By: Joshua Heilpern
If you are a tight-aggressive player, you need to consider playing No-Limit Hold ‘em if you aren’t already. With proper play, not only can you expect to increase your hourly win rate, but you can make it much more difficult for your opponents to draw out on you.
First of all, let’s explain the fundamental differences between Limit and No-Limit. In Limit Hold ‘em, you can only raise the amount of the big blind and most cardrooms and online poker rooms will cap the betting at 3 raises. In No-Limit Hold ‘em, the only betting rule is that the minimum be at least the size of the big blind. You can bet your whole stack if you want to.
Sure, it takes more knowledge, experience, and courage to play No-Limit (NL) well, but it will pay off for you if you play it right.
Joshua Heilpern is a contributor for several poker strategy websites. He also runs Beat The Fish – http://www.beatthefish.com – an original poker strategy and review site.
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To get you started, the standard raise in NL is 3-4 times the big blind. After the flop, a good bet to make when you have a strong hand is about the size of the pot. If you’re looking for information on the flop, you might consider a bet of 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the pot. You also might consider making only a small bet if you’re holding a monster hand and want to get called. Or you could always check-raise in that situation. Also be aware that the value of drawing hands that play well in limit games like K-J suited goes way down in NL play. Better hands to have are big pocket pairs or suited connectors.
So, why is it better to play NL? Simple: It’s much easier to make a lot more money. Playing NL, you can afford to play only your strong hands. For example, in a two hour poker session you can play only one good hand and still make good money. You can more than double your stack on any given hand. In Limit poker, you have to constantly be winning pots to come out ahead. The blinds come around too quickly to sit on your hands. You have to work hard, play for a long time, and play your best game at all times to make good money at Limit poker.
Think about this: Most good poker authors will tell you that a good Limit player can expect to make about one big blind per hour. So, in other words, you can expect to make $10 an hour at a Limit $5/10 game if you play it right. On the other hand, if you buy-in for $500 at a $5/10 NL game, go all-in on your first hand with pocket Aces, get called by one opponent with pocket Kings and he doesn’t improve, you’ve just won another $500 without breaking a sweat. That’s an average of 50 hours of Limit gameplay.
Also, you can make your drawing opponents always go against the odds. In NL, you control the pot odds that your opponent is getting. If you see two suited or connecting cards on the board, betting the size of the pot into one opponent will make them go against the odds to draw. Sure, they’re still going to hit their draws occasionally, but at least you made it a bad play for them to do so.
It takes the right personality to play at NL games. You can’t be timid, and you have to know how much to bet at the right times. If you can’t do that, then stick to Limit poker for now and come back to try NL if and when the time is right.
As a Limit player who converted to NL, I can tell you that it isn’t too difficult to adapt your game. I can also tell you that after I learned to play NL, I never sat down at another Limit table. I can also tell you that after I learned to play NL, I never sat down at another Limit table.