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Fixed Limit Hold'em

The original game

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In this era of No Limit Texas Hold'em, it's quite profitable to become skillful at the other poker games that are available online. Whether it's sticking with hold'em but switching to fixed limit or pot limit games or moving on to something completely different such as Omaha or stud, there are many weak players to be taken advantage of.

While No Limit Hold'em is the Cadillac of poker, anyone who is good at math and takes the time to master the nuances of the less popular games can make a lucrative income.

No Limit Hold'em is all about playing the player. Eliminating pot odds, using the advantage of position and forcing your opponent to fold what may very well be the best hand is what separates the good no limit player from the bad. In this discussion we're going to focus on Fixed Limit Hold'em.

Know your odds

Fixed limit hold'em is almost all about the math. You can play numerous hands, regardless of position knowing you will get a cheap look at the flop. Most players will chase all the way to the river with marginal hands looking for the elusive 2 or 4 outs that will win the pot. The problem with this type of play is simple, you will lose a lot more pots than you'll win. And since it is fixed limit poker, you will almost never recover these losses.

The smart fixed limit player will certainly play many hands with less than stellar starting cards. Limping in with suited connectors and medium pairs is one of the most profitable moves in fixed limit hold'em. If you miss the flop, fold! If you catch a straight draw or flush draw or three of a kind, play accordingly.

Build the pot with bets and raises when you have a great hand, simply call or check when you are chasing an open ended draw or flush. Controlling the pot is easy. Calculating your hand odds and comparing them to your pot odds is where the math comes into play. When you have a positive Expected Value (EV), and decent odds of making your hand, you continue. A negative EV means you should fold with any hand that probably needs help to win the pot. Minimizing your losses while maximizing your wins is the trick to playing successful limit hold'em.

It is not no-limit

The avid no limit player will come out of the gate raising with large pocket pairs or big Ace hands such as Ace Queen or Ace king. While these are always great starting hands, they hold much less value in fixed limit poker. Why? Simply because in low stakes limit games, a single pair will rarely win the pot. Pocket pairs of Aces or Kings are easy to lose with and lose big! Most players become too attached to these hands and bet or call with them all the way to the showdown.

It's amazing how often you hear these players complain about how loose someone plays when he takes down a big pot with his set or flush following one of these big hands. Little do they know that he folded pocket Queens a couple hands back when the flop came 5, 6, 7 and he suspected a straight was made by the limper across the table from him. Did he fold the best hand then? Who cares! He may have been ahead but he had very little chance of improving his hand and even if the third Queen fell, was he ahead or drawing dead to a better hand?

Remember that we're playing low stakes limit poker here so we'll have many players in each pot and you can't bet the chasers off their drawing hands.

We would much rather play suited connectors or even gappers in limit hold'em. Gapped connectors are harder to read by a smart opponent and will often produce the biggest payoff. Other strong starting hands are suited Aces or suited Kings since they produce strong flush hands. Play enough limit hold'em and it will become evident that pots are rarely won with a single pair or even two pair. Most big pots go to straights, flushes, sets or boats. Learning to fold those big pairs early will mean the difference between a winning or a losing session.

The mentality of most amateur poker players is to call off their chips looking to catch a hand. This is especially true in low blinds fixed limit hold'em where it costs very little to stay in the pot. By avoiding falling into this trap, learning to fold marginal hands early and betting hard when you have a monster, you will be on the winning side of the ledger in no time.

By folding junk starting hands such as 9, 5 or A, 4 off suit, you will save yourself from having to make difficult decisions later in the hand. The beauty of playing hands like suited 7,8 or gappers like J,9 is they're easy to muck when you miss the flop but when you connect they are harder for your opponent to give you credit for.

While you can play a wide range of starting hands, there are most definitely pocket cards to get rid of quick. Don't play junk cards or weak unsuited Aces. Also avoid small pairs. 2's or 3's, even 5's and 6's are dangerous cards due to the number of over cards. Even when you catch your set, you are usually facing at least 3 over cards that could easily make a bigger set. Play nearly any suited connectors, mid to large pairs, suited Aces, 1 or 2 gappers, etc.

So, while many players think playing fixed limit hold'em is as exciting as watching paint dry, the potential is for many exciting moments and the opportunity to add to your bankroll with very little risk. Next time you're bored and looking for a change of pace, give limit hold'em a try, it may surprise you.


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