Before a hand is even dealt, players put money in the pot. This way, each player has something at stake in the game before the first card is dealt.
There are two different ways this is done:
If a game has an ante, every player contributes a certain, predetermined amount to the pot before each hand. It's usually a small bet. For instance, in a nickel-dime-quarter game, it might be a nickel. The important thing about antes to remember is that a player's ante doesn’t count as a bet. It's just a way of getting a pot started.
The other way to start the action rolling is by making players put in a forced bet, called a “blind” before the deal. It's called a blind because you haven't seen a card when you put in this bet -- you're going in without seeing, or blind.
The most common practice is to have the two players to the left of the dealer pay the blinds. The player immediately to the dealer’s left places a smaller bet called the “little blind,” while the player two places to the left puts in the “big blind.”
The amounts of the blinds are fixed and determined before the game begins. Usually the “big blind” is equal to the smallest bet possible, while the little blind is 1/2 or 1/3 of that amount. So, if the minimum bet was $3, the big blind would place a forced bet of $3 and the little blind might put out $1.
The difference between blinds and antes is that blinds do count as a player’s first bet. This means in the first round of betting, no one can “check,” that is, everyone has to bet.
Onto the next page for more on checking, calling, betting, and raising and when you can do each one.