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No Limit Hold'em:
Finding Your Game:
Poker Strategy - Intro to No-Limit Texas Hold'em
No-Limit Hold'em is a game of general strategy, basic tactical skills useful in all forms of poker, and a game of intense psychology.
Let's first talk basic strategy. When you enter a No-Limit ring game, you need to know two things before you can expect to really roll with it:
- Who are my opponents?
- How many hands go to a showdown?
Types of opponents
Generally, people speak of four types of players: tight-passive, tight-aggressive, loose-passive, loose-aggressive. The first modifier (tight or loose) characterizes the number of hands the person plays while the second (passive or aggressive) describes the player's betting style. I think for No-Limit Hold'em, loose-aggressive should be divided into two parts: action-seekers and solid players. Let's go through each of these types of players.
Tight-passives: These people do fine in a Limit game, but they won't make much in a No-Limit game. The only time these people will win is when they pick off bluffs; otherwise they won't get the value out of their hands that they should. When matched against these players:
- Bluff at the flop
Put in a raise preflop and bet at the flop no matter what calls.
- Fold when they
represent a hand.
If they bet a little, they're probably on a draw. So stick with your hand if you got something. If they bet a lot, they got something good.
- Take advantage of
Don't go wild with your bluffs though. Fold preflop when you have nothing. But raise when you have a good hand and go for the kill at the flop. If you miss the kill, give up. But when you have something, milk him for everything it is worth.
Essentially, you can quickly tame these players into being frequent calling stations or folding stations. And if he is making money against you while being a calling or folding station, you are doing something drastically wrong. These players are common, and you will certainly play against quite a few of them.
Loose-passives: They have to hope that people continually bluff into them because these people will call frequently with the second best hand. Calling with the second best hand is a recipe for disaster at No-Limit. You don't see too many of these loose-passive players at No-Limit games because they lose so quickly and run to Limit games.
Maniac loose-aggressive: These guys will buy a fair share of pots, but then will get themselves trapped by another aggressive player and will lose their stacks in one or two hands. What separates these from good loose-aggressives is that they lack discipline. They love the action of No-Limit so much that they get themselves trapped too easily. These players are even rarer than loose-passives in my experience.
Strong loose-aggressive: These guys seem like they are horrible maniacs, but in reality, they are a very dangerous form of player. These guys will certainly lose a lot of money in pots, but they also will buy a lot of pots and will win huge ones. The way these types of players win is mainly by getting a good read on the opponent and then making a well-timed bet.
My main tactic against these players is to trap them in their own game. I generally try to avoid having the pot escalate too much preflop unless I have Aces or Kings, and I generally try to not let them buy every pot. In other words, when I put in the raise preflop, I'll still often make a stab at the pot at the flop.
More importantly though, the way I beat these guys is to take them down at one big pot. Since these guys will play a lot of hands, especially shorthanded, they'll often play hands that lend themselves to be second best hands. Once I catch them in this situation, I just have to make sure I don't let them go too easily.
Tight-aggressive: This is my style and the style and the strategy that I'll teach. The tight-aggressive's main problems are that he may get chased out of a lot of flops early and that he may be too easily read. If I were to play against a clone of myself, I would hope to trickle him down bit by bit and hope to throw him off balance by doing so.
This is a critical concept in No-Limit. Since No-Limit lends itself to bluffing, one can make a lot of money simply by stealing pots if your opponents are very passive. However, this strategy obviously fails if everyone shows you down to the river!
Generally, before I play in a high-stakes game, I pay attention to the number of hands going to showdowns. This is really easy to do on the internet because you don't even need to watch the game. You just leave the window open, go eat a snack, go to the bathroom, whatever. Come back twenty minutes later and see what sort of game you are about to dive in. All you have to do is scroll through the chat box and see how many hands went to showdowns and how big the pots tend to get.
All things being equal, the more showdowns the better. While it is impossible to bluff if everyone will call you down, you stand to make a lot more money if people will call you with tenuous holdings. The best way to make money at no-limit games is to simply sell your hand when you have it. If people tend to call down a lot, you will be able to extract a lot of money from about pot-sized bets or more when you hit a premium holding (such as a flush or set).
Types of Hands to Play
The types of hands you play in No-Limit differ than those in Limit. This is because of implied odds. Hands like K Q go down in value because they cannot withstand much pressure. Even if you hit a K with this type of hand, you still may be losing to a set, two pair, AK, or may lose eventually to a draw. Thus, with big cards, you generally want to take down the pot at the flop. The exception to this is if you think you have someone outkicked (say AK vs. KJ with a K on the board), or if you hit the flop hard (like KK3 when you hold AK). In these cases, you generally want to extract money from your opponent bit by bit.
The types of hands that go up in value or ones that you can bet with confidence: pocket pairs and suited connectors (strong draws in general). Pocket pairs do well because they are sneaky and can often withhold pressure. With pocket pairs, you can bet hard if you have a set or an overpair, which are hands that people generally don't expect. Suited connectors go up in value for several reasons. First, if the flop comes weird, you generally will be paid off.
You'll get paid off a lot more on this flop than you would lose to the AK if the flop were A 7 2.
Furthermore, you can take down pots and disguise your hand with semi-bluffing.
People will probably put you on a Jack if you bet at this flop. They will then either fold or call. You'll either take down the pot at the flop, or you'll be drawing to a hand that people don't expect. If the final board is J 5 4 8 A, and your opponent holds A J, expect a huge reward.
How to Bet
Many novice No-Limit players simply don't know how much to bet. Well, the concept is simple. You want extract as much money from people who have made hands but are probably losing to you, you want to punish draws, but at the same time you don't want to be trapping yourself.
Let's say you are pretty sure he doesn't have JT. You want to put in about pot-size bets here. Reason: He either has a straight draw or a pair of Aces. If he has a straight, you don't want him to draw on the cheap. If he has pair of Aces, he probably won't let go of them so take as much as you can.
Bet into this flop. But don't bet too much, just enough to make people fold if they don't have an Ace but enough to maybe make an AQ just freeze up and call. A 1/2 pot-size bet would be good. This way you draw relatively cheaply and punish if you hit your flush.
This relates back to the showdown percentage. More showdowns means bluffing works less. If you are in a game with a lot of showdowns (typical of lower limits), cut down on bluffing and punish them when you have the boss hand.