In public cardrooms and casinos, hold'em is played with 9 to 11 players. A house dealer sits in the center of one side of a long table. His job is to deal the cards, determine the winner(s) of the hand, collect the house rake or time charge, and run the game. He is not a player in the game.
A "dealer button" is placed in front of one player. It is a white acrylic disk labeled "DEALER." The person with the button is the nominal dealer. The cards are dealt starting one to his left, and he acts last on all betting rounds except the first. This player is often referred to as "the button."
Hold'em games rarely have an ante paid by each player. Nevertheless, in any poker game there must be some seed money in the pot. Therefore, the first player to the left of the button puts in a forced bet called a "blind." More specifically, his blind is called the "small blind" and is a fraction of a full bet (typically $1 or $2 in a $3-$6 game). The player to his left puts in another forced bet called the "big blind" — a full $3 bet in our example. Spread-
limit games often have just a single blind, one position to the left of the button.
Because the first two players have already acted (by putting in blind bets), the player one to the left of the big blind is the first with any choices on the pre-flop betting round. He may Ibid, call the $3 bet, or raise the bet $3 (now forcing other players to call $6 if they wish to continue). Each player in turn has this choice with one exception: there is a maximum of three or four raises per betting round. Thus, after the maximum number of raises, a player may only call or fold.
The blind bets put in by the first two players are "live blinds." When the action gets back around to them, they have the same choices as the other players except they already have a full or partial bet in the pot. For instance, when the betting gets to the little blind, if there has been no raise and he has posted a $1 blind, he needs to add only $2 to complete his bet. However, he may fold, or raise by putting in $5. The big blind already has a full bet in the pot, and if there has been no raise, he can call without putting more money in, or raise the bet $3 to a total of $6.
On each round of betting after the flop, the player to the left of the button acts first and may either check (choose not to bet) or bet. In the $3-$6 game, he is restricted to betting $3. In a spread-limit game, he may bet any amount in the valid range. The betting round proceeds from there.
When the fourth round of betting is completed (after the river card), the dealer determines the winner of the pot and pushes him the chips. If two or more players have equivalent hands (suits do not matter), the dealer splits the chips equally among them. Then he moves the button one position clockwise, shuffles the deck, and deals the next hand.
2There is often an exception to the raise liniil rule: il'only Iwo players are in the pot, they may raise each other until one ol them is out ol chips.
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