Want to maximize your profit in pot-limit poker games? Limit games? No-Limit games? Then it's imperative to learn the most efficient strategies of betting in each poker variant.
If you want to be a consistent winner at any poker game you have to calculate your optimal bets in real time and make sure you never put more into than pot than needed to do the job.
Whether you play No-Limit, Limit or Pot-Limit, some solid betting fundamentals can take you a very long way. Here we'll walk you through a few professional secrets for each betting style.
We'll start with Pot-Limit as it might, in fact, be the trickiest of the three. For readers needing to brush up on how betting rules work, check out either of these articles:
- Texas Holdem Betting Rules: No-Limit, Limit and Pot-Limit
- Omaha Poker Betting Rules: No-Limit, Limit and Pot-Limit
No-Limit = Hold'em
The most commonly played poker variation in the world is Texas Hold'em. And the majority of games are played as No-Limit Texas Hold'em. No-Limit Hold'em has become so popular in fact that many beginners don't even realize there are any other betting structures.
Hold'em has become synonymous with poker and No-Limit has become synonymous with Hold'em. So playing an airtight No-Limit game is crucial to your success.
If you've yet to fully grasp all the rules of Texas Hold'em poker, check our complete rules guide here:
How to Control the Pot with Bet Size
The importance of pot control in No-Limit Hold'em can't be stressed enough. Even though you can bet any amount, from the big blind to your entire stack, the size of the pot typically dictates the size of bets to be made during the hand.
In No-Limit, players commonly size their bets as a percentage of the current pot size. This means that the size of the bets you make will increase exponentially as the pot progresses to later streets.
Take a look at this chart:
|Preflop Pot||% of Pot Bet||Flop $ | Bet $||Turn $ | Bet $||River $ | Bet $||Total $ Bet|
|$10||25%||$10 | $3||$16 | $4||$24 | $6||$13|
|$10||50%||$10 | $5||$20 | $10||$40 | $20||$35|
|$10||75%||$10 | $8||$26 | $20||$66 | $50||$78|
|$10||100%||$10 | $10||$30 | $30||$90 | $90||$130|
All amounts with a decimal place have been rounded up. In online poker you could bet the amount including cents; in live poker the smallest chip on this table will be $1.
Due to the exponential increase across multiple streets the final betting amount of 50% is actually 73% less money than that of a 100% bet amount.
Many beginners will find this concept shocking. It's not that they don't have the ability to figure it out; it's that they simply haven't given the topic any thought.
Because of this dramatic increase the amount of money you bet on the turn has a far greater impact on the final pot amount than most players tend to think.
No-Limit Requires Implied Odds
Being successful in No-Limit poker requires as much understanding of implied odds as of pot odds - or more.
Simply put, pot odds is the relationship between the amount of money in the pot and the amount of money it requires for you to continue on in the hand.
Implied odds is the relationship between the amount of money you have to pay to continue in the hand versus the amount of money you stand to make if successful.
In a Limit or Pot-Limit game your implied odds are limited by the maximum bet amounts while in No-Limit they're only constrained by the effective stacks in play.
"Effective stack size" means the maximum amount of chips that can possibly be played in the hand. For example:
- If you have a stack of $500 but your opponent only has a stack of $200, neither you nor your opponent can bet any more than $200. That makes your effective stack $200.
In No-Limit, if your hand has a large amount of equity (meaning it's a very strong hand, such as pocket aces), your goal is to maximize the pot and lean on the hand's inherent equity to make you money.
A hand such as small suited one-gappers has considerably less equity but has the ability to make an invisible large hand. These hands with little equity are rarely in a situation with very favorable pot odds.
Because a hand like this will be hard to suss out when it hits a monster, it can be easy to coax other players into betting and calling large amounts of money against you.
These implied odds turn hands that in a Limit game would mostly be losers into glorious winners in a No-Limit game.
The most obvious advantage of No-Limit over other forms of poker is that it allows you to move all-in. The fact that you can move all-in has two major implications for No-Limit play:
- Players can protect hands by betting more than the pot, absolutely eliminating any pot odds.
- Once a player is all-in they are officially un-bluffable.
The ability to become un-bluffable allows players to eliminate positional advantage. It also forces the other players to make a difficult choice based purely on the merit of their hand.
Once a player is all-in only the best hand on the river will win - it's as simple as that.
Knowing when to move all-in and when not to merits an article unto itself. It's extremely situational. When starting out the best rule of thumb is to only ever move (or call) all-in when you're as sure as you can be you have the absolute best hand.
Every Bet Counts in Limit Poker
Ever since the 2003 poker explosion Fixed-Limit poker has taken a back seat to action-heavy and TV-friendly No-Limit. But even though Limit poker's not as popular as it once was, it's still very much a force in the poker world.
All poker variations can be played with a Limit betting structure whereas not all games work as well played as No-Limit.
General popularity aside, Limit poker is the ideal betting structure for beginners to become acquainted with poker. Limit is more based on math and logic than psychology which allows players with less experience to play a more solid game from the get-go.
The most notable advantage of Limit for beginner players is a dramatically decreased loss rate. You just can't lose your chips as quickly in a Limit game as you can in No-Limit.
In No-Limit your mistakes are amplified without a concurrent boost to your results -- especially if you're a beginner.
Limit allows for a more consistent, gradual learning curve and lets you see and play far more hands of poker with a significantly lowered amount of risk.
The first thing you need to understand about betting in a Fixed-Limit game is that every bet, even if it may seem insignificant, counts.
There's a lot more to be said on this, but rather than rewriting advice available elsewhere click through to this article which goes into the subject in depth:
Limit Odds Are in Your Favor
The absolute worst pot odds you will ever be offered (post-flop) in a Limit game will be 2-1 on your money and it's only possible in a very specific scenario.
More often than not a player will receive 3-1 or better at any given point. The reason for this is simple:
In a $2/$4 Limit game the big blind is $2. Let's say all players fold to the small blind, who limps. The big blind checks and we go to the flop ($4 in the pot).
The small blind bets out on the flop ($2). This gives the big blind 3-1 odds to call ($6-$2). A player will receive 2-1 odds only if both players would have checked on the flop.
In this scenario, with the small blind betting out on the turn ($4), the big blind is now looking at paying $4 for a pot of $8, or 2-1 odds. As soon as you have more players in the hand the odds increase. 3-1 and the rare 2-1 are the absolute worst odds you can ever get in a Limit game.
Limit Hold'em is a Game of Draws
Much more than in No-Limit or even Pot-Limit, drawing is a very large part of the game in Fixed-Limit. Since a hand such as a flush or an open-ended straight draw is in the neighborhood of 2-1 to complete (from the flop to the river), you literally always have the odds to draw to your hands on the flop.
If you went to the flop heads-up and still only have your 8- or 9-out draw, on the turn you will no longer be getting correct odds to chase if your opponent bets. Even though you'll still be getting 3-1 on your money your odds of hitting your draw have dropped to as low as 6-1.
If you have a third player in the hand, on the turn you'll be offered 4-1 or even 5-1 odds if that third player calls before you in the hand. For a flush draw 5-1 odds mean you'll just about break even.
If you can occasionally pick up a bet on the river you'll make some money in the long run.
The key concepts you should take away here are that every bet counts in Limit and that your opponents will almost always have the odds to draw to hands.
Unlike in No-Limit, where you can make a point of trying to win every hand you play, as a Limit player you must accept the fact that many pots will be won and lost to draws - both legitimate and backdoor.
To be a winning Limit player you must make sure that you always have the correct odds when you choose to draw and that you charge your opponents the maximum to draw against you. Minimize your losses, maximize your wins and laugh your way to the bank in the long run.
How to Make Good Pot-Limit Bets
If Limit is a primarily mathematical pot odds game and No-Limit is a primarily read-based implied odds game, 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 - but 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.
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 which gives 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. Still, the pot odds haven't changed. You must call $20 for the $40 now in the pot which makes your odds $40-$20, or 2-1.
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.
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.