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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

"No Limit" and "Limit" Poker Are Two Different Animals

28 January 2006

Each year, I pretty much split my card-playing time between poker and blackjack. You may not think so, but considerable insight for one game can rub off on you while playing the other.

As an example, I was playing blackjack the other night and the young male dealer kept staring over my head behind me. Finally, I turned around to see what was so distracting. Hanging overhead back there was a large TV monitor showing the World Series of Poker.

"You into poker?" I asked the dealer. "No Limit Hold'em – best game in the world – I love it." he responded with rabid enthusiasm. I asked him if he played much and he said he was just getting his feet wet in the $2/$5 blind No Limit games next door. Like zillions of other young males, this man too was smitten by the No Limit Hold'em bug.

We watched the monitor together as pocket Queens went all in against an Ace/King. An Ace came on the flop and it was "Tap City" for the Queens. It reminded me of doubling down with 11 in blackjack against a dealer's picture card. In both cases, the Queens and the 11 are about a 6-to-5 favorite, but you can still get beat several times in a row. When you lose those in blackjack or in Limit Hold'em, all it can cost you is a couple of bets. But in No limit, it's often devastating.

No Limit Hold'em is fine. It's an invigorating psychological challenge. You need to use all your analytical powers to determine when to risk maybe your whole stack of chips in one hand. It's a "rush" for sure. Problem is, your analytical horns are locked with Lady Luck as much as with your opponent. You might've read your opponent like a book, but if he catches the card he needs to beat you – then you and your whole stack are toast!

If you're a gambler who needs that kind of action, then No Limit poker may be for you. But if you're the type who wants to grind out a gradual profit a few percentage points at a time while putting your bankroll in minimum jeopardy, I believe Limit poker is the ticket. It's way less volatile.

No Limit and Limit poker are like night and day. In No Limit, there are oodles of small pots where nothing much happens until two players both have or make a serious maneuver. Then it's fireworks time. One pro once described No Limit as "hours of dull boredom followed by moments of sheer terror".

There aren't all that many truly professional poker players around, but there are plenty of "semi-pros". I know several. They have a regular life and maybe a regular job, but they subsidize their income most years with the money they make playing poker. Almost none of the semi-pros I know do it playing No Limit. Too risky.

Pros and semi-pros want to eek out their wins and keep the swings to a minimum. Volatility is the enemy of any winning gambler. Blackjack pros can tell you all about that. They determine the size of their bets and their bankroll by running "risk of ruin" calculations. The bigger the bet, the more likely they are to get ruined – even when they have the edge!

It's the same in poker. If you've learned how to play poker with the edge on your side, you don't want to be put out of business by a series of bad beats. If that happens -- no more edge.

Limit poker allows you to take beat after beat and still stay in the game, grinding away with your edge. Most bets are maybe 1/5th or 1/10th of the pot. You can lose four or five max bets in one hand and take it right in stride. But in No Limit, big bets are often double the size of the pot. Lose a series of those and you can go right on the disabled list.

If you have the insatiable urge to go "all in", I have no poker advice for you today. But if you have any designs on becoming a perennial winner at poker, my humble opinion is that it's better to smooth out the bumps by playing Limit poker. The ride will be a lot less stressful.

In Limit Hold'em or Omaha, the blinds are half what the bets are. If the blinds are $5 and $10, the bets are $10 and $20. With $10/$20 blinds, the bets are $20/$40, etc.

A reasonable amount of money to sit down with would be twenty times the max bet, with another 30 max bets in your pocket just in case. Also, you should have a 400 bet master bankroll tucked away somewhere to cover your prolonged losing streaks.

With all of that in place, a good, solid winning player can hope to net about a half max bet per hour – long term. Any expectation more than that would be unrealistic unless you're a gifted superstar.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey