How to Play Poker

Poker is a popular game that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. Although it’s a card game, poker is also a game of strategy, and you’ll need to constantly read the other players to decide when to fold, when to bluff, and when to call someone else’s bluff. There are many variations of poker, but Texas Hold’em is the most popular. While each variation has its own rules, the basics of the game are always the same. All you have to do is master the basics - then you can start developing your own winning strategy!

!. Playing a Round of Texas Hold’em

Learn the 10 basic 5-card hands and their ranking. No matter what type of poker you play, the hands will always be the same. To start familiarizing yourself with the different hands, print out a “cheat sheet” and study it. Then, memorize the different hands so you can easily recognize them. Here are the winning poker hands, from highest to lowest:

  • The highest-ranking hand is a royal flush (the royal straight flush). This hand includes a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of the same suit, one kind (all clubs, diamonds, hearts or spades). It can only be tied but not beaten by the royal flush of another suit.
  • A straight flush is made up of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit.
  • 4 of a kind means you have 4 cards of the same rank (but different suits, of course) and a fifth card of any rank (such as 4 aces and a 9). If you have 4 aces, then no one can have any hand with an ace, so that no royal flush is available.
  • A full house contains 3 matching cards of 1 rank and 2 matching cards of another rank.
  • A flush contains any 5 cards of the same suit. These skip around in rank or sequence, but are from the same suit.
  • A straight contains 5 cards of consecutive rank but from more than one suit.
  • 3 of a kind means you have 3 cards of the same rank, plus two unmatched cards.
  • 2 pair is made up of two cards of one rank, plus two cards of another rank (different from the first pair), plus one unmatched card.
  • Pair means you have 2 cards of the same rank, plus 3 other unmatched cards.
  • High card is the lowest-ranking (called a “nothing”) hand, when no two cards have the same rank, the five cards are not consecutive, and they are not all from the same suit.

Tip: Keep in mind that if two people face off with the same type of hand, the hand with the higher-ranking cards wins. If the hands have the exact same ranks of cards (suit does not matter), it is a tie and the prize, if any, is split evenly.

Place the blinds (starting bets) or ante up. In poker, bets are placed at the beginning of the game in one of 2 ways. In Texas Hold’em, the player next to the dealer typically places a small blind bet that’s half of the usual minimum bet, while the player to that person’s left places a big blind that’s at least the minimum bet. As another option, each player can “ante up” the minimum starting bet, which means placing a minimum starting bet into the pool.

  • Aside from Texas Hold’em, most poker variants use an “ante up” system
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Look at the 2 cards the dealer gives you, which is your hand. The dealer will “burn” the first card on the deck, which means placing it out of play. Then, they’ll pass out 2 cards to each player. Check your cards to see what you’re holding.

  • In poker, the dealer will burn a card every round of dealing. That way, it’s harder for players to anticipate what card is coming up and the game becomes more of a gamble.
  • The dealer will always pass out the cards in a clockwise direction, starting on the left.

Tip: Players don’t show their hands to anyone else until they reach the showdown. Even if another player is out, it’s best to keep your cards a secret. You don’t want them to accidentally (or purposely) reveal the value of your cards.
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Bet, call, or raise after each round is dealt if you want to. Every time the dealer puts out new cards, you’ll make a bet, with the first bet being made solely based on the two cards the players have in their hands. Betting happens in a circle – when it’s your turn to bet, you have a few options. At this point you can.

  • Place an initial bet if no one else has yet.
  • Say “check” to avoid betting.
  • Say “call” to match the bet someone else has made.
  • Say “raise” to add more money to the betting pool. If you “raise,” the other players will go around in a circle and choose to either “call” your new bet or fold.
  • Say “fold” if someone else has bet and you don’t want to match their bet. If you fold, turn your cards into the dealer face-down to avoid giving the other players any advantages!

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Look at the “flop” to see if you have a good hand. After the first round of betting, the dealer will “burn” the top card on the deck. Then, they’ll put 3 cards face up on the table, which is called the “flop.” These are the community cards that every player can use to build their hand. Compare these cards and the cards in your hand, then place a bet, call a bet, or fold.

  • In total, the dealer will reveal 5 cards. You will have 7 cards total to use to create your best hand of 5: your two personal cards in your hands, and the five community cards on the table. While your luck can turn later on in a game, take some time to analyze the table after the “flop” – are you well-positioned to end the game with a good hand?
  • Depending on the rules where you’re playing, you can also draw replacement cards for the cards in your hand. This is usually done during or just after the betting round.
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Check the “turn” card after the second round of betting. The dealer will “burn” the top card, then they’ll place 1 card face up next to the flop. This is called the “turn” card or the “fourth street” card. Check all of the cards on the table and the cards in your hand to see if you want to bet, call, or raise.

  • Your game may also allow a card exchange at this point, but this isn’t typical in professional games.
  • As you look at the cards, think about the possible hands other players might have. For instance, if all 4 cards on the table are spades, then any player who has a spade in their hand will have a flush, which means they have 5 cards from the same house.
  • Similarly, if the cards on the table are 5,6,7, and 8, then anyone with a 4 or 9 will have a straight.
  • If you have nothing good in your hand but the cards on the table make for an easy winning hand, then you may want to fold, as it’s likely another player has a winning card.

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Examine the “river” card and decide on the hand you’ll play. After the dealer “burns” the top card on the deck, they’ll put 1 last card face up next to the “turn” card. This final card is called the “river.” Check your hand and the community cards to decide on your best 5-card hand. Then, bet, call, or fold.

  • If the rules allow it, you may be able to exchange your hand 1 final time before or after betting. However, this isn’t common in professional games.

Reveal each player’s hand clockwise in the final “showdown. After each player calls, folds, or bets in the last round, each remaining player will participate in the “showdown.” Starting to the left of the dealer, all players involved will reveal their cards face up. Then, everyone looks at the turned over hands to see who has the highest value hand to win the entire pot.

  • If there is a tie, the tied players split the pot.
  • If you fold your hand, then you don’t have to show your cards
  • In Texas Hold’em, there are 5 cards on the table and 2 cards in your hand. You can create any 5-card combination using these 7 cards. The remaining cards aren’t counted.
  • If you want to play the cards on the table only, this is called “playing the board.” However, it’s an option that everyone has, so it may not be the best strategy.
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As early as the sixteenth century, Germans played a bluffing game called “Pochen.” It later developed into a French version, called “Poque,” which was eventually brought over to New Orleans and played on the riverboats that plied the Mississippi.

In the 1830s, the game was refined further and became known as Poker. During the Civil War, the key rule about drawing cards to improve one’s hand was added. A variation - Stud Poker - appeared at about the same time. There are hundreds of versions of Poker, and the game is played not only in private homes, but also in countless Poker rooms at famous casinos. Poker can be played socially for pennies or matchsticks, or professionally for thousands of dollars.

There is plenty of luck in Poker, but the game requires incredibly great skill as well, and each player is the master of his own fate.

THE PACK

The standard 52-card pack, sometimes with the addition of one or two jokers, is used. Poker is a one-pack game, but today, in virtually all games played in clubs and among the best players, two packs of contrasting colors are utilized in order to speed up the game. While one pack is being dealt, the other is being shuffled and prepared for the next deal. The procedure for two packs is as follows: While the deal is in progress, the previous dealer assembles all the cards from the pack he dealt, shuffles them, and places them to the left. When it is time for the next deal, the shuffled deck is passed to the next dealer. In many games in which two packs are used, the dealer’s left-hand opponent, instead of the right-hand opponent, cuts the pack.

In clubs, it is customary to change cards often and to permit any player to call for new cards whenever they wish. When new cards are introduced, both packs are replaced, and the seal and cellophane wrapping on the new decks should be broken in full view of all the players.

CARD VALUES/SCORING

While Poker is played in innumerable forms, a player who understands the values of the Poker hands and the principles of betting can play without difficulty in any type of Poker game. Except in a few versions of the game, a Poker hand consists of five cards. The various combinations of Poker hands rank from five of a kind (the highest) to no pair or nothing (the lowest):

Five of a Kind – This is the highest possible hand and can occur only in games where at least one card is wild, such as a joker, the two one-eyed jacks, or the four deuces. Examples of five of a kind would be four 10s and a wild card or two queens and three wild cards.

Straight Flush – This is the highest possible hand when only the standard pack is used, and there are no wild cards. A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 of hearts. The highest-ranking straight flush is the A, K, Q, J, and 10 of one suit, and this combination has a special name: a royal flush or a royal straight flush. The odds on being dealt this hand are 1 in almost 650,000.

Four of a Kind – This is the next highest hand, and it ranks just below a straight flush. An example is four aces or four 3s. It does not matter what the fifth, unmatched card is.

Full House – This colorful hand is made up of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, such as three 8s and two 4s, or three aces and two 6s.

Flush – Five cards, all of the same suit, but not all in sequence, is a flush. An example is Q, 10, 7, 6, and 2 of clubs.

Straight – Five cards in sequence, but not all of the same suit is a straight. An example is 9♥, 8♣, 7♠, 6♦, 5♥.

Three of a Kind – This combination contains three cards of the same rank, and the other two cards each of a different rank, such as three jacks, a seven, and a four.

Two Pairs – This hand contains a pair of one rank and another pair of a different rank, plus any fifth card of a different rank, such as Q, Q, 7, 7, 4.

One Pair – This frequent combination contains just one pair with the other three cards being of different rank. An example is 10, 10, K, 4, 3.

No Pair – This very common hand contains “nothing.” None of the five cards pair up, nor are all five cards of the same suit or consecutive in rank. When more than one player has no pair, the hands are rated by the highest card each hand contains, so that an ace-high hand beats a king-high hand, and so on.

Two hands that are identical, card for card, are tied since the suits have no relative rank in Poker. In such a case, the tied players split the pot. Note that if two hands contain the same high pair, then the ranking of the next card in the hands determines which one wins. For example: 9, 9, 7, 4, 2 beats 9, 9, 5, 3, 2. Likewise, two hands that have identical pairs would be decided by the fifth card. For example: Q, Q, 6, 6, J beats Q, Q, 6, 6, 10.

BETTING

Betting is the key to Poker, for the game, in essence, is a game of chip management.

In the course of each Poker deal, there will be one or more betting intervals in which the players have an opportunity to bet on their hands. Minimizing losses with poor hands and maximizing winnings with good hands is the underlying skill that Poker requires.

Before the cards are even dealt, the rules of the Poker game being played may require that each player put an initial contribution, called an “ante,” of one or more chips into the pot, to start it off.

Each betting interval, or round, begins when a player, in turn, makes a bet of one or more chips. Each player to the left, in turn, must either “call” that bet by putting into the pot the same number of chips; or “raise,” which means that the player puts in more than enough chips to call; or “drop” (“fold”), which means that the player puts no chips in the pot, discards their hand, and is out of the betting until the next deal.

When a player drops, they lose any chips that have put into that pot. Unless a player is willing to put into the pot at least as many chips as any preceding player, they must drop out.

A betting interval ends when the bets have been equalized - that is, when each player has either put in exactly as many chips as their predecessors or has dropped. There are usually two or more betting intervals for each Poker deal. After the final interval there is a “showdown,” which means that each player who remains shows their hand face up on the table. The best Poker hand then takes the pot.

If a player makes a bet or a raise that no other player calls, they win the pot without showing their hand. Thus, in Poker, there is a bluffing element, and the best combination of cards does not always win the pot! Bluffing is one of the key reasons why Poker is so popular.

If a player wishes to remain in the game without betting, they “check.” This means, in effect, that the player is making a “bet of nothing.” A player may check provided no one before them in that betting interval has made a bet. If another player has bet, they cannot check but must at least call the bet or drop. A player who checks may raise a bet that has been raised by another player. This is called “sandbagging,” which is allowed, unless it has been decided beforehand that this practice is forbidden. If all players check during a round of play, the betting interval is over, and all the players still in the pot remain in the game.

In each betting round, one player is designated as the first bettor, according to the rules of the game. The turn to bet always moves to the left, from player to player, and no one may check, bet, or even drop, except when it is their turn.

KNOWING WHEN TO BET

The ranking of Poker hands is based on mathematics. The less likely a player is to get a certain hand, the higher it ranks and the more likely it is to win the pot. For example, a player should not expect to be dealt a straight flush more than once in 65,000 hands, but they can expect to be dealt two pair about once in every 21 hands.

Unless a player is planning to bluff, they should not make a bet without holding a hand that they think may be the best. No Poker player can bet intelligently unless they know what constitutes a good hand, a fair hand, and a bad hand. A table of the various Poker hands and the number of combinations of each in a pack of cards is provided.

THE KITTY

By unanimous or majority agreement, the players may establish a special fund called a “kitty.” Usually the kitty is built up by “cutting” (taking) one low-denomination chip from each pot in which there is more than one raise. The kitty belongs to all the players equally, and it is used to pay for new decks of cards or for food and drinks. Any chips left in the kitty when the game ends are divided equally among the players who are still in the game. Unlike the rule in some other games, such as Pinochle, when a player leaves a Poker game before it ends, they are not entitled to take their share of chips that comprised part of the kitty.

CHIPS

Poker is almost always played with poker chips. For a game with seven or more players, there should be a supply of at least 200 chips. Usually, the white chip (or the lightest-colored chip) is the unit, or lowest-valued chip, worth whatever the minimum ante or bet is; a red chip (or some other colored chip) is worth five whites, and a blue chip (or some other dark-colored chip) is worth 10 or 20 or 25 whites or two, four or five reds. At the start of the game, each player “buys in” by purchasing a certain number of chips. All of the players usually buy in for the same amount.

BANKER

One player should be designated as the banker, who keeps the stock of chips and records how many have been issued to each player or how much cash the player has paid for their chips. Players should make no private transactions or exchanges among themselves; a player with surplus chips may return them to the banker and receive credit or cash for them, while a player who wants more chips should obtain them only from the banker.

BETTING LIMITS

There are different ways of fixing a betting limit. Some limit is necessary; otherwise a player with a lot more money would have, or would be perceived to have, an unfair advantage. Once fixed, the limit should be unalterable throughout the game unless the players unanimously agree to change the stakes. Some popular limit systems follow:

FIXED LIMIT

No one may bet or raise by more than a stipulated number of chips, for example, two, or five, or 10. Usually this limit varies with the stage of the game: In Draw Poker, if the limit is five before the draw, it might be ten after the draw. In Stud Poker, if the limit is five in the first four betting intervals, it is 10 in the final betting interval (and often ten whenever a player has a pair or better showing).

POT LIMIT

Any bet or raise is limited to the number of chips in the pot at that time. This means that a player who raises may count as part of the pot the number of chips required for the player to call. If there are six chips in the pot, and a bet of four is made, the total is 10 chips; it requires four chips for the next player to call, making 14; and the player may then raise by 14 chips. But even when the pot limit is played, there should be some maximum limit, such as 50 chips.

TABLE STAKES

The limit for each player is the number of chips the player has in front of them. If the player has only 10 chips, they may bet no more than 10 and he may call any other player’s bet to that extent. In table stakes, no player may withdraw chips from the table, or return chips to the banker, until they leave the game. A player may add to their stack, but only between the deal just completed and the beginning of the next deal.

WHANGDOODLES, OR ROODLES

In a fixed-limit game, it is often agreed that following any very good hand - a full house or better, for example - there will be one deal by each player of Jackpots, in which everyone antes double, and the betting limit is doubled for these deals as well.

POVERTY POKER

A maximum limit is put on the number of chips any player may lose. Each takes out one stack at the start; if they lose that stack, the banker issues the player another, without charging for it, and in many cases, the player can get still a third stack free before dropping out of the game. (Some limit should be placed on the number of free stacks so that a player will have the incentive to play carefully.)

NO LIMIT

In these sessions, the “sky’s the limit,” but such games are rarely played today.

LIMITS ON RAISES

In almost all games played today, there is a limit on the number of raises at each betting interval, and this limit is invariably three raises.

DRAW & STUD POKER

The players should first decide what form of Poker they will play

The main forms of Poker are Draw Poker and Stud Poker. In Draw Poker, all the cards are dealt face down to the players. In Stud Poker, some of the cards are dealt face up as the betting progresses, so that all of the other players get to see a part of each player’s hands.

Unless the host, or the rule of a club, has already established the game, the players should first decide what form of Poker they will play. Two factors should influence their decision: the number of players, and whether the group has only experienced players or has some inexperienced players. The following selections are recommended:

2, 3 or 4 players: Stud Poker in any form. Usually, with so few players, only the very experienced play Draw Poker and they will often use a stripped deck, which is a pack with cards removed, such as all the deuces (twos) and treys (threes).

5—8 players: Any form of Poker, either Draw or Stud.

9 or 10 players: Five-card Stud Poker

More than 10 players: One of the games in which fewer than five cards are dealt, such as Three-Card Monte or Spit-in-the-Ocean. All of the Poker variations are described later in this chapter. Another alternative with so many players is to simply form two tables and organize two separate games.

DEALER’S CHOICE

When the Poker session is Dealer’s Choice, each dealer has the privilege of naming the form of Poker to be played and to designate the ante, wild cards (if any), and the maximum limit of chips that can be wagered during each round. However, the dealer may not require one player to ante more than another. If a game such as Jackpots is selected and no one opens the betting, the same dealer deals again and everyone antes again.

WILD CARDS

While most Poker purists choose to play with no wild cards, in many games, especially Dealer’s Choice, various cards may be designated as wild. A wild card is specified by the holder to be a card of any rank or suit, such as a fifth queen, or the card needed to combine with the other four in a player’s hand to form a straight or a flush. Wild cards in a Poker game add variety, and of course, they greatly increase the chances of getting a rare combination such as a full house or a straight flush. The usual choices for wild cards are as follows:

THE JOKER

Note that most packs of cards include two jokers for use in such games as Canasta. Poker players are increasingly adding one or both jokers as wild cards.

THE BUG

This is the joker, but its wildness is limited: It counts as an ace; or as a card of any suit for making a flush; or as a card of any rank and suit for making a straight or straight flush.

DEUCES

“Deuces Wild” is a popular form of Draw Poker. Every two is wild. Sometimes the joker is included as a fifth wild card. Note that the number of wild cards in a hand does not diminish it in anyway; thus, with deuces wild, five of a kind comprised of 10, 10, 2, 2, 2 (five 10s) beats 8, 8, 8, 8, 2 (five 8s).

ONE-EYED CARDS

The king of diamonds and the jacks of spades and hearts show only one eye, whereas the other face cards all have two eyes. One-eyed jacks are sometimes designated as wild cards, but the king of diamonds is rarely selected to be wild.

LOW HOLE CARD

In Stud Poker, each player’s lowest “hole” card (that is, the lowest card that is dealt face down and not seen by the other players) is wild. In Draw Poker, the wild card would be the lowest card in a player’s hand. When such a card is designated, it means that every card of that rank in that player’s hand is wild, but the fact that a certain card is wild in one player’s hand does not make that same rank of card wild in other players’ hands.

LAWS AND ETHICS

In every game, a written code of Poker laws should be used as the final arbiter for settling all questions. No Poker laws are universally followed - there are many local customs and preferences - but the Poker laws on this site embrace the latest customs of the most expert games and are recommended for adoption. It is a tradition of Poker that any club or group of players may make special rules, called “house rules,” to suit their personal preferences. Of course, any such house rules should be written down.

TIME LIMIT

Before play begins, the players should set a time limit for when the game ends and stick to it. Violation of this principle could eventually turn pleasant sessions into unpleasant ones. Often when the time for quitting is approaching, the host or one of the players will say “three more deals” or “through Zane’s deal,” so that players will know how many deals are left and can gauge their strategies accordingly.

How to Play Poker

Poker is a simple game to learn, but the poker rules can be challenging for a complete beginner.

But don’t let that put you off. It is not hard to learn how to play poker, and you can move from the basics of the game to the tables of the top online poker sites in no time.

Here’s everything you’ll learn in this guide on how to play poker:

Before you move to the ‘practical’ side of this guide on how to play the most popular variants of this game, you need to learn the basics of poker.

When most people say they want to know " how to play regular poker ," they imply that they want to learn the basics of Texas Hold’em.

Texas Hold’em is (by far) the most popular poker game out there and it’s the one you find at every online poker site.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With so many poker variants to play online and offline, the only proper guide on how to play poker for dummies is the one that gets you access to all the best games out there.

Many poker rules are consistent from game to game, although among the dozens of variants such as Texas hold’em, Omaha, and seven-card stud you will find some ket differences you need to know.

Also called the ’ Cadillac of Poker ,’ Texas hold’em is the one you are going to play over and over again.

This is the most popular poker game online and it is also the one you are most likely to play with our friends in your next home game.

Whether you play it in the form of a tournament or as a ring-game, the basic poker rules and the hand rankings don’t change.

The second-most popular poker variant. Omaha poker finds its roots in the game of Texas Hold’em, although the rules of the two games are slightly different from each other.

Many players find learning how to play poker Omaha to be the natural step to take after they have successfully mastered the basics of Texas Hold’em.

In the poker rules page dedicated to the game, you find the perfect beginner’s guide to moving your first steps in the world of Omaha.

Before Texas hold’em became king, anyone who wanted to learn the basic poker rules and how to play poker had to go through the game of seven-card stud.

As the name suggests, this is a variant of stud poker. 7-card stud is also the ’ S ’ game in the HORSE poker — but if you are still learning how to play poker, it’s probably too early for you to jump on that.

Use these guides to learn how to play poker and master not only the most ‘obvious’ games like Texas hold’em bu also all the other different variants out there.

In our guides for beginners, you find the official poker rules, the basic strategy tips, and the hand rankings — because knowing how to calculate points is key if you want to win at poker.

Common Traits of Most Poker Rules

The Value of Poker Hands

One element used in most poker variants is the system of hand rankings .

The highest ranked hand is a Royal Flush (five cards of the same suit, ranked ace through ten), followed by a Straight Flush (five cards of the same suit of consecutive ranks).

The third-best combination is the Four-of-a-kind , which is then followed by the Full House (three of a kind plus one pair), the Flush , the Straight , the Three-of-a-kind , Two Pair , One Pair , and High Card or no pair.

When a hand reaches the showdown, the player with the highest-ranked hand wins the pot.

That’s true of Texas hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, seven-card stud, and five-card draw.

Of course, in " lowball " games like razz or deuce-to-seven triple draw, the hand rankings are turned upside down and the ‘worst’ hand according to traditional hand rankings is the winning one.

Blinds and Ante Bets

Games like hold’em and Omaha feature small and big blinds, so called because they are " blind " bets players have to make before they are dealt any cards.

Meanwhile stud games usually use " antes ", which also involve players putting chips in the middle before the hand begins.

From there players bet more as the hand progresses, thereby creating larger pots.

Limit vs. No Limit Poker Games

Some games are played with no-limit betting , which means players can bet as much as they like at any point in the hand, including going " all in ."

Pot-limit betting means that the current size of the pot creates an upper limit on how much a player can bet.

Games that are played with fixed-limit betting have predetermined amounts from which players cannot vary when they make their bets and raises.

The Action

There are other terms that tend to be used in all different poker games, including many having to do with the actions you perform when playing.

When the action is on you, you can:

  • Check: Decline to bet
  • Fold: Withdraw from the hand, if someone else has bet already
  • Bet: Place a wager on the table
  • Raise: Add more chips by matching your opponent’s bet and putting in a greater amount.
  • Call: Match the bet of your opponents to stay in the hand and continue to play.

All of those terms are an important step in your journey to learn how to play poker since they tend to come up in all poker variants.

The Betting Rounds

In games with community cards like hold’em and Omaha (also sometimes called “flop games”), the betting rounds are referred to as:

  • Preflop: The bets made before any community cards are dealt
  • Flop: The bets made after the first three community cards are dealt)
  • Turn: The bets made after the fourth community card
  • River The bets made after the fifth and last community card.

Suggested Readings

The Table Stakes

One other poker rule common to just about every variant of the you’ll play – whether you are playing live poker or online poker – is one called " table stakes ."

Table stakes means that once a hand begins, you can only bet whatever amount you had on the table to begin the hand and are not allowed to add anything more during the hand as it plays out.

If you only have $100 on the table to begin a hand, you can’t pull out your wallet and add more halfway through the hand – you can only play out the hand with whatever you had to start.