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With the rising popularity in the game of poker, casinos and online cardrooms have become packed with new players over the past few years. With new players coming to the tables, older players often get frustrated when losing to players who aren't "playing by the book." If I had a chip for every time I heard a low-limit player complaining about being out drawn when their AA lost to XX, I'd be living the dream. This article discusses a few advanced strategies for low-limit players on adjusting their game to the ever increasing number of new players and loose play.
Before beginning, we will note that this article is focused on limit Texas Hold'em games, $5/$10 and under. Most casinos host a large span of cheaper games like $2/$4, $3/$6, $4/8, and $5/10, which are all considered low limit Hold'em games. It's at these tables that you'll often encounter new and reckless players. Look at these players as an opportunity to produce positive gain, not an opportunity to be drawn out on all night.
The first and most important step in adjusting your poker game to low-limit play is to make observations. Within your first 10 minutes at the table you should have a fairly good idea of what the table play is like. In most low-limit games, you're going to come across extremely loose and reckless players. For an example, we will pretend we just sat down at a full nine person $3/$6 limit Texas Hold'em table. Before coming in with any mediocre hands in the first 10-20 minutes, slow down and spend time observing the players at the table. If a player in early position makes a standard pre-flop raise and 6 other players are seeing the flop with him, you know you're playing low-limit. This table is definitely full of loose and careless players. However, if a pre-flop raise is made and generally 2-3 players are seeing the flop, you've found a tighter low-limit game, which we will not be covering today. Make sure you don't base your observations on simply paying attention to the table patterns of one hand. It will take a number of hands to successfully identify the people you are playing with. Don't forget to remain observant throughout the entire hand. Carefully pay attention to the hands your opponents are turning over during the showdown because this will greatly help you judge exactly how loose the other players are. If players are calling raises with 10Jo from early position and seeing them down, you should be in for a good night.
One concept the majority of low-limit players don't understand is what I call "Bet When It Hits." New players and reckless players are usually not very sneaky with their betting patterns. These type of players like to hold on to any type of draw and often any Ace in their hand. Let's say you're holding 99 to a flop of 357. So far you're feeling pretty good. The table checks around to you and you make the standard bet. The majority of the players give you a call. The turn brings the Ac and a player from early position leads out and bets. Do you actually think this new player is slow playing a set of 5s or a 7 high straight and betting it on the turn as opposed to check raising the entire table? No, most likely not. The more likely answer is he's holding something like A8 and clinching to the Ace for dear life. Well this hand, he probably hit it. Even if he hasn't hit it, in a multi-way pot, another loose player probably did. I refer to this concept as "Bet When It Hits" because the majority of new players lead out and bet out of no where when they hit the miracle card they were looking for. Some low-limit players will merely get frustrated and call the player down, only to donate to a donkey. If you call $6 on the turn and another $6 on the river for a hand you figure is losing to the Ace on the turn, you're just throwing your money away. The key to winning at low-limit Hold'em is escaping from these little costly traps when you know you have a losing hand. Paying off loose and uneducated players here and there quickly adds up to a long night of breakeven or even a night of loss. Pay attention and don't fall into these traps.