By: Jason Lake
There was a time, long ago, when limit Texas Hold'em was the king of poker. The betting structure is similar to the Stud games people were used to playing in the casinos, and Texas Hold'em is a lot of fun, so it was an easy transition for most poker players. No-limit Hold'em was for the Doyle Brunsons and Stu Ungars who'd show up at the World Series of Poker.
Then Chris Moneymaker happened. His 2003 WSOP Main Event victory as an online qualifier put no-limit Hold'em front and center in the poker landscape. Now everyone wants to play NLHE. Limit Hold'em still sees a decent share of live play, but most people online are playing no-limit and nothing else.
Don't be one of these people. It's always good to be playing different poker variants; most of the top guns out there are into mixed games now. Even if you're not interested in Stud or Omaha, playing LHE is a very smart choice. It might even make the difference between you being a winning or a losing player.
The Simple Life
The best thing about LHE compared to its no-limit cousin: Simplicity. The betting structure only takes a little while to master, since you can only make small bets (equal to the size of the big blind) preflop and on the flop, and big bets (equal to 2BB) on the turn and river. Raises are always by one small bet, and in most games, there can only be three raises before betting is capped and the remaining players can only call or fold.
These limits make figuring out optimal strategies so much easier. Remember how those computer guys in Alberta “solved” Hold'em just over a year ago? That was heads-up LHE. Solving no-limit Hold'em is going to take quite a while longer. It's kind of like comparing checkers to chess – except NLHE is way harder to solve than chess. Way, way harder.
But what about the excitement of going all-in? If you're into poker for the adrenalin rush, fine. If you're in it to make some money, that's a different story. The variance in no-limit or even pot-limit games is astronomical; you could be a very good player using proper bankroll management and still see your hard-earned cash swallowed up by a run of bad cards. Playing at least some LHE instead of strictly NLHE will lower your variance.
As for that adrenalin rush, you should think twice about that, too. Even if you're capable of making sound decisions while under pressure, it's not good for your health – mental or physical – to put yourself under too much stress. All that adrenalin can trigger something called an adregenic storm, which has many of the same symptoms as a cocaine overdose. As they say, know your limit, play within it.