Mandatory Poker Action

One of the ways a poker card room guarantees it will be able to generate revenue through the rake and ensures the game will not simply be one in which everyone folds every hand is by forcing some players to put some money in the pot each hand. For this action, there is no choice on the part of the affected player as to whether they’ll put the money into the pot. There are four kinds of mandatory spending: antes, bring-ins, blinds, and time.


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Antes are chips each player must put into the pot before the cards are dealt. The chips go into the center of the table and add to the amount of money that hand’s winner will collect. Antes are typically found in Stud games, and most tournaments for any type of game, and typically range from 5¢ to $5 in real money games.

Bring-ins are found in Stud games. In seven-card Stud, as you’ll see in Chapter 4, each player is given two cards face down and face up. The player with the lowest face up card is forced to make a bet called the bring-in. In a $5–$10 Stud game the bring-in is typically $2, and if the player decides to only “bring it in” each of the other players is only compelled to match the $2 to stay in the hand. The player may also choose to “complete the bet” and throw, well, click, in $5. In case two or more players have the lowest card showing, such as a 2, the lowest suit is responsible for the bring-in. The suit order, from low to high, is clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. As such, if one player has the 2 showing and another has the 2, the 2 is responsible for the bring-in. Play then continues clockwise around the table.

Blinds are forced bets for players in “board games” such as Hold ’em and Omaha. Because all betting is done with each player’s cards unseen by the other players, there is no way to have a bring-in. The solution to this problem is to force two players in each hand to put money in the pot “blind,” that is, before they see their cards. A plastic disk called the Dealer button rotates one seat clockwise around the table after each hand. The player immediately to the left of the button must put up half the small bet, and the next person must put up a full small bet. As an example, if the game is $2–$4 Hold ’em, in which the first two rounds of betting are in $2 increments and the second two are in $4 increments, the “little” or “small” blind must put $1 in front of himself before the cards are dealt, while the next person, the “big” blind, must put $2 at risk. To stay in, all other players must also put in at least the $2 the big blind posted. As opposed to an ante, which is “dead money” in the center, these blinds are “live” in that the blinds count toward their total obligation to stay in. If there is no raise to the big blind’s $2, the little blind must only put in $1 more to stay in (or raise to $4 by putting in $3). If there is no raise, the big blind may choose to “let them live” and not raise or raise as they wish.

Time is an alternate means for the card room to generate its income. Rather than taking a percentage of each pot, each player is required to give the dealer a specified amount of money at a prescribed time interval. Paying time generally starts at the $10–$20 level and replaces the rake. We doubt you’ll see this online, but if you ever sit down in a brick-and-mortar card room, don’t be surprised.


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