How to play winning limit hold’em

Limit hold’em is a game of ‘showdown poker’ – find the right cards to turn yourself into a winning limit hold’em player

‘Showdown poker’ means that a lot of hands will go all the way to the river, players will turn over their hands, and the player with the best hand will win the pot. So it’s vital you start with an advantage by playing premium hands most of the time. But what do we mean by ‘premium cards’?

Well the big pairs (A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J) are obviously going to be the best hands out there a lot of the time, while the powerhouse hands like A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10 and K-Qs will make strong hands on the flop a decent amount of time, not to mention the time you make even better hands such as straights and flushes.

Mid and smaller pairs such as T-T to 2-2 are often worth playing in the hope of your hand improving to three of a kind and winning you a big pot. Similarly suited connectors such as 5-6 and 10-9 are good when they improve to a straight or a flush. How you play these hands will vary depending on your position at the table.

The positions

The blinds

These are the worst seats at the table and you should not call a raise with most cards. You should generally only call one bet with speculative hands like suited connectors and
small pairs, but raise if you have big pairs or powerhouse hands like A-K and A-Q. Facing a raise and a re-raise in a tight game you should fold everything except the big pairs (A-A to Q-Q) and A-K suited.

Early position:

These are the first three seats to the left of the big blind. From these positions you must play very tight, raising and re-raising with A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K. You should raise and call raises with J-J and A-Q. You should limp (call the big blind) with hands like A-J, A-10s, K-Qs and pairs 7-7 to T-T. If once you have limped in you face a raise for a single bet you can call, but fold A-10 and K-Q to two or more bets.

Middle position:

The next three seats are known as middle position and you still need to play fairly tight from here. If there is no raise, you should raise with any pair above pocket fives, cards such as A-Ks to A-Ts, K-Qs to K-Ts, Q-Js to J-Ts, where both cards are of the same suit and A-K to A-T and K-Q to K-J where the cards are of different suits. The power of suited cards cannot be emphasised enough so don’t be tempted to play marginal hands like K-T and J-T where both cards are different suits. These hands will only get you into trouble.

Late Position:

These seats, the ‘cutoff’ and ‘the button’, are the most powerful positions at the table being last to act on every round. From these seats you can play lots more hands, especially if you are first to enter the pot, including all those you would play from early and mid positions as well as lots of suited connectors from T-9s to 6-5s, plus any two offsuit cards above a ten. The reason being you will often either steal the blinds or be able to win the pot by betting on the flop if the blinds check to you.

Postflop play

The real challenge in hold’em comes when you see the flop. This is the defining point of your hand. Your hand after the flop can be put into two categories: you either have a ‘made’ hand (a pair, two-pair, trips), or a drawing hand (flush draw, straight draw, overcards). You will have to decide how to play these hands based on your position and how many players are left in the hand.

If you were the preflop raiser in late position then most of the time players still in the hand will check to you, and you will often make a bet regardless of whether you hit or not. This is known as a continuation bet. Often though, you will still have the best hand postflop and will be betting for value.

Most of the time, in pots with two or three players, top pair with top kicker will take down the pot. Only think about folding your hand on the turn (which is when the bet doubles) if you bet and then there’s a raise and a re-raise. This could well mean you are beaten and you have to fold, but you should rarely fold on the river if you have a good hand and it only costs you one big bet to win maybe 10 or 12.

Drawing hands

Now let’s imagine you raise with A-K preflop and get the three callers. The flop comes 4-9-Q giving you a flush draw. In this situation you have a drawing hand, where you have nine ‘outs’ (diamonds) to make the nut flush, which will almost always be the best hand, and you may have six ‘outs’ to make top pair should an Ace or King come on the turn or river. In case you don’t know, an out is a card that you think will give you the winning hand. Here is a quick guide to outs.

To get a rough idea of your chance of winning the hand just multiply the number of outs you have by two for one card to come and by four for two cards to come. So, for example, if you have a flush draw on the flop you have nine outs. To hit it on the turn the maths is simply 9 x 4 = 36%. To hit it by the river it is simply 9 x 2 = 18% (actual 19%).

It is very important you count these correctly in order for you to pay the correct price to draw to your flush or straight against players with made hands. In the example above with a potential 15 outs, you will make the best hand perhaps 50% of the time by the river.

In this hand then, with so many outs, you should bet and raise for value. If you miss your draw and lose the hand it doesn’t really matter, because the times you do hit and win a big pot will more than make up for it. You should always be thinking of poker as a long-term game!

Marginal hands and monsters

Less obvious situations occur when you have a straight draw where only one card will be a winner for you such as holding J-10 and the fl op shows Q-8-7 where only the 9 will give you a straight. This is known as a gutshot.

In these spots you must weigh up your outs, the odds the pot is offering if you hit your hand, and the amount of players in the hand (the more the better when drawing). Often if you haven’t hit enough of the fl op to get excited about, the pot is small and there are only one or two players in the hand, it is better to fold than to keep drawing.

Lastly, there will be times when you flop a monster like a set (three of a kind), a flush or a straight. You should rarely, if ever, slow-play these hands. So bet, and raise wherever possible. One thing you might want to think about doing, though, is check-raising when you’re out of position with these very strong hands. This means checking when first to act then raising when your opponent bets.

Remember, the internet is teeming with bad players who do not understand the odds and correct play, and will happily hand over their money without thinking twice about why they keep losing. Now it’s your job to take it!

Limit preflop chart

What to play and when to play it


Call one bet – 2-2 to J-J, suited connectors
Raise (if no raise in front) – A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K, A-Q
Reraise – A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K (suited)
Fold – All other hands

Early position

Call one bet – 2-2 to T-T, suited connectors, A-J, A-10 (suited), K-Q (suited)
Raise (if no raise in front) – A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K, A-Q, J-J
Reraise – A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K (suited)
Fold – All other hands

Mid position

Call one bet – 2-2 to 4-4, suited connectors
Raise (if no raise in front) – 5-5 to A-A, A-K to A-T (suited), K-Q to K-T (suited), Q-J to J-T (suited), A-K to A-T, K-Q to K-J
Reraise – A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K, A-Q, J-J
Fold – All other hands

Late position

Raise (or call if a raise in front) – 2-2 to 4-4, suited connectors, 5-5 to A-A, A-K to A-T, K-Q to K-T, Q-J, Q-T, J-T
Reraise – A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K (suited)
Fold – All other hands


Pin It

Comments are closed.