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Deciphering the Different Betting Structures in Poker

Home » Deciphering the Different Betting Structures in Poker

Deciphering the Different Betting Structures in Poker

A person standing in front of a poker table, with playing cards, and poker chips arranged in front of him, on top of the poker table.

How many poker betting structures are you familiar with? For many players, it begins and ends with no-limit Texas hold’em when they play poker online. If you limit yourself to a single variant, you may miss out on what other betting structures, like fixed-limit and pot-limit, have to offer. Keep reading for the ins and outs of the betting rules for poker’s three most important structures.

Fixed-Limit Poker Betting Rules

As the name implies, fixed-limit is a poker betting structure where the amount you can bet and raise in any betting round is fixed. Typically, fixed-limit games are structured around two bet sizes the small bet and the big bet. The big bet is usually double the small bet.

The notation for a fixed-limit game is the bet sizes separated by a slash (e.g., 4/8) followed by “L” (meaning “limit”) and the abbreviation for the poker variant (e.g., “HE” for “hold’em”). So 4/8 LHE refers to a fixed-limit hold’em game with a $4 small bet size and an $8 big bet size.

Texas hold’em and Omaha have four betting rounds (preflop, flop, turn, and river). In these games, the small bet size governs the size of bets and raises before and on the flip; the big bet size is the limit for the turn and river.

Seven-card stud and razz have five betting rounds. In these games, the small bet applies to the first two rounds, and the big bet applies to the final three rounds.

Fixed-limit games also cap the number of raises allowed (usually three). After the cap, players can only call or fold. In a 4/8 game, the most you can wager on the first two betting rounds is $16 (call, raise, raise, raise) and $32 on fourth and fifth streets. Some venues allow more than three raises, so be sure to check the house rules.

By nature, fixed-limit games call for a value-based poker betting strategy. Fixed-limit poker is good for beginners because the fixed bets mean you don’t have to worry about bet sizing or preflop betting strategies. The raise cap also means you’re much less likely to go bust.

Pot-Limit Poker Betting Rules

A person putting two playing cards down on a poker table, with drinks, poker chips, and playing cards arranged on top of the table.

The pot-limit (PL) structure is probably the most complicated of all betting rules for poker. In pot-limit games, players can bet or raise by any amount between a specific minimum bet and the current pot size.

Pot-limit games are described in terms of their blinds. A 4/8 PL game, for example, has a $1 small blind and a $2 big blind.

The minimum bet size is typically the big blind unless otherwise stated by the house rules. Bets or raises can’t be smaller than the previous bet or raise in a given betting round. The initial bet is the minimum for the first raise, which then becomes the minimum for the next raise, and so on. The minimum bet size reverts to its starting size when the next betting round begins.

The most challenging part of pot-limit poker betting rules is working out the maximum bet based on the pot size — this is the formula:

Maximum bet = (amount of bet to you) + (total amount of chips in the pot and previous bets on this round)

The “amount of bet to you” is the amount of money required to call every bet made in the current betting round until now. If the action checks to you without any betting, the “amount of bet to you” is zero.

The “total amount of chips in the pot and previous bets on this round” is the total of all poker bets and raises in the current round, plus the amount of money already in the pot from previous betting rounds.

Say the game is 5/5 PLHE, and the pot is $20 after the flop. The first player to act can check or bet anything between the minimum ($5) and the maximum ($20). Say they bet $10. The next player to act can fold, call, or raise. The minimum amount they can raise is now $10, meaning they put $20 in the pot ($10 to call the bet, $10 to raise).

What’s the maximum? The “amount of bet to you” is $10. The “total amount of chips in the pot” is $30. As a result, the maximum raise is $40, for a total bet of $50.

The next player can either fold, call the $50 bet, or raise. The minimum allowable raise is now $40, and the maximum is $50 plus $80 (the $20 that was in the bet at the start, plus the first bet of $10, plus the second bet of $50). This comes to $130, which amounts to putting another $180 into the pot.

The most common pot-limit game is pot-limit Omaha (PLO). The main impact of the pot-limit structure on poker betting strategy is that the pots get very big very quickly. As a result, PLO players tend to play with a substantial bankroll.

No-Limit Poker Betting Rules

A person pushing poker chips forward with his one hand, and holding playing cards in their other hand, with poker chips, and cash arranged on top of the table.

The rules of betting in poker are much more unrestricted in no-limit (NL) games. This betting structure removes all restrictions on the size of bets and raises in a betting round.

If nobody has made a bet, players can check or bet up to the size of their entire stack. After the initial bet, players can fold, call, or raise. Raises cannot be smaller than the most recent bet or raise. Raisers can always bet all their chips and go all-in.

The lack of a betting cap significantly impacts strategy in no-limit games. No-limit allows players to control the size of the pot and sound out their opponent’s hand strength by betting different amounts and keeping an eye on their betting patterns. In a no-limit game, you can fold out weaker players and challenge stronger players through aggressive play.

But it’s the ability to go all-in to risk every chip in your stack that really sets no-limit apart from the other structures. It makes for much more significant variance and much higher levels of drama.

That’s probably why no-limit Texas hold’em is the most popular poker variant by far. It’s a real showdown that takes the courage to make strong bets, take big risks, and defend yourself against forceful opponents. It also takes the discipline to fold correctly until you have the right starting hands.

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Expand your poker horizons and discover different poker betting structures. Learn the difference between fixed-limit, pot-limit, and no-limit poker.