Spread limit mimics no-limit action in Arizona

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Chad, a local businessman with money to burn, watches the big-name poker pros winning hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV. Brimming with excitement and with wads of cash in his pockets, he decides to try his no-limit luck at the local casino.

He straps on his Rolex, hops in his new BMW and struts into the casino with $10,000 ready to buy every pot he plays.
He enters the poker room and plops his $10,000 down on the cardroom desk and says, “Sign me up for the biggest no-limit hold’em game you have!”

The manager is summoned and he politely tells Chad he’ll have to settle for a different hold’em game. … spread limit. A shocked Chad tells the manager he will gladly take his money elsewhere and play. The manager explains to Chad it won’t matter where he goes because all of the casinos here are the same.

You see, Chad lives in Arizona, where no-limit cash games aren’t legal. You can enter a no-limit tournament without issue, but you can’t play no-limit cash games.

Why? The Arizona Revised Statutes. They address gambling, but don’t really address poker. For that you have to turn to the gaming compacts between the state and the tribes. Dig a little further and you’ll find it really doesn’t have much to do with poker at all. It all revolves around betting limits, and Arizona says the most you can bet at one time in a poker game is $500. So what do we do? We play spread limit.

Over time, it has gone from $5-$150, to $250 and within the past couple of years has reached $500. The largest spread-limit games I know of here are $5-$10-$500, which means the blinds are $5 and $10 and the max bet you can make it $500. It’s not no-limit, but it’s a decent spread.

Every so often the state and tribes will make amendments or changes to what’s allowed in casinos. The most recent agreement has betting capped at $500, for now.

Here is the confusing part: You can play against poker peers and bet $500, but if you play blackjack you can max bet $1,000. That’s right. You can only bet $500 against a player, but you can bet $1,000 per hand playing blackjack against the house. In blackjack, the house has set rules they have to follow.

The Arizona Gaming Commission said the $500-max bet is aimed at trying to keep Arizona from becoming another Nevada, though it said the compacts are constantly being amended so true no-limit may be on the horizon. Take that for what it’s worth. Players here will have to settle for the $500-max bet for now.

— Joe LeGer is Ante Up’s Arizona Ambassador. Feel free to email him at jl_poker@yahoo.com.