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Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, or No Limit?

If you are just getting started at hold 'em, you have likely noticed that the game is offered in three different formats - fixed limit, pot limit, and no limit - and are unsure which game is right for you.

In fixed limit (FL), players are only allowed to bet and raise in fixed increments. That means you can easily limit the amount of money at risk on any given hand by simply checking and calling. Of course your opponents can also try to limit their risk, so big pots are fairly rare.

Most beginners will find that FL hold 'em offers their best opportunity for profit. For starters, the game offers smaller monetary risk, which may be appealing to new players who are unsure about putting their own money on the line. Properly played, the game involves smaller swings both up and down. No limit can be an emotional roller coaster and new players are unlikely to be equipped to handle its ups and downs.

More importantly, properly playing FL will teach much needed discipline. Knowing when to fold and having the discipline to actually do it are essential skills for any aspiring poker champ. Since you are less likely to get rewarded for making silly calls in limit, it will be easier to learn this discipline playing FL.

At the other end of the spectrum is no limit (NL) poker. It is by far the most popular variant, but also the most difficult to master. In NL poker, any one can bet any amount (up to what they have at the table) at any time. Thus, all of your chips are theoretically at risk on every hand.

With the higher risks, come higher rewards for experienced players, but larger losses for those unprepared. Emotion can play a big role in NL and if one isn't careful they can easily tilt away their entire bankroll through a series of foolish reloads done in anger or frustration.

In the middle is pot limit (PL) hold 'em. In PL, a player is limited to bet no more than the current pot. That means you can limit your losses to some extent, but in practice the game goes a lot like no limit.

The main different between NL and PL is pre-flop play. Since you can't bet enough to making people fold from early position, pot limit often forces you to limp and hope to re-raise big hands. A lot of times you will end up letting a lot of mediocre hands see the flop for cheap, so you have to be more careful with the way you play big pairs and high aces. That is, you can't assume you have the best hand since you can't rule out very many hands, and must bet accordingly.

In summary, fixed limit is probably the best choice for most beginners. When you find you are regularly making a profit at FL, then you may consider trying PL or NL. If you can't beat FL, you probably won't beat the other variations either so it is best to limit your losses and stick with FL until you get the hang of it.

JackRag


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