Taking the Next Step

After a few weeks of threatening to do this I have finally gotten back around to discussing my most favourite form of poker……limit hold’em. This was the form of poker that I first played online and in fact still do although I switch now between NL,PLO and Limit.

In this series of articles I will discuss some of the qualities that make for a good limit hold’em player and will also take a look at some very important concepts in action. I think that in general, limit hold’em games are tougher to make money at than no limit for many people.

This form of poker is more conducive to multi-tabling and this encourages more players to play numerous tables and wait for good hands. They have rakeback schemes attached and it is possible to grind money out this way in low stakes limit……if your game is strong enough.

The effect of the rake is very severe in low stakes limit hold’em making a good rakeback scheme and soft games vital. Playing higher negates the effect of the rake but this is offset by the games being populated by far superior players.

I find that games at the $10-$20 and $15-$30 level offer a nice balance but even the average player at those levels is far superior in skill to what they were several years ago. Most of the games are six handed now and full six handed tables quickly become four and five handed games when players drop out or sit out.

This means that a normal tight aggressive full ring game approach will not cut it. Most players realise this, even novices and the statement to be quite frank…..is painfully obvious.

But what is not perhaps obvious is that the sheer nature of the game means that you must endure some very large swings to your bankroll and it is this that makes this form of poker so difficult. In soft low stakes games where most pots are multi-way pots then the best hand pre-flop often loses.

This causes frustration for many people who then duly switch to NL. The frequent outdraws make for large swings in your bankroll. But the mistake that some players make in this area is that they figure that moving up through the limits will reduce those swings because the games are more tight aggressive and the best hand hold’s up more often because there are less players in the pot.

But there is a serious problem with this rationale because games at the middle limits and above are very tight aggressive and good players will move lesser players off the best hand a lot more often through sheer aggression in marginal situations as well as read their opposition better and make call downs that players at the lower limits would not make.

The $2-$4 player who mistakenly thought that he could be successful at $15-$30 because his raises would gain more respect is suddenly finding that it looks like his opponent seems to have a hand more often as he is witnessing a barrage of bets and raises.

But this is precisely the reason why you need a large bankroll in middle and high stakes limit hold’em as well. Much of the profit in these games comes from moving players off hands in heads up situations through aggression. Sometimes this means having to take it several steps further than just merely continuation betting after a pre-flop raise for instance.

Against good players it is necessary to risk numerous bets in the process of trying to win a pot and this creates profit but it also creates huge fluctuations as well. I am not going to get into the murky situation of bankroll sizes because that is very player/ability/game dependent anyway.

But a succession of failed bluffs or a cold streak in a five handed game or perish the thought…..both…..will result in you losing a large number of big bets quite quickly. All limit professionals experience large losses and most have incurred losses of 300BB at some stage, ($6000 in a $10-$20 game).

This kind of negative run is soul destroying when it first happens and causes you to start asking all sorts of questions and then look to change things within your game that don’t even need changing. But it is the sheer dynamics of the game that lend itself to large fluctuations. Many people who do not fully understand the game think that just because you cannot lose 100BB in one hand like you can at NL that the fluctuations are less.

But before I round this article off I think that it needs saying if I have not said it before that you should strive to try and create dead money at all costs in limit hold’em. The best way to do this is through aggression. Re-raising with hands that simply do not merit it in full ring games can turnaround –EV situations and make them positive in short handed games.

The reason for much of that turnaround is based on two factors.

  1. The amount of dead money in the pot (usually the blinds pre-flop)
  2. The strength of your post flop play.

Next week we will take a look at a few specifics at how to create dead money. As always, anyone who wishes to discuss any part of this article with me is free and welcome to do so either through the forum or through my website at www.pokersharkpool.com.