Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Limit Is Dead!

The poker bubble has burst! The fad is over! Get out quick!

You know who is playing No Limit? Old people at the Sahara.

I played at the Sahara the other night and it felt like playing at an American Legion. Something about the low ceilings. It just didn't feel official. It felt like when you play in an illegal cardroom. They didn't give a receipt for my tournament buy in. I got knocked out in level 7 yet still hadn't heard anything about total rebuys or what the prize pool was. It felt like playing at someone's home tournament in Staten Island. Oh and I will absolutely be back.

What else? The post prior to this was intended to share the idea that I thought I could move up in levels more safely at limit than no limit. It was not written with the intention of announcing my retirement from no limit poker.

Limit poker is just a much better model for the one long game philosophy. You can literally put your entire bankroll on a limit table and watch it grow. It’s truly one long game and if you are a winning player your stack will get larger over time.

In no limit there are extreme swings. Managing your bankroll is just as important as what cards you play. The term Variance is thrown around loosely in the poker community. Oftentimes it’s an excuse for poor play. But Variance really does exist. And when you play every day for a living, how much money you decide to put down on the no limit table becomes one of your most important and toughest decisions.

How much of your reader bankroll would you feel comfortable putting down on the table at a no limit game?

5%? 10%? 20%?

Lets say you the reader have $2500 that you are willing to lose at poker. Then you could never sit down for $500 at a 2/5 game. Putting down 20% of your bankroll is absurd in terms of risk and reward. Yet lots of us take that chance all the time, because we aren’t relying on our poker income to eat. Most of us have other sources of income that we can use to eat and replenish the poker bankroll for the next trip to the casino.

So if you’re visiting Vegas for the weekend and okay with losing 1000 bucks then it’s safe to put 50% down at a time and potentially lose two $500 buy ins. If you go bust you just head to the bar and joke about the $1000 cocktail that you're holding in your hand.

But when you do this everyday and have to show a consistent profit, you can’t be putting large portions of your bankroll down on anything.

I think alot of people take for granted how hard it is to make a living at poker. I see such horror night after night. No one cares that I had the best of it. I played no limit last night at the Venetian and lost two all ins to flush draws on the river.

Whatcha gonna do?

Hence the limit idea. Limit the damage. While still making money.

If I lose 5 coin races in a row at the no limit table it's a disaster. Yet I can lose 5 coin races in limit and still have a winning session.

Limit poker isn’t good or bad because it’s limit poker. It’s good or bad because of the players at my table. Limit poker also certainly isn’t dead. That's what they play at every level at the Bellagio. And in the Big Game, I've heard they cap betting for hands at $100,000 when they play no limit. So it's not even truly no limit. In other words, they want it to be more about the skill of an entire evening and less about the variance of one big hand.

Translating those numbers down to my level, that would be playing no limit with 4/8 blinds and a cap of 100 bucks per hand. That's a much different game. You're not really going to scare anyone off a hand. If I've raised to 25 with kings and you repop it to 75 I probably can't fold with the 100 cap. If you had another 500 behind at risk it's a different story. But notice how without the no limit aspect the decision is easier. Less power is given to one random hand. Good or bad.

If I was on a long boat to China with Doyle Brunson, and we were going to play until one of us had all the chips, I think he’d be best off playing me limit poker. And beating me over and over again. Making my chips bleed away.

If Doyle and I were playing no limit, I think it would be to my advantage. I could use aggression and luck to have a chance. At no limit I could try my best. I could also take the play away from him and just go all in every hand and force him to race me. Even in the worst case scenario, if I were to run into an overpair I’m only a 4 to 1 dog preflop. Which means that even in my WORST case scenario I still have a 20% chance of beating Doyle heads up. That’s really not so terrible.

Think of it as #9 batter in baseball getting a hit. It happens. It's close to the odds that Vegas gives the Giants of beating the Patriots.

But if Doyle and I were playing limit poker I’d actually have to try and out play him. Over and over again. In small increments. It might take longer for him to win. But I think he'd be a bigger favorite. I'd need to get lucky many times. But at no limit I'd only need to get lucky once.

Maybe what I’ll do is create separate limit and no limit bankrolls and as each bankroll grows, hopefully I can move up to bigger specific games.

I also suggest to try games beyond limit and no limit hold em. Go play Razz. Stud. Omaha. You’ll be amazed how much it'll help your overall poker IQ.


kurokitty said...

It would be interesting to revisit the concepts in this post once you've had your first -300BB, -450BB downturn in limit hold'em.

Just as it doesn't take too much out of you if you suffer a suckout, you also at times have to expend bet after bet because the pot odds are right although you may have a very small chance of winning the hand.

I think whether NL or limit is the better game variance-wise depends on your skill set for both types of hold'em.

Check Raise Chin said...

I totally agree with you Rob.

I was in Atlantic City for 3 days this past weekend and there some players who absolutely will not lay down a hand and is willing to gamble with junk just to take somebody out. That's the thing they're out to play for one big pot and they'll chase with just about anything.

It's almost counter intuitive in limit. Some guys won't chase a gut shot in limit but put a big pot in front of them in NL and they'll toss their chips in without flinching. It's weird.

I'm not sure if you play Omaha Hi/Lo Rob, but I played some at the Taj (the only game I could afford was the 2/4) on Saturday night and I was surprised at the bad play at Omaha 8. I think that if you know how to play Omaha, a person can do very well because most of the players misread their cards or chase the nut low too often. I mean that's all they're after is 1/2 the pot and the cards that they play are horrible (A,2,7,10 with the Ace unsuited type of hands for example).

I'm not sure NL is dead but I do know that a lot people playing NL are hoping to score some big pots by getting lucky and not by outplaying the other players and stuff. Maybe limit is the way to go. Less stress perhaps or maybe it's just poker the way poker was meant to be.

As far as variance goes, I think that most good players (from what I've witnessed) are mor apt to lose big pots in NL because of the donkey play of the other players. A couple of those and you're out a few buy-ins right off the bat. There is nothing a skillful player can do to prevent luck from smacking them in the face and losing a huge pot. Variance almost goes out the window in NL because of the luck factor and huge swings and also because the bets in NL varies greatly which produces anomalies in your variance. In limit the bets are a fixed number and the math makes more sense. If you're supposed to win 6 out of 10 times and you're betting $100 every time, you're +$200 over the long term. Plain and simple. In NL if you're favored 6 out 10 times you can still lose more than you win because of the NL factor. In NL those 4 times that you come up on the wrong side of the math could cost you $1,000 but those 6 times you're supposed to win you might win only $500.

Not sure if this makes sense but I think you're right that grinding out profits in limit is more consistent with the long term math and stuff.

Great post Rob.

BWoP said...

I've found that there is way more variance in O-8 than in HE (both of the limit variety).

Although there is plenty of dead money laying around.

dave said...

Omaha is a sick variance game. Thats why I love it.