Poker is the perfect game for anyone who wants to test their powers of logic, timing, mathematics and deception. It covers a variety of disciplines, each of which has its own rules and regulations. Yes, the underlying goal of trying to win the pot by having the best five-card hand or making everyone else fold, is present in every poker variant.
However, the road to success features its own set of twists. If that weren't enough to complicate things, variants have subgenres based on the way you bet. Technically known as limits, these subdivisions change the way you play again. Unfortunately, defining a pattern of play for games and betting limit is almost impossible.
However, it is possible to take poker in one of its purest forms, Texas Hold’em, and weigh up the differences between Limit and No Limit games. Even though this overview won’t cover Pot Limit, that doesn’t matter too much because this style is basically a halfway house between Limit and No Limit.
Essentially, if you can understand the differences between Limit and No Limit, you can start to create your own winning strategy. With this in mind, let’s shine a light on No Limit Hold’em and explore some of the ways it differs from Limit and why – in many players' minds – it’s a better game.
The reason most poker players prefer No Limit Hold’em to Limit is that it allows you to be more creative. In the latter, the size of your bet is always restricted, which means it's hard to make deceptive moves. For example, in No Limit Hold’em, some players will overbet the pot with a strong hand if they think their opponent will read it as a bluff.
Similarly, aggressive players will re-raise all-in on the river as a bluff if their opponent’s range appears weak. These moves aren’t possible in Limit Hold’em. If there's $50 in the pot and the limits allow you to bet only $4, it’s highly unlikely your opponent is going to fold any sort of ranked hand because the pot odds are so attractive.
Based on this, No Limit Hold’em is the better game because you can play with more flexibility. The upshot of this is, you can have more fun, play in a way that suits your personality and, if you become skilled, win more money.
Limit Hold’em is great if you’re someone who has a solid grasp of game theory and hand match-ups. If you can do the correct calculations based on your hand and your opponent’s perceived range, you can make mathematically correct bets, calls and folds.
However, problems arise if you’re not an expert on the game’s maths or, worse still, your opponent is equally skilled. In both instances, the limited betting structure essentially forces you to rely on luck. In contrast, when you play No Limit Hold’em, it’s possible to win even if you’re the worst player at the table.
Because you can bet enough to pressure your opponent into folding, your understanding of maths, hand ranges or physical tells don’t matter as much. Sure, if you’re skilled in these areas it helps, but No Limit allows you to win in spite of them.
A classic example of this was a hand on the TV show High Stakes Poker between Brad Booth and Phil Ivey. Even though Ivey was the superior player with the better hand, Booth won the pot because he moved all-in and pressured Ivey into folding.
The final advantage No Limit Hold’em has is that pots can reach epic proportions. Whether it’s a tournament or a cash game, the fact everyone can bet their entire stack at any time means the money in the middle is almost irrelevant.
In contrast, when you’re playing Limit Hold’em, the average pot remains at a fairly low level compared to the size of the blinds. Sure, it’s possible to get all of the money in the middle playing Limit. However, it would take multiple bets and raises, by which time someone will probably assume they’re behind and fold.
Even though the size of the pot should dictate the amount you bet to a certain extent, the free-flowing nature of the No Limit game often means the money in the middle is many times the blind level. When you throw overbetting into the mix (i.e. betting more than the value of the pot), things get even more interesting.
Skilled players can win a lot more by playing No Limit Hold’em. Because you can tempt weaker players into making large bets, the scope to make a healthy profit is greater, which is the main reason this variant has the edge on Limit Hold’em.