For The Forum - Fixed Limit
By Aaron Thompson
Aug 22, 2010 7:46 AM CDT
Tips on playing Fixed Limit Hold'em
I want to start a series of entries where the topics we discuss are topics that the 888 Forum community has suggested. Whether you have questions about something, or find a particularly topic interesting, bring it up at the forums and we'll try to get to it here.
For the first entry, we're going to talk a bit about Fixed Limit, a fitting place to start as the first article I ever had published was one about Fixed Limit.
Fixed Limit is slow and boring. If preflop all-ins and huge overbet bluffs are what you want to see when you watch poker on TV, than perhaps Fixed isn't for you. However if you enjoy big pots and big action, try you hand at a few games of Fixed Limit (FL), and you might find a game you didn't expect.
There is no money to be made at Fixed Limit. The nature of Fixed creates pots where you generally have 4-5 players (at a full ring), seeing a flop rather than 2 or 3. Once a hand gets to the turn, the pot odds are so large that it is almost a mathematical mistake for most people to fold. As such, most of them call when they shouldn't, or when they have very small chances of winning, making pots much larger than they should be.
Fixed Limit is for beginners. I will often recommend players trying their hand at a new style of poker begin with Fixed Limit. This has nothing to do with Fixed being "easier." I make this recommendation simply because with Fixed Limit, you don't have to concern yourself with bet values, and you can focus all your attention on learning the rules of the new game. I can guarantee 9 times out of 10, if a No Limit player wanders to a Fixed Limit table with a number of FL regulars, he will be leaving with less money than he came with.
I can play alot more hands than I normally would because they can't raise more than a fixed amount. This is the biggest mistake most No Limit players make when making the transition to Fixed. You can perhaps open your starting hand ranges slightly to include some suited connectors that you may not otherwise play (if you are of Tight/Aggressive nature), but if you start playing any two connecting or suited cards, you'll soon find your stack dwindling.
Our starting hand quality should depend entirely on what you're comfortable with playing and from which positions. You probably don't want to start playing hands like 36s from early position unless you're a very aggressive player and you're going to be raising alot during this hand.
When you have alot of players limping from early position, the players behind you will have tendencies to call and speculate flops with any two cards. As a result of your early position limp with 36s, another player in later position may have limped with a hand like 74s. Now your flush draw (the primary reason you played the hand), is rendered moot. Not only is it a useless flush draw, but if you hit it, it will likely cost you alot of money.
So the misconception of playing many more hands can often have a negative effect on your stack. Yes, you might play a Q9 and make two pair because it was cheap to call down with your middle pair of 9s. However you will often get stuck in situations where you're drawing dead because it is cheap. Stick to your usual starting hand requirements, and consider your position.
Like every other type of poker, position is so important. There exists an old saying in Fixed Limit, "an early position raise thins the field. A late position raise builds the pot." This means that when you come into the pot from an early position (often without any limpers ahead of you) with a raise, it is more likely the players behind you will fold their hands unless they are relatively good hands. If however you are in late position (and alot of people have limped infront of you), the only thing a raise will accomplish, is to build the pot. It is unlikely that anyone in the hand will call 1 bet, and fold to a raise.
So keeping this in mind, you have to consider your approach with particular hands differently than you may in No Limit.
You're dealt AA under the gun.
In No limit, your normal strategy is to limp UTG, and than reraise any raisers behind you (I'm not advocating this strategy at all. Just an example). This technique can be successful as it catches your opponent in an awkward spot where he has already made a raise, and is now forced to choose between giving up a raised hand, or playing a very expensive pot.
If you tried a similar move in Fixed Limit, the ONLY thing you'd accomplish by open limping, is welcoming 5-6 other players into the hand. If someone else raises, and you reraise from your early position, you may chase out 1 or 2 players. However it is more likely that you will end up playing in a 3-bet pot, out of position, against 4-5 opponents who aren't about to fold to a single bet on the flop. So now you have to hope your Aces hold against 3-4 players all the way to the river. Sometimes they will and you'll win a big pot. Sometimes they wont and you'll lose a big pot.
So how should you play your hands? I recommend that preflop, you play your hands as straight forward as possible. Raise when you have a good hand, fold when you don't. Eventually, the math will take care of itself. Just remember that your late position raises will not thin the field, and don't let it discourage you when your AK button raise is called 7 times.
The allure of drawing to hands in Fixed Limit is something that is constant in almost every hand. You need to make sure that when you do decide to draw to a hand, make sure it is one that is strong enough to win. As mentioned early, chasing two low suited connected from early position can often backfire and result in a losing a large pot, rather than winning one .
Making sure you have the right price usually isn't a problem, as you'll likely have the correct pot odds to attempt most draws. However if you don't, fold. There are very little implied odds in Fixed Limit. If you make your draw, you are likely only getting 1 MAYBE 2 big bets out of your opponent (a "big bet", is the bet made on the turn or the river. In a game of 1/2 Fixed Limit, the 1 refers to the small bet and the 2 refers to the big bet. The blinds in this game will be .50c and $1. Unlike No Limit where a game of 1/2 NL would refer to the blind size).
I say there are little implied odds, because unlike No Limit, you will not be able to make a large river bet once you make your flush draw to win your opponents entire stack. You will win 1 (maybe 2) bets on the turn or river, and that is all. So if you are drawing to hands without the correct pot odds, you are playing a losing game that will eventually catch up to you.
Consider your position while drawing. If you're going to play a draw heavy hand like 9Ts, it will be safer to do it in late position, that way you will know before it gets to your turn whether or not you have the correct odds to play this hand passed the flop.
Also, it doesn't hurt to play draws aggressively. Come in for a opening bet, or perhaps even raise a draw on the flop. This can throw your opponents off for when you do make you draw, so you can trap them into getting 2 or 3 bets from them on later streets rather than 1 or 2. However if you do not have loose/aggressive tendencies, I would not suggest this as it will probably do you more harm than good ;)
Know your Opponents
Like position, an aspect of the game that is important in any type of poker. Knowing which opponents at your table will raise any two cards, and which ones will only raise premium hands will help you immediately to decide which starting hands to play and when.
Knowing which players will chase flush/straight draws, and which ones prefer to only play made hands, lets you know when you can bet your pairs aggressively on the flop and turn when you've been called, and when you should slow down and check instead.
Learning which players will call on the flop and the turn with bottom pair because they "caught a piece," and don't want to let go. Versus the players who will only go passed the flop when they have at least top pair, will allow you to attack the call stations with medium strength hands, while giving up small pots to the tight players, when you know they won't let go.
These are just a few beginning tips for Fixed Limit. When I first started playing poker, Fixed was the only game I could get. Whether it was at my casinos or playing online at 888, nobody was offering No Limit. I found that under the right circumstances, Fixed can be a very exciting, and profitable game. It requires discipline, a mathematical approach, and good timing. Not unlike any other style of poker.
Thanks to Wiggy at the Forums for his suggestion.