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By now most of you should be well informed about the game of poker with all of the courses on Elite Poker University, as well as all of the other content Jesse and myself have posted on ESB. One of my first poker articles was Texas Hold’em 101, which was an intro to the game. While the most popular game is no limit, there are other games such as pot limit and fixed limit. Today I’ll break down each of the Texas Hold’em games and how they differ from one another.
This is by far the most popular Texas Hold’em game there is and it’s the one we play multiple times a week in our poker club. In no limit games, a player can bet anywhere from the amount of the big blind to all of his chips. For example, in a $1/$2 no limit hold’em game, the minimum bet allowed is $2. If a player has $500 on the table, at any given point in the game, he can bet his entire $500 when it is their tun to act.
Pot limit is a fun game to play. While you cannot go all in before a flop, you can definitely build big pots by betting the pot amount. In this game, a player can bet any amount between the big blind and the pot size on any betting round. The minimum bet will always be the big blind amount and the maximum bet will always be the pot amount during each street.
Limit poker is where it all began for me from a casino standpoint because it was the only game available when I started playing at my local casino. In fixed limit poker, the amount you can bet each round is set. For instance, if you are playing $2/$4 limit, on the flop you can bet $2 and raise in $2 increments, being capped at $8. On the turn and river, you must bet $4 and raises must be in $4 increments, capped at $16.
How They Differ
In no limit, you are able to put your opponent at risk for their entire stack at any given time so long as you have them covered or at least for a large percentage of their stack in many instances. This makes decision making very tough for players at times. One of the biggest differences between no limit hold’em and all other forms of the game is that in no limit you must consider implied odds. What are implied odds you might be asking? Let me quickly explain, implied odds is the amount of money you have to pay to continue in the hand versus the amount of money you stand to make if successful (I will dive into implied odds more in depth in another article). In other words, if you call and hit your draw, how much money can you make?
In pot limit and fixed limit hold’em the implied odds are limited by the betting amount allowed, whereas in no limit your only obstacle is stack sizes. For example, if you have a $10K chip stack and your opponent has a $4K chip stack, the effective stack in play is $4K because that is the max amount that you can lose or your opponent can win.
In no limit, you also must be able to read your opponents because at any given point, you might have to make a decision for your entire stack. You can go all in to protect your hand at any given time or even bluff your entire stack to win a pot. Without a doubt, decision making here is usually tougher than it is in any other format of hold’em because of what can be at stake in one hand.
Pot limit is a happy medium between no limit and fixed limit but leans more towards no limit. In pot limit, one of the biggest factors that plays a role is pot odds, which can be defined as the ratio between the size of the pot and the bet facing you. For example, if your opponent bets $1 into a $9 pot, your pot odds are 10:1 to make the call. Bet sizing is extremely important in no limit and pot limit but being that you are capped to a max bet of the pot, it is even more important in pot limit. This is why pot control is a key component when betting in pot limit hold’em. The key here is to let your opponent make mistakes based on pot odds. If they are not calculating them properly, you will be able to cash in.
One way to maximize your big hands in pot limit is making small bets instead of pot size bets. Sounds silly I know, but when you are making pot size bets, you are representing strength, which may force your opponent to slow down. However, if your bet sizing smaller, you could represent a draw, weakness, or even an attempted bluff. This allows your opponent to come over the top, which then allows you to either raise or call, while inflating the pot with your big hand and still giving your opponent pot odds to potentially make a call. By doing this, you maximize the pot size with huge hands.
Fixed limit is a fishing game and although bluffing can occur, it seldomly works. In fact, unless you’re playing huge stakes, a lot of the time people “bluff” with the best hand. Being that your bet amount is capped, people are capable of drawing at an unbelievably cheap cost, so you will see a lot more players call their draws until the river. You will even get players calling with mid pair or even bottom pair a couple of streets in some instances.
The good thing about limit is that your entire stack is almost never in danger unless you are short stacked. Fixed limit allows players to make mistakes without a huge financial hit in most cases. Understanding that drawing is important and that your opponents are almost always going to have the odds to make a call on their draws is huge. A key component in limit hold’em is that when you have a hand, bet every street, forcing your opponent to pay max for his draws. In this format of hold’em you want to maximize your hands and minimize your losses (making sure you choose your draws wisely), which is not that hard since you are never forced to make a decision for your entire stack in most instances.
The actual game in itself is the same because all players get two whole cards, there’s a round betting before the flop, then there is a flop, another round of betting, the turn, yet another round of betting, then a river, and the last round of betting. However, the strategy for each is completely different and there are specific variables that play a role in each hold’em game that makes them unique.
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