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Limit hold'em. There, I said it, and the world didn't fall apart.
I know that among a certain subset of the poker community, it's quite fashionable to treat fixed-limit hold'em as something like a polyester suit — it was fine a generation ago, but now is part of the past.
Is it just because you can't shove all in? Because you have to earn your money one pot at a time rather than in a couple of massive double-ups? Because you basically always have to play four streets of poker?
And there's this thing about profit — sometimes it's fun to make money at poker without working hard at it. That brings me to my story.
I was at a casino recently and thought I'd sit down and play a little poker. Wander into the poker room and they've got a game going.
Retrieved January 5, 2012. TV by the Numbers. ^ Seidman, Robert (January 11, 2012). Switched at birth toby poker. TV by the Numbers.
Me: 'You got a seat?'
Room manager: 'Yes sir. $3/$6 limit hold'em. Are you familiar with that?'
Me: 'Yeah, I played it a time or two.'
Room manager: 'How many chips would you like?'
I sat down and built up my five perfect stacks of $1 chips. Unlike no-limit, with all its mixing and matching of colors, a good limit game has exactly one color chip in action. Everything's easier. But I digress.
Folks, as I watched and played this game, I realized I was seeing something that I hadn't seen in years — the most honest, transparent game of poker imaginable. They all limped in so they could hit a flop. If you raised, they called, because they wanted to see the flop. After that, they checked and called if they thought they weren't drawing dead. If they bet, my goodness, they were beating top-top and you simply had to evaluate your chances against a Very Good Hand.
A check-raise promised at least two pair. It was never on a king-high board, it was never a draw — it was the goods.
Furthermore, the average pot I played was far bigger than the average pot that I play in a $1/$2 no-limit game. That's because I'd raise after a handful of limpers, they'd all call, and we'd be off to the races.
And race it was, because when you make it $6 to go with after three limpers and they all call, you have to drag your kings through a minefield. But I'll tell you what — they stand up way more than their share of the time, and when they do, you drag a two-scoop pot.
And if you hit a Real Hand, with two (or three or four) people all calling a couple of big bets on the turn and river ('I have to call — look at the size of the pot'), then you've got a three-scooper and it's as big as any pot you see every 45-60 minutes in a $1/$2 no-limit game.
I'm telling you, sometimes it's fun to play poker without the giant peaks and valleys of unlimited betting. You just bang your bets out there when you have the best hand and hope it holds. You call when you have the right price to draw, which is almost always.
And friends, you pay attention when they bet, and don't play head games with yourself. Because I promise you that in that game, and ones like it, when they bet or raise, they mean exactly what they're saying, and in fact, it's usually an understatement.
Limit Hold'em Strategy
Your no-limit instincts will generally keep you in good shape when playing limit hold'em, as long as you remember pot odds. That specifically means:
- You are never getting anybody off a decent hand, nor should you try. Furthermore, it's not correct for anybody to give up a 'decent' hand when they can get to a showdown for a relatively low price. So don't try to 'represent' a hand better than top pair and think they're going to fold top pair.
- No-limit hold'em pot odds calculations are generally of the form 'I'm getting 2-to-1' (or 2.5-to-1 or 3-to-1) — numbers of that magnitude. Limit hold'em routinely offers prices like 10-to-1, 15-to-1 or even 20-to-1. At that price, you can do a lot more gambling — be sure to take that into account.
- Please don't make hero folds on the river with a decent hand in a big pot. Throw your last one big bet out there with the anticipation of saying 'Nice hand, sir/ma'am.' People are bad at estimating small probabilities; trying to decide if you're better or worse than 19-to-1 against is not most people's strong suit.
One of the beauties of poker is the variety of forms and fashions it offers. If you can play limit hold'em, sometimes you'll have the opportunity to make good money playing a fun game against transparent, honest, but eminently fun and enjoyable opponents. Our game is rarely better than that.
NB: With the Spring Championship of Online Poker coming up at PokerStars, you'll have ample opportunity to flex your limit hold'em muscles. Your SCOOP opponents won't be as honest or transparent as my friends at this small casino, but many of the same principles apply — and you might find you really enjoy the game.
Lee Jones first joined PokerStars in 2003 and has been involved in the professional poker world for over 30 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.
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If you happen to find your online poker win rate decreasing and your poker sessions not providing the profitable outcomes that they once did, you are not alone.
Online poker has become increasingly more difficult over the years, as players continue to improve and poker operators jack up the rake. Beating the game often requires players to adapt and change with the times, letting go of methods and strategies that perhaps worked in the past but now don't seem to cut it anymore.
Don't let frustration and anger win out and prompt you to quit the game that you love. Instead, it may be time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if there are things you might do differently to turn things around in order to book more winning sessions and profits.
Let's take a look at some areas and possible changes that may get you back on track.
What do the pros often say to do when you hit a rough patch or downswing? One of the first things is to move down in stake levels.
It's important to get your mind and game right again and playing against lesser-skilled players can often do the trick. While pride and ego may get in the way of stooping to a level that you feel is beneath you, isn't it better to win at lower stakes than continue to struggle where you're at currently?
The number of opportunities and information available to improve your game is mind boggling. Loads of books, articles and videos about poker strategy are all over the internet and your local library.
Of course, the information is not always accurate and wise, so a bit of caution is in order. But if you're following the vlogs and YouTube offerings from the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Andrew Neeme, the tips and tricks of those respected pros should make a difference in your play.
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Subscribing to a poker coaching site and talking about poker on online forums are also ways to sharpen your skills.
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New Poker Sites
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While the poker site you currently play at may be where all your friends are and where the action seems best in terms of the amount of players, if you find yourself losing too often, it may be time to try a new site. You may find the competition more to your liking at another poker room.
It's a bit of a process of trial and error (or success) when searching for and finding your main site to play at. Another advantage to shopping around are the deposit bonuses available at new poker rooms.
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While you may be proud of the VIP status you've earned at your online poker home, if you're profits are diminishing, the grass may be greener elsewhere.
SitNGos, MTTs or Cash Games
Has the cash game grind taken its toll on you? Is your ROI sinking at those once favorable SitNGos? Is the variance in MTTs giving you headaches? It may be a good idea to focus on a different game type for awhile.
A transition to mainly playing tournament poker may be in order if action at the other games has become less appealing and perhaps even monotonous - or vice versa. It may also turn out to be more fun, and isn't that why many of us play poker to begin with?