When most people think of "poker" they think of No Limit Texas Hold'em. This version of the game is undoubtedly the most popular at the moment. No Limit Texas Hold'em is pretty much the only version of poker that is televised, and most of the large prestigious tournaments play this version.
There are, of course, actually many versions of poker. There are different games: Omaha, Stud, three card, five card, whatever that game you used to play with you Nan was, you know, the one whose rules changed seemingly at random? These have different rules. Then, within each fo these games, there are also different variations of each. The most significant way which they vary is by betting type. It is these variations that we are looking at today.
1. Fixed Limit
In fixed limit games, bet sizes are strictly regulated. Let's take the example of a 5 - 10 Fixed Limit Texas Holdem game. Pre-flop and on the flop you are allowed either call or raise, but you can only raise the amount of the big blind. So pre-flop you can either call for 10, or whatever is in the pot, or raise to 20. No other options are available to you. Players after you can then call or raise another 10. So play continues, but only in increments of 10. Potentially this could go on indefinitely, so there is usually a limit on the number of raises that can be made during one round.
On the turn and the river betting rounds the fixed bet size is doubled. So the standard bet becomes 20. You can bet 20, or raise 20, or call whatever is in the pot.
The setup of this type of game makes it almost impossible to push people off pots (as you cannot bet big enough to scare other players off!) and so the primary strategy here is to value bet. Bet your cards according to their strength and your percentage chance of being ahead. Fixed limit poker is therefore highly mathematical, and one for the grinders out there who like to take home a small edge over a larger number of hands.
It can also be suitable for beginners because pot sizes are more contained, and you will find yourself under less pressure. So it's a good way to win the game.
2. Pot Limit
Things get a bit more exciting once we move to Pot Limit Poker. As the name suggests the bet limits are dictated by the current size of the pot. The easiest way to show this is just to lay out how the maximum bet is calculated at any given stage in the hand.
Maximum bet size = total amount in the pot after your call + the amount you need to call any previous bet or raise
Say there is 10 in the pot, and someone raises to 20 (a raise of 10 - giving 30 in the pot). Then the amount that you can bet is the call amount (20) plus the amount in the pot (30). The maximum bet here is 50. It is a bit confusing, admittedly and you do need to be decent at maths to play this version of the game. If you ever want to play Omaha, though, you will need to get your head around it.
The best way to think about it is to say
1. How much do I need to call just to stay in the hand?
2. If I did that, how much would the total pot be?
The maximum bet size is the answer to question 1 + the answer to question 2. Calculating this stuff can be a tough ask when sat at the poker table but often the dealer will help you out here. There are also usually rounding regulations in place to make things easier to follow.
This type of betting style means that pots pre-flop are generally smaller, meaning you can get to see more flops for less risk. Pot Limit betting restrictions makes, actually, for a very exciting and challenging post flop game with large fields. And post flop the pot sizes can seriously escalate fast! So You end up with a lot of big pots being played - which is great!
3. No Limit
This is the one that get's all the glory - the Cadillac of poker games! You already know what this is so we won't repeat the obvious here. The reason it is so popular is that it is more simple than the other two we have discussed. Anyone can bet whatever they want (above the minimum). It results in a combination of being easier to play (in terms of betting) and also allowing for seriously wild plays to be occasionally profitable - which means that absolute beginners can play it and sometimes win! This is perfect for novices - because it is fun, and ideal for sharks because where there are novices, there are also profits!
We recommend trying out Omaha Pot Limit in your home games. It's a massively underrated game with lots of depth to it!