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Opening Ranges in Limit Holdem Poker

How well do you know your Limit Hold-em? With No Limit still the most widely-played form of poker out there, its fixed limit cousin often gets a bad rep, seen as ‘boring’, simple, overly mathematical, the list goes on… ‘a dead game’ where you can’t bluff or ‘protect your hand’.

In LHE your bets can feel like a feeble fraction of the pot, laying your opponent excellent odds on a call and leaving you tearing your hair out over river suckouts.

Each to their own, but hear us out – the three slices of statistical study below might just raise your opinion of LHE a unit or two.

Shown below are the Holdem Manager stats, filtered for 6max $10/$20 LHE, of world-class online midstakes grinder and Drag The Bar coach Paul ‘GiantBuddha’ Hoppe*. 

Fixed Limit Holdem Manager Stats

Playing 31% of hands and crushing??

Cross check these with your own for NLHE, and let’s make some comparisons.

1 – You Can Play More Hands

In No Limit tight-aggressive (TAG) players have the kind of starting hand opening ranges in 6max cash that results in a VPIP/PFR of around 20/18, down to 18/15 on the nittier side.

In LHE however as you can see, winning TAG grinders like GiantBuddha can play around 30/25. In fact playing as tight as a NLHE player in Limit would certainly make you a loser after rake.

In high-stakes, low rake environments, where loose aggressive (LAG) players are actively trying to exploit each others’ tendencies, even a 40/30 style is not uncommon. 6 Max LHE is like combat; a fast and action-packed battle for the blinds.

The wider gap between VPIP and PFR stems from having a much lower Fold BB To Steal %. Given the importance of taking down the blinds to your winrate, steal attempts in LHE are very frequent – online legend Bryce ‘Freedom25’ Paradis famously proved using a large HEM database that you can steal from the button over 50% of the time and still turn a profit.

As a result, you’re forced to defend your BB much more often. Players of Bryce’s calibre will fold their big blind to a small blind raise approximately zero percent of the time.

Facing a small blind steal range of 65%, for example, you’re up against the following myriad of hands:

LHE Small Blind Opening Range

Small blind opening standards

For just 0.5BB more to call pre, having position postflop, and with a flop c-bet guaranteed almost 100% of the time, it becomes +EV to defend virtually any two cards and peel all but the worst flops. You’ll find yourself in some tough turn and river spots – but that’s part of the fun.

2 – You Can Showdown More

A complex ‘levelling game’ arises in Limit Hold-em: players’ raising ranges are wider, therefore your calling range opens up in response. If it’s standard for opponents to call down with Ace high on dry boards heads-up, given pot odds and your perceived range, then by extension it becomes standard to value bet the strongest Ace high hands yourself… soon King high becomes ‘the nut bluff-catcher’, and so on.

A WTSD of 40% or more in LHE is the result – much higher than the 25-30% standard in NLHE, where an incorrect river call can cost you your entire stack, so you need to be correct a much higher percentage of the time.

It follows of course that you can bet more thinly for value on rivers – whereas in NLHE it’d be considered quite ‘sick’ to value-bet 22 on all three streets on a 445AK board and get called down by QJ, no-one bats an eyelid seeing the same hand play out in LHE.

TexasLimitKing LHE Hand

One of the most famous nosebleed Limit Hold’em call downs 

3 – Short Term Swings Are Smaller

A standard deviation of 18BB/100 in LHE means that for every 100 hands you play, there’s a 66% chance you’ll end up within 18 Big Bets of the amount you ‘should’ win (your expected winrate of 1 or 2BB/100). To get within twice that, 36BB, you have a 95% shot. You’re a pretty dead-lock, at 99%, to end up somewhere plus or minus 54BB.

The standard deviation in NLHE is around twice that of LHE, meaning fixed-limit players have a much easier life. What’s more, of course, there’s no chance of getting stacked in one hand, and tilting off a few buy-ins as a result.

Factor in rakeback to your LHE winrate, and your results can show a pretty consistent upward trend. Rakeback deals are of paramount importance to LHE grinders, since rake works out as about ~3BB/100 on most sites. Find yourself a good deal here and you can add a decent chunk of that back onto your winrate, and only experience large (500BB+) downswings very rarely.

If you like to get stuck-in and play more hands, see more showdowns, make more thin value bets without needing to ‘pot-control’ and protect your stack… why not give poo-flinging a try today. There are plenty of fish in the fixed-limit seas.

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