Real Money Limit Hold’em Strategy
Limit hold’em may sometimes be overshadowed by no limit poker, but many real money players start their careers by playing limit games – and some players never stop! Limit hold’em is a complex game in its own right, and most real money players make serious mistakes that cost them bets. In many cases, these are fundamental strategic mistakes that are made because of a faulty approach to the game.
The heart of most good limit hold’em strategies is tight, aggressive play. What does this mean to you? In general, you should be folding somewhere between 75-80% of your hands preflop (not including free looks in the blinds). This might seem boring, but simply put, most hands are long-term losers, and there’s no sense in throwing money at them hoping to get lucky. It’s important not to play too tightly – you don’t want to become overly predictable, and even if your opponents aren’t paying attention, you won’t be able to overcome the blinds if you play too few hands – but overall, you should look to play a tight preflop game.
However, we also talked about the importance of being aggressive. This means that when you do play a hand, you want to be betting and raising with that hand, not calling. Real money games are won by aggressively pushing the size of the pot when you hold the advantage, even if that means you’re putting more money at risk. Being the aggressor also gives you an additional way to win; if you get the opponent to fold, you’ll also win the pot, which is something that never happens if you’re simply calling their bets. That’s really the key; aggressive players aren’t afraid to fold, but they’d much rather bet/raise than call.
Most real money winners will use this tight/aggressive (TAG) strategy in limit hold’em. In low limit games, TAG play will be especially effective, as your opponents will play a rather straightforward, passive game and not surprise you often. Make sure you keep this in mind when you’re playing against them, as well; if your opponents are calling down too often (as many low-limit players are prone to do), it makes no sense to bluff into them. At the same time, don’t let their calls scare you away from being aggressive with strong hands. Yes, they’ll sometimes catch cards and beat you on the river, but the huge pots you win when they don’t will more than make up for the times when they suck out.
Real Money Limit Hold’em Starting Hand Guide
Here is a basic starting hand guide that should serve you well with a tight, aggressive strategy like the one outlined above. More complex guides can be found in many poker books, but this guide will get you started with a good foundation for real money games. Hands with an “s” after them are suited hands; otherwise, the hand is unsuited.
Much of how you play your hands will be determined by your position at the table. In early position (at a full 10 player table, that’s the first three players to act preflop), raise with pairs of TT or higher, AKs-AJs, AK, AQ, and KQs. You should also call with 77-99, any two suited cards of ten or higher, AJ and KQ.
In middle position, we can play slightly looser if there hasn’t yet been a raise. Raise with pairs of 88 or higher, AKs-ATs, KQs, KJs, AK-AJ, and KQ. Call with 55-77, any two suited cards of ten or higher, T9s, AT and KJ.
In late position (on the button or one off), you can play rather loosely if no one has raised. We advise raising with pairs of 88 or higher, AKs-ATs, KQs-KTs, QJs, AK-AT, and KQ. Call with any lower pair (assuming at least one other player has already called, otherwise fold), any suited ace, any two cards of ten or higher, and suited connectors as low as 76s.
In the blinds, you should tighten up your raising standards, since you will be out of position after the flop. Raise only with pairs of 99 or higher, AKs-ATs, KQs, and AK-AJ. You should call with all hands you would call with in late position; you can also limp in the small blind with any two suited cards.
Against a raise, we recommend tightening up significantly in all positions. Reraise only with AA-JJ, AKs-AQs, and AK. Call two bets flat with TT-99, KQs, or AJs. If you call and the pot is later raised, you should call the second bet as well. If a pot has been raised twice in front of you, cap the pot with AA, KK, QQ or AKs, and fold everything else.