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Limit Holdem Strategy, Tips & Bluffing

Limit Holdem Gameplay

Best Strategy Ideas in Limit Holdem Poker

Bold Move in Limit Holdem Poker

One of the most difficult skills to develop in limit Holdem is knowing when to make a bold move. At PokerBroz we define a “bold move” as a decision that might appear reckless at first glance – but which, in fact, has a certain degree of positive expectation; that is, it expects to make money in the long run.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a bold move in a poker game. Hyper-aggressive players tend to make bold moves without either fear or thought. They usually get called down by observant opponents, and lose far more money than necessary. But calculated aggression put to use in optimal circumstances – when combined with a strong table image – often puts opponents on the defensive. This is even more so when opponents understand conventional strategic concepts, and are disciplined enough to release hands of marginal value. A bold poker move may cause an opponent to fold a stronger hand, which means you win an extra pot that you certainly would not have won otherwise.

Check-Raise Bluff

The boldest move you can make in limit Holdem is the check-raise bluff (and its affiliate – the check-raise semi-bluff). Many winning poker players use this tactic. There is one major reason why this play is so powerful. Usually when a player checks and calls on the flop, and then check-raises the turn, normally you should suspect a big hand. This doesn’t mean it always works, only that the tactic may account for more wins than losses (dollar wise), when applied in the right situations. Even if unsuccessful, the check-raise bluff does have some commensurate benefits as well, since it contributes to an unpredictable table image and may increase the number of calls you get when you hold ‘the goods’.

Oddly enough, up until now the check-raise bluff has not been widely discussed in print. Mostly because this move is very dangerous, and can cost you a great deal of money if used too often or in the wrong situations. It’s well known to high-limit players and serious middle-limit players, but is rarely utilized by novices or in low-limit games (with very good reason). This means the majority of poker players have no use for check-raise bluffing, rendering this tactic useless – except in the most competitive games.

The first requisite of check-raise bluffing is that it must only be used in games where the stakes are consequential. In low-limit games, check-raise bluffing (and check raise semi-bluffing, to a lesser extent) have almost no utilitarian value. Since opponents in “no-Fold’em Holdem” games usually call bets on every round, no matter what the conditions – the primary strength of the tactic (getting opponents to fold) is pointless. Similarly, check-raise bluffing has almost no value in games such as Omaha high/low. Most players will pursue draws and stay with the hand no matter what the cost – a $4 raise does not intimidate them. Based on my experience, check-raise bluffing should rarely be deployed in games lower than $10-20.

The second requisite is that it must be used against a player that has some knowledge of how to play poker. This means that they must be able to look beyond their own hand, and try to figure you what you have. It doesn’t do you any good to try this move on a player that is only playing his hand. If they don’t know that they are supposed to fold, they won’t, and you’ve wasted your energy and chips.

When applied properly, check-raise bluffing is a devastating counter-strategy to the standard concept of “tight but aggressive” Holdem play recommended by all respected poker theorists, who also created Holdem Manager 2 to download. It’s an even better counter-strategy if the players you are up against are semi-decent players, but tend to overvalue large unsuited cards. This is a common error that many players make, even ones that have some experience. For example, if players are calling or raising with hands such as K-Q, small pairs, or weak aces (quite common in most $15-30 and $20-40 games, based on my observation), they will be hard-pressed to call a check-raise, even when they might hold a pair. Most decent players are reluctant to toss in an extra $30 or $40 on a weak hand with the hope they might catch a miracle river card. Sure, it happens (especially in a rammin’-jammin’ game), but most players that play at this level do respect raises – or else they go broke and are back to the grind of low limit.

Limit Holdem Tips

Most of the poker authors in today’s poker world recommend a tight-aggressive approach to the game. “Tight-aggressive” means two things: First, you are selective about the hands you play (in other words, play “tight”). Second, when you play a hand – be aggressive. In poker, aggression is manifested in betting and raising, not only when you actually do hold a strong hand, but also when you might not have the best hand at the moment. By being aggressive, you force your opponents to keep making difficult decisions. The more they have to make, the more likely they are to make mistakes.

Tight-aggressive poker is based on the premise that since you play few hands, most observant opponents will give you credit for having a strong hand when you bet or raise, and may throw their hand away. Occasionally, they might even throw away a superior hand. The tight aggressive style can best be described by Mike McDermott in the movie Rounders: “Get your money in when you have the best of it, and protect it when you don’t. Don’t give anything away.”

The opposite of playing tight aggressive is the “loose passive” approach. Loose passive players are no match for tight aggressive players. The action most commonly associated with loose passive play is checking and calling. For this reason, loose passive players are also known as “calling stations.” Checking and calling is generally not a strategy associated with winning poker. In fact, checking and calling contradicts the instincts within all good players to seize control of the table and put their opponents on the defensive. However, if executed selectively, checking and calling can be a winning poker strategy.

The question then becomes when is it advisable to check and call in a limit Holdem game? Since so much depends on your table image and the quality of your opponents, conditions will vary. But here are some general guidelines that assume you are first to act:

When to Check and Call

Against overly aggressive players – When checked to, overly aggressive players and maniacs tend to bet indiscriminately. If given the opportunity, they will usually bluff away their money. So why would you bet into someone that will be doing the betting for you? If you bet out, the maniac may give you credit for a hand and fold (which costs you money on later rounds, if you have a hand).

On a draw with sufficient pot-odds in a multi-way pot – This commonly occurs when you are in early position with either a straight or flush draw. If there are three or more players still to act behind you, a bet is unlikely to win the pot. You might even get raised. You want to see the next card (or two) as cheaply as possible, although if you can get down to a single opponent, you may have an opportunity to semi-bluff on the Turn, or bluff on the River (if the flush fails). However, if three or more players remain in the pot, checking and calling is usually the best strategy.

On a draw with sufficient implied odds – This means the amount of money does not justify a call at the present time, but you are reasonably sure you will make enough money on later betting rounds if you successfully make your hand.

Slow playing a big hand – If you flop a monster hand, you probably want as many players and as much money in the pot as possible. You certainly don’t want to tip-off the strength of your hand to your opponents. Most players that flop a set, the nut flush, or a straight will wait until the turn to check-raise. With that said though, often times if you bet out, your opponents will have a difficult time putting you on a big hand. I generally advise slow playing when you hold all of the good cards. For instance, say the flop comes A-A-10 and you happen to hold A-10. There isn’t much that any of your opponents can hold that will allow them to call a bet. However, they might bluff at it.

When they can’t call a bet – Continuing on with the last point. There are times when you know you hold the best hand on the river, but you know that your opponent can’t call if you bet. Example: when you know your opponent is on a flush draw. If you bet into him on the river, you know he is going to fold. But if you check to him, he might try bluffing at it figuring that bluffing is his only chance to win. You have to be careful with this play though. If your read isn’t correct, you may have just given your opponent a free showdown.

Knowing precisely which circumstances warrant a check and call – instead of a bet or raise – is one of the fundamentals of winning poker. This can only be mastered through hundreds of hours of play. It is important to remember that after each hand, to always look back and try to decide if you made the best play on each street. You may just find an easy leak – fix it!

Bluffing At Limit Holdem

If you play at low fixed-limit Texas Hold’em tables ($1/$2 or $2/$4 for example), you will see quite a lot of bluffing going on. You will know they are bluffs because the cards are exposed to the players at showdown. Unfortunately for the bluffers concerned, if it has come to showdown, the bluffs will have failed!

At low stakes poker, many players do not feel much pain if they blow their stack of $40 or $50. They will mumble about their bad luck and reload. The failure of such players to attribute adequate value to each dollar in their stack leads to a lack of care in their play. The tendency is to play marginal hands through to the river in the hope of catching a card. When it doesn’t come, a surprising number will actually try to bluff the opponent off his hand with a raise after the opponent has himself just bet. Others are not bluffers but will call a bet just in case the bet is a bluff!

In either case, the player is reluctant to surrender the pot because of the money already committed. The bluffer justifies his raise because he knows that the occasional tight player will give up his own hand if someone raises against him. However, often the opponent will not give it up because it is only the cost of one more bet. If the bluffer repeats this too often, he loses credibility and will be called every time thereafter.

In limit poker, the most successful bluffs are executed by the initial aggressor, the one leading out with the bets. While it is true that many players will call any bet on the river if they have any part of the board, such as a low pair, the aggressor should consider if the board cards suggest someone is drawing to a flush or a straight. It is those players who have missed their draws that will tend to fold to a river bet because they have missed the big hand despite perhaps having a low pair.

Someone holding AK, for example, may raise before the flop and get some gullible callers. The flop and turn may not help him but he continues to lead out representing strength, all the while hoping to hit his top pair. At the river, he should bet out again regardless of the card if he is still first to act. Checking is a fatal sign of weakness. A caller with a small pair may not be happy calling the last bet if there are several overcards on the board which the aggressor has represented.

Generally, bluffing at low-stakes limit poker is unlikely to work most of the time and you should use it sparingly as a tactic. A bluff is only worth one step in the betting so the pot odds will often keep a player in until the river. The one time where it is a valid move is when you have been representing strength but have missed a hand after the turn card. Then you should bluff at these higher betting rounds unless you know the opponent is reluctant to fold.

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