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Advanced No-Limit Hold'em

According to famous poker player and author Doyle Brunson, no-limit hold'em is the Cadillac of all poker games. The skill involved with no-limit games is tremendous, even seasoned professionals admit that they still have a lot to learn at no-limit hold'em. However, don't let this scare you; no-limit hold'em is, in my opinion, the most fun of all poker games as well. It can also be profitable, sometimes even for beginners.

After playing no-limit extensively, I've noticed that the keys to winning no-limit are one's knowledge of the game and his ability to adapt to his opponents' knowledge. You must know what your skills are at no-limit and what stages of the game you have mastered. Once you realize how good you are at no-limit, you must then apply this to how others at your table play no-limit badly.

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to divide the skills of no-limit into several stages. After mastering each of these stages, one can expect his or her profit potential at no-limit hold'em to increase.

Pot odds
You must understand what odds you are getting if you call a bet with a draw. Since you can decide the size of the bet (it's not fixed), you should know if you are getting or giving good odds to someone.

For example, calling an unraised pot preflop with [[cards 5h 5c]] is good odds. If you hit a set, you can expect to make a lot of money (people will not expect it, so they will call with top pair). However, let's say you have a flush draw after the turn. The pot is $10 and someone bets $20 all-in, you are getting horrible odds. You have roughly a 1 in 5 shot of hitting on the river, and you would be betting $20 to win $50.

As basic as this may be, many no-limit players have not even mastered this stage! So, if you are still insecure about pot odds, don't worry. Many others are too, and often they don't even realize it.

Knowing the differences between Limit and No-Limit
Attempting to check-raising for value is far less valuable when playing a no-limit game than a limit one because you may be giving your opponent's a deadly free card. In limit poker, if you have the second-best hand, you will lose a little bit. In no-limit, you could lose your entire stack!

Betting is generally preferable to calling in a no-limit game. When you bet, you can win if you have the better hand or if your opponent folds. If you call, you can only win if you have your opponent beaten. If you bet, you determine the bet size. You determine the pot odds. If you call, you are accepting someone else's odds.

If you bet, you force people to pay off when you have a good hand. If you are a caller, you have to hope someone else will willingly pay you off. The importance of aggression is why tight-passive players can win a lot more at limit than no-limit.

Quick Adjustment
Different types of games require different amounts of aggression. Games with fewer players require one to be looser and more aggressive. However, if you're up against many loose opponents, you must tighten up and wait until you have a strong hand. Generally, the opposite of what the game is does well. If the game is very loose, tighten up. If the game is very tight, take advantage and steal pots.

You also must adjust to your opponent's quality. If you are up against weak players, simply giving them bad pot odds and taking money from them bit by bit works well. If you are against better players, you must set some traps.

Reading skills
Getting an idea of your opponent's cards is very important. This takes time and experience. However, a way to improve your reading skills is what I call the 'three question technique.' Always ask yourself these three questions when someone makes or calls a bet:

• What does my opponent have?
• What does my opponent think I have?
• What does my opponent think I think he has?

Psychology and Traps
When you hold the nuts and your opponent also has a good hand, what's the best way to get all of his chips? Learning to get out of and set traps is very difficult and only experience will help in this department.

Fundamentally, game psychology and traps are used to manipulate the three questions mentioned earlier. For example, if you overbet the pot with a flush draw and then check when you hold the flush, either your opponent will fall for the trap, thinking you had top pair, or he will recognize the trap and check-fold to you on river. This slowplay is used to manipulate the variable: what does he think I have?

Generally, this sort of game psychology is only used on good players (players that have mastered the first four steps). Against weaker players, you should just build a good hand and extract money out of them bit by bit. Weaker players just play their hand; they don't think about what you have.

Next Article: Who Pays Off

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