Limit hold’em is fun. You can play with whatever amount of money you’d like, and never have that entire stack be in danger on a single hand. You have a set amount to bet, and know exactly how much you’re going to have to call, should your opponent wager.
Of course, the fixed bet also creates problems. You cannot protect your hand. If you have a hand you like, particularly when it’s a vulnerable hand, you want the opportunity to drive your opponents out with big bets! This is why limit strategy can differ so much from no-limit strategy.
Here’s what happened yesterday. I’m playing an 8-16 game, and it’s especially loose. A player open raises in middle position, and three players call him! I am on the button with 9s-8s, and absolutely love my holding. In a large field, I’d much rather look down at 9-8 than 9-9! I call, as does the big blind. We take the flop off six handed.
The flop comes down 10c-Jc-Qh. I’ve just flopped a straight! The big blind bets out. The original raiser makes it two bets. Each of the other three players calls two bets cold, and the action is on me. What the hell do I do now? I feel it’s very likely, though not assured, that I have the best hand. In a no-limit situation, I probably raise a $16 bet to something like $70, driving out weaker holdings, but allowing myself an opportunity to fold if I get moved in on. But this isn’t no-limit hold’em. This is LIMIT hold’em.
“Of course you should raise,” seems like a common response. “You have a straight, make players pay for drawing out on you!” Maybe… I, however, decide that calling is the better play, and simply smooth call, as does the big blind.
Why did I do this? I probably have the best hand, and allowed every player to continue to the turn having paid only $16. Well, look at my number of opponents: 5! Each of them called two bets on this flop. Think of all the turn cards that make me uncomfortable: 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, and any club. For me to feel as if I still hold the best hand on the turn, I need to avoid 27 cards! It makes no difference whether or not I make it an extra $8 on the flop, nobody holding a flush draw, straight draw, or two-pair is going to fold, whether it’s for $8 or another $24.
If my opponents had been fewer in number, perhaps only 2 or 3, I am definitely raising. It seems much more unlikely that I have to avoid every board pair, and every straight/flush draw in a smaller field. Against five opponents, however, each one of them interested in the flop, my hand shrinks in size immensely. In fact, I hate my hand! I wish I could fold the flop! Of course, that’s not going to happen…
So, I call, and decide that my aggressiveness will be determined by the turn card. I close my eyes and pray for that 3 of diamonds! If that does, in fact, come on the turn, I am going to be much more aggressive. If the actions comes around to me with multiple callers still, I am absolutely raising. In the scenario, there is only one more card to come, PLUS, I am now wagering big bets, hopefully driving out lesser hands. If you can get one or two draws to fold with a turn raise, you have greatly improved your chances of winning.
If, on the other hand, the Kh hearts comes on the turn, as it did, I can now fold having spent only $16 on the flop in a hand I am sure to lose. The big blind once again bets out, gets called by the raiser, and raised in another spot… I kiss my 9-8 goodbye and muck…Jacob "Jaymind" Westlin is a semi-professional limit hold'em player with a strong, sarcastic wit. Jaymind also frequently contributes to Minnesota Poker Magazine's monthly publication. Email Jaymind at firstname.lastname@example.org