Playing Depending on the Limits

Tips on How to Play Depending on the Betting Structure


In poker there are a number of options to the games that you can play.  Those new to poker might be surprised to learn there’s also a number of ways in which the betting structure can be set.  And even those who play every now and then to regularly may not realize that the type of betting structure you have will affect the way you should be playing.

Low Limit Betting Structure

                Low limit games are games where there is a limit to the amount that players can raise or bet and are typically going to be considered ones with limits of $2/$4 and below all the way down to a penny.  When limits become very small at less than a $1 they are a sub-category called micro limit games.  Limit games can also set a limit on the maximum amount that the pot can reach and when the pot hits that amount betting can no longer be done.  So the first point should be the most obvious.  Low limit games tend to attract the beginner and novice players more so than the better players because of these safety nets. 

However, a common mistake is digging into the fish, or an inexperienced player, in low limit games.  You don’t want to run them off, you want to make money off of them.  But this isn’t as easy as it may seem.  Among inexperienced players at low limit games, especially the micro-limit ones, you’ll also be up against maniac players who play extremely loose as well as people who are in it just for the fun of playing. 

This makes using strategy difficult because these types of players are more likely to be playing every hand and the low stakes lends to that thinking.  It won’t cost them much to see the next card(s) so why not stay in it?  In low limit Texas Hold’em it’s all but impossible to get away with a bluff because so many are going to play so many hands regardless of what they’re dealt.  That’s your first hurtle.  Another huge one is that when stakes are low and people aren’t as worried about losing the money in the pot they get harder to read.  They aren’t going to be contemplating what they’ll do next as much thus not giving you a chance to study how they play and think.

This forces you to play loose which might not be your preferred style and up against better competition isn’t going to be recommended.  In low limit you have to play more hands like everyone else if you’re going to win any money.  So you need to be prepared for greater variance in your bankroll with longer upswings and downswings.  This is also a good thing in one way.  In low limit games to win you’ll have to play good technical poker which means analyzing your cards and the community cards. 

Understanding the strength of your hole cards and the possibilities the board gives you will help you in determining whether it’s worth it to stay in the game.  It may not be much but unlike others you won’t be throwing bets away.  And if you’ve got a good hand you can at least have a good chance at getting other players to feed the pot to its limit.

These types of games are really for those who are new to poker, like to play for fun or are on a tighter bankroll budget.  It is the place to start if you’re learning but if you’re wanting to improve your game you’re going to have to test yourself against better players which means you’ll eventually have to move up to higher stakes.

Shorthand Limit

Shorthand limit poker is when there is a limit betting structure in which the first 2 rounds of betting will have a lower limit, say $3, and the last two rounds will have a higher limit usually double the lower limit just like low limit.  However in shorthand limit games there are fewer players at the table, usually 5 or less. 

This category also includes head’s up play between just two players which is the smallest of the shorthand games.  That fact alone dramatically changes how you are going to play a hand.  For example in the case of head’s up Texas Hold’em the small blind goes to the player in the dealer, or button, position and the big blind will be made by the other player.

Shorthand limit poker requires apt skill and is therefore not recommended as the first type of game you want to sit down at if you’re a beginner.  This is more of the type of game you want to work up to.  Because there are fewer players you are going to have to protect your blinds more than you would at a longhanded game or you risk dwindling your stack just off blind bets that aren’t played.  So as you see one aspect of shorthand limit poker is that you’re going to have to play a little looser.  That doesn’t mean chase everything especially in the small blind position but rather opening up you’re tight game a bit.

You’ll have to play hands that aren’t quite as strong as you may like in order to stay in it.  This lends well for more experienced players who can analyze the cards better, but it means for those that are inexperienced the skill level gap becomes greater and damage can be done quicker. 

You also can’t expect to force a lot of folds with others playing more hands as well or you’ll just lose money.  If aggressive players can’t adjust their game to this they’ll get frustrated quick.  The best bet would be to really grind in when you have a strong hand and build the pot up as much as you can for a better win.

One mistake that’s often made in shorthand limit when more hands are being played is to ignore the odds if you have a drawing hand.  If the flop gives you a drawing hand you don’t need to automatically keep feeding the pot in hopes of catching a card.  Analysis needs to go into the odds of you getting that card and if it’s worth staying in.  Remember when folds decrease the need for knowing your odds increases.

Shorthand limit games require you to read your table.  You’ll have a little bit more room with what you can play against a conservative table as opposed to an aggressive one.  This goes back to the fact that more people are staying in for more hands.


Longhand Limit

                Longhand limit poker like shorthand has a limit betting structure, however in this game the table is full or nearly full meaning there are 9 or 10 players in on the game.  This type of game is also known as full ring limit hold’em.

Because of the multitude of players you’ll have to sit down knowing patience is key.  With longhand you’re able to play tighter than shorthand so you can wait on the strong hands to come to you.  The only problem is that because it is a limit game big hands aren’t as strong as they would be in a no-limit or high limit game when people take more consideration into going up against them. 

In this type of game you need to add in the consideration of how many are still in the game.  Unlike shorthand which can only be shorthand, longhand can have many people in the game or just a few.  The number of players will affect how you should play as well as your odds of winning.  If all but a few have folded and you have a good hand you have the luxury of playing more aggressively since you’re likely to win.

No-Limit Betting Structure

No limit games are ones in which there is no set limit to how much you can raise your opponents  other than how much you have in chips on the table.  The distinguishing feature of this betting structure is the all-in bet that won’t be found in any other type of betting structure.  The only requirements are that the raise be at least as much as the bet made before you in a round or at least the size of the big blind.

This is the type of game where you’ll find the best players, even some pros.  Because of the talent you’ll be up against and the high, high stakes no limit is recommended to those with a good amount of experience.  The reason for the increase in talent is because with no limit and high stakes psychology is just as much a factor as mathematical probability unlike limit games.  Psychology as well as knowing when to act is something that takes time to master and isn’t as easy to determine as mathematics.

No limit games are where the art of bluffing really comes into play.  With so much at stake players are going to take more time deciding whether they want to risk it and can be scared away from acting on a good hand.  Because mistakes can cost you much more in no limit poker playing tight is the recommended strategy.  If you don’t pick and choose what you move on carefully you could be out in the matter of just a few hands.

If that is a possibility, which it is, there will also definitely be some big swings in variance because of the amount that can be won or lost.  That means before you even sit down you need to consider your bankroll and if it can handle the swings without possibly crippling it.  The stress of knowing one game could ruin you can affect a player’s mental game.  No limit requires an extremely cool head in order to win.  If you get emotional it will only lead to more losses because the better players will know the signs and move in on you in your fragile state.

Players in these games are going to be reading each other every chance they get.  Because of the factors listed above any clue as to the strength of an opponent’s hand is going to make a huge difference in what you should do.  Before you enter a no limit game you should be fairly confident in your ability to read tells and understand what to look for.