If you’re familiar with the rules of limit poker (read our article on how to play fixed limit poker), you’ll already have a good foundation from which to learn pot limit poker. While the betting formats are different, the underlying action follows a similar process.
Below, we’ll give you a comprehensive tutorial for how to play pot limit poker. You’ll learn about the blinds, betting, raising, and every other facet of the game. Throughout, we’ll use pot limit hold’em within all of the examples since it is the most popular poker variant.
It’s worth mentioning that what follows is not meant to be a strategy guide. For that, we encourage you to read our Texas Holdem strategy articles. You’ll find detailed pieces on holdem pot odds, poker hand rankings, and even no limit Texas Hold’em table selection tips. We also encourage you to read about Texas Holdem starting hands.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into pot limit poker.
How To Play Pot Limit Poker
Pot limit holdem uses a system of forced bets involving blinds. Rather than every player being forced to contribute an ante, a small blind and big blind are posted by the two players seated nearest the dealer’s left. The blinds are equal to the small and big bets of the table. So, if you’re playing on a $2/$4 table, the small and big blinds would be $2 and $4, respectively.
The deal begins after both blinds have been posted. Cards are dealt one at a time to each player, starting with the small blind (i.e. the person seated closest to the dealer’s left). In pot limit hold’em, each player receives two hole cards face-down. Once the hole cards have been dealt, the first round of betting begins. This is the preflop.
The preflop is one of four rounds of betting in Texas Holdem. During each round, players can choose to check, call, raise, or fold, depending on the action that happened before them. Once the last bet or raise has been called, the betting round ends.
Following the preflop, three community cards are dealt to the board face-up. These are the flop; they signal a second betting round.
After the betting finishes, a fourth card is dealt to the board face-up. Known as the turn card, it triggers a third round of betting.
Once the last bet or raise has been called, a fifth card is dealt to the board face-up. This is the river card. It prompts the fourth and final round of bets. At the end of this final betting round, all remaining players (i.e. those who have not folded) go to a showdown.
The showdown in pot limit hold’em (or any of the Texas Holdem game variations) begins with the player who bet or called last. That person reveals his or her cards first. Each player can use any 5-card combination from their 2 hole cards and the 5 community cards. The best 5-card hand is awarded the pot.
Bets And Raises In Pot Limit Hold’em
In pot limit Texas Holdem, the minimum bet is equal to the table’s big bet. The minimum raise is equal to the previous bet or raise during the current round of betting. For example, suppose Player A calls the big blind by betting $4. The minimum bet to Player B would be $4. The minimum raise would also be $4. When the action gets to Player C, the minimum bet would be $8 and the minimum raise would be $4 (for a total of $12). See our article on Texas Holdem Odds to help you out even more.
Maximum raises are a little more complex. You can raise up to the size of the pot (called raising the pot). In this case, the “size of the pot” includes the following…
1. all bets contributed from previous betting rounds
2. all bets contributed during the current betting round
3. the amount needed to call the previous bet.
Let’s use an example to clarify the math.
Raising The Pot: An Example
Suppose the pot stands at $50 at the beginning of a round, and Player A (the first active player) bets $20. Player B can raise the pot by betting a total of $110. Here are the relevant numbers…
1. bets from previous rounds (the pot) = $50
2. bets contributed during the current round = $20
3. amount needed to call the previous bet = $20
The above numbers add up to $90. As such, Player B can raise the pot with another $90, bringing his or her total bet to $110 (the call plus the raise). As you can see, the pots can climb quickly. Moreover, unlike no limit holdem games, there is no limit on the number of raises that can be made in pot limit holdem.
The Role Of The Dealer
The dealer has an important job in pot limit poker. He or she must keep track of the maximum allowable raise at all times. If a player contributes a raise that exceeds the maximum, the dealer is tasked with pushing back the excess.
For instance, suppose Player B from our “raising the pot” example above miscalculates the maximum raise and attempts to bet a total of $120 (rather than $110). The dealer must be able to identify the error and push the excess (in this case $10) back to Player B.
The maximum allowable raise (let’s call it MAR) seems difficult to calculate, but is actually easy with a simple formula. Here it is…
MAR = P + B + C
P = the pot at the beginning of the round
B = the bets during the current round
C = the amount of the call
Let’s plug in our numbers from the example above…
MAR = $50 + $20 + $20
MAR = $90
It takes a little time to grow accustomed to using the formula above. However, once you start playing pot limit hold’em, you’ll find yourself calculating the pot raise instinctively.
Top Poker Sites For Pot Limit Holdem
Nearly all of the top-rated online poker rooms offer pot limit holdem and pot limit Omaha. If you’ve been playing poker online for awhile, you already realize that some of the sites are better than others. In fact, that’s the reason we’ve written reviews for many of them. With that in mind, here are poker sites we recommend you visit to get started…