Texas Hold'em Pot Limit Rules
Pot-Limit involves blinds, just as does Limit, and in our Pot-Limit games you have a choice of $.50/$1 and $1/$2 blinds. However, from here, Limit and Pot-Limit change dramatically.
In Pot-Limit, any player is allowed (assuming he has enough chips in front of him at the start of the hand to do so) to raise any amount within a certain range. This range is defined by the size of the pot at the time it is the player's turn to act.
The minimum allowable raise is either the size of the previous bet or the size of the previous raise, depending on whether the last action was a bet or a raise.
The maximum allowable raise is the size of the pot. Sometimes players in brick and mortar casinos have difficulty calculating this because of the rule that allows a player first to call the previous bet and then to bet the size of the pot, including that call. In on-line games, although you should still understand how the process works, our system software will calculate the proper raise range allowed and will not allow a player to make a raise too small or too large.
To see how the calculation of the raise limit would work, let's assume you are playing in a game where the blinds are $1-$2. The next player to act can fold, call the $2, or raise by placing any amount between $4 and $7 in the pot. If the player bets $4, he has raised the minimum, because the previous bet was $2, and he is doubling that. If the player bets $7, he is betting the maximum, because he is first calling the $2 blind bet, creating a total pot size of $5, and then raising the size of the pot. The $2 call plus the $5 raise yields the $7 bet.
Let's assume, to continue the example, that the first player to act does indeed bet the maximum $7. The pot now contains $12. This would mean that the next player to act could fold, call the $7 bet, or raise by betting an amount somewhere in the range between $14 and $26. This is the proper range because the minimum raise is $7 (the size of the previous bet) and the maximum raise is $19 (calculated by calling the $7 bet and then raising the size of the now $19 pot).
As you can see, if several players in a row decide to make pot-sized raises, the size of a pot can escalate rather dramatically. This is why we usually recommend that beginning players start off by playing limit poker before moving on to the more difficult (but for many, more fun and challenging) pot-limit form of poker.
Players may not buy additional chips in the middle of a hand, but can always (unless they have run into their daily, weekly, or monthly limit) decide to buy more chips in between hands.
If a player bets more chips than you have in front of you, you are not forced out of the hand. You are allowed to call for whatever number of chips you have. If no one else is in the pot, the bettor simply takes back his excess chips, and the hand is played to conclusion without any additional betting. If there are other players remaining in the pot, it is possible that a side pot may be created.
Side pots also happen frequently in limit poker, but because the bets are larger in Pot-Limit, the situation tends to occur a bit more frequently here. Let's look at an example involving three players, Alex, Lisa, and Kathy. When the hand starts, Alex has $100 in chips, Lisa has $40, and Kathy has $250. The blinds are $0.50-$1.
In the pre-flop betting, Alex opens the hand for the maximum $3.50, and Lisa and Kathy each call, with everyone else folding. This puts $12 in the main pot.
After the flop, Alex decides to bet the size of the pot, $12. Lisa would like to make the maximum raise possible, which would entail a bet of $36 (calling the $12 creates a pot of $24, which would then be the maximum raise), but she only has $35 left, so she bets that much, creating a pot of $59.
If Kathy also likes his hand, she has two options. The first is simply to call Lisa's $35 bet. If she does this, Alex has three options.
- He could fold, leaving Lisa and Kathy to contest a pot in which there could be no more betting (because Lisa is out of chips).
- He could call, creating a total pot of $117 ($59 + $35 + Alex's $23 call). If Alex chooses to call, Lisa is "live" (eligible for) the entire $117 main pot, but any betting on the turn or river will create a "side pot" for which only Alex or Kathy will be eligible to win. If either Alex or Kathy makes a bet on the turn or river that the other is unwilling to call, the player folding loses all right to contest not merely the side pot but the main pot as well.
- He could raise. Alex theoretically could wager an amount as large as $129 (the $59 pot plus Kathy's $35 call create a pot of $94; so if he had enough chips, Alex could call the $35 and then raise the $94), but Alex doesn't have this much left in front of him, and he cannot buy chips in the middle of the hand. If Alex wants to raise, he is limited to what he has in front of him, which in this case is $84.50 (of his starting $100 stack, he already bet $3.50 before the flop and $12 on the flop).
If Alex does put in this $84.50 bet, Lisa has no decision to make. All of her chips are already in the pot and he cannot be forced out by another bet. Kathy, however, must decide whether or not to call (she can't raise, because Alex has no chips with which to call a raise).
If Kathy calls Alex's $84.50 bet (and to do so, she need put only $49.50 in the pot, because that was all Alex was raising), a side pot of $99 is created, because $35 of this wager is "allocated" to the main pot that all three players are contesting. Lisa cannot win this $99, even if she has a royal flush. The $99 side pot is contested only between the two players who put money into it, Alex and Kathy.
Although we have chosen to show you examples involve large sums, the same principles apply in smaller pot-limit games. Very experienced pot-limit players in brick and mortar card rooms learn how to calculate minimum and maximum bets, as well as side pots, fairly quickly, but fortunately the difficulty of these calculations is removed online, with our system software imposing minimum and maximum wagers appropriate to the situation.
NOT A RECOMMENDED GAME FOR BEGINNERS
As you can see from the size of the potential raises, in Pot-Limit all of your chips can be at risk on any one hand. While this creates the potential for huge wins, it also creates the potential for large losses. For this reason, we recommend that novice players start off with limit poker, and only move into Pot-Limit after they gain a significant amount of experience. Pot-Limit tournaments are also an excellent place to gain experience in Pot-Limit without risking huge sums.
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