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Basic Strategy Differences Between Playing Limit and No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em

by Jon Sofen

Texas hold ‘em is a game that involves 2 face down hole cards and 5 community (shared) cards. The winner of the hand at showdown is the player with the best 5-card poker hand from the 7 cards available. Whether you’re playing limit or no-limit, the basic games rules and purpose is the same. The difference is how you bet and the strategy you should use. In limit hold ‘em, you can only bet a set amount. For example, if the limits are $4-$8, you can only bet $4 pre-flop and on the flop and $8 on the turn and river, and can only raise in the same increments.

In no-limit hold ‘em, you can bet any amount you want at any time, so long as the bet doesn’t exceed the amount of chips you have in front of you. Your strategy should differ as well. If you take the same approach to no-limit as you do limit or vice versa, you’ll be in trouble. Some poker pros aren’t good at both games. Want to be a great limit and no-limit hold ‘em player? You first need to understand the differences.

No-limit is about aggression. Limit is about patience.

In no-limit, you can make a sizeable bet with a weak hand to force your opponent out of the pot quite often. In limit, sure, you can get away with a bluff, but you’ll have far fewer opportunities. That’s because you can’t bet big enough to force them out of the pot. If your opponent has top pair, they’re going to call you down most of the time with top pair or a draw. Pot odds are almost always favorable in chasing draws in limit hold ‘em and folding with top pair is rarely the smart move.

So in order to bluff in limit hold ‘em, you need to hope your opponent completely missed the flop – even middle pair often calls – or misses their draw on the river. In no-limit hold ‘em, there are many opportunities to bluff. You can control the size of the pot better and force opponents out with big bets when they have vulnerable hand.

It’s tough for an opponent to call off a large amount of chips with a vulnerable hand such as top pair with a weak kicker but when the risk is low, they usually call. For example, if you only bet a small amount in a no-limit game, you won’t strike fear in your opponent if they have a vulnerable hand. In limit games, there’s never a big risk to make a call.

Since your bluffing opportunities are minimal in limit hold ‘em, the best strategy is to limit the hands you play and play those hands aggressively. If you are limping in early position with weak hands such as J-10 and K-9, you will lose money. Instead, stick with playing premium hands in early position. You can expand your range in late position if there are no raises in front of you.

Unless you are on the button or in the blinds, you should almost always enter the pot with a raise. It’s very important to play your big hands aggressively. You will eliminate 1 or 2 players that would have limped in the pot with a marginal hand by raising and will also be building a big pot with a good starting hand. There’s absolutely no way of avoiding the bad beats in limit hold ‘em, but you will end up ahead in the long run if you play your big hands aggressively and stick to playing premium starting hands.

When it comes to no-limit, you should mix it up a bit because you will have more opportunities to bluff. That doesn’t mean you should play every hand. You can’t bluff all the time. But you should play aggressively. Controlled aggression is the way to go. These are the best no-limit players and the toughest to beat.

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