07-27-04, LearnTexasHoldem:

NL Strategy

Question: Dear webmaster,

The other night after suffering a series of losses on William Hill Poker (an english poker room) I decided to read some articles. I have been playing poker for some time now, ive read a few books, and after a bit of searching on google I came across your site.

Top 3 Beginner Rooms

I have read almost every article on it concerning No Limit holdem since I enter tables-of-ten no limit games on Will Hill. 

Based on your site, I would call myself (up to now) a tight aggressive player - I fold almost mechanically and raise if I get dealt a Nut hand. If it hits, ill bet big, which - amazingly just like your site says - will either make everyone fold and win me little, or will result in me getting a huge loss because someone outdraws me.

Im getting very frustrated with the game. I have a very analytical mind - I love numbers and probabilities so it affects my game - I work on playing a small advantage over and over and in the long run it should pay off.

These past few days dont seem to do that - even if I raise after a flop (or before a flop) hard, to "stop drawing hands" they nearly *always* outdraw me - often resulting in straights or flushes.

Its driving me nuts! Am I playing the right style game - no limit single table tournaments. I took on your site advice and started flat calling with cards that I wouldnt normally play - like suited connectors or cards with a gap (like 9/J suited)...hoping to sting someone nastily when they hit the flop. They never did - not once!

Im worried that Ive picked up a nasty habit - I want to break the "robotically tight" play that Ive always done and get into the dynamic/situational play that is going to really win money. I figure that playing limit holdem will just make things worse - lower stakes so more people will call and draw - I just dont understand what I should do.

I wondered if you had any advice that you could offer me so get me on the right track???

I would really appreciated it but I understand if you are busy...

Many thanks,

Paul

Answer: Note: everything written below is for NL cash games, not limit or tourneys. There's are huge differences between all of them.

The first thing you should ask your self is how you expect to make money in the game you are playing. You read the article I wrote about beginning no limit play and you echoed some of that in your question above. It is pretty rare in no limit cash games to pull a huge pot with AA. Very rarely will someone have a smaller pair or AK preflop and when they do you'll win a decent amount but not much. Occasionally you'll find a loose crazy player who will put more money then usual into the pot for you when you have AA but that doesn't happen enough to rely on it.

If you do get a lot of action post flop when you just have AA, like you mention you are most likely up against a better hand or a draw that will get there more often then you'll like. Instead of being the guy waiting for AA all day, you need to prey off people like that. You need to start maximizing opportunities for nailing people when they can't get away from their hand. New players love AA and KK and don't think twice about going all-in on the flop with it. Even if they know a little info they can easily misuse it to your advantage. For example, if the board looks like there are drawing opportunities a new NL player might go all-in to try and prevent someone from beating them with a draw.

That's very dangerous and pointless since you'll either win a small pot or lose a big one. You want to make something with your good hands and not lose much when you're beat. If I were you I would review the article again and the section on trapping hands. Small pocket pairs are my personal favorite. As long as the person has enough chips in front of them, I consider it worth the money to see the flop even if I know they have AA. I'm not looking to steal the pot from them. I'm looking to trap them in a hand and win a big pot.

The next thing I would suggest is to learn how to use deception more. That's essential in NL cash games. You need to be able to fool people into betting more then they should. Lastly, keep playing. Each time you move up in limits you'll have some adjusting to do. Expect to have a period of time where your winnings dwindle. Eventually you will figure out the new game and you'll do fine. That's how it goes until your nerves can't handle the limits or the games become so tough they aren't worth playing.

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