The game only continues to the flop when all players have either folded, or matched the highest bet on the table. If no one calls and the Small Blind folds, the Big Blind wins the chips without needing to show his hand. The betting might end up with everyone betting two chips, or it may mean that one player has bet ten chips and just one other has called that bet and placed ten chips on the table.
Let’s imagine that two players have done that. The chips, which up until now, have been pushed forward by the players in front of them in little piles, get placed – or tossed – into one big pile in the middle of the table. This is the pot – the prize for which all the players remaining in the hand are now competing.
(It is important not to throw – or splash – your chips into the middle when you first bet since that will make it difficult for everyone to check that you have bet what you say you have. That is why you push your chips tidily forward in front of you first and then, once that round of betting is complete, everyone then puts their chips into the pot.)
Player A holds K(D), K(H)
Player B holds A(D), Q(D)
Both are strong hands, but Player A is winning so far since he holds a Pair and Player B holds only a High Card.
The dealer burns the top card off the deck (that is to say, he discards the top card face down) and then deals the next three cards in a row into the middle of the table, face-up – this is the flop.
A(S), 8(D), 5(C)
Player A will be sorry to see that ace on the board (the community cards that are face up on the table) since his Pair of kings may now be beaten if Player B holds an ace in his hand. As you can see, that is the case. Player B now does hold a Pair of aces and he is beating Player A.
Being to the left of the dealer means that Player A must bet first and he decides to make a bet to see if Player B stays in the hand. In this way, he is testing to see if Player B has been pleased by the appearance of the ace on the table. Player A bets ten chips. Player B now suspects that he has the best hand and he now has a choice of actions. He could simply call the bet (placing ten chips on the table), giving the impression that he wants to stay in the hand but that he is not sure who has the best cards or he could raise the bet, say to 20 chips, to state clearly that he believes that he has the best hand.
Let’s say that he takes the former option and just calls the bet. Each player moves his ten chips into the middle, adding to the pot. The dealer burns the next card and then turns over the following one. The board now shows:
J(S) A(S), 8(D), 5(C)
Player A is still not sure that he holds the best hand so perhaps this time, he checks (indicating that, at the moment, he doesn’t want to make a bet). Player B may decide that, with two spades on the board, there is a slight chance that Player A might have two spades in his hand and be on the verge of making a Flush, so he decides to Bet.
is when you are the first player after the flop, turn or river, to make a bet.
Let’s say he bets 20 chips. Hand A is now feeling a bit depressed. His two kings were almost certainly the best hand until the ace appeared on the flop but now Player B’s confident betting is strongly suggesting that he holds an ace and has the best hand with a Pair of aces.
If Player A continues in this hand, unless another king appears (giving him 3 of a Kind kings – sometimes called Trips, so here Trip kings) he will lose. Since there are only two kings left in the deck (or held by Player B) out of 46 possible cards (the pack of 52 cards minus Player B’s hole cards and minus the four cards on the board), this is very unlikely.
(Here are some statistics – there is only a 1/23 or 4.3% chance of a third king appearing.)
Therefore, if Player A can work out that Player B really does have a Pair of aces, he should give up on the hand now and fold. He started with the best hand, but the community cards gave his opponent a better hand. Assuming that Player A is good enough to fold such a nice hand as KK, he will throw his cards away and concede. Player B will gather up the pot without having to show his cards (and, almost always, he should not show his cards as the best strategy is to keep your opponents guessing at all times).
Beginners often whine at the end of the hand and ask you to tell them what you actually held. Do not tell them. That is the game of poker: if you want to know what your opponents held, you have to pay to see the cards!
So, the hand doesn’t always proceed as far as the river. More often than not, one player makes a bet that is so big, so convincing, that all the other players feel that it is not worthwhile to continue in the hand, and they fold. Of course, in the previous example, Player B really did have the best hand and would probably have still had the best hand even after all five commumty cards had been dealt.
But, what if he had held almost nothing? He could have bet in the same way, Player A might have reacted in the same way, and Player B might have taken the pot without having any kind of decent hand. That is the beauty of poker. You do not have to have the best hand to win (unless there is a showdown, when you do). If you can convince your opponents that you have the best hand, then they may all fold, and you may win the pot without ever having to show your cards. That can be an amazing feeling.
Incidentally, should the deal have proceeded further, the dealer would, again, have burnt the top card and dealt the final community card – the river – face up onto the table. The dealer’s job is now done and he can relax and watch the hand played to its conclusion.