How to play no-limit Texas Hold’em

Poker.Org Staff
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Posted on: June 9, 2021 2:49 pm EDT

No-limit Texas hold’em is the Cadillac of poker, although wildly, the game isn’t technically legal in Texas. It’s the most popular poker game played by a wide margin, and for good reason. The game is fun, exciting, and can be highly profitable if you become a skilled player. But before you get to that level, you must first understand the rules and basic concepts of this great game.

Basic rules of Texas hold’em

Before getting into the no-limit variant, let’s quickly go over the basic rules of Texas hold’em, which apply to all forms of the game, including no-limit. First things first, one player starts the hand with a dealer button in front of them. The player to the left of that individual is the small blind, and must put in a forced bet before the cards are dealt. To the left of the small blind is the big blind, and that player must also put in a forced bet before the cards are dealt. 

The hand then begins with each player at the table being dealt two cards face-down, also referred to as “hole cards.” Based on the strength of those two cards, each player determines if they want to call the value of the big blind, raise, or fold, which is often referred to as pre-flop action.

Those who continued in the hand will see the flop, three community cards that are placed face-up on the table. Another round of betting ensues. Next is the turn, one additional face-up community card with the third round of betting. The hand wraps up with the river, a final face-up community card. After this final round of betting, the player who made the best five-card poker hand between the five community cards and the two hole cards wins the hand.

Definition of ‘no-limit’

There are four types of Texas hold’em played in casinos — limit, spread limit, pot-limit, and no-limit. In NLH, players can wager up to the size of their stack as they’d like at any point in the hand. This is what makes the game so exciting. You can potentially double-up in one hand, whereas it’s virtually impossible to do that in limit hold’em if you have a big stack.

These days, you’ll have a hard time finding a spread limit or pot-limit hold’em game. In pot-limit, you can only bet up to the size of the pot, and in spread limit, your bet is limited to a range of bet sizes. Limit hold’em, otherwise referred to as fixed limit, requires players to bet a set amount and only that amount. That’s where no-limit Texas hold’em greatly differs.

Fundamental concepts of no-limit Texas hold’em

The game of no-limit Texas hold’em can be frustrating at times. When the cards aren’t going your way, you can feel miserable. But when you’re hitting everything in sight or your bluffs are getting through, there isn’t a better feeling in poker. 

The best players (think Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth) understand that it’s best to remain level-headed, win or lose. If you get too high or too low in this game, you’ll get eaten alive. Bad beats are a big part of the game, and it’s crucial that you avoid getting too upset after a rough hand. Accept that they’re going to happen from time to time and focus on your goal of becoming a long-term winning player.

Risk vs. reward

No-limit Texas hold’em is an easy game to learn, but a tough game to master. It’s a true gambling game, although skill is very much the main contributing factor long-term. Unlike limit hold’em, you could be putting your entire stack at risk in any given hand. While that might be cause for concern, the flipside is that you could also double your entire stack in any hand. That’s what makes the game so exciting.

There is a risk versus reward component to no-limit Texas hold’em. You have to be willing to risk money to win money, but the payout of taking those risks, once you learn how to play at a high-level, will be more than worth it. There are thousands of people who play this game for a living, many of whom become wealthy playing NLH, or at least make enough to pay their bills.

How to play winning no-limit Texas hold’em poker

No-limit Texas hold’em and limit hold’em strategy greatly differ. In limit, the best players play tight-aggressive, meaning they play a short range of hands but play the pots they enter aggressively. In NLH, aggression is also important, but most winning players expand their hand selection range compared to limit poker.

Beyond that, beating this difficult game requires patience and persistence, and a sizable bankroll. No-limit Texas hold’em is a high-variance game with so many ups and downs. Because you can lose all your chips in one bad unlucky hand, it’s important to have a large bankroll if you play the game for a living, to offset the bad runs.

The best players also focus on table position before entering a hand. Certain marginal hands such as suited connectors (7-8, 8-9, 9-10, etc.) are best played only from late position (on or directly to the right of the dealer button). The reason for that is, late position provides the best bluffing opportunity because you have more information about the holding of your opponent’s hand in that position. Thus, why you should eliminate middling hands in earlier positions and just fold those cards pre-flop.

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