Yesterday evening I had decided to take a break from playing No Limit and I went back to Limit Hold ‘Em. This time I picked a table at FullTiltPoker and bought in to a .25/50 Limit game with $7.50, while the minimum buy-in was 2.50 and the maximum buy was $1,000,000.00.
In Limit Hold ‘Em, the size of the stack does not really matter as much as they do in No Limit. This is because the size of the bets are limited to .25 per betting round pre-flop and flop and .50 per betting round for the turn and the river. There is no all in. In theory, the most you could bet in one hand is 6.00, unlike No Limit where your whole stack could go in at any time.
Bringing more than $20.00 to a .25/.50 Limit table seems to me to be a little bit like bragging about the size of your bankroll. Now there are occasions when you move from one table to another, where you must bring in what you had at the previous table, so it is possible a winning player will bring to a Limit table a stack of $20 or more. Even though the stack size does not really matter, it does indicate to me one of two things. One is that the player is a good one and has been accumulating money fairly regularly or two, that the player is trying to send a message. That message could be when he bets or raises you should get out of his way.
So the first thing I do when sitting down at a table is to assess the stack sizes. This is a good practice to get into, especially if you are considering playing No Limit, where the stack size can matter. I usually wait until I am the “big blind” before playing. This way I can observe the players and how they enter pots. Do they just call or do they raise? Do they re-raise or fold if someone raises them? What cards did they start with, if the hand is played to a show down of hands. All this information helps me to determine how I might play various hands that I am dealt.
If there is a lot of action, a lot of betting at every round, then I am going to limit myself to playing just the best starting hands such as AA, KK QQ, and AK. If the table is passive with very little or no pre-flop raising, I will play suited connectors such as J 10 or one or two gappers such as K J or Q 9 along with the premium hands. Watching the table prior to actually playing is a great help to me.
This evening I observed one player who entered almost every hand and would raise every other time he entered a hand. When this player had to show down a hand, his starting selections were amazing to me. He would enter a pot with a raise with 8 3 off suit or 3 5 suited. He would do this with poor position and he would win the pot most of the time. Luck was running with him … for a while. He had build his stack to almost $20.00. But it appeared that the rest of us had started to play tighter. Within 20 hands we had taken his entire stack away from him, causing him to rebuy. While he lost two more buy-ins during this session, he did tighten down his play a bit. His biggest problem was that there was not a pair of cards that he was dealt that he did not like. He played almost 70% of all hands dealt to him. I played less than 24% and I saw a few at my table that played perhaps 10% or less.
Do you study a poker table prior to playing? Are you watching the action around you when you are not playing a hand? Do you wait until the big blind comes to you before playing?