Why Play Limit Poker
Sept 10, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

Why Bother?

I read a recent forum post where somebody asked, "Why bother playing limit poker?" It's true, in limit games players seem to draw out more easily and more often. The excitement of moving all-in is missing in action. This is definitely not the game people watch on television. If you're looking for a way to build the bankroll while working on your poker fundamentals, though, some would say there's no better way than plying the fishy waters of the limit poker tables. Whether your prefer Omaha, the less-exotic hold'em, or the classic seven-card stud, there are enough juicy limit games on the net to get anyone started - here's a primer on learning to enjoy TV poker's more humble cousin.

Understand what you're getting into

The first rule of playing limit poker is that it is not no-limit poker. That's worth saying so I'll repeat it in bold letters. Limit poker is not no-limit poker. Memorize that. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, you're in the wrong place. What's more, you will probably have to be change your idea of what a good hand is in order to play a solid game. The best way to do that is to read a book that deals strictly with limit poker - Small Stakes Hold'em by Ed Miller, for instance, is a great place for hold'em players to start. Of course, it doesn't hurt at all to read foundation books like The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky.

Because you have to play so many hands in limit to win significant money, be prepared for longer upswings and downswings than you'd most likely see play big bet poker. Also know that low-limit games can be brutal to people who don't deal well with their monsters being cracked by fish repeating, "But they were suited!" You absolutely will have days where this is all that happens to you. The silver lining is that you'll have days where four people cap the betting every street on weak draws against your flopped monsters and miss over and over, paying you off with huge pots every time. Limit can be frustrating if you want it to be something it's not. Come to peace with the game's nature and there are rewards to be reaped.

Be ready to do some homework

Bankrolls aren't built off limit poker in a weekend. Because the only profitable players are the ones who make many correct decisions over time, you won't be going on any poker cruises right away. If you study the game and sit at the table often, though, chances are you'll play somewhere near break-even poker. One great way to practice with little risk is to get a simulator such as Poker Academy Pro 2.0. If you decide you'd rather have a trial by fire, make absolutely sure you purchase a database program like Poker Tracker that can keep track of your play and help you analyze your hand histories. If you work on finding out where you're losing money, you'll find the holes in your game and quickly plug them. The Poker Tracker Guide is an excellent resource for learning to pinpoint your own mistakes and exploit those of your opponents. Once you start doing these two things, you'll see your bankroll start to increase.

Stay within your bankroll

When I say you'll see the bankroll start to increase, I'm implying that will be the case as long as you play within your means. Recommendations vary but in general you'll want to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250-300 big bets (BB) in your bankroll when you begin playing, e.g. $2000-2400 to play 4-8 limit hold'em. A bankroll that large should help you to weather the inevitable swings you'll experience, and that's the key to surviving in limit poker. So, when should you move up in levels? Just because your bankroll is at a certain level doesn't necessarily mean you're ready. Different levels play, well, differently. Because of that it's important to know where you're going and where you've been.

If you haven't logged around 10,000 hands at your current level, you may have an unrealistic view of your performance. If your bankroll is short of the recommended number of BBs and you absolutely can't wait to hit the 10,000 hand threshold, try playing one table a day of the next higher limit at some point. Don't stay too long at first. Study the hands you play to find holes in your game. If you find you're adjusting well to the different levels of aggression and trickiness, lengthen your sessions as time goes by. If not, don't be embarrassed to step back down and build that bankroll a little larger at a game you know you can beat.


For people who ask why they should bother with limit poker, the answer is simple: the money. There are millions of dollars in play on limit poker tables every minute of the day, and it's not very hard to get a share of it yourself if you put in some effort. It may not be TV poker, but it certainly pays. If you don't need to be on the edge of your seat for every hand you play, and you're willing to put in the hours, limit poker can be a great way to build a bankroll.

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