Limit Hold'em - Tightening Up
by Jason Kirk  

When relatively new players who are most familiar with no-limit hold'em sit down at a limit hold'em table, the game can sometimes confuse them. Those players who have been successful playing a loose game at low-level no-limit hold'em are at the biggest risk when they sit a limit hold'em table. They get fooled into playing just as loosely in limit as they would in no-limit because the amount they can lose is capped, and then they find themselves dropping full buy-ins when their opponents don't fold. These players never stop to think that the amount you can win on any given hand is just as limited as the amount you can lose - and over time your losses will be greater than your wins.

Because the key to winning at limit hold'em is to make the right decision consistently over time, the best way to start winning is to tighten up your pre-flop hand selection so you are less likely than your opponents to mistakes after the flop comes. If you're just starting to play limit hold'em and you're getting involved with over 30% of your starting hands you may get lucky here and there, but chances are you won't win consistently. Getting your percentage down is easy when you cut out the hands with the lowest expected value, or EV, a measure of how much you're likely to win if you repeat the same bet over time.

Off-suit aces and off-suit kings, are some of the hands that can get you in the most trouble. If these hands flop top pair with the A or K they will be dominated a good percentage of the time. If they pair their side card on the flop, at best they've usually hit middle pair and will have to draw out in order to win the hand. The best advice is simply to toss hands like A-8 and K-T every time you see them. If you find yourself tempted to play these hands anyway, try to do so only when you're in position and several other players have come into the pot in front of you so you'll have good pot odds if you hit a big hand. If you don't flop two pair or trips with an uncoordinated board, let go - otherwise you'll lose too much money in the long run to make playing these hands even marginally profitable.

Low suited connectors like 6-5 and 3-2 are just as much trouble as the off-suit aces and kings. They can look just as inviting as the higher suited connectors, but they're much more difficult to play after the flop because they're prone to being out-drawn. Imagine, for instance, that you flop a flush with 5-4 suited in position with four other players in an unraised pot. It's likely that you have the best hand right now, but anyone with the A, K, or Q of spades is probably going to come along when you bet out. If you flop a straight in the same pot with the same cards, the chances of a single card on the turn or river giving someone else a higher straight are decent because there was no preflop raise. In both of these cases anyone who flops a set can always hit a full house if the board pairs. There are just too many ways to lose with low suited connectors to make them worth playing in most circumstances.

Finally, the low offsuit Broadway starting hands can almost always be safely eliminated from the range of hands you're willing to play. Hands like Q-J, Q-T, and J-T are great when they manage to hit a straight or an open-ended draw on a rainbow board, but the chances of finding yourself involved in less favorable situations on the flop are much greater. Much like the off-suit aces and kings, the danger of being dominated when you hit top pair is too great. Even if you hit two pair, you're still in danger of being out-drawn by a hand that had you dominated before the flop, or by two suited cards if the board doesn't have three different suits.

All of these hands can look attractive to new limit hold'em players, but the math of playing them will outrun their beauty over time. The good news is that the only requirement for eliminating these hands from your repertoire is willpower. If you let EV guide your decisions these hands will be easy to toss, and the bets you would have lost will be saved so you can get them in the pot in more favorable situations.  

Full Tilt Poker Logo
Carbon Poker
100% up to $600
Doyles Room Logo
Aced Poker
150% up to $750
BetUS Logo
PDC Poker
100% up to $600