Beginner Poker Betting Secrets: Pot-Limit

Phil Ivey

Want to maximize your profit in Pot-Limit games? Then it's imperative to learn the most efficient strategies of PL betting.

If you want to be a consistent winner at the game, you must be able to tally pot size and calculate a complete pot-sized raise on the spot.

Once you understand how Pot-Limit betting works, you can then move on to learning the basic strategies and concepts needed make a profit at the game.

For readers needing to brush up on how Pot-Limit games work, check out either of these articles:

How to Play Pot-Limit Poker

If Limit is a primarily mathematical pot odds game, and No-Limit is a primarily read-based implied odds game, then Pot-Limit is somewhere in the middle.

By forcing players to bet at or below the amount of the pot, you reduce the percentage of implied odds, while still allowing for a reduction of straight pot odds as well. The dynamics of Pot-Limit place it in between Limit and No-Limit as a poker variant - a bit closer to No-Limit.

For example, if you're making a bet into multiple players on the turn in a Limit game, it will be impossible not to give your opponents overwhelming pot odds.

Greg Mueller
Players with a firm understanding of both Limit and No-Limit play have an easier time learning Pot-Limit.

If four players all see a turn, with only one person betting and the other three players calling the whole way, a bet on the turn will give your opponents 5-1 odds. (In a $2/$4 Limit game there would be $16 in the pot + $4 bet, for $20-$4 odds.)

If any raises have been made along the way, it's not uncommon to be offered 10-1 or greater odds in a Limit game.

In a No-Limit game of the same blinds, it would be possible to bet your entire stack into a $16 pot, giving odds of $216-$200 - barely more than 1-1. This is why No-Limit is considered an implied odds game.

In Pot-Limit, the same scenario would allow you to make a maximum bet of $16. This would give your opponents 2-1 odds ($32-$16) to make the call. As you can see, the odds are between those in Limit and No-Limit, although much closer to No-Limit than to the middle.

Essential Pot Control

One of the common themes of No-Limit strategy is pot control. Because Pot-Limit is more pot odds-based than No-Limit, pot control is a crucial component of a winning strategy.

You make money in poker by letting your opponents make mistakes and capitalizing on them. If your opponents are making pot-odds mistakes, you want to be sure not to give them the implied odds to compensate.

Small Bets Make a Big Difference

Because of how Pot-Limit functions, making a small bet can profoundly affect total pot size. You can best grasp this by taking a look at the numbers:

On the Flop Pot: $10

If you're playing heads-up, you have two options being first to act: bet, or check.

If you check, your opponent can bet a maximum of $10, giving you 2-1 pot odds.

If you make a small bet - we'll say half the pot - your opponent can dramatically increase the total amount of your investment in the pot:

With the pot now $15, your opponent can raise a total of $25. Your small bet has allowed your opponent to make a bet 150% larger than if you had checked.

Interestingly, the pot odds have not changed. You must call $20 for the $40 now in the pot, making your odds $40-$20, or 2-1.

Christian Harder
It might help to buy a jacket with the largest hood you can find.

Heads-up, the odds stay the same, but by betting half the pot, you greatly increase the amount you would have to pay to see another card.

Let's see how a small bet affects the odds with another player in the hand.

On the Flop Pot: $10

You bet $5, Player 1 calls $5. Pot is now $20, with a $5 bet.

Player 2 bets the pot, for a total of a $30 bet. You're now getting $50-$25, still 2-1 odds, but the pot has grown significantly.

One thing to note is that in all three of these scenarios, the odds to you have remained exactly the same. When an opponent bets the pot, you will always be offered 2-1 odds, unless another player calls the bet before you.

Opening the Door in Pot Limit

Because you can only bet the pot, maximizing pot size with a monster hand becomes somewhat more difficult than it is in No-Limit. As we just learned, a small bet can make a big difference in the final size of the pot.

Using this to our advantage, one of the ways to maximize a pot is by "opening the door." This just means making a small bet that conveys weakness to your opponent in order to have them come over the top for a pot-sized bet.

This allows you to make a very large bet into what started as a very small pot. Here's a quick example:

Heads-up on the flop, you flop a monster first to act. The pot is $10.

If you bet pot, chances are your opponent will just call you. Pot going to the turn = $30.

You stand to make more money against an aggressive opponent by only betting $5.

Sorel Mizzi
Open the door for a player like Sorel Mizzi, and he'll walk on through.

If they fold to the $5 bet, chances are they would have folded to a $10 bet as well. If they just call, the pot is now large enough to make a decent bet on the turn.

If your opponent does what you want them to and comes over the top pot on you, they've now opened the door.

You bet $5; they come over the top for $25.

The total pot is now $40, and you are required to pay $20 to call. This means you can repot for a total bet size of $80. You've turned your $10 max bet (if you would have potted it first to act) into a bet eight times larger, simply by letting your opponent open the door.

The Door Opens Both Ways

Anytime you make a pot-sized bet in Pot-Limit, your opponent has the option to repot.

If pot control is your concern, meaning you are not in a hand worth playing a very large pot for, allowing your opponent to bet eight times or more the amount of the preflop pot is the exact opposite of your intended goal.

Always remember: even though the odds may not change, any bet you make can allow your opponent to charge you double or more in return.

If making big pots is your goal, your No. 1 job is to entice your opponents to bet into you. The more you can get them to bet, the better you'll be able to hold over on them.

The restricted maximum bet amount of pot-Limit helps many players play the game with less fear than if they were playing in a No-Limit format.

Players will be more willing to make and call bets in Pot-Limit, and for this reason you should spend extra effort in perfecting your pot control.

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Ronald Johnson 2010-02-16 02:58:56

Extremely informative


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