One of the more confusing aspects of Texas Hold’em for beginners is how betting works during the game. Depending on the structure of the game you’re playing in, the rules for betting can be very different, and sometimes rather confusing. Here’s a quick guide to Texas Hold’em Betting that should help you understand exactly what’s going on.
Texas Hold’em Betting: General Rules
In Texas Hold’em, betting begins to the left of the dealer button and moves around the table clockwise. At the beginning of a hand, two players must make forced bets, called blinds, in the two seats directly to the left of the button. At any time, players have the option to call the current bet, raise the current bet, or fold their hand. If no bets have been made yet in a round, players also have the option of passing their turn by checking.
Each Texas Hold’em betting structure also has its own betting rules.
Texas Hold’em Betting: Limit Texas Hold’em
In Limit Texas Hold’em, betting is structured so that all bets on a given round are of the same size. In the vast majority of cases, a smaller bet is required in the first two rounds of betting, with a larger bet required on the turn and river.
Generally, a Limit Texas Hold’em game will be named based on the size of these bets. For instance, a $2/$4 Limit Texas Hold’em game will have $2 bets and raises early in the hand, and $4 bets and raises later in the hand. The large blind is usually the size of the smaller bet (in this case, $2), and the small blind will be about half the size of the large blind (again, in this case, $1).
Texas Hold’em Betting: No Limit Texas Hold’em
In No Limit Texas Hold’em, betting limits are mostly eliminated. When players bet or raise, they now have the option of betting as much of the money they have in front of them as they like. The only restriction is that any bet must be at least the size of the big blind, and any raise must be at least as large as the raise that proceeded it.
Most No Limit Texas Hold’em games will be named after the size of the blinds being used. A $1/$2 No Limit game will have a $2 big blind, and a $1 small blind. Each bet will need to be at least $2. If a player raises that bet to $6, that is a raise of $4; if another player wishes to raise again, they will need to make the bet at least $10 ($6 plus the $4 size of the previous raise).
Texas Hold’em Betting: Pot Limit Texas Hold’em
Pot Limit Texas Hold’em betting is slightly more complex than in the above examples. While players may raise more than they can in Limit games, they do not have complete freedom as in No Limit games. Instead, players are limited by raising the amount of the current pot size.
Calculating the pot size for these games can sometimes seem complicated. The pot is considered to be the total of the chips already in the pot on previous rounds, bets made on the current round of betting, and the amount the current player would need to call before making a raise.
For instance, imagine a pot that already has $50 in it. A player then opens the betting on a new round with a $20 bet. If the next player wishes to raise, the pot size is:
$50 for the previous rounds’ bets
$20 for the current round’s bet
$20 for what the next player would have to call to stay in the hand.
This means that the current pot is considered $90, and the player may raise an additional $90 beyond that. Thus, the player may put up to $110 into the pot — $20 to call, and another $90 to raise.
As with No Limit Hold’em games, the games are usually named based on the size of the blinds; a $1/$2 Pot Limit Hold’em game will have a small blind of $1 and a large blind of $2.
Texas Hold’em Betting: Spread Limit Texas Hold’em
While it’s a less common variant, you may sometimes find Spread Limit Texas Hold’em games available. These games allow players to bet or raise anywhere in a given range of allowable bets. For instance, a $1-$5 Spread Limit Texas Hold’em game would allow bets anywhere from $1 to $5. As with other games, normal betting rules still exist; specifically, a raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise (in other words, if one player raises $5, the next cannot raise $1).
Texas Holdem Betting Strategy
Betting is the crux of poker. The game of Texas Hold’em consists of a series of bets based on the perceived strength of your cards – without betting, it would simply be a game of who got dealt the best hand and players would just wait to have the best possible hand before wagering money.
Many players totally misunderstand the art of betting – too often on forums, I’ve heard players say they bet “to see where I’m at” or “because he checked”. Let’s be clear: your bet should be one of two things; a value bet or a bluff.
A value bet is, quite simply, betting your hand for value. This means you believe your opponent will call with a worse hand. When you raise AK before the flop, it’s a value bet. If you bet 88 on a 824 board, it’s a value bet. It’s quite simple – if you think that your opponent’s range of hands is worse than your holding, bet for value and hope for a call.
A bluff is the opposite of a value bet – you think your opponent’s range of hands is stronger than your hand, however you don’t think it is strong enough to call a bet. So, you bet.
If, for example, you have Ah-Qh on a low board with two hearts, you have a strong hand and bet for value. The turn and river blank and your opponent checks to you. If you think he has a middle pair that won’t call a third bet, bet and take down the pot.
A semi-bluff is a bet that right now is likely to be behind your opponents range, but has the chance to improve on later streets. The 2 most common types of semi bluffs are with large draws such as a flush draw that has 9 outs and an open ended straight draw that has 8 outs (learn how to count outs here).
Take the example above of having Ah-Qh on a board of 9h-4h-2c. You have only ace high but your nut flush draw and two overcards give you a good chance to win the pot – in fact, against JJ on that board you are a 55/45 favourite!
Therefore a semi-bluff is a bet made as a bluff, such as with ace high and a flush draw, that aims to fold out a better hand but has numerous outs if called. This way even if a better hand does call your bluff, you can still take the pot with a good turn or river card.
When to Value Bet; When to Bluff?
This question simply boils down to how to read your opponents’ hand. A detailed article on this would far exceed a reasonable word count, so I’ll attempt to surmise succinctly as I have done in the previous beginner articles.
Firstly, you don’t put your opponent on a hand – you put him on a range of hands. If someone raises before the flop then bets the flop and turn of a 9-8-2 board they don’t automatically have KK or 22 or 98. To narrow down an opponent’s range, let’s use an example hand. A decent, tight-aggressive player raises under the gun. You call on the button; your cards are irrelevant but say you have 77. Both blinds fold. Now, before the flop is dealt, ask what is his range? Knowing what you know about this player (that’s he’s a pretty good TAG) you can confidently give him an estimated range of AA-22 and AK-AJ.
The flop is something unconnected and dry, such as 9c-5d-2d. Your opponent bets and you call, knowing he will continuation bet his entire range. The turn is the 5c and your opponent bets again – now his range has narrowed.
He is unlikely to have 99, 55 or 22 as many players will check this hand and allow you to bluff off your chips into their monster.
He also probably doesn’t have any pair less than 99, nor is he likely to have AK-AJ unless he holds the nut flush draw. His range therefore has narrowed to TT+, AdKd, AdQd and AdJd.
This is a very simple example about how you can narrow down someone’s range of hands over a few rounds of betting.