It has been and probably will be one of the most discussed topics in the poker world for some time to come. Usually when we think about beginning poker players we tend to think about limit holdem. That doesn’t mean that limit requires any less skill, actually reading your opponents and having good feel for the game are even more important in limit, it just means that it requires a twist on how to execute those skills successfully along with a lot of playing experience. When I first began playing poker years ago I started out playing limit. The reasoning was simple. After reading all of the books I could get my hands on and playing on simulators I figured it was the safest way not to lose a whole lot of money off the top while being able to learn the game. I also noted that the buy-ins for no limit cash games were around $200 – $300 for the low stakes $2/$1 games. Clearly I was nowhere near ready to play in even the smallest no limit games at that time.
Limit gives you an opportunity to slow the game down due to the capped betting. It also allows you to learn how to play solid fundamental poker while not being under the pressure of losing your entire buy-in at the drop of a card. That in-and-of-itself provides many new poker players with a comfort level that is just not there for the novice Texas Holdem poker player. Limit in many ways can appear as if it is a drawing game and you will typically see many players in the pot whereas a No Limit game will usually see a pre-flop raise to push out players with mediocre hands. Also, limit is a game that always gives you odds to whatever draw you may have simply because there is so much money in the pot.
Strategically Limit Holdem is much more competitive at the higher stakes where skill level comes more into play. For instance: At a $2/$4 table with a full ring and 5 players in the pot there is almost no way that a player with the nut flush draw is going to fold when he is getting more than 5 to 1 on his draw. Now consider that a raise was made post flop. It would be a very poor choice not to put $4 dollars into the pot for a shot at $20 and possibly more by the River.
On the down side of the limit game is the fact that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to protect your premium hands. If you don’t flop or turn a set and someone is constantly raising with no flush or raise on the board in a 4 or 5 way pot it is probably time to muck that premium hand. This is where many players don’t seem to get it. You cannot hold on to bad hands all the way to the River in any form of poker and expect to make a profit over the long term. You have to be capable of folding as all good player do when they have confirmed they are beat.
As with time and a little talent you find that you will develop a feel for the game and instinctively you should know when you are beat. On the other hand you should also know when you are ahead and be capable of utilizing those same instincts to extract maximum value in the hands you are involved in.
No Limit Holdem is still the king of all forms of poker despite the current Omaha craze that is taking the world by storm. However, no limit also requires even more skill and intuition to play well and be profitable over the long run. Solid fundamental play is a given in a good no limit player. What seperates the no limit players is the moves that can be made and the betting. You can use your chips to your advantage to move players off of hands and out of pots. You cannot do that playing limit holdem. If you are in a poker tournament you always have the threat of the blinds and being busted out of the tournament hanging in the balance as you make your decisions from hand to hand. More than any other form of poker chips means power in no limit holdem. Other players try to avoid the big stacks when playing no limit tournaments. As far as the poker strategy goes you have access to an entire arsenal of moves just as the limit players do. The difference is that there is no limit on what you can put in the pot. You can put your opponent(s) to the test at any point in time in a hand before, during or after the flop.
I am not suggesting that either form of poker is better than the other. Yes, I do believe no limit is the king of poker due to its popularity but all forms are valid and require study, experience and a lot of practice. There are lessons to be learned in both limit and no limit. So don’t be scared to sit down at the poker table with a few friends and give it a shot. You might be surprised.
Curtis Mayfield III