August 01, 2010

Stupid Poker Rules—
Capped Bets in No Limit Games

Tonight I played a session (badly) at the Meadows ATM (full report of my ineptitude to be posted later).  I ran into a weird situation which I have seen on occasion—a "capped" bet in a no limit game, without any player being all-in.  That's right, a supposed "no limit" game actually had limited betting.  Let me explain.

I had been at the table a couple of hours when two regulars sat down.  Somehow, this precipitated a bunch of straddling and blind raises, culminating in one ridiculous hand.  UTG straddles to $4, and UTG+1 decides to make a joke blind-raise to $6.  So, one of the newbies to the table decides to make it $8 to go, also blind.  Then, another regular, known for uber-tight play, decides to make it $30 total, again blind!  Now, I'm in the cutoff, but I'm essentially acting in early position preflop, hoping to pick up a hand.  Unfortunately, I have some trash like 93o, and fold 

That's when the stupid rule comes into play.  The button looks at his hand and says, "raise".  The dealer politely informs the button that he cannot raise, because the hand is capped.  The house rule of one bet and four raises, except for action that begins heads up during a round, applies to no limit as well as limit structured games.  So, the button calls, as does basically every player left, and six (6!) players see the flop of K-T-6.  One of the early position players bets, folds to the button who wistfully shows me Yaks before folding.  The monsterpotten ends up being won by AT when he rivers a Ten for trips.

Although I have seen this capped betting rule enforced previously, I think the rule simply doesn't belong in no limit play.  Essentially, this rule deprives players who have not yet acted in a betting round of their right to act on their hand with a raise to any amount (up to their stack).  The whole point of no limit play is to be able to size one's bets to the given situation, but this rule acts to give players in early position a "heckler's veto" (or joker's veto) over a late position player's right to act on his hand, when he hasn't yet had any opportunity to raise.  In theory, a group of five players could transform a supposedly no limit game into a fixed limit game with a maximum bet of five big blinds per round.  Although this situation is exceedlingly rare, in this particular hand it cost a player a shot at winning with a strong hand—Yaks on the button—in favor of hands that would never have seen the flop if there truly were no limit to the betting structure for players who had not yet acted in a round of betting.

The cap on bets per round is another limit structure concept—like the "half bet" raise rule, where a raise all-in of half or more of the pending raise reopens all betting to further raises—that really has no place being applied to no limit structured games.  It's time to either ditch the capped bet rule in no limit structured games, or to stop pretending that there is no limit on the structure, and just go back to limit stuctured games.


  1. My goodness, human institutions with capricious, arbitrary rules. This must stop before it spreads.

  2. I've never heard of this rule in a NL game. Is it rare? Something that is maybe even unique to the Meadows ATM? Or have I just not stumbled across it?

    That Sorting Hat gif is strangely hypnotic. And a little terrifying.

  3. @ Bob: I know I've seen the rule used at the Meadows, and I think maybe at Riverside, also here in Iowa (near Iowa City). That would not be particularly suprising, since a couple of their managers came from the Meadows. I can't think of another casino where the rule is used off the top of my head, but ya never know.

    @KenP: True, rules can be arbitrary. The deal goes clockwise and the dealer acts last out of an arbitrary determination. But the deal rotates so those arbitrary rules don't unfairly disadvantage any player. This rule is arbitrary, but more importantly the rule, which has a legitimate place in fixed limit games, has an unfair (and most likely unintended) impact on a no limit game. If people don't complain about such rules, they will never get changed.