If you play Limit Hold’em the same way you play No Limit Hold’em (or vice versa), you’ll lose money. The gameplay is the same in both versions of the game. You still get two hole cards, there’s still a three-card flop, a turn, and a river.
But other than gameplay details, they’re almost like two totally different games. In fact, you can be a great no limit player and a lousy limit player at the same time, and vice versa.
In this post, I look at some of the differences between Limit Hold’em and No Limit Hold’em.
1 – You Shouldn’t Limp in Limit, But It’s a Good Move in No Limit Games
If no one else has gotten involved in a pot in a Limit Hold’em game, it’s almost never correct to limp. But some of the best no limit players in the world often limp.
Some of the best no limit players in the world sometimes limp with premium hands like pocket aces but also limp with suited connectors like 8/9 suited.
Also, in limit, if you limp and someone else raises, the most aggressive move you can make is to re-raise. This only serves to increase the size of the pot. And for the rest of the hand, you’re out of position.
In no limit, though, you can limp in, get raised, and re-raise any amount you like up to the total number of chips in front of you. You can use this tactic to trap your opponents when you have a huge pair like aces.
In the poker book Super/System, Doyle Brunson suggests limping with pocket aces from early position in the hope that someone will raise you. When they do, you can re-raise all-in.
Finally, if you do some research into the concept of implied odds, it will become obvious why limping can make more sense in a no limit game. The potential of doubling through in no limit is much bigger than it is in a limit game.
2 – Drawing Hands Are Played Differently in No Limit Hold’em
In a limit game, you might get into the flop cheap with a big ace and a suited smaller card. Let’s say you have five opponents in the pot with you. On the flop, you get two more cards of the same suit, so you have four cards to a flush.
And in a limit game, if everyone checks, it would be the right move to bet this hand. If everyone folds, you win the pot. If not, you get more money in the pot with a good probability of hitting a big hand.
But in a no limit game, a lot of deceptive players might check-raise in this situation, which makes a bet from you unprofitable. Making a bet or a raise with a flush draw can turn into a bad calling situation in a heartbeat.
Your goal is to force your opponents to make hard decisions. Don’t put yourself in a situation where YOU have to make a hard decision.
3 – The Size of Your Chip Stack Makes More of a Difference in a No Limit Game
In the example above, you might be okay with committing to a hand like this with a short stack. You can go all in or make a small bet on the flop when everyone checks to you.
Either way, you have a good probably of doubling up here. If you get multiple callers, you might even triple the size of your stack.
I experienced this phenomenon just last night. I’d lost 80% of my initial stack in my first hour of play, but I went all in with a short stack and hit my flush on the river. Since I had two callers, I got paid off.
And I still had some money in my overall bankroll to try a different table if I lost my entire bankroll.
In fact, one of my opponents went all in with me three different times and lost every time before I left the table. Since he’d taken most of my chips earlier in the session, I felt great about this.
4 – It’s Harder to Protect Your Hand in a Limit Hold’em Game
If you get a big hand preflop in no limit, you can make bigger bets and raises to protect your hand. You can make these bets and raises both preflop and on the flop. And you should protect your hand.
Don’t let your opponents draw out on you unless they’re willing to pay for it. You protect your hand with a simple move, too. You just place big bets and make big raises.
Trapping opponents can be fun and satisfying, but protecting your hand in No Limit Hold’em should be an integral part of your strategy at the No Limit Hold’em table.
5 – Implied Odds Are More Important in No Limit Hold’em
I mentioned implied odds earlier, but here’s a more detailed explanation.
Since players can make bigger bets and raises at any point in a no limit Hold’em game, the implied odds are always better in No Limit Hold’em than they are in Limit Hold’em, where the sizes of the bets and raises are limited.
This applies to tournaments, too. Many players are super tight in the early rounds of a no limit tournament, but keep in mind that you can see a lot of cheap flops with the intention of doubling your stack when you hit.
6 – Math Is Arguably More Important in Limit Hold’em Than in No Limit Hold’em
If you can’t calculate implied odds and pot odds accurately in limit Hold’em, you’re in trouble. On the other hand, that math is still important in no limit, but it’s arguably less important than reading other players and mixing up your play.
For example, in a no limit game, it’s probably a good idea to fold even an open straight draw in a no limit game. If you do play a drawing hand like that in no limit, it’s a good idea to try to steal the pot early with it by semi-bluffing.
On the other hand, because of the limited amount of exposure you have to your bankroll in a limit game, it makes sense to call down to the river with an open straight draw, but only if you have multiple other players in the hand.
The main thing to remember in Limit Hold’em is that you’ll fold less often. This is because raises increase the cost to you to play linearly in Limit Hold’em.
In No Limit Hold’em, the risk increases exponentially because of the much larger bets and raises you’ll face in a no limit game.
7 – Lower Value Starting Hands Increase in Value in a Limit Game
In a No Limit game, preflop, the big pairs are important because of the potential to get so much money in the pot with the best of it. Most pots in a no limit game are fought out between two or three players.
In limit Hold’em, though, it’s cheaper to get into the flop and easier to get out of the hand, so you’ll see more players per pot.
This means that it makes sense to play drawing hands more often. It’s cheap to get in, and since you have multiple opponents putting money into the pot, you’ll be more likely to get paid off when your hand hits.
Suited connectors are a better deal for you in Limit Hold’em than they are in No Limit Hold’em, unless you can get into the pot dirt cheap before the flop with them. And that’s unusual in no limit.
When it comes to playing real money Texas holdem, limit and no limit are two entirely different games, even though the mechanics of play are basically the same.
The strategic adjustments you need to make to succeed at one over the other are dramatic and shouldn’t be underestimated.
You can find books that cover Limit Hold’em as a separate subject from No Limit Hold’em.
You should read such books and put into practice what you’ve learned from them.