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Limit Holdem - a whole new ball game? by Peter Costa

Limit Holdem - a whole new ball game?It has often been suggested by most players that there is less skill in Limit Holdem than in NL. This is often endorsed by the fact that you will see a wide variety of winners in Limit rather than the usual “name” players that you will see winning NL events. On the surface, it sounds like a genuine argument and one that I would have to agree with. However, having won a few Limit events over the last two or three years - I have grown to appreciate the different approach that these events require…

When I first began to regularly play Limit tournaments back in 2002, my overall impression was that they seemed very volatile in the later stages when the limits increased. To combat this, I would purposely portray a very tight image by mainly playing premium hands. To re-enforce this image even further; I would also slow play big hands by not raising or betting when I could have done so.

Obviously, sometimes I would not make as much profit on hands that I won. I may even have also lost a couple of hands that I would have won if I had played more aggressively. But in order to fully analyze this - I also needed to evaluate the positives that this approach offered. Three factors seemed to highlight themselves. Firstly, it limited my losses when I actually lost the hand. Secondly, it very often enticed a bluff. Thirdly, and more importantly, later on when the blinds increased to become crucial -it allowed me to win hands with just a single bet or raise. This was to prove a major factor in a few of the events that I went on to win. In particular, the biggest ever field for a Limit event (1166 entries) at the Orleans in June 2003. Having gone chip leader with about seventy players remaining, I did not really have to do much more than that to win. However, sometimes; something a little extra is required…

I am referring to one of my early Limit wins at the Commerce in 2002. With a field of over 460, I found myself down to the last three tables and with a fair chance of making a decent profit by playing this way. However, my stack size was not that great. I also wanted to give myself some sort of chance to win first place. One other major problem that I was faced with - was that the big chip leader was seated two to my right. He played a very aggressive game and just helped himself to my blinds every round. But I knew it would only be a matter of time before this situation was confronted.

Well, the time did finally arrive. The image that I had portrayed all night was about to be tested. It was time to make a move. The problem with very aggressive big stacks is that in order for a move to work - it would take more than a single raise to do it. It needed a major commitment to a hand. I also had to get the first one right - there was not much room for error. It was either going to make me look foolish or push me towards the final. Luck was very much on my side from the very first of six moves against the same chip leader.

Holding A-5os on the BB, I waited for the usual button raise. I was not disappointed (yeah right). It was time for the three-bet move. The expected call came. Having chosen this hand for the move, I would now simply carry on betting all the way and just hope for a muck at some stage. I hoped that the tight image might pay some rewards.

Flop of T-J-5, I bet, he called. Turn was rag, I bet, he called. River rag, I bet, he mucks. Phew!

Seconds out - round two!

K-9os SB. He raises, I three bet, he calls. I bet the flop of K-9-3, I bet, he calls. Turn card 3. I bet he calls. River 8. I bet, he raises and I re-raise. K-9 wins. Having played two hands in identical fashion, and only showing the one with top two pair - was heaven sent. And although now I did not really need to make another move for a while - that showdown gave me the license to try it again.

On four other occasions within the same hour - the same play was made. The three times that I failed to connect - he mucked on the river. The other time when I again made top two - he again raised on the river. From 36k to 148K and chip leader final table. That’s luck!

About ten days later, I went on to win another big Limit event at the Bellagio. This was one of those events when I didn’t actually do anything except hang around with low chips for many hours. I saw the field slowly dwindle and before I knew it, I had made the final. This was the kind of event when nothing much happened for me. It must have seemed to other players that I was some kind of super rock. But the truth was, I was just not getting any hands to call raises with. And when I did get a big hand - I didn’t get any callers. As long as you manage to keep ahead of the limits - this is a very stress-free way of playing poker. But as I have often stated - the longer you hang on, the more chance you have that you will hit that great rush. The rush came and before I knew it, I was left heads-up with a sweet old guy by the name of R.A Head - or R.A to his friends.

It took what seemed like hours to finally get level in chips with R A. By then, the Limits were so high that it was over in two hands. The final hand was funny in the sense that R.A tried to make the same exact move that I had done at the commerce ten days earlier. His all-in bet after the river was an easy call as I had made Aces full to his King high. It may have looked strange to onlookers when they saw the hands - but that’s what can happen when you make a move in Limit.

There was a story at the time concerning R. A. that caused a lot of amusement amongst the players. It seems that, while returning to his seat in a 20-40 limit game, just as it was his turn to act, he announced to the table that he was back. The problem was, he took his seat with the words…“R A’s back”.
On hearing this, the dealer announced that bet was now $60 (there had been a raise before it got to R.A.).

R A tried to explain to the dealer that he had not looked at his hand and that he had not acted yet. But the dealer was adamant that R A had announced to the table that he was raising back and that the bet was now $60. All the players had a good laugh. But R.A. was still forced to put his $60 in the pot. No - he didn’t win the hand. Now that would have been an even better story….

Anyhow, in the next article I am going to continue with the crazy play theme and how that helped me to win the Aussie Millions in January 2003. I warn you in advance; this play is NOT recommended!

Until then - play well, get lucky and enjoy life!

Peter “The Poet” Costa


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