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Home > Poker Strategy > Home to Casino

Poker Strategy - Adjusting From Home Games to Casino Games

Before the internet most people who played poker just played in a typical home game at first. The structure of these games was simple. Generally, everyone would ante a certain amount (say 25 cents) and then the betting was structured as to have a minimum and maximum bet. For example, everyone would ante 25 cents and then the bets/raises would range between 25 cents to $2 each round.

The play at these home games was generally: bet, call (or perhaps bet, raise, call.) Most hands would go to a showdown, and generally the person who had the hottest cards would win at the end of the day, not one who necessarily made the best plays.

Internet poker and casino poker are very different from this typical home game in 3 ways: the ante structure, the betting structure, and the competition.

Ante Structure

First, unless you are playing 7 stud, there is no ante; instead, there are blinds. The person to the left of the dealer must pay the small blind and the person after him must pay the big blind. These are forced bets. All the other players are not forced to bet anything to receive cards (they do not need to ante), but they must match the big blind or any raise to the big blind to see the flop. Thus, a typical game, involving 6 people, with a small blind (SB) of 50 cents and a big blind (BB) of $1 would go as follows preflop:

Seat one: SB ($.50)
Seat two: BB ($1)
Seat three: Fold
Seat four: Calls BB ($1)
Seat five: Raises BB ($2)
Dealer (Seat six): Fold

Seat one: Fold
Seat two: Calls raise ($1)
Seat four: Calls raise ($1)

Then the betting would begin with the big blind (since the small blind folded) after the flop. For more information about blinds and betting structures, check out our Poker Rules section.

Betting Structure

In addition to the blind/ante structure being different in online games, the type of betting differs. The most similar to the spread limit (i.e. the minimum/maximum bet) would be no-limit. In other words, there is still the minimum bet, however the maximum bet is the amount of chips in front of you. The best place to play no-limit poker is Empire or Pacific Poker.

There is a common no-limit myth that if someone bets more chips than you have, you must fold. That is not true. If Tom bets $30 and I only have $15, I only must put in $15 to call. If I'm the only person in the pot, Tom is essentially betting only $15. However, let's say that the pot is between me, Tom, and Jane. Suppose both Tom and Jane have $50, while I have $15. Tom put in $30, I go all-in for $15, and Jane must call $30 to stay in. $15 from each player ($45 total) would be in the main pot. $15 from Jane and $15 from Tom would be in a sidepot. So, at the showdown, I would be in contention for $45 and Tom and Jane would be in contention for the $45 main pot plus the $30 side pot. Thus, if I have the best hand and Jane has the second best hand, I would win $45 and she would win $30. If Jane's hand was in fact better than mine, she would win the entire $75.

Closely similar to no-limit is pot-limit, where you can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the size of the pot.

Finally, the most popular form of betting is known as limit (also called fixed-limit). This type of game has fixed bets. For example, in a $2-4 game, the size of the bets are $2 or $4, depending on which round it is. In Texas Hold'em and Omaha, each bet preflop and at the flop (when the 3 cards come out) is $2. If someone wishes to raise, he or she must do so by $2. Thus, in a 4-handed situation, this would be a typical case:

Seat one: Check
Seat two: Bet $2
Seat three: Raise $2 (to $4)
Seat four: Call $4

Seat one: Fold
Seat two: Call $4

The bets on the turn (when 4 cards are out) and the river (when all cards are out) would be the higher amount: $4. So, taken the above example, this is how the turn betting may happen:

Seat two: Bet $4
Seat three: Fold
Seat four: Raise $4 (to $8)

Seat two: Call $4


Finally, skill pays off more on the internet/casino than dumb luck. People actually try to win because the money exchanged is often more than just nickels and dimes. You should not just call to the river 'just to see what he has' and such. You must use strategy if you expect to win in the long run. Someone who plays his typical home game strategy may win at first, but will probably lose in the long run (unless his or her home game is particularly tough). The other strategy articles on this website will help you to become a winning poker player.