If you’re new to the game of Poker you might be overwhelmed by the many different poker terms that you hear during the game. In order for a game to flow smoothly, players should be well versed with the basic Poker Action terms such as Check, Bet, Call, Raise, and Fold. In this simple guide, we will explain each poker action term and how it is used in the game of Poker.
A “Check” in poker is used when a player wants to stay in the game and keeps their cards while passing the action over to the next player. Checking the hand gives that player the opportunity to raise, call or fold later on to any action from another player during the same betting round.
Players usually use the universal sign of tapping the table with their hands to indicate that they would like the Check.
A player opens the round of betting in a poker hand by calling a “Bet”. The player who called the action to “Bet” may be doing so because they are to the immediate left of the dealer button, thus allowing them first action, or because another player has checked and passed the action on to them. Subsequent players will then be faced with the option to call, raise, or fold.
In No-Limit and Pot-Limit games, players are required to put in a minimum amount of bet in order to open the action. This is usually the amount of the big blind.
Making a bet pre-flop might be a show of a strong starting hand but can also be signs of a bluff or an attempt to steal the pot. It’s best to familiarise yourself with signs of a bluff in poker to better understand how to manage your chip stack.
After a player has called a “Bet”, the subsequent player can “Call” the bet. A “Call” in poker is essentially just matching the existing wager from a “Bet” or a “Raise” in the current betting round. If no player decides to call, the hand is over and the player who made the “Bet” or “Raise” wins the hand. If in the case the hand makes it to the “River” and a “Bet” or “Raise” is called by either one or more than one player, all players who are still in the hand will show their hole cards and the best hand wins.
A player who would like to increase the wager of the opening bet has the option to call a “Raise”. A “Raise” has to be equal or more than the amount of the previous “Bet” or “Raise”. The action of raising in poker is usually associated with having a strong hand but can also be used as a bluff to win the pot. In most poker games now, raises need to be the same size or larger than the last bet.
After a “Raise” has been placed, subsequent players will have the option of a “Call”, “Fold” or a “Re-Raise”. A “Re-Raise” is exactly what it sounds like. Players who would like to increase the existing wager from the “Raise” that has already been placed can choose to “Re-Raise”. And the raising and re-raising could go on and on until a player decides to just “Call” it or “Fold”.
There are rules as to how much one can raise and re-raise. The players must raise at least equal to the previous bet or higher. For example, if you bet $5, the next player must raise by at least another $5, which means they must put in $10. If the player chooses to raise the bet by $7, thus totalling an additional $12 in the pot, the next re-raise would have to be a minimum re-raise of $7, which means a total of another $19 into the pot.
Unlike No-Limit games, where there's no limit to the amount you can raise, in Pot-Limit games, the amount you are allowed to raise is limited to the size of the pot. Let's say there was $20 in the pot after the flop, and your opponent bet $10 to start the action. If you wanted to raise, you could only raise the amount from $10 to the size of the pot, which was $40 ($10 to match the last player's bet and $30 in the current pot). If you wanted to raise the maximum amount, you had to put in $50, which was the total of the maximum $40 raise and the $10 to match the previous bet.
A “Fold” in poker is to discard your hole cards. This means the end of your participation in a hand. When you have folded your hands, you no longer need to contribute to the pot. If you’ve got a weak hand you’ll most likely be doing a lot of folding so it’s good to know the proper etiquette when folding.
When playing online poker, players can only “Fold” when it is their turn to act. The general rule of thumb applies in live poker games as well. Players who believe it's time to fold will need to wait for their turn before declaring their intention to “Fold” by tossing their hole cards face down towards the dealer who will then place the cards in the muck pile.
The Strategy Behind The Betting Action
Each poker action provides strategic opportunities and challenges.
Checking in poker can be optimal when you want to control the pot size, induce bluffs, or see a free card when you have a marginal hand. Don't overuse checking, as it allows opponents to see free cards too.
A bet often indicates strength but can also be a bluff or semi-bluff. Pay attention to bet sizing for clues. Small bets usually signify weaker hands or draws. Overly large bets can look bluffy.
Raising serves several strategic purposes. You can raise for value with a strong hand to build the pot. Raising as a bluff puts pressure on opponents to fold. The check raise is an especially powerful move to gain control.
While calling doesn't provide as much information as raising, it's still an important option for many poker players. Knowing when to call versus making another more aggressive play takes experience and good reads.
Folding is critical to limit losses if you hold a weak hand, but don't fold too easily, or you'll miss out on potentially profitable situations. Consider implied odds and position before folding.
Making optimal strategic choices requires considering your hand, position, board texture, opponents' styles, and past actions. With experience, you'll make better poker actions aided by reads and instincts.
Avoiding Common Poker Mistakes
When starting out in poker, it's easy to make some common mistakes with the different actions.
Mistake - Overchecking strong hands, missing an opportunity to build the pot.
How to Avoid - If you have a strong hand, especially on a board with potential draws, consider betting or raising to protect your hand and build the pot.
Mistake - Checking too frequently out of fear, allowing more aggressive players to take control.
How to Avoid - Mix up your play. Sometimes take the initiative to bet or raise, even with medium-strength hands, to keep opponents guessing.
Mistake - Betting too small, giving opponents better odds to call with drawing hands.
How to avoid - Size your bets appropriately, usually between half to the full size of the pot, to make it costly for opponents to chase draws.
Mistake - Betting without a clear reason, either as a bluff or for value.
How to avoid- Before making a bet, have a clear intention. Are you trying to get a worse hand to call or a better hand to fold?
Mistake - Calling too often with weak hands or marginal draws, also known as being a "calling station."
How to avoid - Be more selective with the hands you choose to continue with. Consider the odds and the potential future betting rounds.
Mistake - Raising too frequently without a strong hand or a clear plan, making it easy for observant opponents to exploit you.
How to Avoid - Balance your raising range with both strong hands and potential bluffs. Don't raise just for the sake of it.
Mistake - Folding too quickly without considering the pot odds or the tendencies of the opponent.
How to Avoid - Take your time to assess the situation. If the odds are looking good or if you believe your opponent might be bluffing, consider calling or even raising.
Mistake - Being too stubborn and not folding when clearly beaten, leading to significant losses.
How to Avoid - Recognize when you're likely beaten and save your chips for more favorable situations. It's okay to fold and wait for a better spot.
Wrapping Up On Poker Game Actions
Now that you’re more familiar with the basic poker actions, you can play most poker variants with more confidence. Whether you’re playing live poker or online poker, Texas Hold’em or Omaha, you’re equipped with the knowledge that will help you improve your poker game.
Which action to take at the poker table? And how to take them? These are some of the easiest steps to learn as you embark on your poker career. Now that you have learned them, you are ready to start playing. If you find that you need to learn more about the different phases such as the Flop, Turn, and River, check out our guide on How To Play Poker: Texas Hold’em Poker Rules.
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