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Pot Limit - A betting structure that limits the size of a bet to the current size of the pot.
To the poker novice, the mix of card games in a poker room can seem like an unintelligible mix of games, limits, strategies, and
rules. This can be intimidating, and difficult to wade through, even if one is determined to make sense out of it all. Gaining a basic
understanding of how games are categorized and how the betting is organized is a fantastic way to start. Getting up to speed from
there is easier than you might have initially thought.
At some point in the past, you may have walked into a poker room and heard an announcement over the loudspeaker like, “Immediate
seating, five and ten blind Pot-Limit Omaha.” To anyone who has not had experience in a poker room, this probably sounds like Greek.
In reality, it is a simple and concise explanation of the game which is being played. As you probably gathered, the purpose of the
announcement is to advertise the fact that there are open seats in the game, with the hope of attracting interested players who happen
to be within earshot. The “five and ten” refers to the size of the blinds generally in dollars, which in turn determines the stakes of
the game. To make sense of the information about the game itself, some background is needed.
The first thing that you should know is that there are three main categories of poker games. These are “flop” games, “stud” games, and
“draw” games. Virtually every poker game that you will ever play in a casino, and most every home game, will fall into one of these
categories. Texas Holdem is an example of a flop
game, Ace to Five Lowball is a draw game, and Seven Card Stud is, obviously, a stud game. Each of these categories of games has a
substantially different method of distributing the cards to the players during the course of the hand. These differences translate
into major differences in game play.
While the category which a game falls into may substantially impact play, there is another factor which has as big, or bigger, of an
impact. This factor is the game’s betting structure.
A game’s betting structure is simply a hierarchical set of rules which govern the betting. Depending upon the betting structure being
discussed, these rules are designed to impose various levels of restriction on betting practices, which in turn, impacts the action.
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The effect that each different betting structure has on game play cannot be understated. In fact, so sharp is the divide between two
games which are identical except for betting structure, that they are considered to be completely different games. Each different
betting structure even has its own tactics and schools of thought associated with it, and the game play between the two couldn’t be
more different. Switching between betting different structures can be the most difficult adjustment a player can make, even more
difficult than switching game types or limits. The bottom line is that the game’s betting structure is a very big deal.
One of the main reasons that a game’s betting structure is such a big deal is because the amount of restrictions placed on betting can
have a dramatic impact on how much money is ultimately bet. These restrictions can also impact the betting in other more subtle ways
as well, including having a dramatic impact on how players approach risk management.
So, specific betting structures are designed to promote a specific game play experience. There are four main betting structures which
are widely used, and you may encounter many derivations of each during your lifetime. These are, from most restrictive to least,
“Limit,” “Spread Limit,” “Pot Limit,” and “No Limit.” Limit poker is particularly restrictive, usually dictating the exact amount
which must be bet, if a bet is to be made. No limit poker is the least restrictive structure, allowing each player to bet up to the
full amount of their stack on any given bet.
Spread limit poker and pot limit poker are each a kind of hybrid between limit and no limit, because each one imposes moderate betting
restrictions, but the similarities really end there. Because of the nature of the restrictions associated with each structure, the
game play in spread limit is closer to that of limit play, while pot limit game play more closely resembles that of a no limit game.
In a pot limit game, players may bet up to the amount that is in the pot at the time when it is their turn to act. This means that the
pot size and the bet size can, and often does, increase exponentially as the hand progresses. Because the pot is small early in the
hand, players are prevented from making bets that are relatively large, until the pot grows. This restriction has major strategy
implications, both major and minor, which differentiate it from no limit play, its closest relative. In pot limit play, the decision
of how much to bet can be as important, or even more so, than the decision to bet in the first place. You can see why pot limit poker
is considered by many to be one of the most difficult forms of poker to master.
While most any poker game can be adapted to a pot limit format, you will find that it is most frequently used for flop games,
specifically Pot Limit Hold’em (PLH) and Pot Limit Omaha High (PLO). Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo (also called Pot Limit Omaha Eight or
Better, or PLO8) has also caught on as of late. It initially became popular in online card rooms, and because of its popularity there,
PLO8 has begun to carve out a niche in brick and mortar poker rooms and on the tournament trail.
Usage: Pot Limit Holdem (PLH) Tournament, Multitabling PLO8, Pot Limit Omaha
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