Debunking the 2 Biggest Myths of Limit Holdem Poker

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Most No-Limit players have a raging hatred of anything Limit. This hatred is typically unfounded, based on half-truths, myths and misconceptions.

The funny part about these haters? Most of them have never actually played Limit Holdem. They might have sat for a session or two but they've never spent the hours grinding the game, fine-tuning their strategy.

They don't understand the subtleties and nuances that have made Limit poker the cornerstone of the poker world since its inception. For a quick refresher on the Rules of Limit Hold'em, check our page here:

Myth #1: Aces Always Lose in Limit Poker

This is the No. 1 complaint from most haters making it the No. 1 Limit Holdem poker myth.

It's honestly tiring to hear players say "You can't protect your hand," "Aces are no good, you might as well just muck them," or "Aces are only good heads-up."

The first issue to address is the misconception that aces are only good if heads-up. Take a look at this chart:

Hand Hand %
A A 28.4
A K 9.6
K K 9.2
Q Q 8.5
6 6 8
A Q 10.7
7 8 15.5
6 4 10

***

A A 28.4

***

This is with eight players in the pot holding better-than-random hands - in fact this selection has your opponents holding what is possibly the worst combination of hands for you to see.

You have no redraw if someone flops a set (and you have to dodge eight cards for that); you're up against two suited hands and cards with straight potential.

If you put A A up against nine random hands (all players going to the river no matter what), A A will win around 31% of the time (this number is calculated by PokerStove with a sample of over 1 million hands run).

You're getting 8-1 on your money while winning one out of three pots.

In other words: You play this hand three times, each time all hands going to the river, all putting in equal money. Each hand costs every player $100 from deal to showdown.

  • You play three times ($100 X 3) you've invested a total of $300
  • Each of those three times the pot is $1,000 ($100 x 10 players)
  • You lose twice (Gross $0), and win once (Gross $1,000)
  • $1,000 (Gross) - $300 (Investment) = $700 (Net Profit)

This equation was simplified for this example. 31% X 3 = 93%. This doesn't account for the missing 7%, or any of the hands folding. The example is purely to get across the message of how strong aces actually are in a multiway pot.

As the example suggests, aces may very well lose more frequently than they win in a Limit game. The more players in the pot, the less likely the aces are to hold up (for example, if you have A A against only three random hands, the chances of aces winning will be close to 64%).

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How to Calculate Odds in Limit Holdem

What all the haters need to appreciate is the excessive odds you will be offered in a Limit game. You will lose more frequently, but you will make a lot of money in the process.

Brandon Adams
When you have aces, pump the pot.

In No-Limit you can protect your A A to give it a much higher win/loss ratio, but the actual monetary value of the hand can go down. By protecting your A A in No-Limit, you're lowering the total pot odds, by removing almost exclusively the hands with the least chance of beating you.

Not only that, but when a player with a random hand beats your A A in No-Limit, they have the ability to take your whole stack. In Limit, the random hand you're losing to is unable to skew the odds enough to lower the value of pocket aces.

Because No-Limit is such a situation-specific game, there is no way to say that A A is more or less profitable than in a Limit game, but that's not the argument here.

Pocket Aces Make Money in Limit Holdem

To sum it up, and bust the myth wide open, pocket aces can and will make you good money in Limit poker, regardless of the number of opponents in the hand.

In part two we'll look at why it is actually possible to bluff in Limit, debunking once and for all the myth that "bluffing is impossible in Limit Hold'em."

Limit Myth #2: You Can't Bluff in Limit Hold'em

I'm not sure how this myth is still so widely believed. Poker began as Limit and bluffing has been part of poker since its inception.

No matter what betting format you're playing, whether it be Limit, Pot-Limit or No-Limit, bluffing always has been, and always will be, an integral part of the game.

Believe it or not, the myth that Limit isn't conducive to betting came to be mostly thanks to Chris Moneymaker. The Moneymaker-driven poker boom brought thousands of new players into the game, the vast majority of those stepping directly into the No-Limit forum.

Until very recently in the history of poker No-Limit Hold'em was a very rarely played game.

Chris Moneymaker

One of the traits of No-Limit is that it provides opportunities for an amateur to make "dark tunnel" or "donk" bluffs. At any time, an amateur can drop all their chips across the line in a bluff for the pot.

This is called a donk bluff because only donkeys make it. They have no feel for the texture of the board, no reads on their opponents, no idea of their opponents reads' on them and no inkling of what their table image truly is.

These bluffs are often successful, simply because of the lack of attractive odds. Even if a pro feels that the amateur is bluffing, calling a $500 bet into a $35 pot just seems like a poor idea. The pro has no problem cutting their small losses and waiting for a better spot to get the money in.

In Limit, the donk bluff will almost never work. With the bluff being $10 into a $35 pot, the pro can easily call on a read that the amateur is running a bluff. The risk versus reward equation of it being a profitable call is favorable.

So the idea that you can't bluff in Limit isn't exactly false, but it only scratches the surface of the truth.

Bluffing at Limit requires lining up all of the elements in the poker bluff equation flawlessly. You must align the texture of the board, your image, the perception of your hand and the perception of your read on your opponents' hand perfectly.

If any one of these elements is askew, there will be enough reasonable doubt for the player to call.

Here's an example:

The board:        

Opponent's hand:    

Your hand:    

Situation: Your opponent raised pre-flop; you called on the button going to the flop heads-up. On the flop he bet and you called. On the turn he bet again and you raised him. Action is on him.

Opponent's thought process: The texture of the board is horrible for his hand. Anyone holding a three or any pocket pair has him beat. He can't beat anything but a bluff in this hand.

He has been playing with you for five hours and has a very good idea of how you play. He knows you're a solid player who plays solid hands, and that you're very tight and unlikely to be caught playing with weak holdings.

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So far all the elements are lining up but there are still a couple of things that just don't make sense.

Tom Dwan

First of all, you called a raise pre-flop - there's no way he can put you on any hand with a three in it. Even with ace-three chances are you fold on the flop, being as tight as you are.

This means he only loses if you have a pocket pair. Since you didn't three-bet pre-flop he doesn't believe you have AA, KK, QQ or JJ. So the only hands he can put you on that he loses to are 77-88-99-TT or a set.

There's a good chance you'll raise any of those on the flop. Although he can't be sure that he's ahead he's getting 6-1 on his money to make this call.

You only have to be bluffing here once out of every six times for this call to be profitable. Given his doubt, even though it's scant, the doubt plus the odds makes calling here an easy decision for him.

If, on the other hand, you had the table image of a player playing any two cards, your opponent now has to add all two pairs and straights into your range.

In this scenario the elements are all lined up: if he calls the turn and doesn't improve on the river, there is a chance that another bet will take it down for you.

Bluffing Still Big Part of Limit Holdem

Bluffing in Limit is a huge part of the game. It's just a very advanced part of the game that requires a large amount of experience and skill to understand, evaluate and manipulate the elements and your opponents' reads of them.

As a hater, the next time you're about to say how much you hate Limit, or how Limit is just a big game of bingo, think about this and save yourself from looking like a fool.

Just say that Limit is probably not the best poker game for you. There's nothing wrong with only wanting to play No-Limit; just make sure you've made that choice for valid reasons.

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Raen 2013-01-17 11:23:13

...in fact, you've got it exactly wrong. Most draws fail. When you've got a made hand against a drawing one, provided you're sure that's what it is, every chip put into the pot is EV to you. The way you make money at limit is drawing money out from people who are getting pot odds while you've got a made hand, and indeed aces are at the top of the list.

Raen 2012-08-08 23:39:43

pp#1: If you can win 31% of the time against 9 random limpers checkinga at every street, you can improve that if you're playing even remotely competent poker. Seeing your aces all the way to the river every time, yes, you'll lose more than you'll win. All you've illustrated is that "playing it careful" with bullets is exactly as stupid an idea as everyone already knew.

pp#1 2012-07-22 15:43:20

Follow up Experiment.

Grab a deck of cards and give yourself Aces.
Then shuffle the deck and deal 3 hands face up. Put an even stack of chips in front of all 4 hands.
Run a Hold 'Em board and give one chip from each hand to the winner. Repeat.
Watch how often and how much you lose against the random hands with Aces.

pp#1 2012-07-22 15:34:38

What a rediculous article. OMG where to begin? Ok let's start with when the last time was hI went 10 handed all the way to the river in a ring game....... um, oh ya, NEVER!!! In Limit Hold 'Em, generally you get 4 to 5 preflop max and 2-3 make it to the river after the flop. Every time, these callers are the hands that are statisically higher to beat your Aces, or, the top end of the author's range listed above. The specific hands will change depending on the flop but the number of them calling you will always be the same, meaning that in pure numbers, you are always up against the nine random hands, but only getting called by the ones with a chance to outdraw you.
Let's do the author's math using what actually happens in the real world. Assuming you are going to follow the theory and see your Aces all the way to the river no matter what ( you need to for the math to work. If you don't, you are throwing away your wins when you river a bigger full house against a made smaller one and a higher set against a flopped set ) then the author is right on one count. You will win 31% of the time against these random hands. The problem lies with which hands are calling you and getting to the river. The one pair good kicker, draw hands with overs and made sets and 2 pairs.
Doing the math, you raise and get 4 callers ( pot is 2.5 Big Bets ) On the flop you bet and get 2 callers ( pot is 4 BB's ) turn and river; let's play it careful since there are draws and scare cards on most boards and just bet, call call on both streets. The pots get to 10 BB's total and you have invested 3 1/2 BB's. In 5/10 Limit, you have put in $35/hand or $350 in 10 hands. Each pot is $100 meaning you win $300 ( $105 of which was yours to begin with ) giving you a net $195 profit and a loss $35 x 7 or $245 in the other 7 hands.
Although the math makes you a 6/5 favourite to win hands with Aces, you are actually down $50, or 5 BB's playing 10 hands with Aces. The real world math proves and confirms the No Limit players view that Aces are not worth playing in Limit.
To win real money in Limit you need to play hands that take down large pots against made hands with little to no possibility of improving. Aces is the top of that heap.

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