With my Limit HE 3 phase series starting up again this weekend, I thought I’d take a minute to share with you why you should make an effort to learn limit hold’em, even if you’re not a limit player.
There are a lot of fundamental skills in limit that translate well to no limit. Concepts like pot odds, implied odds, and reverse implied odds, for example, translate directly, and in limit you get higher odds situations due to the size of the pot. An understanding of how to correctly utilize plays like check-raising. In NL you could theoretically have a successful game without ever check-raising since you can size your bet to set the price you want to give. In limit, check-raising is an essential weapon in the skilled player’s arsenal. But if you don’t know how to properly check-raise (when that is) to accomplish your goal on any given street, then you will experience less than stellar results. Once you do understand the use of this tool, you can expand on an already successful NL game by adding it to your tool belt there. Playing heads up in the blinds, navigating different table dynamics from tight-passive to loose-aggressive, and successful bluffing are all skills that limit hold’em develop much quicker than NL. In limit for example, you’re bet or raise is only 1 unit, so to be able to bluff successfully requires a much more delicate understanding of when to do it and how to execute the bluff (since you can’t just use the brute force of a big bet or raise). Learning this skill will greatly enhance your ability to bluff successfully in NL by picking out good situations and executing in a way that maximizes your chance for success.
Even if you’re really a die hard NL player, and just don’t want anything to do with limit, I would suggest to you the following: Limit hold’em is the best and fastest way to develop your hand reading skills. Would you like to be able to put people on hands more accurately? Playing limit is the way to accelerate this process. Why? Because there are so many showdowns. We can practice hand reading every single hand that’s dealt (and we should!), but if you don’t get to see what they actually held to confirm your read, and have the opportunity to think back through how the hand was played if you were wrong, then the “practice” isn’t useful. In a typical NL cash game, out of 100 hands you’ll get maybe 10 that go all the way to showdown. If you’re lucky. In limit hold’em, especially on a loose table, that number will be north of 50 showdowns. Now there’s a real opportunity to practice and develop hand reading skills!
When I ran the first limit program for the school a few years back, I had a student send me a PM who had taken my old NL Special Topics course. He said (I’ll paraphrase): “Look Dave, I’ll be up front with you. I hate limit hold’em. The few times I’ve played it I lost and was miserable doing so. I have no desire to play this game. But I’m signing up for your course because I know I’ll learn some things that I’ll be able to apply to my NL game. I’ll play limit during the course as necessary, but once it’s over I have no intention to play limit any more. I just wanted you to know how I felt.” I told him no problem, I know it will help his NL game, welcome aboard. That person started out playing .25c-.50c limit online to work on what he was learning in the class. He has since helped out as a teaching assistant in my future limit hold’em classes, and limit HE has been his primary game for the past 2 years. He built up a roll from the micros, moving up in limits as he went, and now plays primarily $5-$10 online and $10-$20/$20-$40 live. I won’t promise you that you’ll fall in love with limit poker like he did, but I will promise you that you’ll learn a lot, and your NL game will be the better for it.
If you're interested in giving limit a try, you can register for Phase 1 (which starts on Sunday) here:
Good luck at the tables.