No Limit Texas Hold’em: Play within your Limits

Players love the fast-paced, win-it-all/lose-it-all excitement of No Limit Texas Hold’em. But underneath the all-ins and the huge bets, there’s a method to the madness.

CB039648Unfortunately, in spreading the game to the masses, TV has left many players without the fundamental discipline needed to succeed. What you see while watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN are only the most exciting hands. All the hands that don’t even get to the flop are left out.

In this article we’re going to highlight a few of the basic principles not seen on television that will make you become a more competitive No Limit Texas-Hold’em tournament player.

Perhaps the most important rule is to play within the limits. Just because you can bet all of your chips at any given time does not mean you should, particularly in early rounds. Take time to learn your opponents, and make raises based on the betting limits set by the blinds.

If the blinds start out at $10/$20, try to keep your bets congruent with this level of play. Raising all-in on the first hand is not the way to go. After all, how much can you possibly win? Players have just taken their seats; they’re timid and very unlikely to call.

Unless you’re holding the absolute nuts and there’s already a ton of money in the pot, take it slow, and plan on building your chip stack over time. Bet two times the big blind, or raise by the current limits. This will benefit you in the long run as not only will you gain information, but also the respect of other players.

Another major mistake in no-limit holdem—one that is often committed by online players—is playing the leader board and not the table. In no limit tournaments, try to win your table. Don’t worry about how many chips the leaders have. As long as you’re winning your table, you’ll eventually get a chance at their chips. No one has ever busted out of a tournament while consistently winning his or her table.

It’s good to know where you stand in the pack, and you’ll eventually need to make a move, but be patient. Play your hand, at your table. Remember, the chip leaders will need to go through you at some point. Don’t do them any favors by taking yourself out of the game.

Finally, be patient. You need to stay completely focuses to make it through that long haul of a no-limit holdem tournament. They may last hours or even days. Pick your spots, and always remember that anything can happen. You can go from short stack to chip leader in 15 minutes—or from first to eating dinner in the hotel lounge in a matter of seconds.

Don’t be afraid to play aggressively, but don’t play stupid. The greatest downfall for inexperienced tournament players is thinking they need to make a big move when they’re sitting just fine. Panicking or getting anxious makes you play hands you’d normally muck.

You start to think, “Well, if I can hit with this 9-J off-suit, I can double up and be right in the hunt.” Wrong! What will happen more often than not is that you’ll either fail to hit the flop and waste chips, or hit and lose to a real hand (A-J or a high pocket pair). Remember what your mother said: “Patience is a virtue.”

No-limit Hold’ em poker isn’t about going all-in or betting half your chips just because you can. It’s about being disciplined, knowing when to go outside the betting structure to win a large pot, and knowing when to bet within the limits to gain information and grow your chips slowly.

As with everything in poker, this is not a hard and fast rule. Take these fundamentals and apply them to your style of play, and you’ll find yourself lasting longer—and even winning no-limit tournaments in no time.

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