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If you're new to poker, hearing "big blind" may bring to mind a large guy who can't see, and "call" is something you do with a phone. Not to worry. This easy guide will help you get up to speed and into the action.

Before a hand is even dealt, players put money in the pot. This way, each player has something at stake in the game before the first card is dealt.

There are two different ways this is done:

If a game has an ante, every player contributes a certain, predetermined amount to the pot before each hand. It's usually a small bet. For instance, in a nickel-dime-quarter game, it might be a nickel. The important thing about antes to remember is that a player's ante doesn't count as a bet. It's just a way of getting a pot started.

The other way to start the action rolling is by making players put in a forced bet, called a “blind” before the deal. It's called a blind because you haven't seen a card when you put in this bet -- you're going in without seeing, or blind.

The most common practice is to have the two players to the left of the dealer pay the blinds. The player immediately to the dealer's left places a smaller bet called the “little blind,” while the player two places to the left puts in the “big blind.”

The amounts of the blinds are fixed and determined before the game begins. Usually the “big blind” is equal to the smallest bet possible, while the little blind is 1/2 or 1/3 of that amount. So, if the minimum bet was $3, the big blind would place a forced bet of $3 and the little blind might put out $1.

The difference between blinds and antes is that blinds do count as a player's first bet. This means in the first round of betting, no one can “check,” that is, everyone has to bet.

Onto the next page for more on checking, calling, betting, and raising and when you can do each one.

Let's look at how a round of betting goes:

You're the first to act in a game with antes. There are two things you can do: check (pass the bet) or you can bet . Let's say you bet.

The next player (the one sitting on your left) can do three things: she can call or see your bet, which means she matches it exactly; she can raise the bet; or she can give up on her hand and fold or "muck" it.

This continues from player to player going around to the left. If someone raises a bet you made, when it comes back to you, you have the same options as everyone else: call, raise, or fold. The round of betting is over when everyone simply calls the last bet and all the players (who haven't folded) have put in the same amount of money. A round of betting can also be “checked around” – meaning everyone checks and there's no money put in the pot that round.

There's no one rule of how to set up the betting in all games of poker. Depending on whether you're playing in a casino or in a home game, you may encounter one of these four common structures.

Spread Limit
Most common in home games. In a spread-limit game, a player can bet any amount within some range – for instance $1-$5. Basically, it means the minimum any player can bet is $1, and the most anyone can bet or raise at one time is $5. The only other rule regards raising. If someone raises, you can only raise that much or higher. In other words, if the player to your left raises four dollars, you can't raise just the $2 you were planning to, you've got to raise $4 or more.

Fixed Limit
This is what most people play in casinos. Simply, with fixed limit poker, the amount you can bet or raise is fixed for each round of betting. If you're playing a $2-$4 fixed limit game, every player can only bet or raise $2 for the first few rounds (usually the first two) of betting, and can only bet or raise $4 for the last rounds of betting. It keeps it nice and simple.

Pot Limit
In pot limit games, the largest amount you can bet or raise is the amount that's in the pot at that very moment. While at first pot-limit seems simple, it's actually probably the betting structure that confuses people the most, and can get pretty expensieve if if people keep doubling the pot.

No Limit
If you've watched Texas Hold'em on television, you've seen the world of no limit. It's just what it sounds like: at any point, you can push all the chips you have in front of you as a bet. There's absolutely no cap on how much money that is, other than it's what you have on the table already.

Familiarize yourself with these common poker betting terms and slang and you'll fool everyone into thinking you're a seasoned pro.

Buy-In - The amount of money required to sit down at a game or enter a tournament. It's also just a general term to describe how much money you started at a table with, i.e. "I bought into the game for $50."

Bump — To raise. "Bump it to ten" means raise the total bet to $10.

Family pot — When everyone at the table stays in a hand, it's called a family pot.

Kick it — To raise. If you're raising a $5 bet by another $5, you'd say, “Kick it up to $10."

Limp — To bet the minimum or simply call. In hold'em, when the little blind simply meets the big blind bet as opposed to raising, the little blind is "limping in."

Post — To put in a bet. Usually this refers to a forced bet, like a blind. If you step away from a game for a break, the dealer might "post" your blind for you.

Stack — Your total chips on the table; your bankroll. If you've got fewer chips than most other players at a game, you're “short stacked.”


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