A Limit Background

There is no question that today’s favorite poker game is no-limit hold’em. While there is a trend toward mixed games, no-limit hold’em currently reigns supreme.

Many younger, newcomers to poker have never bothered to learn any other variation. On the other hand, old-timers such as yours truly may not have started with hold’em but certainly grew up on a steady diet of limit versus no-limit play. Many young guns eschew limit play and denigrate it in a number of ways. They enjoy telling anyone who will listen that in limit play you can’t protect your hand, the donkeys always suck out, and it’s boring, as well as a host of other imagined negative aspects of limit play.

The really humorous aspect of this scorn is many of them can’t beat a limit game. I know many no-limit players who will “relax” while waiting for their no-limit game to become available and will consistently lose money in the limit game. They are two very different games and my belief is that a background in limit play better serves the transition to no-limit play than the reverse. Many of the new action junkies of today believe if you can’t felt someone every time you’re in a hand, the game isn’t worth playing. This belief, in my opinion, is nonsense.

I believe the value of a limit background is rooted in the many positive, winning attributes that become ingrained over time. Today I’d like to highlight three of those attributes.

Patience: Solid limit players have no problem sitting for hours mucking inferior hands that do not fit positional criteria that have been committed to memory ages ago. While no-limit players can also be selective, they tend to play situations more aggressively since bet sizing can assure greater fold equity which just doesn’t exist in limit play.

Expectations: Winning limit players work toward, and accept, one to one-and-a-half big bets per hour as an earn rate. No-limit gun slingers expect to stack opponents and sneer at one big bet per hour as remuneration for their time.

Hand Values: Tighter, more controlled play is the successful formula for limit. An example of the different approaches would be in the play of small pairs from early position. In limit play, entering the fray from early position with pocket treys is losing poker. In no-limit play, due to the enhanced implied odds, players like to set-mine and limp with those same treys hoping to hit their set on the flop and be able to steal someone’s entire stack.

Reviewing the many differences between limit and no-limit hold’em is well beyond the scope of this article. Based upon reader feedback, I may delve deeper into this subject in future columns but the point of this column is to state my belief that a background in limit poker, before moving on to no-limit, will serve most players better than starting in no-limit and attempting to learn the nuances of limit play.

Our goal for today is simply to realize that these two games, while appearing similar, are very different in their successful execution. The choice of which one plays has more to do with temperament than skill and understanding of the game. While some players enjoy the heart-pounding thrill of the no-limit roller coaster ride, others enjoy the relative calm of the limit carousal accompanied by lower risk.

See you next time.

Mark Brown
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