Poker revolves around risking chips for a chance to win more chips – or, in other words, betting. Different games have different limitations and rules as to how those bets are conducted. These are called betting structures.
Fixed Limit Games – all bets and raises are for predetermined amounts. Usually, the amount is higher for the later betting rounds. Not only is the amount fixed, but also the number of raises and re-raises are limited. For example, a $5/$10 Limit Holdem game means that for the first two betting rounds, you can only bet $5 and be raised by $5 (the small bet). The last two betting rounds allow bets and raises of $10 (the big bet). Most online poker rooms allow a bet and three raises each round. Beginners should always start with limit tables – when there’s a limit to what you can win, there is also a limit on how much you stand to loose. Let’s stay with the $5/$10 Limit Holdem, with a limit of three raises per round, and calculate the maximum loss (total exposure) per hand. Each of the first two betting rounds can reach a maximum of 5×4 = $20. Each of the last two – 10×4 = $40. $20 + $20 + $40 + $40 = $120. An easy shortcut – multiply the big bet by 12 – 10×12 = $120.
Note: In some online poker rooms, if a betting round starts with only two players, there may be no limit to the amount of raises allowed. So even though the amounts are limited, you and your opponent can keep raising each other until one of you runs out of chips. Spread Limit Games – bet any amount, as long as it’s within the spread limit. For example, if you are playing $2 – $10 Spread Limit Texas Holdem you can open with a bet, or raise any bet, by any amount between $2 and $10. Raises, however, must be at least as large as the last bet. This rule holds for any form of poker, and all betting systems. The only obvious exception is if a player doesn’t have enough chips. In that case, ‘all in’ can be called as a raise, even if the raise is smaller than the last bet.
Pot Limit Games – raise for as much as the total amount in the pot. As in any form of poker, a raise must be at least equal to the previous bet. In a pot limit game, your raise can double the size of the pot. Your call is counted as part of the pot before the raise. For example, if there are $10 in the pot, and someone just opened with (bet) $10 – the maximum he could. You can now call his $10 bet, and your call is counted on the pot, so there is a total of $30 in the pot. You can now raise by as much as $30, so the pot is now worth $60.
No Limit Games – anything goes. Bet and raise for as much as you want, whenever you want. It’s easy to see why No Limit Texas Holdem is the most popular form of poker tournament play. Think of the drama – you stand to loose all your chips at any moment, but you also have a theoretical chance to take in all the chips on the board with one single hand. One bad move can cost you the tournament, and indeed weak players drop like flies in these tournaments. No Limit keeps players on the edge and the game moving fast – another reason why No Limit Texas Holdem is the most televised form of poker by far.