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Betting Limits in Poker

So, you want to learn about betting limits in poker? Let’s start with a general idea of what we’re talking about.

Betting limits refer to the different rules or structures you have to follow for betting and raising. These rules will affect how much you can bet or raise, and when, at any given point in a hand/round.

And it’s a pretty big deal. If you jump from one limit to another – with no experience – you’ll feel like a fish out of water. Because each one has a different strategy to learn. Each one has different mistakes to avoid. This page will cover all that in more detail.

One thing though – reading about different limits can be confusing. If you want to fully understand them, we suggest playing a few rounds of free money poker of each. Chances are you won’t be any good by the time you’re done. But at least you’ll “get it”.

Now let’s get into it.

The Different Betting Limits or Formats in Poker

The different betting limits used in poker include:

  • Fixed
  • No limit
  • Pot
  • Cap
  • Spread

What we’ll do is explain each one and give you an example. For all examples we’ll use $1/$2 for blinds.

(Fixed) Limit Poker

With fixed limit games everything from the amount you can bet or raise – if you can do either at all – is predetermined. There is a limit to both the amount you can bet or raise, and how many bets or raises can be made per round.

This is how limit games work:

Preflop and on the flop, you’ll be able to bet and raise the small blind – in our case that’d be $1. And in many games the max number of times you can raise is 4. So, at most each person will put in $4.

On the turn and river (or later rounds in razz and stud), the big blind is doubled. In our case that’d be to $2. The 4 raises per round applies here too.

Important – you’ll only be able to make a bet/raise the size of the big blind. You can’t bet in multiples or cap the betting at the same time.

For example, if you make a bet of $2, the next person can only raise it $2. Then the next guy $2. That’s the gist, anyway.

Limit holdem used to be a real popular game. That is, until no limit games were shown on TV. Now limit is mostly used in poker games like stud and razz. It’s one of the easiest betting formats to learn. And because of the cap on every betting round, it’s a bit easier on the bankroll. That said, limit games are the hardest to master.

For one thing, there’s no room to bluff. Since you’re only able to make a bet the size of the big blind, there’s always odds to call. And it’s almost always correct to do so. In fact, experts say a common mistake is to fold too much.

(This is opposite of no limit poker where players don’t fold enough.)

Another HUGE mistake is slow playing. Since you’re only able to bet so much and so many times per round – and the fact that every player will have odds to call to draw – slow playing only means you’re missing out on LOTS of value. You really need to maximize what you win when you have the best hand. This also helps make up for the times you draw to better hands (correctly) and lose.

The bottom line is fixed poker is more or less a passive math game rather than an aggressive game that often relies on guts and brute force – like no limit games often do.

No Limit Poker

This is arguably the most popular type of poker today. This is what you mostly see on TV. The exciting part is when you see someone say they’re “all in”. It’s exciting because they’re willing to put all their chips – sometimes their tournament life – on the line.

This encourages a brute force style of strategy that many players use. Very much UNLIKE fixed limit poker. Not only that, but there are no limits as to how much you can bet. So long as you meet the blinds with your bets and raises, you can do whatever you want.

For example, the minimum raise is $4. From there the min raise is to $8. Then $16, and so on.

But so long as you meet the min raise, from there you can raise/bet whatever you want. You can raise from $2 to $10, $8 to $20 or $50, or $16 to $35.50. Or, you can shove all in.

You can do whatever you want.

This creates a different dynamic. One that is less focused on odds and the cards you hold (although both are still important), and instead a game that is more focused on player styles and stack sizes. You can be a winning player simply due to being more aggressive. You can bet and raise more. Bluff more. Good players win more money by seeing fewer showdowns.

But this can also open the doors to more mistakes. It is possible to be overly aggressive – to bet or raise too often, play too many hands or stay in a hand longer than you should.

You got to learn when to fold, too.

And because you have the freedom to bet however much you want, you need to learn how much to bet. You need to bet enough to discourage people from drawing, while not over betting, because there’s no sense in risking more than you have to to achieve the results you want.

Pot Limit Poker

This is sort of a mix between fixed and no limit poker. You have a cap on how much you can bet, but you’re only limited by the size of the pot. As you can probably imagine, once you make a few bets and raises – or get a few streets in – the pot is big enough where you can go all in.

For example, if the pot is $2, that is the max you can bet. But once you bet $2 (and make the pot $4), the next person can raise another $4 (bringing it up to $8), then the next guy can raise $8 (making it $16), and so on.

(It’s important to point out that you don’t have to “pot it” every time you raise. You can raise anywhere from the minimum (double the last bet/raise) to the size of the pot. Anywhere in between that is fine.)

Strategy is somewhere in the middle, too. Experts say that someone with a good handle of both fixed and no limit poker can do well in pot limit games. You want to be someone that can play the odds, bet for value (real important early on to build a bigger pot later), and still play the player.

It’s a challenging, yet profitable betting limit for players up to challenge of mastering it.

Cap Limit Poker

The general idea with cap limit games is there’s a limit to how much money you can put during a hand. This is relative to big blinds, and is often between 20 and 30. Once you’ve reached the cap it’s treated as if you’re “all in.”

Experts say this can lead to more lively and aggressive games since your risk is capped more so than no limit and pot limit. Since you can only lose so much, it probably encourages more ‘screw it, let’s run it’ type moments.

Spread Limit Poker

Spread limit games are similar to fixed limit poker.

You’ll have a range or spread – say $2 to $5 – that you can choose from for your bets and raises.

It’s not a popular betting limit, based on the fact that we don’t see it online (much) and when you Google the phrase the results are scarce. But these games do run.

One of the biggest tips for playing spread poker is to be less transparent with your bets. Beginners tend to make the mistake of betting the top of the spread with their best hands and at the bottom with weaker hands. But anyone paying attention will spot this. So, you want to be more aware of how you size your bets relative to the strength of your hand.

Other than that, since this is so much like limit poker we’d recommend following those strategies. Bet for value, fold a little less often compared to pot and no limit poker, and bluff less.

Conclusion: Time to Play

Did that make sense? If you’re a visual person it’s going to help to play a few rounds of each game to fully understand how it works.

But that’s okay.

It also gives you a chance to see which formats you like best. Which formats you want to learn first – not just how to get through a hand, but all the strategies and tactics that are so different from one betting limit to the next.

And that’s a deep hole that’ll keep you busy for the foreseeable future.