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No Limit Texas Hold'em StrategyNo limit holdem poker is growing faster than any other form of poker because of all the recent TV coverage but there isn't that much information out there teaching people how to play. There are plenty of books about how to play limit games, and there are some books on no limit tournament play, but really not much about regular no limit ring games. Organizing the information in this "article" is actually harder then the writing. Since so many of the topics are related to one another I'm not going to pull my hair out on making it perfect. Instead I'm just going to group ideas under a main heading.
This article is geared for new to intermediate players. I'm writing this article for typical casino no limit games and ones you will find online: $25, $50, $100, $200 buy-in games. If you play higher then what was just listed then most likely you'll already know everything below. This article is not about tournament play all though some of the concepts apply to that as well.
Who Are Your Opponents?
Who are your opponents is the number one concept that should dictate your play. But wait, shouldn't I be telling you which starting hands to play in which position? What about all those hand grouping tables? Forget all that nonsense! Most poker books fail to mention that you should adjust your game based on the people you are playing with. Instead they talk more about hand selection, position, odds, etc. Those concepts are all important but in my opinion, changing your style of play based on your competition is the most important lesson in no limit holdem. Unlike limit holdem which is very mechanical, no limit holdem affords a good player many more options. If you are playing well, you make your moves depending on whom you are against. I'm mentioning this concept first because it is thread that runs through all the other tips including everything from hand selection, to how much to bet, to when to bluff. So don't forget this one!
How Much To Bet
If you already know how to play limit holdem, one issue you'll be faced with when playing no limit is the question of how much to bet. Let me start off by saying what is typical. Let's say you are playing in a $100 no limit buy-in game where the blinds are 1/2. It would be normal for people to raise anywhere from $6-10 preflop. You'll see people raising different amounts, sometimes much more then that or just doubling the big blind, but by and large it is usually about 3 or 4 times the big blind. So is that how much you should raise? Maybe, maybe not. How much you should raise preflop depends on who you are playing with and what you want to accomplish. I've heard many players talk about how raising the same amount preflop and betting the same amount post flop (the size of the pot for example) is good because you don't give away any information about the strength of your hand. In other words people can't look at how much you are betting and getting a better read on what you have. I don't buy into that. I think that varying your amounts is much more advantageous to winning money. You need to be flexible and see opportunities to where you can maximize your return. If a guy is willing to call with all of his money, why would you want to only bet the size of the pot? Let me give you some different scenarios. Let's say you are on the dealer button with KK and seven people before you called $4. Your goal with the raise is to cut down the competition and get one or two callers. A raise to $6 or $8 won't do. In this case you can raise much more then you normally would for a few reasons: one, there are already a lot of people in and the likelihood of getting called by a couple of them is high; two, there is already a lot of money in the pot; three, you want to get out of a bunch of the hands since your hand doesn't play well against a lot of people. A raise here for $12 or even $15 would be fine. Another scenario might be if you have a really bad player at the table who doesn't seem to ever fold preflop if he has already called the big blind. If you find a person like that, then by all means raise as much as you can without making him fold. It's very common to find players like this and when you do, make sure you get as much of their money as you can before someone else does. This is where paying attention comes in handy. If you notice someone else just raised $15 preflop and he called, then I would do the same if I was dealt a good hand. Post flop play again depends on two things, what you want to accomplish and who your opponents are. Let me give another few scenarios. Let's say that you have flopped a set of 7s and you are fairly sure that the person you are against has a big hand since he raised preflop. This is a prime money making opportunity. Your goal here is not to shut him out on the flop. You want to do whatever you can to make him put all his money in the middle. This might be calling the flop and then check raising the turn card. Or you may want to bet some into him and pretend like you have a marginal hand, then call his raise and check raise the turn, etc. See it all depends on what you think the best way to get all his money might be. Another extreme is when you don't want anyone to call. Let's say for example you have T9 and the flop is T98. You really don't want anyone to call here so you better come out swinging. What you are trying to do is make it unprofitable for someone to call with a draw. Lastly, let's say you flop top pair with a decent hand. Betting the size of the pot is fine here. Ok, so those are a few tips on how much to bet and when. I'll have more information regarding betting in some of the other concepts/tips.
Starting Hand Selection
Whatever I do, I like to do well. And before I ever get into anything, I like to go to amazon or some other book store and buy a bunch of books on the topic. When I started playing poker, I did the same thing and bought a few books by the famous authors. While those books helped me a lot, I think some of the information actually was a disservice to me. It took me years before I realized that the games that I played in weren't the games that the authors played in and also that it doesn't take the nuts to win a pot, it just takes a better hand then every one else's. That may seem obvious but it really isn't. If you spend your time memorizing tables on playing certain hands in certain positions, you'll never get very far in poker. The goal is to win and I think the strongest type of poker player is the guy who can switch gears and vary his play based on the table, hand and opponent. I'm not going to list tables or hand groupings here. Instead I'm just going to talk about a few different concepts related to starting hand selection:
Position - one thing you'll find in no limit holdem is that position is much more of a factor. Position in limit holdem is important but not even close to no limit. With that said, I am not a slave to position. I'm just as likely to play a hand like 9Ts under-the-gun (first position/worst position) as I am on the dealer button (last position/best position). The reason is because I don't get trapped and call unless I want. If someone raises me preflop a large amount, I can very easily fold. If lots of other people are in, I can call. I think position in limit holdem and no limit are exactly reversed. In limit holdem position is very important preflop, but after the flop it is of less importance. In no limit holdem position is less important preflop and very important post flop. What's the worst thing that can happen if I limp in with 56s in early position in no limit? A person could raise, and then I just fold and lose my few bucks. A few bucks is nothing in no limit. In limit poker though, if I limp in with that hand in early position I am guaranteed to lose money in the long run. I can only win so much with the hand so I need to make sure there is enough money in preflop before I commit my bet (for limit holdem). In no limit you can win a huge pot with any hand so calling a few dollars and then olding if it gets too expensive isn't as much of a concern. Moderation is the key, don't take this too far. You will lose if you play any two cards in any position and call any bet.
Big Loss Or Small Win - there is a concept in no limit poker regarding hands that either will win a small pot or lose a big one. These cards are usually hands like AJ, KJ, KT, KQ, etc. Those are good hands in limit poker but in no limit if you flop something with those and get action, you will most likely lose a big pot or just win a little one after everyone folds. That doesn't mean that I won't play those hands, it just means you have to watch out because they are the cards that will get you in trouble. I treat hands like this with great care. I honestly would prefer a hand like 45s over AJ. The 45s won't get me into any binds while the AJ will do nothing but that.
Trash Hands - I love garbage hands, especially if I can sneak in from the small blind by just calling half a bet. What are some garbage hands? T2s, 95, T6, 23, A2, etc. I love to just limp in with them from the small or big blind and then try to sting someone after flopping a big hand. The ones that do particularly well are the T and J rag hands: J2, J3, J4, etc and T4, T5, T2. The reason these do well is because if there was no raise preflop then the opposition most likely has hands like QJ, KJ, JT, etc. When you flop two pair you can really make them pay. What you want to avoid though is catching one pair and thinking it is good. If you have a crappy hand like J4 and the flop is J92, I probably wouldn't even bet from early position. It's going to be a small pot anyway since no one raised preflop so if you check and give it away even if you had the best hand sobeit. Remember you are here to win some big pots, not a lot of little ones.
AA, KK And AK - These hands pretty much play themselves. You can have fun with them though. I'll mix up my play based on who I'm against (especially with Aces). When I get dealt Aces or Kings though, I'm always thinking in the back of my mind that I don't want to lose my whole stack with these. This is a huge weakness for new players. They get dealt AA or KK and then think they are guaranteed to win. That's not so. The best case scenario if you are dealt Aces is someone else has a hand they are raising with preflop. If that isn't the case I don't mess around with these hands. I'll play them straight forward and take my little pot. I'll raise preflop, then put a decent bet in on the flop and bigger on the turn. My goal if no one else has a big starting hand is just to win some, not a lot. Remember one pair isn't that great and if you get tons of action after the flop then you are in trouble. I don't make the majority of my money with big hands like this. Don't be discouraged if you finally get Aces and then win only a little with them. One tactic that sometimes will win a big pot is to feign weakness on the flop with your Aces. For example, if the flop comes back Jack high and you have Aces, waiting for a while and then only betting half the pot sometimes gets people to check raise or raise a large amount because they put you on AK. Then you just call and then put them all-in on the turn card. That happened to me last night and I got a good player to lose his whole stack to me.
Middle Pairs (QQ, JJ, TT) - I sometimes limp in with TT preflop but with Queens and Jacks you have to raise. I think out of all the hands in no limit, these are the toughest to play well. The best advice I can give is don't lose all your chips calling all-in with Queens or Jacks preflop. You'd be surprised how often you'll have AK, KK or AA against QQ or JJ. Being able to not lose a bunch in that situation is a sign you're doing something right. The tell tale sign of AA or KK is if you raise a good amount and then get reraised or reraised all-in by an unimaginative player. If I just get reraised I'll most likely call. If the person has a bunch of chips and goes all-in then I'm going to have to look hard at the situation. Do I really want to put a lot of my money at risk when I only may be a small favorite (they have AK), or a big underdog (they have AA or KK)? How much it is going to cost me is another thing I look at in this situation. If I'm playing at a $200 game and it will just cost me $100 total then sobeit. Or if the person is a wild player that raises a lot of hands and you don't know if they have anything, let alone a good hand then go ahead and do the dirty dance. Also understand that calling the reraise and seeing the flop is only the start. Most likely all the money will go in by showdown. My goal in trouble spots like this is to just break even. If I can make a few reads here and there and win a few pots and then make a few mistakes and lose a few I'm ok with it.
Face Cards (AJ, KQ, KJ, QJ, QT etc) - I mentioned these hands above in the "lose a big pot or a win a small one" paragraph. My advice with these cards is to play them but be careful. I play these cards pretty weakly. If I flop something big like top two pair then of course I'll play more aggressively and try to win more but with just top pair I'm careful. I will bet but I'm not going to get married to the pot. What you want to avoid like the plague is calling big preflop raises with these, flopping top pair and paying off the raiser. That's how you lose fast in no limit poker. I will limp in with these hands from early position but if someone raises a good amount, I'm out unless lots of other people are in. I'll need a really strong flop to continue. There is no way I'll limp in with KJs, call a preflop raise, and then call all the way down with top pair hoping I'm good. If you don't have the initiative in the hand (doing the betting), there is a reason.
Small Pocket Pairs - Of all the hands in no limit holdem, these are my favorites. They play themselves and when they hit, you are "set". My ideal situation is when I limp in with a small pocket pair in early position, get raised a decent amount from someone with a big pair or AK and then I call and flop trips. You'll hit your set/trips about 1 in 8 times. I'll call preflop with these hands as long as the raise isn't too much and the person has enough chips in front of them (or alternatively other people are in the hand too). Having pocket deuces is no different then having pocket fives or sevens. You won't continue on the flop unless you hit (or you see a bluffing opportunity in which case the denomination of your cards doesn't matter either). Pocket eights and up can win without improving but it's rare you'll get much action in those situations.
Suited Cards - In no limit holdem I don't make a big distinction between a suited connector (67s) and two suited cards (T6s). In either case you are going to need a big flop to make much with the hand. In limit poker having the suited cards connected really helps out a lot but in no limit it doesn't matter as much. With these cards I'll limp in late position, sometimes in the front if they are decent cards. I particularly like the smaller suited cards like 35s or 46s. The reason is because if no one raised preflop it usually means someone is out there with a "weak ace" (A5, A6, A2, A3, etc). Sometimes you'll flop the straight and they will have two pair, in which case you can sting them nicely.
Staying Out Of Trouble - In limit holdem much of the play is in the middle. What I mean by that is you win the majority of your money by just having decent hands -- top pair and betting it down. For example, you have KQ, raise, flop top pair, and bet it down and win. To play no limit well you need to adjust your thinking. In no limit you want either a great hand or a trash hand. You don't want a lot of stuff in the middle since a mistake can cost you your whole stack. This is why you would prefer to have 33 against a raiser instead of AJ or KQ. Remember we aren't playing tournaments here, we are playing ring games for money. That's a big distinction.
In no limit tournament poker, going all-in is common. In regular no limit ring games it isn't unless you have just a short stack left. I recommend buying in for the full amount and keeping it at that level or above the entire time. You don't want to play a $50 NL game and then bleed out $25 and just have $25 left on the table. If you get a great hand, you want to be able to double through for the full amount. There are two scenarios for all-in. The first scenario is when you are doing the all-in bet. That's a good thing. That means you want all your money in the middle. The second scenario is when you aren't the one putting all the money in the middle. To decide whether or not you are going to call their bet, you need to ask yourself a few questions. How much is it going to cost me? How much is already in the pot? Is this guy for real? Let's say you have AK and flopped top pair and bet it down the whole way and on the river the guy check raises you all-in. Let's say the pot is $100 now and it will cost you another $25 to call. That's easy, you call. Let's say it costs you $50 more. Now I'm thinking. If it is any more then that then I probably would have a hard time just calling with one pair unless I thought this guy either was a wild player, didn't know what I held, or if I had seen him do something similar before with a marginal hand. So my all-in rule is just to asses how much of a hit I'll take to see the showdown and compare that to the size of the pot. Obviously the stronger your hand is the easier it is to call. It is impossible to make yourself immune to paying off hands in no limit holdem. Sometimes the pot just is too big to fold and you have to put the rest of your chips in. That's poker.
How do you make money in no limit holdem?
That question seems like the first thing someone writing a book on poker would try to answer but I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually write anything about it. Instead everything is implied. That's fine and dandy but I think knowing how the game should go will settle your nerves and make you more confident. After looking at a hand grouping table in a book and seeing that AA, KK and AK are the best hands one would assume that you make the money with these hands, right? But that isn't the case in my game or in any one else's I normally play with. Those hands are only a small part of the entire process. So let me list the ways you win in no limit (in no particular order):
Trapping Hands - this is the number one way you make money in no limit. The definition of a trapping hand is when you have a really strong hand and another person has a lessor hand that they can't get away from. An example of a trapping hand would be if you flop a set/trips and another person has pocket Aces or Kings. You got him by the balls and he is going to lose big time. There are a variety of trapping hands out there like if you flop a straight and another person has a set. Or if you have a full house and another person has a smaller one or just trips. Trapping hands can come in all kinds of forms. One hand I just had yesterday was really funny. I had 92 in the big blind. No one raised so I got to see the flop for free and to my surprise it was 992. Some poor bastard had A9 and promptly lost all his money to me. That was a trapping hand. He couldn't lay it down. Another example of a trapping hand that I got butchered on a few days ago was as follows. I had A2 of diamonds and the flop was AA9 with one diamond. It got checked around and the turn was another diamond. The flush draw didn't get there and I lost a sizeable amount to someone with a better Ace (I think he had AQ actually but didn't raise preflop).
Big pair over big pair (AK included) - I mentioned above about how most of the time you won't make that much with your big pairs. The usual routine is your raise preflop, get a caller or two and then bet the flop and everyone folds. Sometimes you'll get an idiot who doesn't believe you and calls you down but that's usually not the case. I would say about 80% of the time I don't win that much money with my AA, KK or AK. The other 20% of the time that you win, you are up against someone who has a smaller pair. AA versus KK is always a sure way for the guy to lose his stack but many people at this level also lose their whole stack playing QQ against AA, KK or AK. If I'm dealt AA or KK on the dealer button, I have a better chance of making more money with it since people assume that I'm playing my position instead of my cards. This is why if you are on the button with a big hand and everyone folds to you, don't slow play it and limp in, raise it since people won't believe you. Sometimes I'll even make a raise much larger then I normally do on the button if everyone folds to me. For example, if I normally raised to $15-20 preflop, I'll raise it to $30 or $40. Then people really think I'm trying to steal the blinds. Every now and then I'll have a guy who tries to raise over the top of me thinking I'm bluffing and will fold. That's the best.
Small pots - Most of the pots in no limit, and the ones you'll win, are going to be small. Everyone will be winning little pots for a while and then bam, someone will get nailed and lose their stack. That's how it goes. The small pots can add up after a while though.
Betting in the back - You won't make a bunch of money betting in late position when everyone checks to you but its worth mentioning. I'm not a religious bettor in late position. Instead I like to mold my table image -- how the other players see me -- by sometimes betting in the back and sometimes just checking.
Drawing Hands - Drawing hands are tricky in no limit. When you flop four of one suite in limit holdem, it is an easy decision to keep calling till the river. In no limit that isn't always going to be the case since if you miss your draw on the turn card, often the next size bet will be too large to make it profitable to keep calling. I've found that if I'm in early position with a flush draw or straight draw it is often better to come out betting some instead of checking and calling. First of all, if you check and call you give away your hand and also you leave yourself open to being bet out of the pot. Secondly, you may even win the pot by just betting. The risk of betting is that you are going to get raised an amount you can't call. My advice for drawing hands is to learn the numbers and then compare them to the size of the pot. There is an article here about pot odds and how to figure them. I want to also add that if you do flop a really large draw, you don't have to hit it to win. Bet big and win that way and if get called hope to catch it. An example would be if you have 67s and the flop is 4s5sAh. I would bet that really hard and get all the money in on the flop.
Bluffing - I don't think bluffing is of much importance in limit poker. It's almost impossible to bet someone out of a pot in limit poker since it just costs them one more big bet. In no limit it is more much of a potent tool, especially coupled with a good read of a hand and position. Learning when to bluff is an advanced skill that you will pick up as you learn the ins and outs of the game more but I'll give a few tips. Number one tip is you aren't going to bluff someone out of the pot if they have AA, KK, or AK and flop top pair. If you find a really good player you might, but at the $200 NL and below games it would be very hard to get someone to fold their Aces. Number two tip is that it is much easier to bluff someone out of a pot if they aren't committed. Being committed to a pot means if you have so much money in it already that even if you are beat, you still have to call. Number three tip is that it is much easier to bluff someone out of a pot if it is going to cost them a lot of money to call. Your bluff isn't very powerful if they just have to call 1/10th of the pot. If you can make them pay dearly to see your hand, then the chance of it working is higher. Number four tip is that it is easier to win with a bluff if you know what your opponent has and you know what he thinks you have. If he thinks you caught your flush and checks to you, then that's a decent time to make a play at the pot. Lastly, the only player immune to a bluff is a bad player.
Losing Your Stack With One Pair
This tip will save you some money. It is pretty rare that someone will make a substantial raise against you on the turn or river and not have one pair beat. You'll find some crazy players that do that but they will be easy to spot. Everyone else will have one pair beat.
A Big Bet Normally Means A Big Hand
This one seems obvious, right? Well sometimes we forget this in poker. Don't out think yourself. Most of the time if on the river after betting the entire hand someone goes all-in for a lot of chips, they have you beat. It's so easy to kid yourself and think they are trying to power through you but that's very rarely the case. You are most likely beat. Once again if you see someone doing this a lot then it doesn't mean they have a great hand but anytime a lot of chips are at risk it deserves your thought.
Beware The Raise
A raise in no limit is something to respect because what you have just done is to give the bettor another option to raise. That can lead to complications like him reraising you out of the pot. Don't fear raising though, especially if some guy is trying to bet a little so you won't bet a lot. I see this all the time. A person in early position has a really marginal hand or a draw so they bet the minimum into the other player hoping he will just call -- which often happens. I don't play that nonsense. If I have a good hand and they try that with me, I'll raise to the size of the pot. If they reraise me then I can lay down my hand but I'm not going to let them make a tiny bet and see more cards for cheap.
Beware The Call
Calls are weird things in no limit holdem and deserve some attention. One call to watch out for is when you bet and get called by a good player who has players left to act behind him. That usually is the sign that he has a strong hand but doesn't want to cut off the other players behind him. An example of this would be if you raise preflop with a big pair and get a good player and two bad players to call. The flop comes back 994. You bet and he calls as well as one of the other players. The bad player calling doesn't mean much but the good player calling here is odd. He knows what you have. There is a chance he has a smaller pocket pair or maybe AK or something but it is more likely he has a 9. There are no draws with this hand. When a player just calls with more players behind him it is called a "smooth call". It is usually the sign of a strong hand. Another call to look out for is your own. Generally, calling in no limit is not good. There are exceptions of course but the majority of the time if you can just call then you are not going to win. If you are slow playing someone then that is different. If you have a marginal hand though and are just able to call someone's sizeable bet then chances are you're sunk. A call is a very weak move and it means one of two things -- either you have a really strong hand or you don't have much of a hand. Since most of the time you won't have much of a hand, people aren't going to be intimidated by you calling. They won't check to you on the next card. Instead they will keep betting. Also keep in mind that a call really does nothing on the flop to help you win the pot. By the time the turn card bet and river bet are out you'll be in deep. If you have a marginal hand, like top pair with a weak kicker, instead of calling someone's bet all the way to showdown, it would cost you less money to raise on the flop and hopefully win.
When The Flop Is Scary
A lot of the time you'll have a good preflop hand, raise and then flop something scary. For example, you have KK, raise, get called by two people, and then flop AA4. In this situation the worst thing you can do is check. If you check you leave yourself open to a bluff. You are basically announcing to everyone that you don't have the Ace and please come and take the pot from me. Instead what you should do is bet, but not a huge amount. Let's say the pot is $40. You don't need to risk all $40 of it to win. Betting $10 here is just as good. Number one, if you are in fact against an Ace, the person is going to call any amount. If you aren't against the Ace, there is no reason for anyone to call. A $10 bet to a person without an Ace looks like you are just trying to sucker them in. I use this same logic for all flops that look scary including when the flop is all one suite or if there is a chance of a straight on the board. You can also use this strategy when you flop an overcard. Let's say you have JJ and the flop is K92. You could bet the pot here but betting a smaller amount works just as well. If the person doesn't have a King they won't call, if they do have the King I consider the hand lost so why risk more then I have to?
Pay Attention To The Amount Of People In The Hand
The strength of any hand is directly related to the amount of people in the hand (inverse correlation). If you are in early position and have a crappy hand like KJ and flop something like KT5 and six people are behind you left to act, chances are you aren't going to win this one. Understanding this can save you from getting committed to pots that you shouldn't. If you play a lot of hands in no limit, which I suggest you do because it is fun and rewarding, you need to be more apt to fold them unless you catch something big. Getting stuck with a marginal hand like KJ and KQ and betting it down is bad no limit poker. You'll lose a lot this way.
Confusing People Is Profitable
Whenever you can make someone think you have a hand that you don't, you end up making money. In limit poker you don't have the arsenal of tricks you do in no limit. I'll list a few tips here that I've used to milk people for more then my fair share. The first tip is the all mighty overbet. Over betting is when you bet too much -- you bet an unreasonable amount of money in relation to the pot. It's hilarious how confusing it is to people when you do this. Their first assumption is that you are trying to bully them because why on earth would you be betting that much if you really did have a good hand? Wouldn't you rather bet less and get called? You can do this preflop or on the flop and after. Sometimes I'll just throw in a massive raise preflop with Aces or Kings just for the hell of it. I would say probably a quarter of the time I get a caller. Also sometimes if I have a set or two pair I'll bet a large amount on the flop, then slow down on the turn, and then big huge on the river. That also confuses people. Once again they assume I'm trying to bully them. Another trick I use now and again when I'm in early position and flop a big hand is to bet a decent amount on the flop (and get raised by someone). Then I just call. Then on the turn card instead of checking I bet another amount but smaller then before. It looks like a weak move so the other guy raises me more this time which is exactly what I wanted. Sometimes I'll do this when I flop trips and someone has an overpair (like Aces or Kings). Let's say I have 89s and the flop is 994. By betting a little on the flop I look like I'm trying to bluff him out but don't have the balls to make a big bet. So he raises me and then when I just call it confirms to him that I don't really have a 9. Then the bet on the turn again seals the deal. Changes in initiative are always really confusing to people. Initiative is the term for describing who is doing the betting, who is in the drivers seat in the hand.
When The Flush Gets There On You
Let's say you raise preflop, get called. The flop comes back and the flush draw is there. You bet and get called. The turn card brings the flush. What do you do? You have a lot of options but I only use one. If you check and the person bets, what does that mean? You have no idea and if you just call then you leave yourself wide open to be bet out of the pot on the river. Instead of checking, I bet. I bet a decent amount but not a huge amount. For example, if my previous bet was $15 or $20, I'll do the same thing again. Note how in no limit holdem, you have to double the size of the first bet if you want to raise. So if I bet $20, he has to raise to $40. Did I remove the chance of me being bluffed out of the pot? No I didn't, but I've made it more expensive for the player behind me to try that move. Also if he does raise me, I could very well also have the flush and reraise him. I use this tactic for a lot of situations where the community cards are crazy and I'm not sure "where I'm at". It may cost a bet if the person actually does have the hand but it keeps me in the pot if they don't. This is another example of why position is very powerful in no limit. If you are behind someone and some scare cards come out, you can easily take the pot from them.
Who I Love Playing Against
There are a few different players I like to play against. My most favorite opponent is the big bettor. They will raise preflop, then religiously bet the size of the pot in each betting round. It will only be a matter of time before I get their chips because it will only take one good hand before they will commit all their money to the pot. What I do against these types of players is just let them do all the betting. I limp in, call their raise, call their flop bet and then they usually go all-in on the turn card. Aggression is good in no limit holdem but also remember that every chip in action is a chip you have to win back. For some reason these types of players don't understand that you do actually have to have a hand once in a while to win. The next opponent I like playing against is the really loose player who calls any size of bet preflop. Next, I love playing with wild players who like to raise every other hand. They are great for the game. They often get everyone off balance and people begin to play poorly. When you are playing with a maniac in no limit holdem, be careful. They can get good hands too so don't put all your money in the pot with garbage. At the same time though, you need to challenge them and let them bluff their money off to you. Lastly, I love playing with super tight players who only play AA, KK, AK, QQ, etc. These types of players have read a book or two and feel like they are entitled to win as long as they don't play bad hands. Players like this wait all day for AA, then get it and raise. I love calling them with little hands just to see if I hit knowing that if I do, they will give me their whole stack. They are just waiting for someone to challenge their AA on the flop and they are married to the hand. What they don't realize is that AA is a good starting hand, but it is just one pair. Also what makes playing against tight players so easy is that you always know what they have. Losing money to them is pretty hard.
Buying Poker Books
I purchase all the available material published on texas holdem (even the low limit books). Anything that has a potential to improve my game or to make me think about the game in a new light I am interested in. My only advice is that you take everything you read with a grain of salt. A book isn't going to tell you how to win, it will only cover some concepts you should be familiar with. You always need to adjust your play based on who you are playing against. Reading and talking about poker is a form of training. I'm not going to endorse any poker writers here but I suggest you look around a buy a few books.
Slow playing is basically if you have a good hand then instead of raising at that betting round, you wait until a later one to raise. In limit holdem I'm a big fan of slow playing. In no limit holdem, I slow play less for a few reasons. The first reason is many of the hands I am involved in aren't that strong and the more cards that come out, the less strength my hand has. The second reason I don't slow play as much is I don't want to end up putting a big bet in at the wrong time and lose more then necessary with a marginal hand. Another reason I don't slow play as much in no limit is because the people I play with expect me to bet when I have something or not so checking and then putting in a big raise later doesn't get much action. Instead of slowplaying I prefer to try to build a pot and get someone committed. One situation I will slow play or just call bets is when I have a set or trips. If you have a nut hand (one that can't be beat) then sometimes you will make more money by springing a trap later after someone has a lot of money invested in the hand. Don't mess around with one pair like that though or you'll be nailed. For example, if you have AK and flop an Ace you don't want to let the opposition see a lot of cards. To finish up, I'm much more likely to slow play in no limit if I'm up against one person. The more people in the pot, the less you should slow play.
Big Stack Gets More Action
I've heard that if you have a large stack of chips at a table then you will get less action. I have found the opposite to be true. When I have a large stack (4x more then the buy-in), people call much larger bets from me. I've thought about this for a while and I think the reason is that people don't like to feel like they are being bullied. Everyone at the table wants to get a piece of you. That's the best money making situation since you can put in much larger bets when you have a good hand. The opposite may be true as well, if I see someone with a large stack raise three times more preflop then everyone else usually does, I am suspicious. That can get you in trouble though since the guy may just be having a killer day.
Adjusting For Home Games
Home games are usually different then what you'll find online or in regular cardrooms. When I play home games with my friends its more of a relaxing fun time then all out war. Playing your best game for a regular game might be completely different then for a home game. If your friends are in every single hand, then you can definitely loosen up and have some fun too. Don't be a slave to the rules. This is poker, it's meant to be fun!
Short Stack Reraise Trick
One trick that particularly warms my heart is when I get dealt a big hand like AA or KK and I see a fairly loose or wild player with just a little money left. For example, let's say it is a NL $200 game and the player just has $40 left. What often works well is just to raise enough that the short stack has enough to reraise all-in, which gives you another chance to reraise the other players in the hand. People have gotten pissed at me doing that but I still love to. The end result is really great, instead of only getting $20 in preflop from each player, now I can get $60 or shut them out completely.
Position, Position, Position
If you are limit holdem player migrated to no limit, you may not fully appreciate the power of position. I can't emphasize it enough. Being the last person to act, especially in heads up situations, affords you a lot power. It has been my experience that if you are in later position and someone checks, it is much more likely that they don't have much or are weak, then that they are going for a check raise. For example, let's say that a person raises preflop and you call with a middle pair. The flop comes back Ace high. If the person checks to you, it probably means they don't have an Ace, not that they have a set of Aces. So my advice is don't fear the check raise. If they check raise you once in a while, great, good for them. Most of the time it won't happen though. Another situation often happens in my games and that is when I am in with a flush draw on a raggedy flop. Let's say the flop is for example 752 with two hearts. The first person bets and I call. They bet again and I call. The flush or my over cards don't get there for me and the board pairs on the river and they check -- board is 7-5-2-6-7. Now that's a little weird, what did they have all this time that they would now check? A good size bet now would probably win the pot. It is very likely they also missed a draw of some kind or were just betting overcards since the flop looked like it didn't hit you as well. Position is powerful only if you use it. Always keep it in the back of your mind that you don't need the winning hand to take the pot, you just need to make everyone else fold. If you can make some ballsy bets now and then at the right times, you'll make it very hard on your opponents. These are spots where I like to make my plays. Remember above how I mentioned I don't always bet in the back when everyone checks to me on the flop? I wrote that I like to play "honestly" there most of the time. The biggest reason for that, is so I can steal more later when it really matters.
Calling To Chop
Remember that chopping a pot means to split it. One mistake I see a lot of players make is to call bets just to chop a pot. That's a big no no in poker. If at best, you are only going to tie, it is wrong to put more money in the pot. Sometimes a card will come down that basically blocks your hand. An example of this would be if the board is paired and an Ace is on the river card (you have KQ and the board is 2-2-K-7-A). Your kicker is now worthless so at best you chop with the other person and at worst you lose completely.
Online No Limit Games
Should you play at more then one table? I do. If you are just learning you may want to start at one table and then work up. The more tables you play the less you are paying attention to each game. That's the downside. The upside though is that you get to see more hands per hour, it is more exciting and you have the potential to make more money.
I think that's about it for now. As I think of more info, I'll ad it to the site. Also, don't forget that you can send in questions.