Betting Structure of Poker Games

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This page describes the principle of betting in poker games and explains differences between various betting structures.

What are Betting Structures?

The betting structure is what makes the difference between the influence of luck and skills factors and defines whether odd calculation or game theory skills will play a more important role. Often betting structure is even more important than the type of the game played.

Before a poker game starts, all players must agree about the betting structure to use. In casinos and poker venues this structure is usually defined by the table rules. Main parameters of any betting structure are betting limits, viz. allowed amounts of bets and the use and amount of forced bets (ante, bring-ins or blinds).

Well, balanced betting structures used in casinos and public poker rooms allow skilled players to win in the long run but also involve enough of luck factor to let inexperienced players win frequently enough for the game to be exciting to them.

Betting structure with high forced bets and low limits involve the luck factor, while low forced bets and high limits depend on skills. High forced bets increase the amount of pot, and if the limits are low, pot odds become high enough to play any hand. No gambling professional will agree to play at a table with such conditions.

When the betting structure of the game is chosen and the game starts, each player may perform one of the following actions in each betting round:

Open: Make the first bet in the round. Opening the first betting round is called opening the pot. Some betting structures have special rules concerning opening the pot. Pot opening bet may have different limits or require a player to hold certain cards.

Call: Accept the bet placed by the previous player and stay in the game. If all players at the table call, the betting round ends.

Check: If the round has not been opened, a player may check, which means, choose not to open the round, but stay in the game. Check is normally signified by taping the table with a hand.

Raise: Increase the bet made by the previous player. One important thing to remember is that raise is a separate action that includes accepting and increasing the bet. Saying I call and raise will be terminologically incorrect because raise already includes call. Raising a bet that has already been raised in the same round is normally called re-raise. If a player raises and all other players at the table either call or fold, the player can not re-raise his own bet. In such a case, the betting round ends.

Fold: Discard the hand and leave the game. The fold may also be called drop or pass, although it is not recommended to use the letter term because it can also mean check. Apart from announcing fold verbally, a player can signify it by discarding his hand into the pile of discards or, in the case of stud poker, turning up-cards face down. If a player folds when it is not his turn, or, in some games, folds when he can check, it is called out of turn fold and contradicts the etiquette of the game, because such action disorders the game and may harm the strategy of other players.