Betting Structures

Poker games, known for their variety of betting traditions, have evolved over time. Standard poker game play, particularly in tournaments, involves bets in increments called betting units. Depending on the game type and buy-in, betting units may range from one cent to over a hundred dollars. Typically, larger betting units accompany higher-stakes games.

The following are today’s most prevalent poker game betting structures.


In no-limit poker, there are no betting restrictions, allowing all-in bets, bluffs, protection, and slow-playing. This demands keen opponent observation and a deeper understanding of poker strategy for success.


Pot-limit poker, where bets are capped at the current pot size, can be intimidating due to tracking the pot size, especially in large, fast-paced games. Knowing the house rules and pot amount before betting is essential.

So what makes up the pot? The pot comprises three components:

  1. Chips from previous rounds
  2. Money added to the pot in the current round by previous players
  3. The betting player’s “call” amount before raising

In a pot-limit game at a $5/$10 table with three players, here’s how it works for the first two rounds:

Round One

There’s no starting pot in the first round.

  • Player A: Bets $10 (Pot limit: $10.)
  • Player B: Calls. (Pot limit: $20– $10 each from Players A and B.)
  • Player C: Calls, raises $5. (Pot limit: $35– $10 each from A, B & C, plus $5 raise from C.)

No other action occurs, and the final chip count for this round is $35. The starting pot for Round Two is $35.

Round Two

  • Player B: Checks. (Pot limit remains $35.)
  • Player C: Declares “pot” (bets the pot limit). (Pot limit: $70– starting pot + Player C’s raise of $35.)
  • Player A: Calls. (Pot limit: $105– starting pot + $35 bets from Players C and A.)

Tracking this can be challenging with many players involved, which is why most houses allow players to consult the dealer for the pot limit, and many tournaments display the blinds, minimum, and maximum bets allowed near the tournament clock.


Fixed-limit betting is straightforward, with no calculations needed like in pot limit or no limit. The bet amount is predetermined, so you either bet or you don’t. This leaves less room for manipulating other players through bluffing or forcing weak hands out. Some casinos allow a big bet during later rounds, offering the choice of making the normal fixed bet or the big bet (typically twice the fixed bet). The limits apply to each bet, not each betting round, allowing for re-raises.


Less common than other structures, spread-limit consists of a range of bets. Examples include a $1 to $5 spread or wider ranges like $10-$1000. Smaller spreads make it harder to force players to fold with large wagers and may expose weaker players with predictable betting patterns.

Large spreads, such as $10-$1000, are called the “California Spread,” popular in California casinos where no limit poker was illegal. The maximum limit equals the max buy-in, creating a first hand that resembles no limit, while still adhering to the law.