No Limit Poker Strategy That Works
In a game of no-limit poker, also called NL, a player in a hand can actually bet every single chip in their stack at any time during the hand – when the action is on them, of course. So, if you have a pair of Kings pre-flop, in the small blind, but three people have come into the hand before you, one of whom has raised, a bet of all-in might clear the field and win you the pot, or at least get you into a heads-up hand with one other player. Of course, the nature of no-limit is faster and fiercer than limit, so let's go over a few essential poker strategy tips.
Developing a No Limit Poker Strategy
Just like with limit, there are really an infinite number of variables when it comes to developing and carrying out a strategy. We'll again go over some key essentials that you should put in place, and you may notice that they are very different than dealing with limit. But do not feel as if you must keep them separate. Some limit poker strategy concepts can be used in no-limit, and vice versa. It all depends on the particular game you're playing.
Survey the Players
Unless you get a stellar starting hand or get to limp in via the blinds, you should attempt to fold the first few hands in a no-limit game. This is strictly to survey the landscape. Bad players, called "donkeys," reveal themselves early. They are typically going to force the action, attempt to be bullies, and throw their chips around. You will also be able to pick out which players are tight, which are slow, which are nervous, etc. Survey the landscape and make a mental note (or a physical note if the site allows) about a player's tendencies. Use this information once you start to participate regularly in the game.
Pick on the Weak
In the process of surveying, which should continue while you're playing hands as well, you will be able to spot which players are push-overs and will fold to big action, and which players are just bluff-happy and back out. Any time you're in a strong position (Dealer or blinds) and/or have a strong hand, seek to identify these weaker players and pick them off. The aim here isn't to get them out in one hand. However, weaker players share something in common: Once they start losing to superior players, they go on "tilt," which means they begin to act reckless. Players on tilt are as good as gone, and you can position yourself to relieve them of their chips.
Never, Ever Limp, and Rarely Smooth Call
Let's say you're in decent position, a player before the button, and you get J-Q suited. One player in early position has limped into the pot, followed by another player right before you. What do you do? What you don't want to do, for certain, is to limp in. This creates what is called a family pot, because the Dealer and two blinds are almost assuredly going to either limp in or raise players out. This drastically lowers your odds of winning the hand. It might seem counter-intuitive to winning chips, but the fewer players in the hand, the better your odds of winning. So, in this position, raise at least twice the minimum and force the action. Play the same pre-flop scenario, and say that this time the player before you raised. You really want to play the hand. What do you do? Never smooth call. Even if you have a much better starting pocket, you do not want to smooth call (call without raising). This puts you at a disadvantage, as you seem weak. Either re-raise the pot, or push in. The only variation of this would be if you were in the big blind or wanted to attempt to slow-roll one other player with a high pocket pair.
Just to be clear, everyone really has their own playing style. I do actually limp in if I have a subpar hand and there aren't any raisers. If I can get in cheap with my 5-6 suited, sure I will see what the flop brings. Just don't become a limping station or your table image will look weak and they will be gunning for you.
Don't Push for a Bluff
Bluffing is a huge part of the game of Texas Hold'em, particularly no-limit Hold'em. One of the best scenes in Rounders was when Matt Damon bluffed WSOP Champion Johnny Chan. And great bluffs even make it into Sports Center's top-10 plays! But there's a way to bluff, and a way to have your bluff called. Since you're playing no-limit poker, your natural inclination may be to shove all your chips in the middle. This is scary, right? Not exactly. Most poker players today aren't chumps; they know full well that showing too much strength is a sign of weakness. If you really had the best hand on the table (the nuts), why on earth would you want to scare people away with a big bet? Pushing all-in just reads like a bluff. Instead, you want to bet about two-times that of a value bet. A value bet would be considered a bet that's just about the size of the pot, whereby a player hopes to get called to make money. Betting just north of this number will signal to players that you're serious, and it will really make them consider taking an unnecessary risk.
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