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Fixed, Pot, & No Limit: Your Guide to Betting Limits in Poker

Dominic Field

Jul 28, 2023

A Guide to Betting Limits in Poker

Almost all forms of poker can be played at three different limits. No Limit poker games are most prevalent when it comes to major tournaments and cash games. But you’ll also find a variety of Pot Limit and Fixed Limit events too.

In this guide to poker betting structures, we’ll look at each one in detail and explain the various differences. We’ll assess the pros and cons of each, as well as the relevant strategy changes that must occur in order to be successful. But first, we’ll take a look at why such poker limits are necessary.

Different Betting Structures in Poker

It’s important for a poker room to spread as many games as possible, in order to appeal to all players. Everyone knows that No Limit poker games like Texas Hold’em dominate the scene. Their huge popularity is why No Limit Hold’em is usually the Main Event at the very biggest poker series. But the fact remains that many people simply don’t enjoy these “big bet” games.

As we’ll discover shortly, No Limit poker games require certain traits and characteristics if you’re going to play them successfully. And not everybody has, or wants to develop these attributes. What’s more, some games are simply unsuited to certain betting structures. There’s a reason why you never see No Limit Seven Card Stud at the World Series of Poker!

Let’s now dig a little deeper into the various structures, starting with No Limit poker.

No Limit Poker

This form of poker is most commonly associated with games involving community cards, such as Texas Hold’em. But on rare occasions, you will find No Limit Omaha and other poker games. At the World Series of Poker, No Limit 2-7 Triple Draw is a popular event, for example.

As the name implies, players have no maximum bet restrictions in No Limit poker games. Well, that’s not strictly true - you can only bet what is in front of you on the table. So in a cash game, you cannot pull more money out of your wallet to increase the bet size. This rule is referred to as “table stakes”.

Apart from the table stakes rule, players can bet as many chips as they like. As long as it is equal to or above the minimum bet, which is usually fixed at one big blind. Once a bet has been made, a player wishing to raise must wager at least that amount again. For example, if a player bets $6, the player must wager at least $12. That’s $6 to call and a minimum raise of $6 more.

When discussing No Limit poker games on poker forums and websites, the term is often shortened to “NL” for ease of typing. For instance, NLH refers to No Limit Hold’em. 

Fixed Limit Poker

Generally speaking, Fixed Limit poker games - usually just referred to as “Limit” - are much less popular than they used to be. This is largely due to the explosion of No Limit Hold’em in the early 2000s. However, you can still spot Limit Hold’em games at some online poker rooms.

Unlike No Limit poker games, Fixed Limit Hold’em tables have set restrictions on how much you can bet. These are determined by the size of the big blind. Pre- and post-flop, Limit Poker players may only wager a value equal to the big blind. On the turn and river, this value doubles to twice the big blind.

Raises are made using the exact same denominations. So if the game is $1 / $2 FLH (Fixed Limit Hold’em) anyone wishing to call must match the big blind and pay $2. Anyone making a raise must wager $4, which is a $2 raise on top of the $2 to call. A bet or raise on the turn, however, will cost $4 each time, instead of $2.

Limit poker games usually have a cap on the number of bets on each street. This is most commonly set at four, or one bet and three raises. The rule exists to prevent people from just raising until they’re all-in, effectively turning it into a No Limit poker game. But each poker room will have its own specific rules, so make sure you check before sitting at the table.

Pot Limit Poker

If No Limit games are unrestricted and Fixed Limit tables are completely inflexible, Pot Limit poker is something of a happy medium. In these games, you are limited only by the size of the pot. 

At the beginning of the play, raises cannot get out of hand. With just the small blind and big blind in the pot, plus any antes, the upper betting limit is obviously very low. But as the hand progresses, the betting limits continue to increase and it’s often possible to put someone all-in, just like No Limit poker games. 

For that reason, Pot Limit games are more closely aligned with No Limit poker than Fixed Limit. These two betting formats are collectively known as “big bet” games. This particular structure is commonly used in Omaha and Texas Hold’em games. PLO, or Pot Limit Omaha, is the most predominant form of that particular game.

Limit vs No Limit Poker Comparisons 

Aside from the different betting rules, there are several other key differences between Fixed Limit and No Limit poker games. In the following section, we’ll find out what they are.

Playing Standard

First of all, it’s worth noting that No Limit poker games like Texas Hold’em are by far the most popular. With that in mind, these cash games and tournaments understandably attract considerably more casual players. As a result, you’ll find that the standard of play is much better at Fixed Limit, since you’ll only find hardcore players there.

Variance

If you’re not very good at handling swings or you’re prone to tilt, it might be wise to avoid big bet poker. These structures - especially No Limit poker games - are much more prone to variance. Since you’ll frequently find yourself in spots with all of your chips on the line, you’re going to be relying on luck more often. And whenever you’re needing good fortune, variance comes into play.

Bravery

A large part of what makes a good No Limit poker player is courage. You cannot be afraid to make big bets if you know it’s the correct play. You may well find yourself bluffing all-in and often, especially in No Limit Hold’em, whoever has the biggest heart will take a pot down. If you’re not confident in yourself, perhaps sticking to the small bets of Fixed Limit games is a good idea.

Pot Odds

Fixed Limit play is often much more straightforward than No Limit poker games. With the former, you can quickly calculate the maximum amount that it’s possible to lose in a hand, due to the betting constraints. And similarly, you can easily approximate the size of the pot by the river, making it easy to calculate exact pot odds. In big bet games, you’re relying on implied odds much more often.

Expected Profit

One reason that No Limit poker games have overtaken Fixed Limit games in popularity, is the ability to make money quickly. Even if you have the nuts against the second-best hand, your potential earnings are capped in a Limit game. It’s not easy to stack someone. As a result, the rate at which profitable players earn is far lower than in No Limit or Pot Limit games. If you don’t like the grind, Fixed Limit poker may not be for you.

Strategy Considerations

Strategy ConsiderationsWith different rules and structures in play, adjustments to your playing style are required if you’re to be successful. Next up, we’ll briefly discuss the necessary changes to your No Limit poker strategy compared to Fixed Limit Games.

Fixed Limit Games

  • Table Image: When you’re not able to bully other players by moving all-in, you’ll need to intimidate them in other ways. Make sure to build a tight and aggressive table image as this is the only way to gain respect.

  • Make bets count: The nature of the betting structure makes it harder to make a profit. If you lose one bet, you’ll need to win two in order to profit. Due to the lower win rate, every bet is more valuable. You cannot switch off as mistakes are costly.

  • Turn raising: In Limit games, you need to do everything you can to build a pot when you have the goods. Punishing players who want to chase on the turn is a vital skill to learn. Use the check-raise more often, too.

  • Try limit games first: Even if you prefer No Limit poker, new players should dip into the Fixed Limit tables first. Games with limited bets are a safe way to brush up on the basics, without risking a small bankroll. It’s a good way to sharpen up board reading skills and learn basic pot odds.

  • Patience: In many ways, the slower-paced Fixed Limit games require more discipline than No Limit poker. Bet sizing is not a consideration, so there’s no need to worry about extracting the most value. It’s more about patiently waiting for the right spots and observing your opponents and their betting habits.

Big Bet Poker

  • Table selection: Because it’s far easier to go broke in No Limit poker games, table selection is vital. Don’t play above your bankroll and try to identify softer games against weaker players.

  • Hand selection: If you limp with speculative poker hands in big bet games, you might end up losing the lot. That’s not a risk at a Fixed Limit table. So think carefully about your hole card selection, as one bad hand can make or break your session.

  • Bet sizing: With no restrictions on maximum bets, you can mix up your sizing to remain unpredictable. However, it’s important not to bet too big early, as pot control is important. You don’t want to find yourself all-in early without a premium hand.

  • Make draws pay: No Limit poker allows you to control the size of the pot more easily. As such, you can set the rate that you want to charge an opponent to play. If you think they’re drawing, give them poor odds to continue. They’ll either have to fold or make a bad play that costs them in the long run.

  • Bluffing: It’s much easier to bluff an opponent off a hand in a big bet game. Take advantage of this and make sure you understand which hands in your range make the best bluffs.

Fixed, Pot, and No Limit Poker: Conclusion

Thanks for reading our guide to Fixed, Pot, and No Limit poker structures. If you’re ready to hit the felt, check out the wide range of No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha tables at Natural8. Buy into a cash game for as little as $0.50 or practice for free at the play money tables.