Poker Rules

Poker Basics

*Please note that this article explains rules in live action. Tournament rules and online rules vary somewhat due to the difference in venue and need*

In all games of poker, the ante or the blinds create and start the action and the pot. The blinds - in all games that use a dealer button - designate the first bet. The big blind is opening the bet for a designated amount and each player, in turn, must call that amount, fold, or call and raise the same amount. No one can check during this round.

In games using a dealer button, when a new game begins, a draw or deal is done to determine who will receive the dealer button. The dealer button rotates, clockwise, after each hand to the next live player at the table. A live player is one seated at the table with chips. A stack of chips may be present at the table without a player seated.

The first player to the left of the dealer button is dealt first in each hand. After all cards are dealt out, and all players have acted on their hands, the big blind player has the option to raise. This is the only time that a player may raise their own bet. Any player returning to the game, posting their blinds out of position (not in the big blind position) will have their small blind pulled into the pot (it is considered to be ‘dead'), their big blind is ‘live' and when the action comes to them, they have the option to raise - just as if they were in the big blind position.

If a player posts their big blind and is dealt in, but misses their small blind, when they return to the table (as long as they haven't missed the big blind) they may post their small blind and be dealt in. The small blind in this instance is considered to be ‘dead' and taken into the pot. If the player wants to proceed with the hand, they must call the full amount of the big blind or raise. If a player posts the big blind and is dealt in, and changes seats at the table, they may post their small blind (out of position) and be dealt in and in this instance, their small blind is considered to be ‘live' and they only need to complete the amount to the big blind or raise.

ACTION OUT OF TURN: When a player bets or raises or checks in advance of other players in front of him that haven't acted, he may find that his action is binding and if there is no action in front of him, his out of turn action remains as his action. This prohibits a player from trying to make a move to gain a free card or information from players that haven't acted on their hand yet.

ALL-IN: A player is not forced out of the pot if they are playing short money at the beginning of the hand. They are allowed to play all-in. If there are two or more players still involved in betting action, a 2nd pot is started...the all-in player is not entitled to win any of the 2nd pot.

COMMUNITY CARD: In 7 Card Stud games, a community card is used if there are not enough cards left to give each player in the hand an individual, down card. The community card is placed face up on the table. This card plays in each player's hand as if it were their last card...the hand that was high on 6th street still controls the action. In some houses, the stub (remaining cards in the deck) and muck cards will be shuffled to give each player an individual down card.

BUY-IN: In lower limit games, the required buy-in for all games is normally 10 times the minimum bet limit of that game. At higher limits, i.e. $50-100 and up, the required buy-in may be 10 times the big bet limit. Some rooms will allow a ‘short' buy-in for each full buy-in if a player goes ‘bust'; some rooms do not allow short buy-ins and the full buy-in is required to stay in the game. A player may add any amount to their stack, before a hand begins - this is not a shot buy-in, it is an ‘add-on'.

Buying The Button: A player may enter the game between the Button and the Small Blind and ‘Buy the Button' by putting in both blinds. The Small Blind amount is taken into the center and is considered ‘dead' and the Big Blind remains in front of the player starting the betting action. The natural order of the blinds resumes in the next hand when the player entering and posting receives the Button and the two players in front of the Button satisfy their blinds.

BLINDS: All games played with a dealer button require the two players to the left of the button to post the blinds. The big blind is the amount of the small bet limit - in $10-20 limit, the big blind is $10. The small blind is normally half the big blind amount. Each player must take the big blind to enter into the game, either by posting out of position or waiting for the big blind. If a player sits out a round, they must post both blinds to re-enter the game or return in the big blind position.

COLLUSION: This form of cheating is done with two or more players in the same game. If you suspect someone of trying collude with another player at your table, you must report them to the supervisor in a live card room and send an email to support in online card rooms.

LIMIT: The game is structured with a betting limit. In $10-20 Limit, the small blind is $5, the big blind is $10. On the first round of betting, the maximum limit is $10. There are normally two rounds of betting at the small bet limit - $10, and two rounds of betting at the big bet limit - $20.

Mixed Games: A number of games with same or different limits are being played at the same table. The menu may be Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or Better. Hence the term "Horse" or H-O-R-S-E. The general rule is that eight hands are played of each game, the dealer moves a button over in the rack to track the number of hands played.

NO LIMIT: There is no limit on the amount of the bet. A player may bet any amount (as long as it is equal to or more than the big blind amount) at any time when the action comes to them.

ONE PLAYER TO HAND: Only one player is allowed to play a hand, without help or aid from anyone else sitting behind them or in the game. In compliance with this thought, table talk or discussing a hand in progress is also poor etiquette. Never remind someone to look for a card, as in "Anybody got a diamond?"

SPREAD LIMIT: Spread limit normally has a set minimum amount and a set maximum amount, i.e. $2-$20. No bet can ever be less than $2 or more than $20 but either amount or any amount in between may be bet at any time.

ODD CHIP: In the event of identical hands between two or more players, the pot is split evenly. If there is an odd chip, it goes to the player left of the button in all games played with a dealer button. If there is an odd chip in 7 Card Stud games, it goes to the player with high card by suit. In high/lo games, the odd chip goes to the high hand. If there are two or more low hands or high hands, and an odd chip, the 'left of the button' or 'high card by suit' rule would apply.

RAKE AND TIME CHARGES: Most states that allow casino poker have a law in effect on the maximum amount the ‘house' can take for rake from each pot. Rake is a percentage taken from each pot, at certain $ amounts, and generally is governed by a max rake set by the house. Time charges are fees charged to the player for holding the player's seat in the game. If the player is absent on a dinner break, they still pay ‘time'. Time is normally taken from the first pot on the house designated time schedule, but it may also be collected from each player individually. A player absent from the table must pay time individually until they return.

SHILLS AND STAKE PLAYERS
: While shills and stake players are more a tool of the past, they are still used in some houses. A SHILL is given his buy-in by the house and it normally plays out so if the shill wins, the house gets back their buy-in and half of the money the shill won. In some instances, the house keeps track of the shill's losses and that amount is deducted from future wins. A STAKE PLAYER is an employee of the house, eligible for benefits and wages, BUT they must play their own money in games, during set hours by the house, and in general, may be asked to play in short games to hold them together until more players arrive.

TABLE STAKES: All money in play must remain in play until the player leaves the game. Once a hand begins, a player may only play the $ amount in front of them when the cards are dealt, they may not add to their stack until the hand is completed. *Note* Passing chips from your stack to another player's stack at the table is not allowed. Some small rooms will allow it to keep the game going but it makes bad games worse if that is their reasoning.

Now take a look at the poker rules page and start playing poker.