Fixed Limit Texas Hold'em poker is beatable but can prove tricky because you can't just call down hands due to pot odds. Many players often lack discipline (tightness) or aggression. And a tight-aggressive style is generally the most profitable, especially in intermediate-strong games. Therefore, we're assuming this style of play throughout this poker guide.
We'll talk about the few starting hands you can use to command many pots and positional advantage. Then ideal Limit Texas Hold'em strategy for pre-flop and post-flop play. As this is where most beginner/intermediate players make their biggest mistakes.
What is Limit Poker?
Limit poker, like Limit Texas Holdem, is a poker variation with a specific poker rule that limits the amount of bets player can make. In the early days of poker, from dusty saloons to riverboat casinos, almost every poker game was played with fixed betting limits. Now-a-days limit poker, or fixed limit poker, is still popular, but next to it we have had no-limit variant since 1970s where it is possible to bet every chip at all times. In limit poker the bet amount is fixed but also the number players can raise in one round. Due these rules, limit poker strategy is not based on bluff as much as no-limit.
Most popular fixed limit poker games are Limit Texas Holdem and Pot-limit Omaha. In this article we focus on Limit Texas Holdem and how to play it. Once you learn what the “limit” in poker means and how it works, you know how to play any limit poker games out there.
Limit Texas Hold'em Rules
Limit Texas Holdem rules use standard poker hand rankings with Royal Flush as the best hand. The game is played with 52 cards, no jokers, and a minimum of 2 players. What makes Limit Texas Holdem unique are the two specific poker rules that give this game its patience demanding nature and reduce the power of the bluff. These two rules are:
- Every player can only bet a fixed amount to the pot in one round.
- Number of raises player can make in one round are limited
Limit Hold'em Poker Gameplay
In limit holdem poker, the very first thing you have to do is decide on the stakes in which you're about to play. If you're playing a tournament the stakes will start very small and gradually increase; if you're playing a cash game, the stakes will stay constant.
For this example, let's say you're playing a $2/$4 cash game. This means that in this game the lower fixed limit is $2 while the higher fixed limit is $4.
Limit Hold'em poker functions with a rotating dealer. This means regardless of who's actually dealing the cards, the dealer in the game is the player with the plastic "Dealer" button in front of them.
Putting Out the Blinds
Once you have a dealer the player to the left of the dealer must put the small blind out. The small blind is a forced bet equal to half of the smaller limit.
In our $2/$4 game the small blind would put out $1. (If you're playing a limit in which half would not be an even-dollar amount, such as $5/$10, the small blind is typically rounded down, making it $2.)
The player to the left of the small blind must place the big blind. The big blind is equal to the full amount of the smaller limit; in our example here the big blind will be $2.
Limit Holdem - The Deal
The cards are dealt clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the button (the small blind) and ending with the player who is acting as dealer (the button).
Each player receives two hole cards, which for now remain face down on the table.
The First Round of Betting in Limit Texas Holdem
After the last card is dealt the action starts with the player seated to the left of the big blind. This player has the option to call (match the amount of the big blind, or the smaller limit), fold (throw away their cards) or raise.
A raise in limit poker is always equal to the total of the previous bet, plus the addition of the current governing limit.
In this scenario, the player chooses to raise. This means they put in a total of $4 ($2 to call the current bet of the big blind and $2 to raise the amount of the smaller limit).
The action now continues clockwise around the table with each player acting on the same options: call, fold or raise.
When the action meets the small blind the amount of money they've already put into the pot is counted toward the total of their call or raise.
If they choose to fold, that money is lost to the pot.
The big blind has the same option as the small blind here. If no player would have raised, the big blind would have been the only player with a different set of options.
Since (assuming no raise was made) the current bet was $2, which the big blind had already bet before the deal, they had the option to check (continue to the next street without putting any more chips into play) or to raise.
In poker, a betting round ends when every player has had the option to play, and every player has the same amount of chips bet (or has folded).
(Note: There is an additional rule on raising. In Limit Hold'em there is a "cap," meaning there can only be one bet and three raises in any single betting round [unless there are only two players remaining in the hand]. This means once there has been a bet and three raises, no player is allowed to raise any further; they can only call or fold.)
Once the first round of betting is complete the dealer deals the flop. To do so, they place one card face down on the table (this card is known as the "burn card"), followed by three cards face up. Each player looks at the flop and uses it to evaluate the strength of their current holdings.
The betting in this second betting round is identical to that in the first, with one small exception. The first player to act now has the choice to check (there is no bet, so calling no bet is called "checking") or to bet (they can bet the lower limit of $2). If they check, the next player is faced with the very same options.
In Limit Hold’em every bet counts, and as soon as someone bets, the players' available options become to call, raise or fold. As soon as everyone has acted and everyone has the same amount of money bet, the betting round is over.
The Turn, River and Showdown
Dealing the turn is similar to the flop, as the dealer deals one card face down, followed by one card face up. This card is followed by the third betting round.
The turn and river play the very same as did the flop, with only one difference. The betting limit on the final two betting rounds uses the higher limit, making each bet and raise cost $4.
Once the third betting round is completed the river is dealt exactly as the turn was. After the river is dealt the fourth, and final, betting round is run. Upon completion of this betting round, the remaining players in the hand enter the showdown.
The showdown is simple - each player shows their hand, and the best hand wins the pot. If you dont know which hand won you can use our calculator to get the answer.
10 Key Strategy Tips How to Win in Limit Texas Hold'em
- Play only premium starting hands:
In a regular game you should see no more than 20-25% of the flops.
- Table selection:
Beware of tight/aggressive tables (low profit, high volatility) and avoid strong players that can 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.
- Pot odds while drawing:
Make sure to have pot odds when you are drawing. You should only call a bet if the pot justifies the call.
- Analyze your opponents' playing styles:
Ask yourself: What kind of hands do they raise or re-raise with? Do they call all the way with weaker hands? How do they play pocket pairs? How about draws? What kinds of hands do they call/raise with from early position? What type of hands do they check-raise with?
- Bet or raise when warranted - don't 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 don't want to give any free cards.
- Always have a good kicker:
You should have a good 'second' card (kicker) because weak kickers create second-best hands and can be expensive long-term.
- Steal pots in late position:
When few players are in and it checks around to you, you can possibly take the pot in last or late position. Only do this if it looks as though the board didn't benefit anyone.
- Vary your play:
Occasionally limp on "raising hands" and bet/raise on some "calling hands". Do this both pre- and post-flop to avoid becoming predictable.
- Fold in time:
You'll save money if you fold when you should. Don't draw when you know you're beat and the pot doesn't warrant a call.
- Rarely bluff:
You must be quite sure that your opponents are weak when you attempt to bluff.
9 Common Mistakes in Limit Texas Hold'em
- Playing too many starting hands (see Starting Hand Guide).
- Calling too much with trap hands (see How not to Suck at Poker).
- Not folding modest hands like top pair weak kicker or middle pair.
- Not raising premium hands, allowing too many drawing hands in on the flop.
- Drawing for cards that only give you a second-best hand. (Know Your Odds)
- Only minding your game and not that of your opponent/s.
- Not being aggressive enough on the flop and turn to protect your hand) (see Check-Raise).
- Calling all the way to the river without proper pot odds.
- Bad table limit selection or insufficient bankroll - You need approx. 300x the big bet for optimal play).
Limit Holdem Strategy: Trap Hands
A very common mistake for beginner/intermediate limit holdem 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.
Limit Holdem Strategy in Pre-Flop
- 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.
How to Play Flush Draws in Limit Hold'em
Flush draws are some of the strongest draws you can have on the flop.
They play easily and can result in winning you big pots. When you flop a flush draw in Limit Texas Hold'em, it's either going to be on a two-suited or three-suited flop. The way to play the flush draw will depend on this.
Since there are 13 cards of each suit you will always have nine outs to make your flush when you have flopped a flush draw. This is approximately 2-1 (35%) against improving by the river. Your hand is stronger if you have additional draws like a pair, a straight draw, overcards and so forth.
For example, if you hold K ,Q and the flop comes J ,10 ,2 , giving you a straight flush draw and two overcards, you will have 21 cards that might win the pot for you. You will have about a 78% (54% for a straight/flush and 28% for hitting one of your overcards) chance of hitting at least a pair on the turn and river combined. Compare this to holding 8 ,7 on a flop with the A ,K ,9 , when you most likely have only 9 outs (34%) that will win the pot for you.
To Draw or Not Draw in Limit Holdem?
When you flop a flush draw on a two-suited flop, you are almost always getting correct pot odds to draw to the flush. There are, however, a few exceptions to consider:
- Heads-up in an unraised pot and all you have is the flush draw. This might be a good spot to semi-bluff, but don't check-call to the river.
- If there's a paired board with heavy action on the flop. Someone's likely to have trips and you may lose to a full house even with a flush.
- You flop a small flush draw and there's lots of flop action. You might be drawing dead to a bigger flush draw. This is one of the reasons to play small suited connectors in late position.
Position and Number of Players
When there are three or more players in the hand, you usually want to keep as many players in on the flop as possible. You want to ensure that you win a big pot if you hit your hand. This means checking and calling if acting first, unless you are the pre-flop raiser and have some chance of winning the pot by betting out.
An example of this might be when you hold A-Ks and the flop comes with three low cards, giving you the nut flush draw with two overcards. If you are sitting in late position and there is a bet from an early position player with several callers in between, it is correct to raise. You do this to build the pot when you are only 2-1 against making your flush. This raise might also give you a chance to take a free card if they all check to you on the turn.
Against one or two opponents you can try to win the pot with a semi-bluff. If you feel there is a chance you can win the pot by betting or raising, it is correct to do so. If you have overcards to go with the flush draw, you should bet or raise to force out hands that could make two pair or a pair with a better kicker than yours.
If the flop is three-suited you should generally just draw for the flush, particularly when you are drawing to the nut or second nut flush. If your hand has additional values like a pair and/or a straight draw, you might draw for a lower flush. It is usually hard to get action on these types of flops because players will play less aggressively unless they too have a very strong hand, like a set or two pair.
Raising and trying for free cards is less likely to succeed because your opponents will be more apt to protect their made hands. This type of draw also has less value because it is so obvious that someone will hold a flush when a fourth suited card hits. This means that players won't give action unless the board stays three-suited. The time to play very aggressively in limit holdem is when you hold AA or KK and have the flush draw to go with the hand.
Limit Hold'em FAQs
What is Limit Holdem?Limit Holdem is a poker card game with a specific rules that limit the amount and how often players can bet. In Limit Holdem (Fixed Limit Texas Holdem) you can only bet maximum the fixed big blind and raise the amount of the total pot.
What's the difference between Limit Hold'em vs No limit?The main difference is that in Limit Hold'em, bets/raises pre- and post-flop must be equal to the big blind. This is the 'small bet'. Meanwhile, in No Limit, you can bet/raise any amount over minimum bet (blind amount) all the way up to all-in (all your chips). This bet limit will in turn bring about more Limit Hold'em strategy differences. Like not doubling up by winning coin flips / all-ins. And obviously seeing more flops because of this reason.
How to play Limit Hold'em poker?Playing Limit Hold'em poker cash games is similar to NO Limit with a few key differences. Fore example, you can't raise all-in or above the max bet amount. In limit hold'em poker players can only bet a fixed bet size at the time based on small blind, big blind and previous bet played.
Is Limit Hold'em Poker profitable?Both No Limit and Limit Hold'em can be profitable. Especially since in Fixed Limit Hold'em it's harder to lose your entire stack at one go. You also see more flops and can value bet more often.
What are the top Limit Hold'em rules?Top rules are that you need to bet the small amount - as much as the blind, and cannot raise more than that. Hence, no all-ins (unless your stack is equal to the small bet). A tight-aggressive play is your best strategy here. You should base your calls largely on pot odds, aside from reading opponents and being disciplined.
What is the best Limit Hold'em strategy?The best Limit Hold'em strategy is to adopt a tight-aggressive style.
Start with premium hands and see only 20-25% of flops.
Always calculate your pot odds when drawing, and fold in time when you're beat.
Bet/raise with the best hand - don't just call.
You can steal more pots in position, and preferably play your suited connectors here.
Try not to bluff too much. Because the Limit Hold'em structure invites lots of draws and it may be hard to get a better hand to fold.