Checking, Betting, Calling, Raising and Folding Explained

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Poker is a game of decision taking. In versions known as “Closed” or “Draw” Poker, players must decide whether or not to keep certain cards or discard them in favour of receiving replacements in an attempt to improve the hand. In “Stud Poker,” the cards that are dealt initially are the only ones put in play, but there are still many decisions required, and most of them have to do with wagering.

The five basic wagering actions in most Poker games are checking, betting, calling, raising, and folding. Only one of them, folding, is an available option at all times during the play of a hand. The other four depend on betting actions taken (or not) by opponents prior to the player’s turn.

Checking is equivalent to “no bet,” “pass,” or “stand” in most other card games. The player who checks is reserving the right to remain in the game, but without adding to the pot. The only time this option is available is when no previous player has wagered. For example, at the start of a hand in which everyone has anted up the same amount, the first player to act may check and the decision moves on to the next player clockwise, who may also check, and so on until one player opens up the pot by placing a bet.

Once a bet has been made, checking is no longer an option for the other players. They have been challenged to match whatever amount has been bet and must call, raise, or fold, in turn. Checking is simply a “wait and watch” action that has no affect on the pot.

The first player who adds to the pot during any betting interval is said to be “making a bet.” It is like breaking the ice, opening the pot to additional wagers. Each game has its own rules for betting—how much or how little may be bet, also known as the table limits. In a “pot limit” game, the amount in the pot at any given time is the maximum bet allowed. In a “no limit” game, any amount may be wagered up to the total amount of chips a player holds, which is know as “going all in.” Minimums will apply, too.

After a player has bet, the opponents, in turn, are each confronted by three options: call, raise or fold. To “call” the bet means to put up an amount equal to what the opener has wagered. This is accomplished by pushing the required number of chips to the pot and saying “I call,” “I’ll see that,” or “I’m in.”

Again, folding a hand is allowed during any betting interval. This is accomplished by turning over any revealed cards in a stud game—or by gently pushing or tossing all cards toward the pot, face down, in a draw game—and saying, “I’m out,” “I fold,” or “No thank you.”

The last option available after a bet has been made is to “raise” by wagering an amount greater than whatever the bettor has added to the pot. House Rules may require raises to be in certain increments, such as an amount equal to two times the original bet. In No Limit games, there may be no restriction on the raise except “table stakes”—meaning the total amount of chips held by the player at the table.

Raises should be made by stacking up the full amount of chips to be wagered and pushing them toward the pot while saying, “I raise” or “Make it more,” where “it” refers to the bet. Exactly how much more is being raised may be either stated by the player or announced by the dealer who will count up the chips. After a raise, opponents still have the same three options: call, (re-)raise, or fold.

Note that the term “bet” should only be used when opening the pot, not when calling or raising. Some games restrict the number of raises and re-raises to three times per betting interval while others have no restrictions. The practice known as a “check-raise” or “sandbagging”—checking initially and then raising later after an intervening bet has been made—is forbidden in many games. It is the player’s responsibility to be familiar with specific House Rules or to ask the dealer for clarification prior to such play.

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