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Limit to No Limit: Five Mistakes

by Ashley Adams

In my last column I wrote about the strategic differences between limit poker and no limit. Here’s the promised follow up article on the typical mistakes that limit players make when they transition to no limit play.

 1. Overvaluing AK
 2. Not considering stack size
 3. Playing too tight pre-flop
 4. Calling too frequently on the river
 5. Overplaying Top Pair

 1. Overvaluing AK: Limit players, especially limit hold’em players, think of AK as one of the premium hold’em hands. They often play it, preflop, as if it were AA or KK – raising aggressively in and out of position. This is surely an error in no limit. While AK should sometimes be raised, for deceptive purposes, it should usually be played for a call, not a raise. No limit gives you the opportunity to fully press your advantage as the hand develops and once it is made – with an appropriately large bet if you hit your hand. Accordingly, in no limit you should usually take advantage of your ability to hold off on your aggression until the flop, saving money on all of those times when AK comes up dry.

 2. Not considering stack sizes: Limit players often get into trouble and miss opportunities when they switch to no limit by not thinking about the effective stacks of their opponents – minimizing their ability to take implied odds into consideration. Here is an example. In a $1 – $2 no limit game you’re on the button with K2 suited. The player under the gun, a playful guy, who’s been raising the pot casually to $7 nearly every hand, makes it $7 again. Everyone folds to the player to your right, who calls. In a limit game, this would be a fairly easy fold. The limited amount you could win if you hit your hand wouldn’t justify the very thin odds of drawing a flush or a perfect K2 on the flop. But in no limit, a fold is not automatic, since you can bet and win an entire stack if you hit your hand. You must first determine the effective stack or stacks you can win before you know whether to fold or call. Failing to consider this is a huge mistake that limit players often make when converting to no limit.

 3. Playing too tight pre-flop. Limit players often fold too often pre-flop when switching to no limit. In many no limit games, with little pre-flop raising, there is a huge range of hands you can play in any position – hands like Ax, 86, J9 and 22. Good limit players, used to being selective, especially in early position (by failing to play these hands) miss great opportunities to win huge pots in no limit when their miracle flop comes in. This isn’t saying that all hands can be played pre-flop in all no limit games. Of course they can’t. But if the game is loose and passive pre-flop, there is enormous profit to be made from playing hands that limit players habitually discard.

 4. Playing too loosely on the turn and river. Limit players are used to calling on the turn and river with their borderline hands. Though this makes sense in limit poker, when the size of the pot usually dwarfs the size of the turn and river bet, in no limit this is a very costly error. In a multi-way stud game, for example, a player calling a river bet is often getting 16 to 1 on his final call. But in no limit, a player facing a pot-sized bet is only getting 2 to 1. You have to be much more certain that you are ahead in a no limit game before calling that final bet.

 5. Overvaluing Top Pair. Limit players are used to pushing their top pair hard. Sure, sometimes they’re behind from the beginning and misread their opponent’s aggression, but those times are infrequent enough that with the fixed limits to the bets, they don’t risk getting significantly hurt when they misread their opponents. But in no limit, their failure to recognize when they are likely to be behind can cost them their entire stack. In no limit, your entire bankroll depends on your ability to get away from top pair when it is behind. Good limit players can become good (and even great) no-limit players. But they must learn to adapt their best game to a very different landscape.

 Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-Card Stud. He hosts the radio show House of Cards, broadcast in markets throughout the US and on the Internet at Contact Ashley at

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