1. Longhand Limit
2. Shorthand Limit
3. Adv. Shorthand
1. Intro to NL
2. Advanced NL
3. Who Pays Off
4. Stack Sizes
5. Double Hold'em
1. Intro to Omaha
2. Low Limit Omaha
3. Intro to PLO
4. Omaha Hi/Lo
1. Tourney Overview
2. Single-Table NL
3. Advanced NL STTs
4. Multi-Table NL
5. Multi-Table Limit
6. Tourney Variants
7. Knockout Tourneys
8. Ante Up Tourneys
1. Moving Limits
2. When to Quit
3. Short/Long Run
1. Intermediate Mistakes
2. Utilizing Promotions
Who Pays Off
In the Olympics, second best wins a silver medal. In no-limit hold'em, second best loses large sums of money.
This concept is probably the toughest for players transitioning from limit to no-limit to understand. If you hold AK and flop top pair in limit hold'em, rarely will you be folding your hand. After all, your hand will win most of the time, and you do not lose too much if your hand ends up placing second. However, if you are not careful at no-limit hold'em, these types of hands will quickly cost you your entire stack.
There are six types of hands in no-limit hold'em:
1. Hands that have no value. They cannot even beat a bluff.
2. Hands that can beat a bluff. For example, middle pair.
3. Top pair.
5. Strong hands (that are not quite the nuts).
6. Nuts or near-nuts.
Understanding these hand types means understanding how large a pot each hand type can win. Hands of lesser value are generally only able to win smaller pots, because the hands they can beat will not call large bets. For example, suppose you hold A K and the board is A J 4. Someone with K J is simply not going to pay you off that much in this situation.
However, if you hold A K and the board is A 9 6 5 2, you will likely pay off someone who holds 8 7. Again, the stronger the hand, the more likely someone is to pay off.
Obviously, any hand is capable of being a nut hand: 7 2 is the nuts on a 7 7 7 4 3 board. Nevertheless, certain starting hands lend themselves more to certain categories.
High Pocket Pairs (AA, KK, etc.): These hands are typically overpairs. If you are fortunate to hit a set with them, then it is unlikely that you will be paid off. Why? Suppose you hold A A with a board of [[Ac 8h 7h]]. It is unlikely that someone else will have top pair, because there is only one other Ace in the deck. So you are left with relatively few strong hands that you can beat except draws to a hand that beats you.
Big Unpaired Cards (AK, AQ, etc.): These hands are likely to become top pair. It is possible to hit straights with these hands, too. However, most of the time you form a hand, it will be top pair.
Small Pocket Pairs (33, 77, etc): They will generally form either category 2, 5, or 6 hands. For example, if you hold pocket sixes, chances are good that the flop will bring you a bunch of overcards or it will make you a set. Thus, your hand will either be weak or extremely strong.
Suited Connectors or Semi-Connectors (T9s, 64s): These hands tend to be category 1, 2, 5, or 6. What is nice about these hands is that you generally know your place in the pot, because these hands are either very strong or very weak.
As the rank of a hand increases, the potential risks and rewards of that hand increases as well. Obviously, a trash hand will not win a pot (except with a bluff), but it will not pay off as well.
However, it gets tricky as you get into top pairs and overpairs. These hands really cannot beat very many hands. Someone with middle pair will not call you down for big bets unless they think you are bluffing. Nevertheless, players holding top pair often pay off to people who have stronger hands.
This is why top pair and overpair tend to fare worse in no-limit than they do in fixed-limit. In fixed-limit, the bets are very small in relation to the pot. Because they are so small, people with category 2 hands will pay off, because it is worth risking a small amount of money if there is a decent chance one's opponent is bluffing. So there are a lot of hands that will pay off to top pair.
However, in no-limit, the bets tend to be large in relation to the pot. Thus, there are much fewer hands that will pay off to top pair, because people would be risking a lot more money to call down with hands that really can only beat bluffs. The hands that pay off top pair are not worth pot-sized bets. However, for many people, top pair and overpairs are worth paying off other people with pot-sized bets.
This is not to say that top pair is a trash hand in no-limit. It certainly can win a fair share of pots. However, it generally is not able to win huge pots in relation to the blinds. This is why top pair tends to be better if a person has a short stack rather than a large stack. The size of a person's buy-in holds a lot of importance in no-limit, which is why the next chapter is devoted to exploring this subject in depth.
One final important thing to note is that one pair is the most costly hand in no-limit. In other words, if you tally your net win/loss with all hands (nothing, pair, two pair, etc), you'll find that you lose the most with one pair. This is because you rarely get paid off big with one pair hands but often wind up paying off someone else. At least when you hold nothing you're unlikely to lose very much money since your hand is obviously garbage and makes for an easy fold.
Next Article: Stack Sizes and Implied Odds
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