When you’re playing poker you have to be aware of the betting limit, or structure, of the game you’re playing. There are five main types and they all work a bit differently. They have a direct impact on how you play, as they dictate how much you can bet and under what circumstances. Each one is essentially a different form of poker in its own right and most players are partial to a specific type.
The five main structures are as follows, and we have provided further information on each one of these types on this page.
Fixed limit (abbreviated to FL) used to be the most common form of poker, but it has been overtaken by no limit now. However, there are still many players that prefer it and it’s possible to make good profits playing FL without having to endure huge swings in the bankroll.
In FL the amount that you can bet or raise at any point is fixed, hence the name. The easiest way to explain how the betting works is to use an example. Let’s assume that you’re playing a FL game where the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2, and you’re seated to the left of the big blind.
After the hole cards have been dealt you have three choices. You can fold, you can call the $2 blind, or you can raise. If you wish to raise, you can do so only by a $2 increment during this round. The other players can also choose to fold, call or raise. If they wish to raise they are also restricted to a $2 increment. There’s also a cap on the total number of raises, typically three. Once there has been three raises, then the only option is to call or fold.
After the flop has been dealt, the maximum initial bet is $2. If you or another player makes that, then the other players can raise, again only by $2 at a time and again with the same maximum number of raises. After the turn, the permitted betting amounts are doubled. Players cannot choose between $2 or $4, if they wish to bet they now have to bet $4. If anyone wishes to raise it must be $4 too, and the same rules apply regarding the maximum number of raises. Betting on the river is the same as on the turn.
A FL game with these limits would be labelled as a $2/$4 game, as $2 is the betting amount permitted in the early rounds and $4 is the amount permitted in the later rounds.
No limit (abbreviated to NL) is the structure that has become the most popular for Texas Hold’em. As the name suggests, there’s effectively no limit on the size of a bet or raise. There’s usually a limit on how much a player can buy in to a game for though, typically 100 big blinds. A player may only bet up to a certain percentage of how much they have at the table at any time (doing so is known as going all in), and they cannot buy in during a hand.
There are a couple of other restrictions too, relating to minimums. A player wishing to bet must always use an amount equal to or greater than the size of the big blind, and a player wishing to raise must always raise by an amount to or greater than the size of the previous bet or raise.
NL games are labelled according to the size of the blinds, so if the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2, it’s a $1/$2 game.
Pot limit (PL) is the structure most commonly used in Omaha, but it can be used for other versions of poker too. Betting limits are determined by the size of the pot at the time of placing a bet. In order to calculate it, you must take the size of the pot (amount already placed in the pot from any previous rounds). Add that amount to any bets that have been placed during the current round, and add the amount required to call any bets placed during the current round.
As an example, let’s look at a round on the flop where the pot is already $10 following the pre-flop round. A player then makes a bet of $2 and is called by two other players. The pot size would be effectively calculated at $18; the $10 already in it, the $6 currently on the table (the $2 bet + 2 x $2 calls) and the $2 it would cost to call the current bet. Therefore the next player could raise a maximum of $18.
The minimum raise, as in NL, has to be at least the amount of any previous bet – so in this case a raise of $2. Also as in NL, games are labelled according to the size of the blinds.
Spread limit is much less common than the previously mentioned structures, and rarely found online. It’s essentially halfway between FL and NL, as players are allowed to raise any amount within a specified range. For example, in a game with $1/$2 blinds the range might be $1-$20. This means a player could raise anywhere between $1 and $20, but in some cases the range is increased during later rounds.
Cap limit is very similar to NL and plays in essentially the same way, but there ‘s a maximum amount bet per player for any hand. For example, in a $1/$2 game the cap might be $50. Once a player bets $50 in total (this can be over multiple rounds) they are considered to be all in. If they’re called by a further player, or players, then no more bets can be made and any remaining cards are dealt.