Fixed Limit Texas Holdem

02.03.2021by

Many poker players now start out by playing no-limit hold’em and this lesson is intended for those looking to make the transition to fixed-limit hold’em. We’ll focus on differences between the two games. While the betting rules are the main difference between the two formats, there are many other strategic differences.

In its most rudimentary form the main difference between the two is that implied odds drive no-limit and in limit making or saving an extra big bet is what separates good players from their mediocre brethren. One might make the analogy of the first game being similar to a roller coaster and the second a carrousel. While some enjoy the thrill of speed, others prefer the comfort of the merry-go-round.

For those who have never really embraced limit play and look down upon it, rest assured that there are many pros that make six figure incomes playing limit hold’em without the roller coaster thrashing to their bankrolls that can accompany no-limit play.

The Key Strategic Differences

NM2016 Event #1: Texas Hold'em Fixed Limit 6-handed. If playback doesn't begin shortly, try restarting your device. Videos you watch may be added to the TV's watch history. TEXAS HOLDEM - Know Your Limit Whichever poker game you’re playing, it’s important that you know which limit you’re going to play. The structure of the game may be the same but in the eyes of many. Like its name suggests, Limit Hold’em is all about limits. You’re limited to how much you can bet in each round. And the number of raises during each round is often limited too. A $2/4 table will have betting. LHE is a fast game and rarely do people take more than 5 seconds to make any decision.

The following list of differences between the two forms of hold’em should give you an idea of what to pay attention to if you’re switching from no-limit hold’em

Starting Hands

While many unsuited big card starting hands are regularly and correctly played in limit, those same hands can get a player into a heap of trouble in no-limit. Hands such as AQ or KQ can be played aggressively in limit but they can be a disaster in the making in no-limit, especially if the stacks are deep.

Limit

Ability / Inability to Manipulate Pot Odds

This difference is obvious but worth noting. Many poker players who play both games will, on occasion, complain at the tables while playing limit that they cannot protect their hands due to the structured betting. Of course these same players, when turning over a losing hand, do not praise the game for allowing them not to have lost their entire stack.

There still are times when a bet and/or a raise can impact the odds offered opponents in limit and accomplished players are always aware of this dynamic.

The Odds

Certainly the knowledge and proper use of odds has a place in both limit and no-limit play. Due to the heightened emphasis on implied odds, no-limit players can many times continue a hand with the worst of it and ultimately prevail and profit handsomely. In limit play, pot odds take on a much more critical role and relying too heavily on implied odds to justify chasing a draw becomes a major downfall of certain players.

Limit is a more mechanical and structured game and adhering to the odds is a must to succeed.

Information

Players need to understand that while one can bet as much as he likes in no-limit, the size of his bets give away information to his opponents as to the strength of his holding. It is for this reason many no-limit players like to keep their bet sizing constant, to avoid giving too much information away. Of course when they play like this – they are playing like limit players. Ironic, don’t you think?

Protecting Your Hand

In no-limit one attempts to manipulate the pot odds to make it ‘incorrect’ for opponents to proceed with draws. Limit players need to focus to the times when being aggressive in an attempt to ‘thin the field’ will work and when knowing all reasonable hands will call your bet anyway. Then your bet/raise will only build a pot that will make it correct for opponents to play.

In limit play pot odds are critical, as implied odds do not take on the emphasis they do in no-limit. Players that fail to make adjustments based upon both the odds they are receiving as well as the odds their opponents are being offered by the pot will not fare well in limit play.

Bluffing

While many believe that bluffing in limit play is a fool’s errand, there is no question that a well timed bluff can work. While bluffs have a much better chance of success in no-limit play, you need to understand that the cost of failure in no-limit can be much higher.

Over the years limit gurus, such as David Sklansky, have advocated that in limit play losing a bet on the end is okay but losing the pot is a disaster. This dictum has led a legion of players to lose a lot of bets on the end and has lost favor in the current limit thinking. Today’s accomplished limit players are not as quick to pay off on the river fearing being bluffed out. This, of course, would indicate that there may well be more opportunities for river bluffs in today’s limit hold’em.

Just know your players, understand the image you have been projecting, assess the board and put yourself in their shoes to evaluate if your bluff is believable.

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Stack Sizes

The size of your stack and also your opponents’ has a much greater importance in no-limit versus limit play. Playing with or against a deep stack in no-limit can make significant differences to your strategy. The threat that is evident by the amount of money behind a bet is much larger in no-limit. However it still exists in limit play. In addition, the amount of money a player has on the table also helps create an intimidating presence which can help create positive results in either form of the game.

The Goal

There should be consensus that the single most popular goal of playing poker is to accumulate more chips than you started with. However, in no-limit players are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to double up or take an opponent’s entire stack. In limit play, the accepted guideline for middle limits is to earn one big bet an hour over time. Individual sessions can spike wildly in either direction but a winning player, whether a dedicated amateur or professional, who keeps accurate records will be able to chart this one big bet an hour earn rate.

Conclusion

While the two games look very much the same on the surface they are very different. This will become even more apparent as your progress through our lessons on limit hold’em.

Many players tend to play just one of the hold’em variations, usually being the one they initially learned. There are many others that feel comfortable playing either format. There are then those that can excel at both formats and they are forces to be reckoned with. You should strive to be in this third class of players because they are truly poker players. This third group usually feels right at home with other poker variations such as stud, Omaha, razz and all the different formats. They are truly poker players not just hold’em players.

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By Tom 'TIME' Leonard

Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.

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In addition to the many forms of poker, there are also several betting variations that are played. In our rules of poker lesson we explained how to play Texas hold’em but we didn’t mention the betting limits in our example hand, as it may have been a case of too much, too soon. In this poker lesson we’re going to use hold’em as the game format – but this time using the different betting variations; fixed-limit, pot-limit and no-limit.

For simplicity we’ll assume a hold’em poker game with a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2. While the three different betting structures will all be posting the same amount, you’ll see a big difference in how the games will play due to the different betting variations.

Fixed Limit

In fixed limit, as its name implies, one’s choice of how much to bet is fixed by the stakes. Using our example of $1 and $2 blinds, the player “under the gun” (this is the first player to the left of the big blind) has three options.

  • He may call the $2 big blind.
  • He may raise but is only permitted to raise $2 as the limits are fixed.
  • He may fold and sit out this hand and wait for a new deal. He may not check as the purpose of the blinds is to create the initial action.

If anyone wishes to raise then they can only do so in increments of $2, as shown here:

After this first round of betting the dealer delivers the flop. Players are still limited to a maximum bet of $2 and raises of $2. However, on the turn and river the betting amount doubles, so in our example the betting would now be in $4 increments. These are known as ‘big bets’. There isn’t a choice of betting either $2 or $4. If one now wishes to bet, the amount must be $4 and raises must be in $4 increments. In fact, a fixed limit game with blinds of $1 and $2 is called a $2-$4 game due to the early betting rounds being limited to $2 and the last two rounds doubling but limited to $4.

In fixed limit games, each round of betting usually has a maximum number of allowable raises, which is generally capped at three. If there’s a bet, it can usually only be raised three times, after which all players must call, or fold. In a $2-$4 game the most a player could wager on the first two betting rounds would be $8 (a call, raise, raise, raise) and $16 on the turn and river, if the betting was capped. It’s worth pointing out that some venues will allow more than 3 raises per betting round, so be sure to know the house rules before you sit down and play.

It is generally believed that the primary strategy for a fixed limit hold’em poker game stresses the importance of value betting. We will be explaining and expounding upon value betting and other strategic nuances of poker in later lessons but for now just know that value betting occurs when you actually want your opponents to call your bets as you believe you hold the best hand. So just save this little nugget of information for later in your poker development.

It’s also worth briefly mentioning a variation on fixed limit called spread limit poker. It’s very similar to fixed limit except the amount of the allowable bet is fixed to a range rather than a particular amount. For example in a $1-$3 spread limit poker game you have the option to bet or raise anywhere from $1 to $3. The normal restriction is that each bet or raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise. For example if the action is on you and an opponent raised $2 you could not re-raise $1. Your options for re-raising would be either $2 or $3.

Pot Limit

In pot limit play the amount a player can wager is determined by the size of the pot, hence the name pot limit. Pot limit play can get a whole lot pricier than limit play. As the size of the pot grows, the size of the bets can also increase. Let’s review an example using the same stakes of a $1 and $2 blind structure, as we did in limit play.

In pot limit the first player to the left of the big blind has the same options as the player in fixed limit in terms of calling, raising or folding. The difference is in how much he can raise. Calling would simply be matching the $2 posted big blind. Folding requires nothing but mucking (throwing away) your cards. If the player wishes to raise he can raise to a total of $7. How that number is arrived at is as follows: small blind bet of $1 plus the big blind bet of $2 plus a call of $2 equals $5, which would be the raise. The raiser is then calling $2 and raising $5 for a total of $7.

To demonstrate the dramatic difference between our first variation of betting in fixed, let’s see what can happen after the flop in pot limit.

With $31 in the pot, the first player can bet anywhere from $2 to $31. The next player has several options, but if he wishes to raise then the minimum amount he can raise is the size of the previous bet. The maximum he can raise is $93 more ($62 in the pot, plus the call of $31), meaning his total bet would be $124. Wow, this could get expensive!

The thing to remember in pot limit is a player who wishes to raise first counts the amount he would need to call and adds it to the pot and then can raise the size of the pot. As you can see the betting in pot limit hold’em can escalate much quicker than in fixed limit hold’em. The emphasis in pot limit is placed on post flop play. The reason for this is that you can normally see flops fairly cheaply before the pot grows to the size where raises can get pretty expensive. So our nugget to remember at this juncture for the betting variation of pot limit is to focus to strong post flop play.

No Limit

No limit hold’em has been called by many but most notably, Doyle Brunson (legendary poker player), as the ‘Cadillac of poker’. Its name says it all – there is no limit, except the size of the blinds. Still using the same blind structure as $1 and $2, the first player to act can call, fold or raise. The difference from the other two structures is that a player can raise a minimum of the size of the big blind, but his maximum allowable bet is only limited to the chips he has in front of him at the table (the amount he started the hand with). If there has been a bet beforehand, then the minimum raise amount would be the size of the previous bet. For example, if a player bets $50 then if the next player wishes to raise he must bet at least $100. This is the same as in pot limit, but with one big different, there is no maximum limit.

To use an extreme example to demonstrate the dynamic this format of betting offers, let’s imagine a player in the same $1 small blind and $2 big blind game that happens to have $10,000 in front of him. The action is on him and if he wishes to play he must at least call the $2, however he can elect to raise his entire $10,000!

So you thought pot limit could get expensive – not compared to no limit.

Please bear in mind that although this player has gone all-in for $10,000 – it’s really only $200 – which is the total amount the other player can wager. He can’t win money that another player doesn’t have, and vice versa. This is not like the movies! If you recall the scene from the classic western comedy ‘A Big Hand for the Little Lady’ – she gets up during the middle of a poker hand and runs to the bank to get the deed for the ranch – to call someone’s bet. Well, you can’t do that in Texas hold’em. You can’t do that in any casino anywhere in the world. Poker is always played at table stakes, and table stakes means you can only wager the amount of money you have in front of you when the hand begins. You can’t reach into your wallet mid-stream and pull out more money. You certainly can’t run and get the deed to your ranch, and toss that into the pot – or the keys to your BMW, as a way of calling a bet. That’s the movies – not real life!

Conclusion

The betting variations described in this lesson are listed in order of excitement, danger, risk and reward. The first variation, fixed limit is safer than either of the other two due to the limit which can be bet. As you can see both pot limit and no limit can become daunting as the amounts bet and raised can escalate very quickly. Which you may favour becomes a matter of taste. Some prefer the smooth, relaxing ride of a carousel while others crave the adrenalin rush offered by a roller coaster.

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By Tom 'TIME' Leonard

How To Play Limit Texas Holdem

Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.

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