Limit Texas Hold'em

Bob Cole

Strategy Guide for Limit Texas Hold'em (cash game)


This article is intended to assist beginner/intermediate players who want to improve their Limit Texas Hold'em game. If you have little poker playing experience, you will need to refer to this text during or after play in order to review the concepts and strategies outlined.

The article presents a basic overview and offers advice that assumes you will follow a certain style of play. Accordingly, there will be no in-depth discussion of exceptions and variations in play.

Fixed-Limit Texas Hold'em is a favored game of casinos, both offline and online, as up to ten players can participate in each game.

Furthermore, weak players have a decent chance of winning in the short term and in general players do not bust out too quickly and tend to pay rake for a good while before they do.

However, Limit Texas Hold'em can prove deceptive to less-skilled players. Some players believe that you can simply sit and call down the hands whenever you have pot odds, without taking much notice of your opponents.

In fact, this is how a majority of Limit Texas Hold'em players act on low-limit tables ($2-$4 or $4-$8). In addition, intermediate players are very commonly afflicted with a lack of discipline (tightness) and a lack of applied aggression (strong attack in the appropriate spots).

In general, an overall tight-aggressive style of play is probably the most profitable, especially in intermediate-strong games. This being the case, the purpose of this guide is to provide you with information on this style.

It will advocate playing few starting hands while trying to take command in many pots and using positional advantage. The suggested strategies focus on pre-flop and flop play as it is here that most beginner/intermediate players make their biggest mistakes.

If you play correctly until the turn card, you will not face too many difficult decisions and will be well on your way to becoming an expert player.

Key skills to succeed as a Limit Texas Hold'em player

  • Overall discipline
  • Reading opponents
  • Calculation of pot odds
  • Lack of vulnerability to going on tilt
  • Bankroll management

Key Advice and Common Mistakes

Key advice for Limit Texas Hold'em

  1. Play only premium starting hands: in a regular game you should see no more than 20-25% of the flops.
  2. Table selection: beware of tight/aggressive tables (low profit, high volatility) and avoid strong players overall as they will read you and take your money. Look for loose games where at least 30% see the flop on average and play their hands too far.
  3. Make sure to have pot odds when you are drawing: only call a bet if the pot justifies the call (see Pot Odds).
  4. Always analyze your relative strength in the hand: make a habit of always anticipating the holdings of your opponents and be sure to further evaluate as more information is revealed in later rounds. You will never be truly successful unless you "get under the skin" of your opponents.
  5. Try to remember the playing styles of your opponents: questions you should ask yourself include, what kind of hands do they raise with? What hands do they re-raise with? Do they call all the way with weak holdings? How do they play pocket pairs? How do they play their draws? What kinds of hands do they call/raise with from early position? What type of hands do they check-raise with?
  6. Bet or raise when warranted - do not just call: the structure of Limit Texas Hold'em invites drawing hands, which might even bet into you. If you believe you have the best hand you should almost always bet/raise. You do not want to give any free cards.
  7. Always have a good kicker: you must have a good side card, or kicker, to your highest card. (Weak kickers create second-best hands, which prove expensive in the long run).
  8. Be quick to steal pots when you are in late position: when few players are in and it has been checked around to you, a possibility of taking the pot in last or late position might arise. Only do this if it looks as though the board did not benefit anyone. Also, be sure to consider the type of players left in the pot.
  9. Vary your play: occasionally limp on "raising hands" and bet/raise on some "calling hands". Do this both before and after the flop in order to avoid predictability in your playing style.
  10. Fold in time: you will save money if you fold in time. Do not draw when you know you are beat and the pot does not warrant a call.
  11. Rarely bluff: you must be quite sure that your opponents are not holding strong hands and/or are very weak when you attempt to bluff.

Common mistakes in Limit Texas Hold'em

  1. Playing too many starting hands (see Starting Hand Guide).
  2. Calling too much with trap hands (see Trap Hands).
  3. Not folding with modest holdings, such as top pair with a weak kicker or middle pair (fold or raise is often the best play in these cases).
  4. Not raising with premium holdings thus letting too many drawing hands in on the flop.
  5. Drawing for cards that are likely to give you a second-best hand. For example, the flop is 10-8-5 and you hold K5. If someone bets and a few players call, including you, and you then hit a K on the turn, this card could potentially give someone holding a KT or K8 a bigger two pair.
  6. Paying exclusive attention to your own game and not that of your opponents. How many players took the flop? Has someone raised pre-flop? What type of players are left in the pot? These are all questions to consider during play.
  7. Not aggressive enough on the flop (failure to take initiative) and turn (to follow through/protect hand) (see Check-Raise).
  8. Calling all the way to the river without proper pot odds (see Pot Odds).
  9. Calling too much instead of raising when you have the best hand.
  10. Bad table selection.
  11. Not having enough bankroll to play at a certain limit, thus making going broke a real possibility (you need approximately 300 times the big bet for optimal play).

Pre-Flop Play

One of the most valuable skills in Limit Texas Hold'em is the ability to be very selective about the hands you start with. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which hands to play:

  1. Is the table tight or loose?
  2. How many players are sitting at the table?
  3. How many players are in the pot when it is your turn to act?
  4. Has the pot been raised? If so from what player and position?
  5. What is your position?

Tight or loose game

A tight game is defined as a game where few players (2-3) see the flop on average and then fold after the flop. In this type of game you seldom see the river card because everyone has folded.

There is almost no reason to play in such games, even if you are an expert player. If you do decide to play in a tight game, your starting hand should be very well selected and you might be able to play 15% to 20% of your starting hands.

A loose game, however, is usually where you want to be. In a loose game many players see the flop and tend to go too far with their hands. In these games there exists the possibility of playing more hands, though usually not more than 30% of the hands.

Nonetheless, you must still be very selective of which hands you play.

Number of players in the pot before you

If many people see the flop there is a greater chance for you to play more drawing hands, such as 76s or small pocket pairs, since these types of hands increase in value in multi-way pots.

At a short-handed table with only six players or less, big cards increase in value. Even aces with a lower kicker than 10 usually become playable. In a full ring game, hands like AT, KT, QT decrease in value as these can easily become a trap hand, meaning they make second-best hands (see Trap Hands).

More players generally result in bigger pots because the more players in the pot, the higher the pot odds become. For example, you can call before the flop with a hand like 76s or small pocket pairs if you think there will be six players or more in the pot.

If there are only two or three players in the pot, a 76s or small pocket pairs are not good hands to enter the pot with. You want to ensure you get a good price on your drawing hands.

If it has been raised

If someone has raised before the flop you must have a very good hand to call with or get excellent pot odds. Do not call raises in middle position with hands like AJ off-suit and KQ off-suit (see Trap Hands).

However, if you are in late position and a minimum of four players called the raise, you can either call or re-raise with a hand like JTs in the hopes that you hit a great hand when the pot is big.


The positions are counted from the button. In a full table with 9 to 10 players, you have the button, small blind, big blind, early position, middle position and late position.

The three seats after the big blind are called early position, the following three seats, middle position, and the remaining two seats are categorized as late position.

The first position after the big blind is referred to as sitting under the gun. This is the worst position to hold pre-flop as you will be the first to act and will be more likely to make mistakes, since you will not have as much information as players acting in late position.

Therefore, you must be very careful in choosing your starting hand in this position. For example, do not play an AT off-suit under the gun. Although, if you hold the same hand on the button and no one has called, AT becomes a raising hand.

The best position is on the button, right in front of the small blind. It is in this position that you will possess the most information when your turn to act arrives. When sitting on the button you will know how many players are in the pot, if there has been a raise/re-raise, etc.

This is most certainly the most profitable position.

Trap hands

A very common mistake for beginner/intermediate players is to play any two big cards or any ace from an early position and call raises with the same type of hand.

This is one of the biggest mistakes a player can make as these hands so easily become trap hands. A trap hand is any hand that has a high probability of becoming the second-best hand, costing you a lot of money if you flop to it.

The most common trap hands are AT, AJ, KQ, KJ, KT, QJ and QT. Many players limp in from early position and call raises in middle/late position with this type of hand.

Thus, if you limp with KJ from early position, and someone in late position raises it, you could easily find yourself trapped against common raising hands such as KQs, AK, AJs, AA, KK and QQ (in case a J hits).

This also applies when you call raises with this kind of hand. This is a mistake. The most frequent raising hands from early position include AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AQ and AK.

Why would you want to call a raise with a trap hand when the raiser is likely to hold one of the above hands? Nonetheless, trap hands are playable in the right circumstances.

For instance, if you are in late position and are first in, the trap hand now becomes a raising hand.

General pre-flop advice

  • Make sure to raise with top pairs (AA-JJ) and top connectors (AK, AQ) to drive out low pairs and various connectors and to build the pot in case you hit.
  • Have respect for strong tight players (for example, drop AQ off-suit if a strong player raises under the gun).
  • Again, be selective with your starting hands. Resist the temptation of playing too many hands because you lost a few pots when you held a premium starting hand.
  • Do not call a raise if you are not in possession of a very good hand that you yourself could raise with.
  • Never play an ace with a lower kicker than ten if it is not suited. The only exception is if you are in late position or on the button and no one has called. In such cases, you should generally raise with an ace in your hand due to the possibility of winning the blinds without a fight.


Starting Hand Guide (regular full table, 8 to 10 players)

Glossary of Abbreviations
RFI Raise when First In. If no one has called or raised in front of you, you should raise. You do this in order to take the initiative in the hand and/or because of the possibility that you might "steal" the blinds.
R You should Raise no matter what has happened in front of you.
R1 You should Raise when there is no more than One player in the pot or you are the first one in.
C No matter how many players are in the pot you should Call.
C1 Call only if there is at least One other caller in front of you. If there were no callers before you, you should fold.
C2 You should Call if there are at least Two callers already in the pot.
C3 You should Call if there are at least Three callers already in the pot.
RR You should Re-Raise.
F You should Fold.
LL Refers to a Lone Late position raiser.
Limit Texas Hold'em Starting Hand Guide
Group A Hands Unraised Pot Raised Pot
Group B Hands
Group C Hands
99 RFI (late position), C C2
AQ RFI (late position), C C2
AJs RFI (late position), C C2
KQs RFI (late position), C C2
KQ RFI (late position), C F
Group D Hands
88 RFI (late position), C3 C4
77 RFI (late position), C3 C4
66-22 C3 C4
Axs C3 C4
KJs C3 C4
KTs C3 F
QJs RFI (late position), C2 C4
QTs C3 F
JTs C3 C4
T9s C3 C4
98s C3 C4
87s C4 C4
76s C4 C4


Flop Play

What you need to consider when deciding whether to check, bet, call or raise

  1. How strong of a hand did you flop (read Specific Holdings on the Flop)?
  2. How many players are left (hard to bluff in a four-handed pot)?
  3. Did anyone raise before the flop and, if so, who and from what position (expect a follow-through)?
  4. What pot odds do you have (the size of the pot vs. how many outs you have)?
  5. What kinds of draws (if any) are on the board?
  6. What kind of hands are the other players likely to have?
  7. What position do you have (the later the better)?

Specific holdings on the flop

Top Pair with an Ace Kicker

  • Most of the time you should value bet on the flop (and continue on the turn), as you often have weaker players staying in with weaker kickers or worse hands.
  • Watch out for overpairs especially in raised pots.
  • Avoid a check-and-call strategy by betting out, check-raising or raising.
  • In order to protect your hand against draws be prepared to raise if someone bets.

Top Pair with a Weak Kicker

  • If possible, try to bet out in order to find out if your hand is good.
  • In an un-raised pot make a value bet and try to take the pot immediately. This is especially relevant if your pair is ten or below, as almost any card on the turn will be a scare card.
  • Generally, it is best to fold if you are raised.
  • Consider how many opponents you are up against in an effort to clarify the relative strength of your hand.
  • A possible flush, straight or a lot of draws on the flop will weaken your holding.
  • Did the flop come with three high cards? If so, a two pair and top pair with a better kicker than yours likely exists.
  • Avoid a check-and-call strategy by either betting out, check-raising or raising.

Two Pair (pairing both hole cards)

  • Generally do not slow-play these types of hands. You should bet out /raise if the possibility arises.
  • If the board is highly coordinated (two or three cards of the same suit and/or two or three connected cards), you should raise out the draws or make your opponents pay for attempting to out-draw you. One option is to wait until the turn and see if a blank hits and then raise/bet. This may work better in bigger pots since the bets are doubled on the turn and many players will call a raise on the flop when the bets are small.
  • If you have hit two pair with a "weak" ace, let AK and AQ pay to chase. For example, if it is a raised pot and the flop comes A-6-2 and you hold A6, someone holding AK or AQ will usually give you a lot of action and will call to the end with only 3 outs for a better two pair.
  • If you hold a small two pair, watch out for aces and kings in later rounds as higher two pairs than yours will likely surface.

Overpair (pocket pair bigger than the highest card on the flop)

  • Bet or raise with this hand to eliminate your opponents and to protect your hand.
  • Occasionally check-raise with this hand if you think an opponent will bet and your raise will force others to fold.
  • If someone raises you, it is often best to re-raise. Most players will raise at least once with top pair but only cap the betting with stronger holdings; therefore you can also gain information as to whether your hand is good or not.

Second Pair (pocket pair in between the flop's high and middle card)

  • Typical fold or bet hand. You can often bet to have weak/loose players chase on middle pairs or draws. Your bet can also make more solid players fold weak top pairs or other non-made hands.
  • Usually fold if there is a bet in front of you, especially if players behind you have yet to act.
  • Again, always consider the number of opponents in the pot and from which position they are betting (if they bet).
  • Avoid a check-and-call strategy; usually raise or fold if someone bets in front of you.
  • Fold if you are raised.

Middle Pair with Top Kicker (ace or, in some cases, a king)

  • Typical fold or bet hand (see Second Pair).
  • You should not find yourself in too many hands like this if you follow a tight strategy. There are not many situations in which you are playing weak aces or kings (see Starting Hand Guide).
  • With this hand you hold five outs that can make you two pair or trips. Consider calling a bet on the flop if you have pot odds and if you believe your hand will be the best if you hit.

Middle Pair without Top Kicker

  • Folding is the best play is most situations except if you are heads-up.
  • Again, avoid a check-and-call strategy. Instead, you should bet, raise or fold.

Nut Draws with Eight Outs or More (nut flush draws, two overcards and a nut straight draw, straight flush draws, nut straight draws)

  • Rather than calling, always consider putting pressure on your opponents by betting, raising or check-raising. Play aggressively, especially when facing only one or two opponents who can fold a decent hand.
  • With 12 possible outs (like a nut flush draw with an ace kicker, giving you nine nut outs and three top pair outs), you will have almost a 50% chance of hitting on the turn and river combined (see Pot Odds); you should play aggressively in most cases to give your ace a better chance of winning if you hit.
  • Late position gives an extra advantage as you can raise to build the pot if there are many players in the pot. This might give you a free card (see Special Moves) if it is checked to you on the turn and your hand has not improved.

Overcards - AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ, QJ

  • Fold these hands in most situations if there are several players in on the flop and you do not hit.
  • Do not make a (expensive!) habit of betting this type of hand against a flop with face cards and several opponents.
  • Do not draw to overcards unless the pot gives excellent odds and the board looks favorable (no straight or flush possibilities on the turn).
  • Oftentimes, when you hit one of your overcards on the turn, this card will give someone else two pair or better. For example, if you hold KQ and the flop comes 10-8-4, a K on the turn gives KT, K8 and K4 two pair. If a Q hits it could make someone holding a J9 a straight or players holding QT, Q8 and Q4 a two pair.

Very Strong Hands on the Flop (set, flush, straight and full house)

The most common way to play in this situation is slow-playing. This means that you will check-and-call if someone bets and then raise/re-raise on a later turn when the bets are doubled. If there are a lot of draws on the board for someone to make a better hand, then you need to raise and gain as many bets as possible while you still have the best hand.

Here are a few examples of when you should not slow-play a flopped set, straight, flush or full house:

Very Strong Hand: Set (you hold a pocket pair)

  • When there are flush draws on the flop, bet/raise in order to make your opponents pay for attempting to out-draw you.
  • When there are straight draws on the flop, again bet/ raise for the aforementioned reason.
  • When the flop comes with big cards and it was raised pre-flop, your opponents are likely to give you a lot of action. As well, you will gain information as to whether your set is good or not, thus saving you bets on later betting rounds.

Very Strong Hand: Straight

  • When there are flush draws on the flop, bet/raise in order to make your opponents pay for attempting to out-draw you.
  • When there are draws for bigger straights on the flop, you should again bet/raise for the reasons listed above.
  • When there is a pair on the flop, someone with trips will give you a lot of action and, if your hand is the best, you can make your opponent pay to out-draw you (a full house is possible).

Very Strong Hand: Flush (you hold two suited cards)

  • When there is a pair on the flop, someone with trips will give you a lot of action and, if your hand is the best, you can make your opponent pay to out-draw you (a full house is possible).
  • If you do not have the nut flush then someone giving you action is likely to be drawing to a bigger flush and the action will dry up if a fourth suited card hits on the turn or river. Get your bets and raises in right on the flop.

Very Strong Hand: Full House

  • When there is a pair on the board and you hold the low set. You will get plenty of action from someone holding trips. By betting and raising on the flop you make them pay for drawing to a bigger full house.
  • If you hold one of the pair cards and the low card. Again, you will get a lot of action from someone holding trips and making them pay for attempting to out-draw you.

Drawing Hands (flush draws or open-ended straight draws to the high end)

  • Go for draws where you only need one card to make a flush or straight.
  • Generally, you should not draw to a straight if there are two suited cards at the table, unless you get excellent pot odds. You should count two of your outs (the flush cards) as dead, so instead of having 8 outs you have 6.
  • Usually avoid going for a straight or a flush if there is a pair on the table because of the potential risk of a full house. You will need better pot odds than normal to draw.

On the Turn

On the turn the bets are doubled. Therefore, it is crucial that you have played your hand correctly this far. The stakes have gone up and you will not get the same pot odds to call.

As well, you will have obtained further information on the hands of your opponents and will thus be in a position to re-evaluate your hand.

If you believe yourself to hold the best hand, do not be afraid to bet/raise in order to protect your hand. You will have a greater possibility of raising out-draws on the turn since the bets are doubled.

Do not enter into a raising war if your hand is not great. If you are drawing, be sure to have correct pot odds when doing so.

On the River

Now you are at the end of the hand and a common mistake is to fold or call with too many hands. If you did not make your draw, it is appropriate to fold regardless of the pot size.

However, if you have a mediocre hand and the pot is substantial, you may occasionally have to make a "crying call" although it is very likely that you are beat.

Once again, you must use your best judgment though sometimes there exists a fine line between folding and calling on the river. You will not be bluffing much on the end, unless you are heads-up and quite confident that your opponent was drawing and/or had a weak hand and a scare card hits.

Be prepared to fold a good hand if a flush and/or straight card hits and your opponents begin to raise.

Special Moves

The free card

When you are in late position or last to act, you can raise with a drawing hand on the flop. This will likely make your opponents check to you on the turn, thus giving you the opportunity to check (if your hand does not improve) or bet (if you hit your draw).

This will save you money if you do not improve and make you money if you hit. However, this move will backfire when you are re-raised on the flop. In these situations, it will cost you money but it remains a good play since you obtained information and have a draw to a better hand.

The check-raise

When you hold a good hand and it is your turn to act, check in the hopes that an opponent will bet so that you can raise when your turn comes again.

For example, you are in early position and have A Q. The flop is As-Q 6. You check and three players in middle position also check. A player in late position bets and you then raise.

The reason for check-raising is to make it too expensive for the drawing hands, like a straight or flush draw, to call. The check-raise from an early position also gives you the initiative in the hand.

If they still call, at least you have obtained information regarding the strength of their hands and forced them to pay as much as possible for trying to out-draw you.


Semi-bluffing is when you bet or raise with a hand that is not likely to be the best (at the moment) but you have many outs to out-draw your opponents if you get called or raised, although you are actually hoping to win the pot right there.

For example, you are in late position holding J T and the flop shows K 6 2, thus giving you a flush draw with nine outs. There are three other players in the pot and they all check to you.

You bet without having the best hand but since they all checked, they indicated weakness and might fold pocket pairs, a pair of 6's or 2's.

Even if you do get called, you have nine outs to the flush and maybe an additional six outs to win if you hit a J or a T, 15 outs in total. If called and it is checked to you on the turn, you have the option of taking a free card in case your hand did not improve.


Pot odds

Pot odds are what you use to calculate whether a certain play has a positive expected value. It is defined as the relationship between the size of the pot and the bet. For instance, if the pot is $100 and you bet $10, the pot odds are 10-1.

In order to calculate your pot odds, you must know how many outs your hand has at that moment. For example, if you flop a heart flush draw you then have nine outs to make your hand. There are 13 hearts in total. You hold two and the flop came with two, which leaves nine hearts unseen.

If you refer to the table below, you will notice that you have a 35% chance of hitting a hand with nine outs on the turn and river combined. This is slightly better than one in three times, which means that if it costs you $10 to win $30 or more, drawing for a flush is the correct move.

A rule of thumb: Every out gives you about a 4% chance of hitting on the turn and river combined. For example, five outs gives you about a 20% chance of improving, six outs about 24%, etc.

Outs for specific draws
Flush draw with two overcards or a straight flush draw 15 outs
Flush draw with one overcard 12 outs
Flush draw 9 outs
Open-ended straight draw 8 outs
Two overcards 6 outs
Gut-shot straight draw 4 outs
Drawing outs from a deck of 47 unseen cards
Number of outs % on River
1 4.3
2 8.4
3 12.5
4 16.5
5 20.4
6 24.1
7 27.8
8 31.5
9 35.0
10 38.4
11 41.7
12 45.0
13 48.1
14 51.2
15 54.1
16 57.0
17 59.8
18 62.4
19 65.0
20 67.5

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