Different Forms of Fixed-Limit Poker – Explained
These days, no-limit and pot-limit poker formats dominate. This was not always the case. For most of the history of poker, the game was played with fixed betting limits – which typically doubled during the hand. You can still enjoy many limit poker games today, both online and in live casinos. This guide to limit poker takes the many game types, explains how they work – and gives you some strategy considerations to get you started.
Here are the fixed-limit poker games you will find out about below:
At one point, real money no-limit Texas Hold’em was rare. This game was played in with fixed betting limits for decades before ‘the Cadillac of poker’ (NL Hold’em) took over.
The game-play is much the same. Each player is dealt two cards before the flop, and there is a betting round before any community cards are dealt – followed by 3 more betting rounds on the flop, turn and river. With Limit Hold’em, the size of the bets, not the size of the blinds, is used in the title. For example, in $5 / $10 limit Hold’em, the initial bets (pre-flop and flop) are $5, with the bets doubling to $10 after the turn is dealt. Blinds are $2.50c and $5 in this game.
Four raises are allowed on each betting round. The exception is the river, and only when a pot is heads-up. In this spot, many casinos will allow unlimited bets and raises.
With no ability to push opponents out of the pot with big bets, limit Hold’em has some interesting strategy considerations. You’ll need to be selective with the hands you continue with as the pot grows. Once you hit the later streets, the pot can be huge in relation to the bet size. For example, 4 bets with 3 players could lead to a pot of $100+ (in a $5 / $10 game). If you face a bet of $10 on the river, your hand only needs to be good occasionally. If you got there with a terrible hand, then your error was likely made much earlier in the betting.
Position plays an important role. Not only can you see what other players do before you act – you get the chance to cap the betting. With so many opponents willing to call one bet, making them call a reraise is the spot in which you have the ability to get folds.
Check-raising and reraising to push other players out of the pot are used during early betting rounds. At the lowest buy-ins, multi-way pots are common. You can adjust to this by favouring hands which play well multi-way – for example pairs and suited aces.
7-Card Stud predates Texas Hold’em. This fixed limit poker variant has no community cards. Instead each player ends up with their own 7 cards – 5 of these are visible, with 3 known only to the individual player. Each player must make the best 5 card poker hand at showdown from their own 7 cards.
Key to winning in this game is to work out what an opponent’s bets mean in the context of how their board develops. Individual tendencies and the cards which you have seen folded provide additional sources of information.
There are no blinds in 7-Card Stud. Instead each player pays a small ante, and the player with the lowest visible card starts the betting with a small ‘bring in’ bet. Position is also dynamic, changing throughout the hand. On each street, the player with the highest poker hand out of their visible cards will start the betting.
7-Card Stud has 5 betting rounds. Each is capped at 4 raises. The betting doubles after the 5th card (known as 5th street) is dealt. Note that this is one more betting round compared to Hold’em – making it even more dangerous to chase hands (especially if there is a risk that they could end up 2nd best).
Stud variants include a split-pot version of the game. This is called Stud Hi-Lo. Here the pot is split between the highest poker hand, and a qualifying low. The low needs to contain 5 unique cards 8 or lower. In this game hands with 2-way potential are at a premium.
You can also play a low hand only version of Stud, known as Razz. Other variants of this format include 5-card stud. This only has a single hidden card and fewer betting rounds.
Omaha poker can be played with all three main betting types; no-limit, pot-limit and fixed-limit. While the game structure works like Texas Hold’em (with a flop, turn and river) – being dealt 4 hole-cards instead of 2 makes a big difference to your strategy.
There are two main fixed limit Omaha games. These are the high hand only Omaha variant and Omaha Hi-Lo, which is also known as Omaha 8/b or simply O8.
At showdown, you need to make the best 5 card poker hand using 2 and only 2 of your own hole cards, and 3 of the 5 cards from the board. This makes for interesting strategy adjustments. It is possible for a made hand on the flop to be a dog to a big draw. One scenario is that a player can have a wrap-around straight draw, plus flush possibilities – making them a favourite over a hand as strong as trips.
In Omaha Hi-Lo, the high hand and low (5 different cards 8 and under) are assessed separately at showdown. Hands with aces can contribute to both sides of the pot.
Just like in Texas Hold’em, bets double for the turn betting round. The cap of 4 bets per round, unless heads-up after the river, is still in place.
Strategy for Omaha Hi involves picking starting hands which work well together. Since you only use 2 cards from your own hand at showdown, the number of combinations of playable 2-card combos in your hand makes a big difference. A pair of aces is always a strong hand, though against a ‘double suited’ rundown like 8-9-10-J which has plenty of draw potential, it is only a small favourite.
In fixed limit Omaha Hi-Lo, many players make the mistake of playing too many hands. They combine all the hands with high-only potential, with hands containing lower cards which can win the ‘low’ half of the pot. You need to be selective, choosing only the hands with real potential to make the nuts – preferably in both directions. Hands with a suited ace and other low cards can make the nut low, as well as win the high side of the pot with a flush. Note that when there is no qualifying low, the entire pot goes to the player with the highest hand using the standard hand rankings.
With so many draws available, especially in the Hi-Lo variant, you will often find yourself priced in to call on later streets. Avoiding spots where you can be counterfeited is important. This happens when a low card matching one of yours makes the nut low change. It is also possible to get ‘quartered’ in Omaha Hi-Lo. This happens when your low (for example) matches another player – and they win the high side of the pot.
Both fixed limit Omaha games can be played in tournament format. One difference between other limit games and Omaha is that antes are typically not used.
In many ways, Draw was the original poker format. Here there are no community cards or player boards to see – it is a closed hand game. In the original – called 5-card draw – each player gets 5 cards before a betting round commences. They then choose to draw up to 5 cards or stick with the hand they were dealt (stand pat). Another betting round with doubled limits now occurs before a showdown takes place.
There is less information to go on, and also fewer betting rounds, compared to the other limit poker games covered here. You can still enjoy this format online, though the more exotic / interesting draw games are more popular.
Here are some examples:
Limit poker features heavily at the World Series of Poker. This includes the $50,000 entry ‘Players Championship’ each year. That game is played as ‘HORSE’. This involves a mixed format, where Hold’em, Omaha 8/b, Razz, 7-Card Stud and Stud Hi-Lo are rotated.
You can find plenty of small buy-in fixed limit tournaments online. These appeal to new players as the betting limits mean there is plenty of room to play hands in the early stages. Once the blinds (and antes if in use) start to get bigger, there is a lot more pressure on your stack.