No Limit Strategy
Described by Doyle Brunson as 'the Cadillac of poker', No Limit is the most skill-based form of any game, where players can lose their entire stack or double their chips on any one hand.
Below we break down how to approach preflop, flop, turn and river play in No Limit Texas Holdem (NLHE) cash games and tournaments. Weigh up your options on every board texture and tell a consistent story.
Basic Texas Holdem strategy advocates playing fewer and better hands from early position, and opening your range in late position. You can also play a wider range of hands short-handed.
For both cash games and tournaments, your stack size will dictate the starting hands you will want to be playing. Your table dynamic and the number of players will also factor into the range of hands you will play. Keep in mind that playing with a short-stack will often limit you to playing hands as all-in or fold.
In both tournaments and cash games a popular preflop raise size is 2.5x the big blind.
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The best texas holdem strategy for beginners is to never make a worse hand fold. There are many ways to extract value from your opponents, other than betting.
Post flop mindset: You never want to make a worse hand fold. If you think your opponent is light and you’re hand has showdown value, then raising actually hurts your value.
In position with value hands
You can always bet for value, however, if the flop is so dry (for example you have A♠ K♠ on A♥ 9♣ 5♦), it is sometimes fruitful to check and hope your opponent catches something on the turn, or opts to stab with an inferior hand.
Out of position with value hands
One line is to check versus passive opponents, and bet versus those who like to float or test the waters with a raise. In position with missed hands with showdown value (ace-high or nut-no pair)
If the board is draw heavy and you have what is likely the best hand at the moment (A-high, or medium pairs), I like checking back.
If the board is dry, and your hand has no showdown value, than betting to win is acceptable as well.
The betting-line on the turn should stay consistent with the strategy taken on the flop. Often the turn is when many draws come on, and can be very tricky when holding one-pair.
A texas holdem strategy tip for beginners is to be very wary of check-raises on the turn. If you aren’t sure you want to call the turn, you may have an even tougher decision on the river.
In position, turn texture is irrelevant to board
Betting again for value if you were called on the flop is fine, but always ask yourself what you will do if you are check/raised.
Out of position, turn texture is irrelevant to board
Checking here often looks as though you c-bet but missed and are giving up. This is a great spot to check/call versus opponents who are floating or trying to take down the pot with a medium strength holding.
Betting twice out of position often requires great strength (sets, top 2 pair, made hands).
In position, turn texture brings in draws
When deepstacked, with showdown value, it is best to check on boards where it is likely your opponent will only call if he has a better holding.
Out of position, turn texture brings in draws
Checking here with showdown value often induces opponents to represent made hands. Checking also keeps the pot small if you would like to get to showdown without bloating the pot.
In Texas Holdem, the river is often the most misplayed street in the game. Figuring out how to play the river is what separates the winning players from the losing players.
In position, board texture unchanged
Bet for value if it’s likely you your opponent has second best hand.
Check if you have showdown value but cannot stand a check/raise or think of a hand that your opponent call with that doesn’t have you beat. (For example, if you have top pair on a board where draws have completed).
Out of position, board texture unchanged
Bet if your opponent is likely to have showdown value. Check if you think your opponent has missed his draws, giving him a chance to stab at pot.
In position, draws have completed
Bet for value if checked to but be willing to fold to a check raise.
Check if you can’t see any hands that will call that don’t have you beat.
Out of position, draws have completed
Check/calling is best if you have showdown value.
Never bet if you have value but will not call a raise.
Check/raising can be expensive if you have no reads and multiple barrels can cost your entire stack. A popular play is to lead at missed flops as it requires your opponent to put in more chips and raise if they also missed.
If you have done this in the past successfully, try donk-betting when you smash the flop as well. It can frustrate and confuse opponents.
Easier said than done, separating emotions from results is something all pros suffer from at one time or another. Try taking a step back to see the big picture and know that the ONLY thing actually matters is the way you played the hand.
Downswings are inevitable and temporary. Embrace variance and understand that upswings are part of variance as well.
Questions to ask yourself on all streets
- What size pot am I trying to play here?
- Am I betting for value or checking to induce a check/call scenario
- What story am I telling? What story is my opponent telling?
- How will this bet be interpreted?
- Always think several moves ahead
- It's ok to bet for value and fold to a min raise if your opponent is unlikely to be bluffing
- If you have a strong hand, and all draws have missed, you can often bet minimally if you think your opponent will likely check back missed draws