Beating Low Stakes Limit Holdem -- Part 1 -- The Myths

Ace-King, on of the top five best holdem starting hands

Despite No Limit Holdem's popularity, limit holdem still has a place in the cardroom. Many people are intimidated by no-limit and when they want to play small stakes, they prefer limit as a betting structure. I enjoy limit poker as a nice change of pace. I play a lot of no-limit tournaments, and the last thing I want to do after playing hours of that is to jump into a no-limit cash game. I prefer to grind away at the low-stakes limit games (often to win my buyin back if I've gotten knocked out of the tourney before the money) as a way to relax and come down after the stress of tournament play.

In this series of articles, I want to give you a solid limit holdem strategy for beating the game long term. The first step is to dispel some of the myths that have grown up around the limit game.

The Myths --

Limit poker is less "streaky" than no-limit.

In actuality, the swings in limit can be insane. You can experience huge runs of bad luck and the reverse as well. In no-limit, most pots are contested heads up or short-handed. If you have the best hand, it will often win. With smaller bet sizes compared to the pot in limit, most pots in limit poker are contested multi-way. More opponents means more chances to lose. Heads up, a pair of Aces wins at least 80% of the time, and often much more. Against nine random hands, the same Aces only win a third of the time.That makes for long downswings on your big hands.

It is also difficult to protect your hands. In no-limit, you can size your bets so that an opponent is making a mistake by calling.

With the inflated pot sizes compared to the small bets in limit, people on draws are usually correct to call.

You can't beat the bad players in low stakes limit games.

This myth always confuses me. You're saying good players would be easier to beat? The truth is, the players in low stakes limit holdem games are bad.

Very bad. But you need a different strategy to beat bad players, and the people who believe this myth often believe there is only one way to play poker and if they're losing while playing the "right" way then it must be the other players' fault.

You shouldn't bet into a draw because they're just going to call anyway.

Even though you're going to get called by the player drawing -- and often correctly given the pot size compared to the limited bet size -- you still make money on that bet. It doesn't feel like you did when they hit their flush and beat your top pair, but when you're ahead, you need to bet. I'll delve into this concept in more detail later.

You can't make any money playing low stakes limit.

This myth is only partially false. You're not going to make a ton of money playing low stakes, but there is definitely money to be made, and made easier than in low stakes no-limit. That's because the low-stakes limit players are far worse than the low stakes no-limit players. And despite the high rake and low bets, where bad players abound, there is money to be made.

Limit poker isn't "real" poker.

Another fallacy brought on by people who don't understand the nature or history of poker.

By their same logic we should be playing solely Five Card Stud. Or Faro! Part of being a good poker player is separating yourself from bias and developing the best strategy to beat whatever game is being spread.

And that's what this series is about: stripping away the falsehoods and assumptions surrounding low-stakes limit and leading you to a money-making approach to the game.

...and now read the second article in the series: The Rules