What is a String Bet in Poker?
String betting occurs when a player makes a bet in multiple motions or in multiple phrases when verbally announcing a bet. There are a few different forms of string betting in poker, all of which are illegal. String bets can be categorized into two types: verbal and non-verbal.
There is only one way to verbally string bet, and unfortunately Hollywood loves to use this. Many movies that have poker scenes will have a player say “I call/see your $100 and raise another $300.” This is a string bet in the purest sense. Verbally announcing action is binding at the poker table. When a player says “I call” they have to call and ONLY call. It doesn’t matter if they add “and raise you…” since once they say “call” that is the only action they can take, and they must complete it. While verbally announcing a bet like this has a certain dramatic flair, it is not allowed in any poker game. If you find yourself playing with someone new and they use this line, kindly fill them in on the verbally binding rules so they don’t make the same mistake twice.
Non-verbal string bets occur when a player puts their bet out in multiple motions with chips. This could be a player wanting to bet $50 and throwing out two $25 chips one at a time. Once that first chip crosses over the betting line, or is released from their hand towards the middle when there is no line, the bet is final. Another way to do this would be to bring a large stack of chips out over the line and drop one chip at a time. For instance, a player brings 15 $5 chips over the line and drops four of them one by one, trying to bet $20. This is also a string bet. Some places will call this a $5 bet only, but it is dependent on the dealer and the casino, as are all string bet rules.
Enforcement of the String Bet Poker Rule
String betting in poker is against the rules, but it is one of those gray areas in the game. Enforcement of this rule depends on the property, the dealer, and the players at the table. If a player cuts out three stacks of $25 each in red $5 chips, then tries to slide the stacks out one-by-one it is considered a string bet. It can be clear in situations like this that the player always meant to bet the $75 but they did not complete the bet in one fluid motion. By the definition of the rulebook, this is a string bet and only the first stack of $25 may stand as a bet.
In some card rooms in New Hampshire, the dealer is not allowed to call a string bet. A player at the table, whether they are involved in the hand or not, must say something. If a player mentions that it was a string bet, then the dealer must advise that it is not allowed and only the first amount placed over the line will stand as a bet. This is something that crosses over into poker etiquette. Most players who are not in the hand will not say anything. It is common etiquette to not speak about the hand when you are not involved. While some players may call the clock on a hand they are not involved in, even that is exceedingly rare. In other card rooms, dealers have to enforce the rule when they see it no matter what. Even if it was obvious what the player wanted to bet and everyone agrees, rules are rules and some establishments will not make any exceptions.
Some exceptions can be made if a player is new. While some casinos will enforce the rule no matter what, many dealers and players will cater to a new player. When someone is constantly asking questions or doesn’t understand some of the rules surrounding action, a string bet can accidentally happen. In these cases, most players will forgive it and not say anything at the moment, but teach the player after the hand why it usually is not allowed. If you are at a game where the players must mention it and you see an amateur make a mistake, don’t say anything. It is good for the game to keep that player involved and having fun. Once upon a time, you also didn’t know all the rules of how to play poker. Walking into a casino poker room and sitting down for the first time is intimidating enough; no need to make it worse by calling out every little thing they do wrong.
3 Reasons why Poker String Bets are Illegal
There are good reasons for every rule around the felt. Here are three reasons why string bets are illegal.
String betting provides extra information, which can be valuable
The main reason why string betting is illegal is its potential use as an angle to get more information. In this use, it is a lot like bet capping, a popular form of cheating in table games where a player will place their bet, then after seeing they’ve won the hand will try to add chips to their bet to get a higher payout. I don’t suggest using this in table games, as those who do are usually caught and prosecuted. While a string bet in poker isn’t as nefarious as bet capping at blackjack, it could still be used by those looking to gain an unfair advantage.
Let’s say a player goes to bet $20, but they do so by bringing a large stack of chips over the line and dropping four $5 chips. Then, their opponent quickly reaches for their chips, and the bettor drops the rest of the chips, making it look like they were betting the whole stack. This is a classic string bet. The player in this scenario was just going to bet $20, but upon seeing their opponent’s willingness to call, wanted to make it look like they were betting much more. In short, they decided to string bet after knowing their opponent wanted to call. Obviously, doing something like this would affect pot odds, with a bigger bet possibly meaning a different decision from an opponent.
This is a threat to poker because players could use string betting as a way to get more money in the pot when they know their opponent is willing to call. They may also do this when bluffing, knowing their opponent will call the $20 but hoping a larger bet will generate a fold. Information is key in poker, so the last thing any player wants to do is to give information when they don’t have to. By making string bets illegal, it protects us all from giving away valuable information.
String betting leads to more angle shooting
As discussed above, players could easily use string betting as an angle shoot. As the old saying goes, if you give someone an inch they’ll take a mile. If poker rooms allowed string betting in their games, nefarious players might take this as a sign that they can angle in other ways. Some common angle shoots would be hiding their big chips behind a stack of small ones or pump-faking a call on the river to see how their opponent reacts. Players who are willing to angle shoot using string bets may also feel empowered to try some other angle shooting. Due to this possibility, it is vital that string betting is not allowed in poker rooms across the world as a deterrent to angle shooting. The last thing we want is for poker tables to turn into the Wild West with players all trying to angle each other.
String betting slows the game down
Last, but certainly not least, string betting slows the game down. Poker is already often considered a slow game by most players. In particular, tanking has become very popular among players over the last decade. Some take a long time as they are considering many options, while others purposely take their time so as to get into their opponent’s head. Whatever the reason, poker has slowed down immensely in recent years. This has led some streamed games and most high roller tournaments to institute a 30-second shot clock for their players. Those with bankrolls big enough to play in games with a shot clock all seem to appreciate the timed element. For most players, however, the local card room will not have shot clocks on their tables, and the last thing anyone wants is to slow the game down more.
String betting slows the game down simply because players are betting in multiple motions. While if this happened once or twice per session it would not have a large effect, if string betting were legal it could happen an infinite amount of times. If players constantly were sliding out their bets multiple stacks at a time it would create an even slower game. We are in a fast-paced world. Even baseball is trying to speed things up! With that being the case, the last thing anyone in the poker world wants is more time between actions, so it’s a good thing string betting is illegal.
String betting is a perfect example of why we have an extensive poker rule book. While there may be times where you “misclick” and end up missing out on money due to it, in the long run these rules protect players. Rules against string betting act as a deterrent to rule breakers. If string betting were allowed, you would see many more players attempt this along with other types of angle shooting. I would love to see a game where everyone follows the rule book 100% of the time. Unfortunately, in any competition there will always be those who try to bend (or break) the rules. By making string betting illegal and having vigilant players call it out, everyone is benefiting. A cleaner game is a better game. The last thing we all want is for a bunch of angle shooters taking their sweet time string betting every chance they get. The rule keeps the game fair and relatively fast-paced, making everyone at the table happier.