Texas Hold`em is the most popular poker game being enjoyed today and there are two distinct forms of Texas Hold`em that people are playing, No Limit Hold`em and Limit Hold`em. No Limit Hold`em is the type of poker you are likely to see on television, but many players who are just getting started in poker like to get their feet wet with the Limit form of the game. What are the major distinctions between the two?
Crandall Addington, runner up in the 1974 and 1978 World Series of Poker Championships, famously said that “in Limit Poker, you are shooting at a target, but in No Limit poker, the target shoots back at you.” To understand this statement, we must first understand the different betting structures of the two games. Limit poker has two subcategories: Fixed Limit and Spread Limit. In a Fixed Limit game, players can only bet a prescribed amount on each card (or “street”). This amount usually doubles after the first two rounds. For example, in a $3/$6 Fixed Limit Hold`em game, a player is entitled to bet $3 before the flop and on the flop and $6 on the turn and river. Raises must also come in these exact increments, no more, no less.
In a Spread Limit game, qq online players can bet within a predetermined range at any time, for example, in a $1-$5 Spread Limit game, players can bet or raise between $1 and $5 on each street. Fixed Limit games are by far the more popular today and it is rare to find many Spread Limit games at the present time. Limit games also usually feature a “cap” on raising; that is to say, the bet cannot be raised more than three times, for a total of four bets. After the fourth bet is put in, the pot is said to be “capped” and there can be no more raises until the next card is dealt. Some games have a rule that if the hand is down to “heads-up” that is, only two players left, the cap is lifted and players can raise as much as they want.
In No Limit Hold`em, the betting rules are much simpler. You can bet as much as you want, up to all the chips in front of you, at any time. The only restrictions are that you cannot bet less than the size of the big blind and you cannot raise less than the size of the last bet. Most poker games today are played “table stakes” which means if you cannot cover the amount of someone’s wager, you can go all-in for the amount you have, but you can only win the amount that you have matched.
The most obvious distinction between the two games and one that gives most players pause, is that most of the time in Limit Hold`em, you cannot go broke in one hand. It is easy to calculate from the beginning how much the hand is going to cost you if you are going to continue to play. In a No Limit game, you may be leading the betting, feeling in control of the hand, when suddenly one of your opponents puts you at risk for all of your chips. This is what is meant by “the target shoots back at you.” Knowing that at any time all of your chips may be put to the test can make the game very challenging and make early decisions harder than they might be in a Limit game where the risk to you is restricted.
Some people prefer No Limit because it is easier to protect your hand. It is possible to bet enough with a good hand to make it not profitable for opponents to call to try to “draw out” on you, catch a straight or a flush or some other hand that could beat you. In Limit poker, many people, realizing that it will only cost them one or two more bets to catch a potential monster hand, will call no matter how far behind they are. This is not a winning strategy, however if your hand, which is the best before the flop or on the flop, is up against five or six other hands trying to draw out on you, there are many occasions where said hand will not hold up.
Other people like No Limit because they have more opportunities to be creative. Many hands, such as suited connectors (hands of the same suit that are consecutive, like the 7 and 8 of hearts), are not worthwhile to play in a Limit game because most of the time, they will not fit in with the flop and when they do, you cannot win enough money with them to balance out the times when you wasted a bet hoping for a good flop. In No Limit, because these hands are well disguised, it is possible to “trap” your opponent for a big pot, an amount far outweighing the small amount you paid to see the flop with it. Additionally, it is much harder to bluff in a Limit game, where a bad call can never have really drastic consequences.
Some feel that Limit poker is both easier on the nerves and more rewarding for technically sound players. Limit players focus on how to extract one or two extra bets when they have the best of it and how to save one or two bets when they don’t, with the idea being that at the end of the night, all those bets will add up to some real money that they can earn without ever having had to risk their entire stack of chips. The mathematic element of the game is a much bigger factor in Limit poker; since bluffing is not as effective a tactic and enormous pots are hard to generate, knowing and being able to calculate whether a hand is worth playing is crucial.