Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Difference Between Limit Poker and No Limit Poker

When I started this blog I was playing almost exclusively Low Limit Hold ‘Em.  Usually 2/4, sometimes 3/6 or 4/8.  But as some of my posts recently indicate, I’m more and more “experimenting” with No Limit.  It started with No Limit tournaments but more recently I’ve been playing No Limit cash games, either 1/2 or even 1/3.
This trend is continuing.  Last month I was in Vegas for about two weeks.  I played a lot of No Limit tournaments throughout those two weeks.  Some of the results have been blogged about, some will be blogged about in the future, and some are best left between me and my deity.  But of course I also played a lot of cash games.  As it turned out, most of the first week I played my usual 2/4 Limit game and most of the second week I played 1/2 No Limit.  I already blogged about one such time at the Mirage here.  Most of the rest of my 1/2 games were at BSC, where I am well known as a 2/4 Limit player. 
So that gives me a pretty good perspective to talk about the differences between playing Limit and No Limit poker.  But wait….this is not really a poker post.  I could blog about the differences of the two games from a poker playing perspective, but that’s not what this post is about.  I want to talk about the differences between the two games from a different perspective.  I want to talk about the differences from the social aspect of poker, the fun aspect, the enjoyment aspect of it—the difference in atmosphere.  Or, perhaps I should say, from the “story” aspect of it.
What do I mean?  I mean from my experience last month, it’s a whole different world playing at a 2/4 Limit game than the one that exists at the 1/2 No Limit table right next door.  Vastly different.
Playing at the 2/4 game the first week was almost always a fun, enjoyable, highly social experience (some exceptions, of course)--as usual.  There was almost always a lot of friendly chatter at the table, only a small amount of which actually concerned poker.  People exchanged stories about their jobs, their home towns, their Vegas experiences.  It was all very friendly, most of the conversation was pleasant.  There was lots of laughing between the hands, it was generally a very nice way to spend the evening, regardless of how the cards were treating me.
So it’s usually a nice social experience playing at the 2/4 game.  And more often than not, there are youngish, attractive women playing at the game.  This is always nice, especially since so many of them tend to wear skimpy clothing—even during winter.  I admit I’m not opposed to having good looking women in revealing clothing in view.
So Limit poker is fun…..and also, it is a great source for stories.  It turns out that, over the years, while I was having a good time playing, talking, laughing with all these folks, I was getting good anecdotes too.  People doing and saying outrageous things.  Me egging them on to do and say outrageous things.  Much of this has already been documented here on this blog, more stories will follow (I haven’t run out of “old” stories even as I am getting new ones).
In fact it was my collecting these stories that led to my starting this blog.  As I tried my best to relate these stories to my friends, they enjoyed them so much they begged for more.  And they encouraged me to document them in a way that other people could enjoy them too.  Of course, not all the stories I’ve told (or will tell) came from the poker table, but many did.  Some of them were poker related but some had nothing to do with a flush beating a straight.  My friends who couldn’t care less about poker seemed to enjoy them either way.
I mentioned above that the 2/4 game frequently has women playing.  Often it is these women who provide the best stories.  This has led to the “woman said” story.  At least one of my friends finds these stories to be the best stories.  A woman saying something outrageous or perhaps out of character (for how us middle aged guys view women) is a golden find to him.  Thus, if you check the labels I’ve used here, the “woman said” label is the one used most often—by far.
Ok, so that’s Low Limit poker.  Then, in the second week of my visit, I mostly played No Limit.  What a difference! Most of the time I was at the No Limit game, I saw some of the most gruesome looking mugs I'd ever seen, virtually all male. One guy just scared the crap out of me just with his face--he looked like he came out of Central Casting for a Russian mafia/ex-KGB villain for the show "24".

Even more radically different from the Limit games, there was very little table talk, most of the games were very quiet. When there was talk, it seemed a lot less interesting than the average 2/4 game. I didn't really get to know any of the other players (with a couple of exceptions) like I do routinely at 2/4. It was somewhat depressing.

While playing with all these quiet sourpusses, I’d look over to the 2/4 tables that had been my home for so long.  Every time I looked, every table seemed to be filled with people laughing and talking and generally having a good time. And I'd see attractive females at all those tables, laughing, chatting, and generally enjoying themselves.

Then I'd look back at the stone faced, dour looking, silent and unpleasant mugs at my table and wondered what the heck I was doing there instead of having fun with the 2/4 crowd.
Of course, I was entertaining myself—and more importantly educating myself—learning how to play this vastly different version of poker.  And I had some success and that was good (and fun) and when I did take a bad loss I used it as a learning experience. So it wasn’t really a negative experience…..but I couldn’t help thinking every night I’d be having a better time if I’d gone to the 2/4 table instead of the 1/2 table.
And then there are the anecdotes.  Night after night, it became clearer and clearer to me that my future blog postings were going to be more or less exclusively about actual poker, and not about funny stories from the poker table.  Any “woman said” stories—or other stories of amusing characters and outrageous behavior—would come from the time I spent in Vegas when I wasn’t playing poker.  Yes, there actually are such times.
So I was starting to wonder if the trade off was one I was happy about.  Was it really worth playing no limit and giving up all that fun?  I wasn’t committed either way.  I knew any time I wanted t could head back to the 2/4 game.  A couple of times playing no limit, I looked over at all the fun they seemed to be having at the 2/4 games and I came thisclose to asking for a table change, and a game change. 
But I was enjoying the challenge of trying to figure out this no limit thing, so I stuck with it.  And I started thinking I would switch back and forth between limit and no limit depending on my mood when I hit the poker room, or based on how tired I was that day or night.  If I was too tired to play my best poker, playing 2/4 might be more fun and less of a threat to my bankroll.
And then, something happened on my last night in town to make me wonder if I was making all these judgments about No Limit based on a too-small sample size.  What was it?  See here.


  1. Hi Rob, I came across your blog through a link on another bloggers page. I have read through your entire site, and have thoroughly enjoyed your stories and anecdotes. I am a poker player based in Detroit, I play at the 3 casinos there and in many private games, with several trips a year to las Vegas. Limit poker is a true art and has been overshadowed by no limit since the Moneymaker effect. The Mirage always ran a 6-12 game that was very profitable and enjoyable to play in. I hope to be able to exchange stories and bounce some hands off you in the future to get your perspective on the play, and would be happy to do the same for you. I too, have been a long time reader on, my user name there is ckroe2001 . Keep the good stories coming!


    1. Thanks very much for the kind words, ckroe2001! They are much appreciated. I've never played limit poker at stakes that really mean something. Even the 4/8 game at the Venetian plays pretty much the same as the average 2/4 game most of the time. Nevertheless, even 2/4 requires thought and skill, if a somewhat different skillset than NL. See you on AVP, and maybe on one of your Vegas trips!

  2. It usually comes down to table selection. I have been at many really fun $1/2 NL tables, but in general they might not be as much fun since at any time someone could get felted or lose several hundred -- never vey pleasant no matter what.

  3. I would play No Limit tournaments as a source of income and let the low limit poker games be for your social outlet ... although it seems that No Limit can offer some sensational "woman said" stories! After all, you are in a casino in Vegas .... that has got to be wild in of itself.

    1. I would love to play No Limit as a source of income. If only the cards--and the players--would cooperate.