In the world of poker, there is one person who starts the betting – and it’s not you. When it comes down to putting money on the line, the game always begins with the banker; in most cases, they’re the ones doing the betting. In some forms of poker, even when you’re not betting, you’re still essentially banking. Let’s explore who starts the betting in poker, and how it all works.
The Poker Game
Poker is typically played at live poker tables where players can wager cash and in some cases, collect bonuses for winning. While there are numerous variations of the game, it usually involves two or more players competing against one another by using strategic betting to determine which cards will be held and which will be played at the end of each hand. In the early stages of the game, players may open wagers on the outcome of the hand. Then, after a few rounds, the players switch to alternating and/or escalating wagers. When players are all in, the game ends and the winner is determined either by the amount of money wagered or by a fixed percentage of the bankroll (in most cases, the banker is still in control of the outcome).
The Role of the Banker
The game begins when players make their opening bets and the banker then determines how much money is at stake for the hand. The banker sits across from the players and either takes the wagers himself or allows his employees to do the betting for him. The person taking the wagers may consult with the players as to the optimal strategy for the hand, taking into account the amount of money that’s at stake and the nature of the wagers (in most cases, players should be trusted with this knowledge and the ability to make sound decisions regarding their own stakes). After the initial wagers are settled, the player and banker then begin to play against one another and, in most cases, the player on the left is the dealer (unless otherwise specified).
Who Cans the Deal?
In some variations of poker, especially less traditional games like video poker, there is no dealer and players simply hand the cards to one another following the rules of the game (these games are also often referred to as “live” poker). In these games, the dealer doesn’t start the betting – the players do. The banker then takes money from the winning players to pay off the losers. While this model can be implemented in virtually any form of poker, it is done essentially as a safety mechanism to protect the players from themselves. Even in these modified games, the dealer doesn’t make the decisions regarding wagers and, in most cases, players are still in control of their own destiny. Additionally, most rules-based games prohibit players from seeing the cards that are being dealt until after they’re played. This feature forces the players to make smarter decisions regarding their betting and reduces the potential for error. However, in some games, like in hold’em and Omaha, players are allowed to peek at their cards before the showdown (these games are often called “peek-a-boo” games because players can see each other’s cards but are not allowed to communicate this information to one another).
What Forms Does the Betting Take?
The way players bet in poker changes based on a variety of factors, including the game and number of players. In most cases, players can choose either to bet on a head-to-head basis (players put money on the line against one another – often, but not always, depending on how the game is scored), to bank on the outcome of multiple hands (players wager on the outcome of various hands instead of just one), or to even bet on the outcome of one event while simultaneously banking on another (players often do this with events like hold’em, where they may bet on the outcome of each hand but also place a wager on whether another player will beat the hand that was just played). Additionally, in some games, like Omaha, players can also make alligator bets, where they wager on the outcome of multiple hands simultaneously or in sequence (these types of bets are usually placed at the end of each round).
Who Takes the Losses?
In most poker games, the person who wins the most money is the person who wins the hand. However, in some games, particularly Omaha, there is no clear-cut winner, as money is shared among the players who came in first, second, and third place. In these games, the person who has the highest combined score at the end of the night wins (and takes all the money). However, the other players who came in second and third place split the pot. In the even more esoteric game of Pai Gow Poker, the first person to act as the “house” takes all the money that was won during the session and transfers a portion of it to each player who purchased a hand. If multiple players have the same score, then the pot is split proportionally (this is known as “community card poker”). The last game to mention is called Spanish Poker, in which players use a modified form of the game of Rummy to decide who wins the pot (rummy, as you may know, is a popular game among Caribbean immigrants).
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into starting the betting in poker. However, this is only the beginning. Once you know the basics, you can get into the nitty-gritty and start applying this information to effectively place bets in a number of variations of the game.