No-limit Hold’em is game of general strategy, basic tactical skills useful in all forms of poker, and a game of intense psychology. We’ll begin here by talking about general strategy. When you enter a no-limit ring game, you need to know things before you can really expect to roll in it:
1. Who are my opponents?
2. How many hands go to a showdown?
Types of opponents
Generally, people speak of four types of players: tight-passive, tight-aggressive, loose-passive and loose-aggressive. The first modifier characterizes the number of hands the person plays while the second describes the player’s betting style. For no-limit Hold’em, loose-aggressive should be divided into two parts: action-seekers and solid players. Let’s go through each of these types of players.
Tight-passives: These players do fine in a limit game, but they won’t make much in a no-limit game. The only way these people will win is when they pick off bluffs; otherwise they won’t get the value out of their hands that they should. When against these players:
1. Bluff at the flop a lot. Put in a raise pre-flop and bet at the flop no matter what calls.
2. Fold when they represent a hand. If they bet a little, they’re probably on a draw. So stick with your hand if you’ve got something. If they bet a lot, they’ve got something good.
3. Take advantage of your control. Don’t go wild with your bluffs, though. Fold pre-flop when you have nothing, but raise when you have a good hand and go for the kill at the flop. If you miss the kill, give up. But when you have something, milk him for everything it’s worth.
Essentially, you can quickly tame these players into being calling/folding stations. And if your opponent is making money against you while playing as a calling/folding station, you’re doing something seriously wrong. These players are common, and you’ll certainly play against quite a few.
Loose-passives: These players have to hope that people continually bluff into them because they will frequently call with the second-best hand. This is a recipe for disaster at no-limit. You don’t see too many of these bad players at no-limit games because they lose so quickly. It’s harsh but true.
Maniac loose-aggressive: These guys will buy a fair share of pots, but then will get themselves trapped by another aggressive player and will lose their stacks in one or two hands. What separates these players from good loose-aggressives is that they lack discipline. They love the action of no-limit so much that they get themselves trapped too easily. These players are even rarer than loose-passives, in our experience.
Strong loose-aggressive: These guys seem like they are horrible maniacs, but in reality, they are a very dangerous form of player. These guys will certainly lose a lot of money in pots, but they will also buy a lot of pots and win huge ones. The way these players win is mainly by getting a good read on their opponents and then making a well-timed bet. The best tactic against these players is to trap them in their own game. Try to avoid having the pot escalate too much pre-flop unless you have aces or kings, and try not to let them buy every pot. In other words, when you put in the raise pre-flop, you should make a stab at the pot in the flop stage of the game. More importantly, the way you can beat these guys is to take them down on one big pot. Since these guys tend to play a lot of hands, especially short-handed, they’ll often play hands that lend themselves to be second-best hands. Once you can catch them in this situation, you just have to make sure you donâ€™t let them go too easily.
Tight-aggressive: this is the category most of the Internet’s better poker players fall into, and it’s the style and the strategy we’d recommend you imitate. The tight-aggressive’s main problems are that he may get chased out of a lot of flops early and that he may be too easily read.
This is a critical concept in no-limit. Since no-limit lends itself to bluffing, one can make a lot of money simply by stealing pots. However, this strategy obviously fails if everyone shows you down to the river!
Generally, before playing in a high-stakes game or starting to get really hardcore into one, we recommend you pay attention to the number of hands going to showdowns. This, of course, is very easy to do on the Internet because you don’t even need to watch the game. You can just leave the window open, go eat a snack, go to the bathroom, come back 20 minutes later and see what kind of a game you’re about to dive into.
Types of hands to play
The types of hands to play in no-limit poker differ than those in limit. This is because of implied odds. Hands like K-Q off suit go down in value because they cannot withstand much pressure. Even if you hit a king with this type of hand, you still may be losing to a set, two pair, A-K, or even to a draw. Thus, with big cards, you generally want to take down the pot at the flop. The exception to this is if you think you have someone outkicked (say A-K vs. K-J with a king on the board), or if you hit the flop hard (like K-K-3 when you hold A-K). In these cases, you generally want to extract money from your opponent bit-by-bit.
The types of hands that go up in value or the ones that you can bet with confidence include pocket pairs and suited connectors (strong draws in general). Pocket pairs do well because they are sneaky and can often withhold pressure. With pocket pairs, you can bet hard if you have a set or an â€śoverpair,â€ť which are hands that people generally don’t expect. Suited connectors go up in value for several reasons. First, if the flop comes weird, you generally will be paid off. For example, if you hold 7-6, you’ll get paid off a lot more if the flop is A-7-6 (against an A-K combo) than you would with an A-K, if the flop were A-7-2. Furthermore, you can take down pots and disguise your hand with semi-bluffing. If you hold 7-6 and the flop comes 4-5-J, people will probably put you on a jack, if you bet. Then theyâ€™ll either fold or call. Thus, you’ll either take down the pot at the flop or you’ll be drawing to a hand that people don’t expect. If the next two cards are 8 and ace, and your opponent holds an A-J hand, expect a huge reward.
How much to bet
Many novice no-limit players simply don’t know how much to bet. Well, the concept is simple. You want to extract as much money as possible from people who have made hands but are probably losing to you and you want to punish draws, but at the same time you don’t want to be trap yourself.
Example: Suppose you have 9-9 and the flop is A-8-9. You are pretty sure he doesn’t have 10-J. You want to put in about pot-sized bets here. The reasoning is: He either has a straight draw or pair of aces. If he has a straight, you don’t want him to draw on the cheap, and if he has pair of aces, he probably won’t let go of them, so take as much as you can.
Example: You hold K-Q of spades and the flop is A-9-5. The ace and 5 are of spades. Bet into this flop. Don’t bet too much, just enough to make people fold if they don’t have an ace, but also enough to make an A-Q just freeze up and call. A 1/3-sized pot bet would be good here. This way you draw relatively cheaply and you can punish if you hit your flush.
This relates back to the showdown percentage. More showdowns means bluffing works less. If you’re in a game with a lot of showdowns (which is typical of lower limits), cut down on bluffing and punish your opponents when you have the boss hand.