Pot Limit and No Limit Hold'em

Television coverage of poker tournaments has popularized the no-limit and pot-limit forms of Hold'em, which in the past were played primarily by professionals for high stakes. Today, many cardrooms, both brick-and-mortar and online, offer no-limit Hold'em for small buy-ins that recreational players can afford.

No-limit Hold'em is played the same way as limit, with a small and big blind and the same four rounds of betting. The difference is that in any betting round, a player may bet any amount of money up to the total he or she has on the table. Raises can also be in any amount. No-limit Hold'em is much more complex than limit because players must decide both whether to bet or raise, and how much to bet or raise. It also means that a player can lose all the money he or she has on the table, no matter how much, on any hand. The total amount a player has on the table at a given time is referred to as his or her "stack." Usually, cardrooms that offer no-limit Hold'em specify minimum and maximum allowed buy-ins when joining a table so that initial stack sizes are roughly equal. For example, a table with a $1 small blind and $2 big blind might require a player to buy at least $50 of chips to join, but no more than $200. By capping the buy-ins, players who compete for modest stakes can afford to play in no-limit games.

A close relative of no-limit Hold'em is pot-limit in which bets and raises are limited by the size of the pot. For example, if the pot holds $10, a player may bet any amount up to $10. Suppose $10 is bet into a $10-size pot, bringing the total pot to $20. The next player to act has the option of calling the $10 to make the pot $30 or placing a bet up to $40—the $10 to call, plus a raise up to the new pot size of $30. A player who responds with the maximum bet of $40 would increase the pot size to $60 and expose him or her to a potential $140 response—the $40 to call making the pot $100, plus a possible $100 pot-size raise. In relation to the size of the player's stacks, bets in pot-limit might be small at the beginning of a hand, but the potential growth of the pot in the later betting rounds can easily allow players to go all-in.

The difference between pot-limit and no-limit Hold'em

Pot-limit and no-limit Hold'em differ the most in pre-flop play. In no-limit Hold'em, the all-in move can be used at any time in the play of a hand. That means a no-limit player with a large stack can raise all-in prior to the flop. In pot-limit Hold'em, initial pre-flop raises are limited by the blind structure, not a player's stack size. Initial post-flop bets are limited by the size of the pot prior to the flop. That means there are more flops in pot-limit games and more post-flop play. But once a post-flop bet has been placed, the pot-size can grow drastically and pot-size raises can allow any player to go all-in. Like no-limit Hold'em, a player who continues after the flop in pot-limit Hold'em often has the option of putting his or her entire stack in play at any time.