, this has quickly become the most popular betting structure.

    Although players can bet or raise any amount at any time, they are not allowed to raise more than the amount of chips they currently have at the table. This restriction is the table stakes rule.
  • Pot Limit

    The pot-limit betting structure is most commonly used for Pot-Limit Omaha games. Players can bet or raise the size of the pot. Calculating a pot-sized bet is relatively straightforward. But calculating a pot-sized raise can take some practice.

    Check out this article for instructions on how to calculate a pot-sized raise. 

Minimum Legal Raises

In no-limit and pot-limit games, there is a minimum legal raise amount. A raise amount must be at least the size of the previous raise or larger

  • The only exception to this is if a player is all-in for their entire stack. They are allowed to raise all-in, even if their raise is less than the legal minimum amount.

Players who have already matched the previous bet will only be able to call (and not re-raise) when facing an all-in shove for less than the minimum raise.

For more information, check out this article on raise amounts in poker

The Flow of Action

A big part of the rules of betting is knowing the order that each player at the table is supposed to act.

It depends on the poker game format. We can roughly split poker games into two broad categories.

  1. Games with a Button
  2. Stud Games

Games with a Button

Games with a Dealer ButtonGames with a Dealer Button

This variation involves most poker games including, Hold’em, Omaha and Draw games. 

The flow of action centres on a circular disc at the table known as the button. The button moves around the table clockwise after each hand. 

The player to act first is always the player to the immediate left of the button. The action then proceeds clockwise until all players have either agreed on a bet amount or folded. 

On the preflop betting round, the first action of the two players to the direct left of the button is to place mandatory bets, known as blinds

In some senses, the action starts three to the left of the button on the first betting round (preflop). 

Stud Games

There is no button in Stud games. The order of the action instead focuses on the strength of each player’s visible cards (known as ‘upcards’). 

On the first betting round, the player with the weakest upcards acts first. On all subsequent betting rounds, the player with the strongest upcards acts first. 

The action proceeds clockwise around the table until all players have either agreed on a bet amount or folded.

Since the strength of players’ upcards change from round to round, the first player to act may also change.

This rule differs from games with a button where the order of action is always the same. In button games, the button does not move during a hand.

Betting Strategy

Although not strictly tied to the rules of betting, it can help to have a basic understanding of some of the common reasons for betting in poker. 

Note the following table listing common types of bet -

Type of Bet Description
Value Bet A bet made with the intention of getting worse hands to call.
Bluff A bet with a weak hand made with the intention of getting stronger hands to fold. 
Semi-Bluff A bet with a draw made with the intention of getting stronger hands to fold. Even if stronger hands don’t fold, the draw may hit and make the winning hand.
Protection Bet A bet with the likely best hand hoping to fold out hands that might improve to outdraw us if more cards are dealt.

Why not check out 888poker’s complete guide to betting for more information on the strategy behind making bets in poker? 

Summary of Betting Rules

The order of the actions on each betting round depends on the variant.

When facing a bet, players may either raise, call or fold.

When no bet has been made on the current betting round, players may either bet or check

Knowing the reasons for betting in poker is essential. See more information in 888poker’s list of top tips for improving our strategy in poker.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is an open raise preflop described as a ‘2bet’ in poker?

  • A preflop open raise might appear as if it is the first bet in the sequence (hence, a 1bet). But it is the second bet (first raise) in the series. The mandatory big-blind post counts as the first bet. 

What does the term ‘3bet’ mean in poker?

  • The term ‘3bet’ refers to the third bet (or second raise) in a sequence. In preflop play, the first bet in the sequence is the mandatory big blind. The second bet in the sequence (i.e., a ‘2bet’) is a preflop open raise. 

    If a player raises against a preflop open-raise, it is a ‘3bet’ since it is the third bet in the series. 

What are the rules if three players are all-in in poker?

  • Assuming all three players don’t have identical stacks, it will be necessary to form what is known as a ‘side pot’. Players will only place a number of chips equivalent to the shortest player’s stack into the main pot.

    Any additional chips will be placed into the side pot. Only two deeper-stacked players can win this money. 

What is the minimum legal raise amount in poker?

  • In fixed-limit games, the minimum raise is the size of the small bet or the big bet, depending on the betting round. In no-limit and pot-limit games, the minimum legal raise amount is the size of the previous raise.

    For example, if a player bets 7bb on the flop, the minimum legal raise would be to 14bb, followed by a minimum legal re-raise of 21bb.

Can I get more chips to bet with mid-hand in poker?

  • This request is not possible in modern poker games. Poker players in the movies may often bet with keys to private yachts and expensive sports cars once they run out of chips. But poker doesn’t work like this in the real world.

    Due to the table stakes rule, players may only bet with the chips they had at the table at the beginning of the hand. If we wish to bring more chips to the table, we will need to wait until the current hand is over.
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