In addition to the many forms of poker, there are also several betting variations that are played. In our rules of poker lesson we explained how to play Texas hold’em but we didn’t mention the betting limits in our example hand, as it may have been a case of too much, too soon. In this poker lesson we’re going to use hold’em as the game format – but this time using the different betting variations; fixed-limit, pot-limit and no-limit.
For simplicity we’ll assume a hold’em poker game with a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2. While the three different betting structures will all be posting the same amount, you’ll see a big difference in how the games will play due to the different betting variations.
The minimum raise is now 300 on top, or 800 total. Without announcing a raise, SB throws in a 500 chip, putting 600 in front of him. Since the raise amount was less than half of the minimum, the dealer announces that this is a call of 500, and returns 100 back to SB. In other words, if blinds are 1/2, someone calls 2 and someone raises to 7, the minimum reraise amount would be 12 7 (the call amount) plus 5 (the previous raise amount, 7-2). This said, be sure not to say “call and raise.” This is not allowed. A call is different than a raise, and you're only allowed one action per turn. Sometimes the casino will try to hide the wagering Poker Texas Holdem Minimum Raise requirements by writing something like “The bonus and deposit amount has to be Poker Texas Holdem Minimum Raise wagered 40 times”. 40 times sounds low, but keep in mind that it’s the deposit amount plus the bonus amount that has to be Poker Texas Holdem. Check, Raise or Fold. There are three types of bets you can make in a Texas Hold’em card game. To check means to match the bet placed before you, to raise means to increase the bet amount, and to fold means to give up on your hand. It is important to have a mindset that whenever you place money on the pot, it technically isn’t yours anymore.
In fixed limit, as its name implies, one’s choice of how much to bet is fixed by the stakes. Using our example of $1 and $2 blinds, the player “under the gun” (this is the first player to the left of the big blind) has three options.
- He may call the $2 big blind.
- He may raise but is only permitted to raise $2 as the limits are fixed.
- He may fold and sit out this hand and wait for a new deal. He may not check as the purpose of the blinds is to create the initial action.
If anyone wishes to raise then they can only do so in increments of $2, as shown here:
After this first round of betting the dealer delivers the flop. Players are still limited to a maximum bet of $2 and raises of $2. However, on the turn and river the betting amount doubles, so in our example the betting would now be in $4 increments. These are known as ‘big bets’. There isn’t a choice of betting either $2 or $4. If one now wishes to bet, the amount must be $4 and raises must be in $4 increments. In fact, a fixed limit game with blinds of $1 and $2 is called a $2-$4 game due to the early betting rounds being limited to $2 and the last two rounds doubling but limited to $4.
In fixed limit games, each round of betting usually has a maximum number of allowable raises, which is generally capped at three. If there’s a bet, it can usually only be raised three times, after which all players must call, or fold. In a $2-$4 game the most a player could wager on the first two betting rounds would be $8 (a call, raise, raise, raise) and $16 on the turn and river, if the betting was capped. It’s worth pointing out that some venues will allow more than 3 raises per betting round, so be sure to know the house rules before you sit down and play.
It is generally believed that the primary strategy for a fixed limit hold’em poker game stresses the importance of value betting. We will be explaining and expounding upon value betting and other strategic nuances of poker in later lessons but for now just know that value betting occurs when you actually want your opponents to call your bets as you believe you hold the best hand. So just save this little nugget of information for later in your poker development.
It’s also worth briefly mentioning a variation on fixed limit called spread limit poker. It’s very similar to fixed limit except the amount of the allowable bet is fixed to a range rather than a particular amount. For example in a $1-$3 spread limit poker game you have the option to bet or raise anywhere from $1 to $3. The normal restriction is that each bet or raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise. For example if the action is on you and an opponent raised $2 you could not re-raise $1. Your options for re-raising would be either $2 or $3.
In pot limit play the amount a player can wager is determined by the size of the pot, hence the name pot limit. Pot limit play can get a whole lot pricier than limit play. As the size of the pot grows, the size of the bets can also increase. Let’s review an example using the same stakes of a $1 and $2 blind structure, as we did in limit play.
In pot limit the first player to the left of the big blind has the same options as the player in fixed limit in terms of calling, raising or folding. The difference is in how much he can raise. Calling would simply be matching the $2 posted big blind. Folding requires nothing but mucking (throwing away) your cards. If the player wishes to raise he can raise to a total of $7. How that number is arrived at is as follows: small blind bet of $1 plus the big blind bet of $2 plus a call of $2 equals $5, which would be the raise. The raiser is then calling $2 and raising $5 for a total of $7.
To demonstrate the dramatic difference between our first variation of betting in fixed, let’s see what can happen after the flop in pot limit.
With $31 in the pot, the first player can bet anywhere from $2 to $31. The next player has several options, but if he wishes to raise then the minimum amount he can raise is the size of the previous bet. The maximum he can raise is $93 more ($62 in the pot, plus the call of $31), meaning his total bet would be $124. Wow, this could get expensive!
The thing to remember in pot limit is a player who wishes to raise first counts the amount he would need to call and adds it to the pot and then can raise the size of the pot. As you can see the betting in pot limit hold’em can escalate much quicker than in fixed limit hold’em. The emphasis in pot limit is placed on post flop play. The reason for this is that you can normally see flops fairly cheaply before the pot grows to the size where raises can get pretty expensive. So our nugget to remember at this juncture for the betting variation of pot limit is to focus to strong post flop play.
No limit hold’em has been called by many but most notably, Doyle Brunson (legendary poker player), as the ‘Cadillac of poker’. Its name says it all – there is no limit, except the size of the blinds. Still using the same blind structure as $1 and $2, the first player to act can call, fold or raise. The difference from the other two structures is that a player can raise a minimum of the size of the big blind, but his maximum allowable bet is only limited to the chips he has in front of him at the table (the amount he started the hand with). If there has been a bet beforehand, then the minimum raise amount would be the size of the previous bet. For example, if a player bets $50 then if the next player wishes to raise he must bet at least $100. This is the same as in pot limit, but with one big different, there is no maximum limit.
To use an extreme example to demonstrate the dynamic this format of betting offers, let’s imagine a player in the same $1 small blind and $2 big blind game that happens to have $10,000 in front of him. The action is on him and if he wishes to play he must at least call the $2, however he can elect to raise his entire $10,000!
So you thought pot limit could get expensive – not compared to no limit.
Please bear in mind that although this player has gone all-in for $10,000 – it’s really only $200 – which is the total amount the other player can wager. He can’t win money that another player doesn’t have, and vice versa. This is not like the movies! If you recall the scene from the classic western comedy ‘A Big Hand for the Little Lady’ – she gets up during the middle of a poker hand and runs to the bank to get the deed for the ranch – to call someone’s bet. Well, you can’t do that in Texas hold’em. You can’t do that in any casino anywhere in the world. Poker is always played at table stakes, and table stakes means you can only wager the amount of money you have in front of you when the hand begins. You can’t reach into your wallet mid-stream and pull out more money. You certainly can’t run and get the deed to your ranch, and toss that into the pot – or the keys to your BMW, as a way of calling a bet. That’s the movies – not real life!
The betting variations described in this lesson are listed in order of excitement, danger, risk and reward. The first variation, fixed limit is safer than either of the other two due to the limit which can be bet. As you can see both pot limit and no limit can become daunting as the amounts bet and raised can escalate very quickly. Which you may favour becomes a matter of taste. Some prefer the smooth, relaxing ride of a carousel while others crave the adrenalin rush offered by a roller coaster.
By Tom 'TIME' Leonard
Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.
Driven by the popularity of televised poker, Texas Hold'em (more commonly, ‘Hold'em’) has become the world’s most popular poker game, both in live casinos and online at PokerStars. We’ll go into more detail below, but here are the key points you need to know:
- Every player is dealt two cards, for their eyes only
- The dealer spreads five cards - three at once, then another, then another - which can be used by all players to make their best possible five-card hand
- Before and after each card(s) is revealed, players take turns to bet. To stay in the hand and see the next card, all players must have put the same amount of chips in the pot as each other
- The best poker hand wins the pot
It’s a simple game to learn, yet has the potential to be played with a seemingly infinite variety of strategies, tactics and nuance.
The Rules of Texas Hold’em
Before you begin playing Hold'em, you'll want to learn the rules. In Hold'em, each player is dealt two private cards (known as ‘hole cards’) that belong to them alone. Five community cards are dealt face-up, to form the ‘board’. All players in the game use these shared community cards in conjunction with their own hole cards to each make their best possible five-card poker hand. In Hold'em, a player may use any combination of the seven cards available to make the best possible five-card poker hand, using zero, one or two of their private hole cards. To view the rankings of poker hands, visit the poker hand ranks page.
The four major variations of Hold'em are distinguished from each other by their betting limits:
- Limit Texas Hold'em: There is a pre-determined betting limit on each round of betting.
- No Limit Texas Hold'em: A player can bet any amount, up to all of their chips.
- Pot Limit Texas Hold'em: A player can bet any amount, up to the size of the pot.
- Mixed Texas Hold'em: The game switches between rounds of Limit Texas Hold'em and No Limit Texas Hold'em.
Each of these Hold'em variations are available to play on PokerStars for free (play money) or for real money.
How to Play Texas Hold'em
To learn to play Hold'em using a hands-on method, PokerStars offers free poker games in the poker room. To start practicing your poker skills, just visit the free poker download page, install the award-winning poker software, and you'll be learning Hold'em in no time.
However, if you'd rather familiarize yourself with the rules of Hold'em first, then these instructions should help.
In Hold'em, a marker called ‘the button’ or ‘the dealer button’ indicates which player is the nominal dealer for the current game. Before the game begins, the player immediately clockwise from the button posts the 'small blind', the first forced bet. The player immediately clockwise from the small blind posts the 'big blind', which is typically twice the size of the small blind, but the blinds can vary depending on the stakes and betting structure being played.
In Limit games, the big blind is the same as the small bet, and the small blind is typically half the size of the big blind but may be larger depending on the stakes. For example, in a €2/€4 Limit game the small blind is €1 and the big blind is €2. In a €15/€30 Limit game, the small blind is €10 and the big blind is €15
In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the games are referred to by the size of their blinds (for example, a €1/€2 Hold’em game has a small blind of €1 and a big blind of €2).
Depending on the exact structure of the game, each player may also be required to post an ‘ante’ (another type of forced bet, usually smaller than either blind, posted by all players at the table) into the pot.
Now, each player receives his or her two hole cards. Betting action proceeds clockwise around the table, starting with the player ‘under the gun’ (immediately clockwise from the big blind).
Player Betting Options
In Hold'em, as with other forms of poker, the available actions are ‘fold’, ‘check’, ‘bet’, ‘call’ or ‘raise’. Exactly which options are available depends on the action taken by the previous players. If nobody has yet made a bet, then a player may either check (decline to bet, but keep their cards) or bet. If a player has bet, then subsequent players can fold, call or raise. To call is to match the amount the previous player has bet. To raise is to not only match the previous bet, but to also increase it.
After seeing his or her hole cards, each player now has the option to play his or her hand by calling or raising the big blind. The action begins to the left of the big blind, which is considered a ‘live’ bet on this round. That player has the option to fold, call or raise. For example, if the big blind was €2, it would cost €2 to call, or at least €4 to raise. Action then proceeds clockwise around the table.
Note: The betting structure varies with different variations of the game. Explanations of the betting action in Limit Hold'em, No Limit Hold'em, and Pot Limit Hold'em can be found below.
Texas Holdem Minimum Raise Amount Limit
Betting continues on each betting round until all active players (who have not folded) have placed equal bets in the pot.
Now, three cards are dealt face-up on the board. This is known as ‘the flop’. In Hold'em, the three cards on the flop are community cards, available to all players still in the hand. Betting on the flop begins with the active player immediately clockwise from the button. The betting options are similar to pre-flop, however if nobody has previously bet, players may opt to check, passing the action to the next active player clockwise.
When the betting action is completed for the flop round, the ‘turn’ is dealt face-up on the board. The turn is the fourth community card in Hold'em (and is sometimes also called ‘Fourth Street’). Another round of betting ensues, beginning with the active player immediately clockwise from the button.
When betting action is completed for the turn round, the ‘river’ or ‘Fifth Street’ is dealt face-up on the board. The river is the fifth and final community card in a Hold'em game. Betting again begins with the active player immediately clockwise from the button, and the same betting rules apply as they do for the flop and turn, as explained above.
If there is more than one remaining player when the final betting round is complete, the last person to bet or raise shows their cards, unless there was no bet on the final round in which case the player immediately clockwise from the button shows their cards first. The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In the event of identical hands, the pot will be equally divided between the players with the best hands. Hold'em rules state that all suits are equal.
After the pot is awarded, a new hand of Hold'em is ready to be played. The button now moves clockwise to the next player, blinds and antes are once again posted, and new hands are dealt to each player.
Limit, No Limit, Pot Limit and Mixed Texas Hold'em
Hold'em rules remain the same for Limit, No Limit and Pot Limit poker games, with a few exceptions:
- Limit Texas Hold'em
Betting in Limit Hold'em is in pre-determined, structured amounts. Pre-flop and on the flop, all bets and raises are of the same amount as the big blind. On the turn and the river, the size of all bets and raises doubles. In Limit Hold'em, up to four bets are allowed per player during each betting round. This includes a (1) bet, (2) raise, (3) re-raise, and (4) cap (final raise).
- No Limit Texas Hold'em
The minimum bet in No Limit Hold'em is the same as the size of the big blind, but players can always bet as much more as they want, up to all of their chips.
Minimum raise: In No Limit Hold'em, the raise amount must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. As an example, if the first player to act bets €5 then the second player must raise a minimum of €5 (total bet of €10).
Maximum raise: The size of your stack (your chips on the table).
In No Limit Hold'em, there is no ‘cap’ on the number of raises allowed.
- Pot Limit Texas Hold'em
The minimum bet in Pot Limit Hold'em is the same as the size of the big blind, but players can always bet up to the size of the pot.
Minimum raise: The raise amount must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. As an example, if the first player to act bets €5 then the second player must raise a minimum of €5 (total bet of €10).
Maximum raise: The size of the pot, which is defined as the total of the active pot plus all bets on the table plus the amount the active player must first call before raising.
Example: If the size of the pot is €100, and there is no previous action on a particular betting round, a player may bet a maximum of €100. After that bet, the action moves to the next player clockwise. That player can either fold, call €100, or raise any amount between the minimum (€100 more) and the maximum. The maximum bet in this case is €400 - the raiser would first call €100, bringing the pot size to €300, and then raise €300 more, making a total bet of €400.
In Pot Limit Hold'em, there is no ‘cap’ on the number of raises allowed.
- Mixed Texas Hold'em
In Mixed Hold'em, the game switches between rounds of Limit Hold'em and No Limit Hold'em. The blinds are typically increased when the game switches from No Limit to Limit, to ensure some consistency in the average pot size in each game. The betting rules on each round follow the rules for that game, as described above.
In the PokerStars software, it’s not possible to bet less than the minimum or more than the maximum. The bet slider and bet window will only allow you to bet amounts within the allowed thresholds.
Learn How to Play Texas Hold'em for Free
If you want to learn how to play Hold'em, then download the PokerStars software and join any of the free poker games where you can play online against other players. Unlike our real money poker games, since there is nothing at stake, you can be comfortable learning the ropes of the game and all the rules of Hold'em. We hope to see you in our poker room, and good luck at the tables!
As well as Texas Hold’em, we also offer many other poker variants. See our Poker Games page to learn more.
Thanks for visiting our guide to Hold'em at PokerStars. If you have any questions, please contact Support.
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