Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Learn to Play Limit Hold’em

Television forever changed the game of poker and is solely responsible for the resurgence of no limit Texas Hold’em. Before that, limit hold’em was the name of the game.

I started my poker career grinding it out in limit games just like many other of today’s big name professional players. Few of us had any experience playing in no limit games.

These days, however, most people learn to play hold’em by starting with no limit. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily bad. But I do believe it’s better for beginners to learn the game by playing limit poker, or at least by playing both variations of the game.

One reason is that limit hold’em is a much faster game. In limit hold’em, you’ll rarely see a five minute delay before a player decides to make a big call on the river. In that respect, beginners will play a lot more hands, thereby gaining valuable experience much faster.

Here are a few other reasons why I think it’s so important to learn how to play limit hold’em.

You’ll learn to play with more aggression, both before and after the flop. In limit hold’em, acting aggressively in marginal situations isn’t nearly as dangerous as it is in no limit where you can risk all of your chips on any given hand. All great poker players understand the importance of playing aggressively. Limit hold’em teaches you to do just that. At the same time, the game’s structured betting protects your bankroll from monster swings.

You’ll also get to play more flops in limit hold’em. In no limit hold’em, when another player makes a pre-flop raise, it will often be so large that it will force you to fold your hand. That doesn’t happen in the limit game, so you’ll see more flops and gain more valuable experience. You’ll learn how to play a variety of hands based on position, flop texture, and your ability to get reads on your opponents.

Most importantly, you’ll learn to read your opponents’ betting patterns by playing limit hold’em. In the no limit game, creative betting is often rewarded. That’s not always the case in limit hold’em where a skilled player’s bets generally have a clear purpose. Focusing on your opponent’s betting pattern can often reveal critical information about their hand.

Here’s an example.

You’re playing $10-$20 limit hold’em and raise in early position with A-J. The player on your immediate left reraises to $30 and you call. The flop comes As-9c-2h. You check to the raiser. He bets, you check-raise, and he calls. The turn card is the 7d.

Now, let’s assume that you know your opponent is a tight player. His initial reraise from early position suggests he probably has a pocket pair, or a hand like A-K or A-Q.

Go ahead and bet the turn hoping that your opponent has a hand like pocket kings. Warning: If he raises, be prepared to fold!

Despite the fact that you have a powerful hand, when this type of player raises on the turn, he’s probably holding pocket aces, A-K or A-Q. If so, you’ll need to catch a miracle jack on the river to win the pot.

Well, that’s a pretty simplistic example of how to read an opponent’s hand. But the key point is that you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice this skill in limit hold’em. And when you do master that skill, you’ll be a much stronger player in no limit hold’em, seven card stud, Omaha, or whatever game you choose to play.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Power Hold’em Strategy.

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