Friday, April 8, 2011

Guidelines for Beating the Limit Hold'em Poker Game

A pair of aces is arguably the best hand to be...Image via WikipediaGuidelines for Beating the Limit Hold'em Poker Game

I believe that a limit holdem cash game is a more skilled game than a no-limit holdem cash game. The reason for my belief is that in a no-limit holdem cash game, the luck element of poker has too much influence as to your hand by hand results.

Of course, few people agree with me because they enjoy the higher risk-reward outcome in no-limit. These folks are geniuses when they win, and unlucky when they lose.

Anyway, let me provide you with guidelines on how to beat the limit holdem game. My guidelines are based on live play at the $15-$30 level. I believe they hold true for other levels of play as well.

1 Table Composition
I believe this is the most important factor in your winning or losing at limit holdem.

You have to adjust your game to the players at the table. And, the composition of the table can change anytime a new player enters. If the table is too tough, you should change tables.

The table composition is key as it effects your starting hands.

A table that sees a lot of flops with limps will result in having to beat multiple opponents. That means that suited connectors and pairs are stronger hands. The same is true if the table likes to see a lot of flops even after one raise.

If your table folds to one raise--meaning that there are few players who see a flop--you want to stick with premium starting hands.

2. Table Image of Each Player
Next, you want to decide on the table image of the players at your table. Don't make this a difficult exercise as players tend to be very consistent as to how they play.

Pre-flop: Simply identify a player as tight, loose or aggressive.
Flop: There are mostly three types---tricky players, players who like to play draws, and ABC/predictable players. Tricky players on the flop will raise when last to act after there is no action has taken place in front of them or if they determine the continuation bettor missed and raises his bet.
Turn: Tricky players on the turn tend to be those who bet their draws.

3. Your Table Image
It is important to determine your own table image and to play opposite of it against players that observe your style. Some players just don't have a clue and stick to their cards. Better players will notice how you have played before and try to take advantage of your style.

4. Flop Play
Here are some key factors to note on the flop:

-how many players see the flop and if it was raised or not pre-flop. (frankly you should know this before the flop hits the board! If there are 4 or more opponents, don't look to bluff. If there are 3 or fewer opponents, bet your draws and top pair. If a lone opponent, be aggressive and/or slow down to win more chips.)

-what is the best hand and the best drawing hand (one or the other will often win)

-what is the flop composition--is it coordinated or a steal flop (a steal flop is a rainbow flop with one high card and two rags). Also notice if there are cards in the playing zone (Ace-9) or not. Cards in the playing zone are more likely to hit someone else's hand. While rag flops provide an opportunity to show strength with a bet or raise, since they are more likely to have missed your opponents' hands.

5. Flop Moves
The flop round is often the phony betting round. Don't respect those flop raises if it comes from players who like to bet draws or set up bluffs on the turn and follow-up on the river.
A re-raise on the flop usually indicates a strong hand like two pair, a set or a made hand. If it is a tricky player, though, you have to widen his range quite a bit here.

Raising for a free card move:
If you are the pre-flop raiser, bet the flop and get raised in late position (with a flush draw on the flop possible), realize that this is probably a flush draw bet. You can re-raise here and try to get heads-up.

Betting out on the flop with a draw:
Consider betting out on the flop with a draw, and then follow through all the way to the end if you miss. If you get re-raised, you can slow down. Again, the number of opponents is key here--two or less it should be considered. 4 or more opponents, is a time to hold back that bet.

Check raising on the flop:
This is a strong play, and often indicates two pair. I like this play when the pre-flop player has late position and I can get heads-up with him going to the turn. Your cards don't matter. Bet the turn and river. Some opponents will call you down with with Jack high--so again, know your opponents.

6. Turn Play:
If you are the lead bettor on the turn, keep the lead and bet again unless the board has become too coordinated or you have three or more opponents. Heads-up this play is a no-brainer. Against 2 opponents, you should be inclined to bet as you have shown strength.

If you do bet, and get raised after a rag hits the turn, you have to decide if you are beat. And, if you can catch up, is the pot big enough to call? Clearly, against a tricky opponent, don't fold. Again, an ABC player it is time to consider that fold.

If going to the turn, you are the caller versus one opponent, think of the turn as an "ahead or behind" situation. If you can win, call his bet. If you can't win, just fold. A tricky player consider a raise here. The same thinking is valid against multiple opponents. Here, even if you have a draw--but it is a weak one--you may have to fold unless the pot is big.

7. River Play:
Once you get to the river, the pot tends to be so big, you will make some bad calls. But folding can be a disaster if you fold a winning hand on a big pot.

As to that A-K you've been betting all the way and don't improve upon...check call on the river versus one opponent.

Good luck!
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