Deciphering the betting structure can be a first time Hold’em players biggest challenge. Terms like dealer button, big blind, small blind and straddle are enough to confuse even those players who have spent years playing other poker varieties. Never fear. With a little explaining and some table time, you too can master Texas Hold’em betting.
Betting in Texas Hold’em abides by the age-old saying “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master”. It takes players years to learn the art of betting. It all starts by knowing basic betting structure, which is what we will be focusing on in this article.
In your basic house game, the dealer usually calls the game, shuffles the cards and deals out. The player to his left is then responsible for starting the action. This leaves the dealer to act last giving him a distinct advantage. In house games each player takes turn dealing. Therefor, the advantage of acting last is passed equally to all the players.
In a structured Texas Hold’em game, the casino or card room provides the dealer. By the rules of a normal house game, this would give the player to the right of the dealer the advantage of acting last in every round. To eliminate this advantage the “DEALER BUTTON” was introduced. This small button, or chip, is passed around the table after every hand. The person whom the dealer button is in front of is considered the dealer of that hand. While he does not actually deal the cards, he is awarded all the advantages of being the dealer. The casino dealer will start dealing the hand to the left of the dealer button. When it is time to bet, the person who possesses the dealer button will be last to act. Once the hand is over, the dealer button is passed to the next player to the left.
Another problem was getting the action started or making sure there was always money in the pot for each hand. Casinos or card rooms make money off a rake, a small percentage of each pot. The rake is how they maintain the game and pay the dealers. No action means no money to keep the game going. The solution was to develop forced bets, or “BLINDS”, to ensure that every hand has money in the pot. Blinds are assigned to the two players directly to the left of the player possessing the dealer button. This is done to ensure that as the dealer button moves around the table, so will the blinds.
Normally blinds are broken up into two forced bets, a “SMALL BLIND” and a “BIG BLIND”. The small blind is placed by the first player to the left of the dealer button and is normally half of the opening bet. For example in a £10/£20 Texas Hold’em game the small blind would be £5. The second player to the left of the dealer button then places the big blind. The big blind is normally equal to the opening bet. For the example above, the big blind would be £10.
Once the blinds are placed and the cards are dealt, each player left of the big blind has the opportunity to call, raise or fold. Once the action goes around the table, the small blind can complete the bet or fold. Folding would forfeit his small blind. The big blind then has one last chance to raise before the flop is dealt.
In some rare cases a casino may allow for a “STRADDLE”. A straddle is an additional blind that is not forced. The person to the left of the big blind may choose to place a straddle bet, which equals double the amount of the big blind. A straddle bet is a raise before anyone has seen their cards. When someone elects to straddle, it changes the future betting rounds by making it twice as much to call. Basically, a straddle will turn a £10/£20 game into a £20/£40 for that hand. If you ever hear the dealer announce that a player has chose to straddle, be aware that if you wish to call you must match his initial raise.
As I stated earlier, betting in Texas Hold’em is one of the most important aspects of the game. Hopefully, this article shed some light on the basic betting structure used in most Texas Hold’em and other games where casino dealers are used.