08/05/2008

Poker Tracker in Limit Hold'em

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Because of the sheer mathematical nature of limit hold’em then I think that PokerTracker is of even more use in that form of poker. While this is only an opinion, I have heard the same thing from many limit professionals and I do believe it to be true. Limit hold’em is a form of poker that can be mastered far more easily using statistics than the no limit form of the game.

It is here where a player is at the greatest disadvantage against a strong player if the strong player has access to enough data. It is no coincidence that limit hold’em is also the one form of poker in which Bots perform the best and this once again underlines the point that I am making. In fact, if the increase in Bot technology advances any further then limit hold’em online may just be impossible to beat for even the best players in the future. This was highlighted last year when Phil Laak and Ali Eslami took on the Polaris program.

Having played the program myself recently, I can also vouch that this is far superior to any other limit Bot that I have encountered. We all know and are aware of the uses of software like PT and PO and Hold’em manager and the importance of using such software in order to achieve and maintain an edge is increasing in importance.

I have talked an awful lot in the past few months about limit hold’em without mentioning PT etc so I think that it is about time that I corrected this by taking a look at VPIP in 6 handed limit hold’em games at the middle limits. Firstly I better define what I class as middle limits as this seems to be open to an awful lot of interpretation.

I personally call middle limits $10-$20 and upwards but I do know of players who use different parameters to me but for the purpose of this article and future articles then I will be calling $10-$20 and upwards as middle limits but this is far from being the precise definition so don’t treat it is such.

In previous articles I have touched on the type of hands that you should be playing in 6 max games and why but for PT and PO users then you should appreciate the next few articles. For middle limit games that are either five or six handed then you should be striving for a VPIP of between 25% and 30% which is slightly more than optimum no limit VPIP. Although it is my opinion that as no limit six max games get tougher in the future then we may see a similar effect where optimal VPIP for no limit six max games increases by between 5 and 15% but we will have to wait and see.

There are numerous reasons for this percentage being higher in limit hold’em than no limit hold’em but the most important is to do with the average pot size in online six max games. With tighter games and smaller pots then it becomes necessary to loosen up although you are still playing good tight solid poker most of the time.

But with decreased pot sizes comes a greater urgency to get involved in action but as always, getting the frequency correct is the key and between 25-30% is optimal for 5/6 handed middle limit games. Any less than 25% and you are just not playing optimally. Either you are not three betting enough, your range to open raise is too restricted or you are not defending from the blinds with the proper frequency.

Of course the same can be said with a VPIP significantly greater than 30% as well. Many top players can get away with 40-45% and this can be achievable with strong PT data and strong post flop play but these kind of frequencies are not for everyone.

The problems that get created when this percentage is too high are numerous. You lose a lot of post flop fold equity when your VPIP is too high and this also means that you could possibly be committing the sin of all sins in limit play….open limping.

Of course, just looking at one single metric can be very misleading as it is not sufficient to simply look at VPIP, we also need to look at just how that money was placed into the pot in the first place. If your VPIP is too high then you are either loose passive or loose aggressive in all probability.

As with no limit hold’em, if you are loose passive then you have very little chance of success. Not only are you playing too many hands but by failing to raise, you are also missing out on chances to narrow the field which basically means that you will have to make the best hand too often. But a loose aggressive style depending on the player can be very effective although it does lead to greater variance and the need for a larger bankroll. So if you can get your VPIP range somewhere between 25-30% in 5/6 handed middle limit ring games then you will be doing all right.

As usual, I will be available through the forum to answer any questions.

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