Fixed Limit vs No Limit Texas Holdem
The only difference between the two games are the rules that govern betting. But what a difference that is.
Fixed limit holdem is primarily played at cash game, or ring game tables. There are two specific bet/raise amounts at a fixed limit table. One bet amount is used for the first two betting rounds, the second bet amount is used for the last two betting rounds. The amounts are part of the table name, so if you sit down to a game of $2/4 holdem, you know the betting increments already.
The number of raises per betting round is limited as well, usually at four total bets per hand. That means there can be a bet, a raise, a re-raise, and one final re-raise. Some rooms remove the cap on re-raises if there are only two players involved in the hand.
The first piece of advice to remember when playing limit holdem is that the most you can put into a pot in any one hand is 12 big bets. If you decide to play a hand, be certain to have 12 big bets in your chip stack before the cards are dealt. The one time you decide to play with less chips will undoubtedly also be the time you flop four deuces against an opponent that landed an Aces over Deuces full house and wants to jam the pot every step of the way.
No limit is the preferred betting style for tournament play. Almost all of the major poker tournaments you can watch on television use the no limit betting style. It makes for eventful play as players are allowed to risk all of their chips with a single phrase . . "All In".
No limit cash games can be found, but be wary, these are not friendly poker games. At any point in time a single bad or unlucky move can ruin an entire night's worth of thoughtful, solid play.
Here is a common fixed limit vs no limit holdem scenerio.
You are dealt AA as the dealer in a fixed limit game. As action proceeds around the table, you find four other players call the big blind. Your most agressive choice is to raise, but the amount of the raise is fixed. This raise will not be likely to chase opponents out of the hand, it only makes them pay more to play in a situation where you are the favorite to win the pot.
In No Limit, you can raise with every chip in your stack. This move is likely to chase opponents out of the hand. If someone calls your large raise, they pay an aweful lot to play in a situation where you are the favorite.
The same poker techniques can be used in both games. You can protect a hand, chase opponents out of a pot, slowplay, etc. But, these techniques can obviously be more emphatic in no limit poker.
Limit Holdem Skills
In limit poker, players cannot protect their hands with massive raises. They also cannot rely on trapping their opponent into one big bet to make a profit in the hand.
A limit poker player should know the odds of catching a card on a draw, and pot odds very well because a lot of the money to be made in a limit holdem game is found when opponents pay too much for draws. Using raises and check/raises to make opponents pay too much on a draw is a way to earn a profit in a fixed limit game.
Another aspect of limit poker is that once the flop lands, it's a lot harder for the player on a draw to be bet out of the pot. So, players can see the flop with more "drawing hands" like connectors and suited cards because if they land a draw, they can often see the turn card with pot odds in their favor.
In limit poker, chips are earned one bet at a time, so paying attention to detail is important. If you plan to win money, it will often have to be done one battle at a time. And, of course, there is the hidden safety net of not being able to destroy your chip stack with a single bad, or unlucky decision.
No Limit Skills
In limit poker, you can slice into your opponents stack with a knife. It is easy to bet drawing hands out of the pot since there is no limit on the bet amounts.
It is also easier to defend good starting hands since there is no limit to the size of a pre-flop raise.
No limit poker requires the basic set of poker skills, including discipline and the ability to read your opponent. Sometimes protecting a hand requires you to put a large amount of chips into the pot. Even when forced to overbet, drawing hands sometimes land their cards. It takes discipline to continually make drawing hands pay a premium to see cards when they seem to be hitting often.
No limit players can lose their profit, or their starting stack, in one bad decision. Reading your opponent becomes a vital skill. The more you know about him and how he plays, the more information you have at your disposal when it comes time to make a crucial decision.
The Overall Difference between Fixed and No Limit Poker
Limit games are often a fight over the cards. Whomever knows the math behind the cards better can slowly rise to the top. In no limit, playing the player is a fundamental skill. If you have an insight into the player, when the time presents itself, you can separate that opponent from his chipstack.