Limit Hold'em: Every Bet Counts

Barry Greenstein

In Limit Hold'em, it's crucial to understand the importance of a single bet, and how the bet affects you and your long-term results.

Players who primarily understand No-Limit poker may completely miss out on the concept of how important a single big bet is in Limit poker.

In a game of No-Limit, playing 200+ big blinds deep, a single big bet is relatively insignificant to the total amount of chips at risk to be gained or lost.

No-Limit is a game of outplaying your opponent - maximizing your wins, minimizing your losses. You play for stacks, and look for opportunities to put your opponent to a decision for all of his chips.

In Limit, you play the fine odds, and work at exploiting the meager statistical advantages.

Your goal in the long run is to win in the neighborhood of between one and three big bets per hour at the game you play. With an impressive margin of victory being so scant, your game has to be consistent, vigilant and mathematically sound.

For every one bet you give up due to a mistake, you must win two back before seeing a profit. That means every error you commit makes it twice as difficult to make money at the game. A poorly played hand in No-Limit can cost you your entire stack, while a well-played hand can double up your stack.

A poorly played hand in Limit can equate to losing multiple bets. If you're playing on a win rate of one bet per hour, this single misplayed hand can cost you multiple hours of your time. Working half a session for free is never a good time.

The Importance of the Turn

With the turn and river betting rounds using the higher betting limit, these betting rounds become the most valuable rounds in a Limit Hold'em game. A single bet on the turn is equal to two bets on the flop; this obvious information becomes valuable when figuring how to play your hand.

For simplicity's sake, let's say you're first in position and flop the absolute, un-counterfeitable nuts. Your only goal in this hand is to build as large a pot as possible. You're heads-up, and your opponent has bet out the flop probably with a pair, or a hand strong enough to want to see the river.

Your opponent is good enough that once you raise he will have an idea that you may have something strong.  You are as sure as you can be that after you raise your opponent will shut down into check-call mode. To make the most money, you want to hold out until the turn to make your raise.

Here's a chart of total bets made from raising the flop and having your opponent check-call you to showdown afterward:


Street Total Big Bets from Both Players
Flop 2
Turn 2
River 2

Total Bets: 6

In the same scenario, you call your opponent's flop bet, and raise them on the turn. They call, and check-call the river:


Street Total Big Bets from Both Players
Flop 1
Turn 4
River 2

Total Bets: 7

By waiting until the turn to make your single raise, you've gained yourself one full big bet. As you can see in the following chart, waiting to raise until the river yields the same result as the turn:


Street Total Big Bets from Both Players
Flop 1
Turn 2
River 4

Total Bets: 7

The obvious advantage to making the raise on the turn is forcing your opponent to pay more to see a river. Since it's rare to have a hand on the flop or turn that's impossible to beat, letting your opponent see a free or cheap river is not always in your best interest.

Three-Betting

If your goal in every hand of Limit Hold'em is to maximize your big bets, it's important to take a look at three-betting. Just as waiting until the turn to raise makes you money, so does three-betting. The difference is that the increase in betting size geometrically increases the difference in big bets, depending on when you make the move.

In this first chart you're three-betting the flop, assuming that you're out of position, open betting and being raised. As soon as you three-bet, your opponent stops raising, and only calls from that point on.


Street Total Big Bets from Both Players
Flop 3
Turn 2
River 2

Total Bets: 7

As you can see, three-betting the flop only earned you the same amount of money as a simple raise on the turn would have. You now have a much more aggressive player sitting across from you, but you're not making any more money. Waiting until the turn solves that problem:


Street Total Big Bets from Both Players
Flop 2
Turn 6
River 2

Total Bets: 10

By waiting until the turn to three-bet, you've earned three more big bets than you would have had you three-bet the flop. It's the little differences like this that allow good poker players to be consistent winners in Limit games.

The difficulty with Limit poker is finding the line in maximizing your big-bet winnings, while reducing the odds of your opponents' drawing against you. Pumping a pot in a manner which gives your opponent better odds hurts you more than it helps you.

You need to understand the goal of your opponent before you can formulate a plan to reach your own goals. Always remember that even though a single bet seems insignificant, it should never be bet or called away mindlessly. You need to make every play for a reason, and focus on conserving your losses. Every dollar saved is a dollar earned.

More Beginner Strategy Articles:


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Poker Bob 2011-01-09 22:16:41

another great poker page. My stuff is weak weak weak in comparison to your articles. Thanks to you and keep on with the work.