How to Crush Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em

Laurent Novi

$1/$2 No-Limit Texas Hold'em is by far the most popular poker game being played in casino poker rooms.

Without a doubt, your average table features a motley crew of fish waiting to give their money away.

With a little help from this article, you'll get your fair share of it.

The Game

The game is $1/$2 No-Limit Texas Hold'em, the Chevrolet Cavalier of poker. The minimum buy-in is $40 and the max $200.

$1/$2 is the smallest No-Limit game run in most casinos and for that reason the games are very, very soft.

Your Average Opponent

$1/$2 games are inhabited by everyone from 60-year-old nits, to first timers, to gamboolers who raise every hand, to young, sunglasses-wearing wannabe pros.

Some of these players are actually good, but most are not. They're first-level thinkers, thinking only of their two cards and nothing else.

They are going to be clueless to the fact that you've folded the last 30 hands and are now betting hard into them.

Donkey hat

What they're going to be doing is thinking, "I has a pair of jacks; how much?" and then pushing the required chips into the pot.

These players are your targets, and the source of the bulk of your winnings.

Loose-passive players have two major weaknesses - they call too often before the flop and they take their hands too far after the flop.

You'll often hear new players lament about how it's impossible to beat fish because all they do is call.

This sort of thinking is so fundamentally wrong it's laughable.

Players who call too much are the ATMs of the poker world, readily dispensing money to whoever has the patience to wait for a good hand.

Your Ideal $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em Strategy

You play tight, you make top pair or better and you bet! Not exactly groundbreaking stuff. Play ABC poker, make your good hands and bet them.

Loose-passive calling stations will do what they do best: call. So let them call, stop bluffing them, and value bet your good hands relentlessly.

When you play tight before the flop, you make your post-flop decisions easier. By playing solid hands before the flop you will make solid hands after the flop.

When you eliminate marginal hands from your repertoire you'll find yourself with fewer difficult decisions after the flop.

Your goal is to flop top pair with a good kicker or better. You have to avoid getting caught up in the table flow.

Just because half the table is limping in up front with K 3 doesn't mean you have to.

Stick to playing tight and focus on playing hands that can flop big.

Playable Hands at $1/$2

Big Pocket Pairs (AA - TT)

These hands are already made for you. A single pair is often good enough to win at showdown, so when you start with one, you're ahead of the game.

Big pocket pairs are such big favorites that you should always raise them for value when nobody has raised in front of you. With aces, kings, queens and even jacks you should often even reraise.

The profit in these hands comes from when you flop an overpair to the board or a set. When you do, bet.

Pocket kings

Your loose-passive opponents will be more than happy to call three streets with worse hands.

Good Top-Pair Hands (A-K - A-J, K-Q)

Top-pair hands are hands that make top pair and when they do so, do it with a good kicker.

In a game where most of your opponents are loose-passive, your kicker is going to make you a lot of money.

For example, if you have K Q and the board comes king-high, you can bet three streets for value against a loose-passive player.

He will be more than happy to call all the way down with K 9 only to find his kicker is no good.

Good top-pair hands are good enough for a raise when the pot has not been raised before you.

Top-pair hands do better against one opponent than many, so keep that in mind when choosing your bet sizes.

Speculative Hands

These are hands that are rarely going to win at showdown unimproved, but when they hit they make big-pot hands.

A big-pot hand is a hand like a set, a full house, a straight or a flush. Holding these hands, no matter what the action, you're ready to put your stack on the line.

They are speculative hands because they have to hit before they'll be worth anything. They rely on the implied odds that you win your opponent's stack when you do hit.

Ideally you would like to see the flop as cheaply as possible with these hands. Speculative hands do best when played in position, so be wary about playing them from up front.

Pocket Pairs (99-22)

Pocket pairs make huge hands when they flop sets. Sets are often hidden, and you can easily stack someone who has top pair or an overpair.

For that reason it's OK to limp pocket pairs from any position.

When facing a raise, you have to think about your opponent. If he is a tight player and is unlikely to pay you off when you do hit, you're best off folding.

If, however, he is a loose player (or you're multiway with more than one loose player), you can call a reasonably sized raise to play for "set value."

The main thing about pocket pairs is that when you hit a set you should almost always be looking for the best way to get all your money into the pot.

Suited Connectors, Suited One-Gappers (Q-Js - 67s, K-Js - T-8s)

Suited connectors are great hands, played within reason. They do make both straights and flushes - both big-pot hands.

The problem is they don't do it nearly as often as you might think.

When you're in early position, you're best off folding low suited connectors.

If your table hasn't been seeing too many raises before the flop, you can limp the best suited connectors like J T or Q J. All others should be folded.

Suited connectors are hands that play well in position. More often than not you're going to miss the flop or hit a weak one-pair hand.

Playing them from out of position, in contrast, is going to put you in too many marginal spots after the flop.

Suited connectors should rarely be played versus a raise unless you are on the button and it is a multiway pot, or the raise is very small.

Suited Aces (A-9s - A-2s)

Suited aces are decent speculative hands because they can flop the nut-flush draw and they do have some high-card strength with the ace.

Tom Dwan

Nut-flush draws obviously have value because you can stack smaller flushes.

The problem with flushes though is that they are right there in the open. Everyone is always aware when a flush draw comes in, and as such it is sometimes difficult to get paid.

Suited aces are good hands, but not good enough to limp in from any position. You should be more willing to limp the closer to the button you get.

Against a raise suited aces should seldom be played. You're not going to flop a flush nearly as often as you flop a pair of aces with a weak kicker.

A weak pair of aces can be a curse. You feel like you have top pair and should see a showdown, but by the time you get there you find yourself outkicked and half a stack short.

Weak Top Pair Hands (K-Jo, Q-To, etc.)

These are hands that you want to steer clear of for the most part. They are dominated hands and should be avoided at all costs unless you can get in cheap from late position.

From early position and/or against a raise they should not be played at all.

They don't make many straights or flushes, and when they hit a pair you're going to find yourself on the losing end of the kicker battle more often than not.

Everything Else

Everything else is trash and should not be played even if it is suited. Suited trash is still trash.

Players get themselves into trouble all the time playing weak suited trash because they think they're going to make a flush.

You don't make a flush with weak hands nearly as often as you may expect, and the rest of the time you're bleeding money. Stop playing them.

Position, Position and Position

The importance of position can't be overstated.

Many people think they understand the concept of playing in position, but they routinely call raises with marginal hands, only to play the rest of the hand out of position.

This is a leak that costs you money. When you're out of position you're playing a guessing game - you have to anticipate what your opponent may do.

A Whole Lotta Cash

They dictate the flow of the hand: if they don't want to put more money in, they don't; if they want to bet three streets, they do.

Which is why being in position is so important: it puts you firmly in the driver's seat. You get last say on everything.

If you want to see a free showdown you do; if you want to value-town someone, you do.

Your opponents will be guessing, just as you are when you're out of position.

As the better player, with the advantage of being in position, you'll ensure that they're guessing wrong more often than right.

Sit Back and Wait for the Dollars

That's really all there is to it. The most important skill you can have at $1/$2 is patience.

Sit back and wait for a good hand. You should be folding 80% of your hands.

Do not get involved just because you are bored. Start with solid holdings and make solid hands after the flop.

When you're card-dead, that doesn't mean you should be sitting around watching TV. Pay attention to the game and your opponents.

Profile them in your mind; identify who the weak players are and what their tendencies are.

If you know who the loose players are and who the tight players are, you'll be able to understand their bets and raises and what they mean.

Once you figure out your opponents' tendencies, the rest is just a waiting game. Make your big hand and value bet.

Exploit the calling stations and force them to put their money in with worse hands.

$1/$2: it's an easy game.

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Justin Roth 2017-09-29 03:08:05

Wondered if anyone had thoughts on how much the top 10 starting hands in the article end up being high card and that's it and between the 8 other limp-iners at the table one of them's got a full house 2s over 7s and you got 2,7,10, AK suited. Bet pre-flop you say to get rid of all the limp-ers, sure then everybody folds and you don't get to play the hand after folding the last 10 (all the while seeing the board make huge hands from the "trash" that you folded). And when everything finally does happen 40 hands later and you hit your Ace high flush and make a bet, who are these people who watched you fold 50 out of 60 hands and are now calling you? I'm sorry if that means I'm not a real poker player if the prospect of this style of play sounds like a boring way to $5 an hour but come on depending on position and how aggressive pre-flop betting is, getting to see cheap flops that can pay off just as much as any other hand, and that you can fold at any time seems like a good reason to loosen up slightly on starting hands. If you have top pair and your kickers no good if nobody else has a better hand then what difference did it make in the end. And I think you are not giving people enough credit if you think they won't notice how much you fold pre-flop and fear when you do call and bet when the flop is Ace King King. Not saying it's a bad article or strategy but I think it does over simplify things a bit in stating that basically pocket over cards are an automatic win. Not a bad article though I guess I am more frustrated with 1-2 than the author.

John F Villada 2017-01-17 04:40:58

Try to act too! But really quick! Dont make a stupid scene.when in a big pot and either a flush came on the turn or river make a face gesture that you missed but it has to be so quick one tent of a second kind of like having the other player see u( just enough so that he thinks he just saw a tell or something)just a little and have him think u really missed but instead u have the nuts! Also if it didnt work he will at least proceed with caution while betting! I have gotten paid likenthis so many times Everywhere! You have to master how to make your good made hands look like total bluffs! That's the difference between you making $5/hr or $30/hr. This is going to have you make changes to your game! One major thing this article failed to mention, MIX IT UP! If you follow everything this article said, youre probably not going to make money at least not with most players! If you fold 80-90% of your hands youre not taking my money at all ill guaranteed you that, because ill just keep folding to your raises u less i have aa or kk! I will most likely fold kk to you too, if youre ultra tight! Raise once in a while and with anbad hand 56 off or suited and tru to take the pot and then show your hand specially if is a bluff! Then after a couple of times just play your a game not doing crazy thing like that! You will get paid big pots! Pots! Just look a tom dwan how he destroyed the big legends playing differently! RAISE WITH HANDS THEY WOULD NEVER EXPECT YOU TO RAISE WITH! Obviously dont play all night like this you will be in the red long term! But if you hit your hands you will get the big pots all the time!

Nate L 2016-12-28 09:31:10

Patience is what it's all about. You can't be a good poker player if you can't be content sitting there and waiting for good hands. I'm one of those players that is never bored sitting at the poker table and can always find something to keep myself patient and happy waiting for good hands.

Inferno2ss 2016-12-12 23:51:37

Some days I seem to run hot playing smaller crap hands 7-4 etc. I can hear people on the table whispering to each other that I am a lucky donkey etc.



What is your opinion about playing your hot streaks in position vs sitting around waiting for good hands that keep missing the few times you get them in 8 hours of play?



There are times I play for 8 hours and get maybe 10 hands better than A-10 the whole time and when I do the flop is always 9 high with 3 callers in the hand.


It is hard to isolate in the 1/2 games I play in as well, some times you raise $7 to $10 and get no callers, than raise it to $20 or $30 with 5 limpers in front of you and get 4 callers. Even with position it is not likely you are going to win without making a hand in that scenario.

shonuffharlem 2016-12-07 13:26:53

You forgot one thing that benefits tight play, you are taxed less. Tax = rake. Rake is a tax on winning a pot (since its a deduction from winnings). If you play a lot of pots, you lose more, and win a lot of small pots - but you are taxed on all those small pots, making it a net loss. If you only play tight and win big pots, your tax rate is reduced than a lot of smaller wins - because if you win a $300 pot with a $5 rake, your tax rate is way lower than winning $50 pots with $3 rakes 6 times ($18 tax vs. $5 tax!).

moneytaker 2016-11-30 14:02:37

pocket Js are a tough pair to play...but my personal opinion is you played wrong ... if this guy is a loose player he might have any Ax or Qx so you should fold after the flop cause he will never fold an A or a Q ...he showed you he was connected with the board with his bet sizing so you should fold mate.

moneytaker 2016-11-30 13:52:49

never ever slowplay pocket rockets ... all in preflop ...you played them well dude...you want to get called by AK KK QQ JJ TT or any other pocket pair and avoid get called by QK KJ JT 9Ts ...

moneytaker 2016-11-30 13:45:36

bet size tells everything ...when you flat call and you shove on the river or you over bet the streets ...yeap you got the set...when i started playing poker i had the same problem against sets ...now i know...then i had a problem with full's now i know to...then i had a problem hiding my sets or fulls ...no i can hide all my hands to the river

moneytaker 2016-11-30 13:40:56

you moron...you had KcQc and because you hit top pair you lost your money? Obviously someone would have the AK ...you are an ATM

Scott Armand Louis Roksa 2016-10-17 00:43:48

You can tell by opponents bet sizes.

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