Betting Structures in Poker

Poker Betting Structures

The betting structures, also known as betting limits, used in poker have a significant impact on how you play the game. They basically dictate the rules for how much you can bet or raise at any given point, so they are obviously a fundamental part of any poker game. Therefore, it's very important that you fully understand them.

There are five main betting structures that are used in poker, which we have compiled for you in the list below. In this article we've explained how each one of these works and added in some additional examples where appropriate. The first three are the most commonly used in the modern game, with no limit in particular being very popular these days.

  • Fixed Limit
  • No Limit
  • Pot Limit
  • Spread Limit
  • Cap Limit

Fixed Limit (FL)

Quick Description
There are fixed sizes for all bets and raises.
Detailed Description

Fixed limit, often abbreviated to FL, was traditionally the most commonly used betting structure in the majority of poker variants. It's still popular now but no limit has become the betting structure of choice for most players.

As the name suggests, players may only bet and raise in fixed amounts when playing fixed limit. There are usually two betting sizes in a game: the small bet and the big bet, and players are typically limited to small bets in the early betting rounds and big bets in the later betting rounds.

A good example of this can be found in the game of Texas Hold'em, where small bet sizes apply in the pre-flop and flop betting rounds, while big bet sizes apply in the turn and the river betting rounds. In Seven Card Stud, players are limited to small bet sizes in the first two betting rounds and big bet sizes in the final three rounds.

The exact amount of these bet sizes is determined by the stakes of the game. A game labeled as $10/20 would equate to small bet sizes of $10 and big bet sizes of $20. The big blind is usually equal to the small bet, with the small blind being equal to that amount cut in half. So in a $10/$20 fixed limit Hold'em game, the blinds would be $5 and $10.

The first bet in any round must be exactly equal to the small bet size (if an early betting round) or the big bet size (if a later betting round). Any raises must also be exactly equal to the relevant betting size too and the total number of raises in any given betting round is usually limited to three. Once three raises have been made, the remaining players only have the option to fold or call.

Fixed limit is pretty straightforward, but we've provided the following example scenarios to ensure that you fully understand how it works in practice. These are all based on a $10/$20 game of Texas Hold'em.

Pre-flop betting round (small bet sizes apply)
  • Player A posts the small blind of $5, Player B posts the big blind of $10.
  • Player C is the first to act and they have three options.
    • Fold.
    • Call for $10.
    • Raise. (Must be a raise of exactly $10, for a total of $20)
Flop betting round (small bet sizes apply)
  • Player A checks.
  • Player B has two options.
    • Check.
    • Bet. (Must bet exactly $10)
Turn betting round (big bet sizes apply)
  • Player A bets $20.
  • Player B has three options:
    • Fold.
    • Call for $20.
    • Raise. (Must raise exactly $20, for a total of $40)
River betting round (big bet sizes apply)
  • Player A bets $20.
  • Player B raises $20 to $40.
  • Player C raises $20 to $60.
  • Player D raises $20 to $80.
  • Player E may only call or fold, as the three raise cap has been met.

Please note that when joining a fixed limit cash game, there's usually a minimum buy-in but no maximum. It doesn't really matter how much money a player sits down with because they are always limited by the fixed bet sizes.

No Limit (NL)

Quick Description
Minimum size for bets and raises, but no upper limit.
Detailed Description

No limit has become the most popular betting structure in poker, particularly when it comes to Texas Hold'em, because it's viewed by many as being more exciting than fixed limit. There's also more complex thinking involved, as players don't just have to think about deciding if they should fold, bet, or raise. They also have to think about their bet sizes, as no limit gives them far more flexibility in this regard than a fixed limit game would.

The strategy in no limit might be a little more complicated, but the rules are not. In fact it could easily be argued that no limit is the simplest betting structure of all. There are minimum sizes for bets and raises but when it comes to the maximum bet, your only restriction is that you can only bet up to the amount of chips you have at the table.

The stakes for a no limit game are related to the size of the blinds. A game labeled as $2/$4, for example, would see small blinds of $2 and big blinds of $4. Players opening the betting round must always bet at least the size of the big blind, and players raising must always raise by at least the amount of the previous bet or raise. They are the only minimums that apply though. A player may always bet any amount between those minimums and the amount they have at the table.

Although that really is all there is to the no limit betting structure, it's still useful to see some examples in order to fully understand it. The following examples are all based on a $2/$4 game.

Pre-flop betting round
  • Player A posts the small blind of $2, Player B posts the big blind of $4.
  • Player C is the first to act, with $60 on the table, giving them one of three options:
    • Fold.
    • Call for $4.
    • Raise. Minimum raise is $4, maximum raise is $56 (for a total bet of all his $60).
Flop betting round
  • Player A checks.
  • Player B, with $100 on the table, has two options:
    • Check.
    • Bet. Can be any amount between the minimum of $4 and all his $100.
Turn betting round
  • Player A bets $20.
  • Player B raises to $50.
  • Player C, with $90 on the table, has three options:
    • Fold.
    • Call for $50.
    • Raise. Minimum raise is $30 (the amount of the previous raise). Maximum raise is $40 (for a total bet of $90)

When joining a no limit cash game, there's usually a minimum and a maximum buy in. The maximum is usually an amount equal to 100 big blinds. There's no limit to the amount you can have at the table at any one time, as anything you win stays on the table until you leave.

Please note that you'll generally be able to buy back in to the table maximum at any point you have less than the maximum amount, except during an active hand.

Pot Limit (PL)

Quick Description
All bets and raises are limited by current pot size.
Detailed Description

Pot limit is one of the more complicated betting structures in poker. It can be used for most variations of the game, but it's particularly common in Omaha.

The stakes for a game of pot limit are related to the size of the blinds just as in no limit. So, again, a game labeled $2/$4 would see $2 small blinds and $4 big blinds. The rules regarding the minimum amount you can bet and the minimum amount you can raise by are also the same. There are differences regarding the maximum amount you can bet or raise though.

In pot limit, the maximum amount you can bet or raise by is determined by the size of the current pot. It's not quite as simple as just counting the chips that are already in the pot though. The pot contains any bets made on the current betting round, plus the amount you have to bet in order to call any previous bet. So, to simplify things for you, the required calculation looks like this.

Calculation for Pot Limit

Let's look at a couple of examples to illustrate how this calculation works in practice.

Pre-flop betting round
  • Player A posts the small blind of $2, Player B posts the big blind of $4.
  • There are no chips in the pot at this point because it's the first round.
  • There has been a total of $6 in chips bet on the current round.
  • It is $4 to call the current bet.
  • The "pot limit" at this point is therefore $0 + $6 + $4 = $10.
  • If Player C wishes to raise, he may raise by up to $10.
Flop betting round
  • There's $42 in the pot from the flop betting round.
  • Player A bets $25.
  • Player B raises by the minimum $25, for a total bet of $50.
  • There has been a total of $75 in chips bet on the current round.
  • It costs $50 to call current the bet.
  • The "pot limit" at this point is therefore $42 + $25 + $50 = $117.
  • If Player C wishes to raise, he may raise by up to $117.

Spread Limit& Cap Limit

These two betting structures are far less common than the three previously mentioned but there's always a possibility that you may come across them at some point, so it's worth understanding how they work.

Spread Limit

Spread limit is effectively a compromise between the fixed limit and no limit structures, as players' bets and raises are limited by a maximum amount. There's some flexibility because they don't have to bet or raise by a fixed amount though. Instead they must stick within a pre-determined range, known as the spread.

You might see a spread limit game with stakes of something like $2-$6 for example. This would mean that bets and raises must always be somewhere between $2 and $6. The spread usually stays the same for each betting round and the lower end of the spread is usually the size of the big blind.

Cap Limit

Cap limit is played in largely the same way as no limit with the only difference being that there's a cap on the total amount of money that each player may bet in any given hand. The cap applies over all the betting rounds for each hand. A $2/$4 game of cap limit might have a cap of $100 which means that if a player bets $20 pre flop and $40 on the flop, he would only be able to bet a further $40 on that hand in total.

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