Medium Limit Texas Holdem Play
When you play Texas holdem at the micro and low limits you can be a long term winning player by always betting and raising when you have a good hand, checking and folding with a poor draw, and basically playing straight forward poker.
But when you advance to the middle limits you start finding a better level of opponent. You still have to play solid poker, but you have to start playing the other players at the same time.
If you aren't able to recognize the abilities of your opponents and adjust your play to give you the best chance to win you'll quickly find it much harder to make a profit at the medium limits than at the lower limits.
The medium range of Texas holdem play starts at around $400 or $500 buy in for no limit and $10 / $20 for limit play. The upper limits are sometimes difficult to define because they blend into the high limits and change depending on where you're playing and the competition. For our purpose the medium limits change over to high limits around $5,000 buy in no limit and $50 / $100 or $100 / $200 limit.
At the end of the day the limit ranges don't make much difference when you reach a certain level. If you can beat the medium limit Texas holdem games you have a good chance to compete at the high levels if you have the proper bankroll and can continue improving your game.
Once you've mastered the lower limits by playing ABC poker and moved up to the medium limits you need to start adding new tactics to your Texas holdem game. In this section you can learn what some of these tactics are and how to use them to your greatest advantage.
If you've spent much time playing at lower levels you've probably already started developing your abilities to recognize deception at the Texas holdem tables.
Some players have a tendency to bluff too often or give tells that help you recognize the strength of their hand in certain situations. When you learn these things it means more profit for you.
At the lower levels this usually means exactly what it seems to mean. If a player always trembles when he has a monster hand or always plays with his watch when he's bluffing it probably means exactly what it seems to mean.
But as your level of competition improves you can run into players who develop false tells when they realize you're a good enough player to pick up on them.
The main way to combat falling for these types of deceptive practices is by watching your opponents closely and not putting too much stock in possible tells or tendencies until you're sure they're reliable.
On the other hand you can develop some of your own deceptive play to use against your opponents who can recognize tells.
It's a fine line between being too obvious and not obvious enough. To complicate things even more, you have to be able to recognize when it'll be the most profitable to use your deception. Most players who start tracking your false tells will be smart enough not to fall for the same thing again once you give them a false tell and win a big pot from them.
So you have to build the false tells in situations that only cost you a small amount and drop the hammer in a situation where you can win a big pot.
It's extremely important as you move to higher levels for you to alter your play from time to time. When you play micro and low levels the majority of your opponents don't pay attention. This is why it's so profitable at those levels to play solid straight forward poker.
But when you move up to the medium level of Texas holdem play many of your opponents are good enough to pay attention. In addition, you'll frequently find opponents who're good enough to quickly pick up on your playing tendencies if you play too mechanically.
Here's an example of mechanical play.
While playing a strict range of starting hands like this in early position is profitable in most games, if an opponent knows you never have a card lower than a queen in your hand from early position it gives them a large advantage.
Any set they hit on a board that doesn't include any cards higher than a jack they know is good. They also know two pair is good as long as the board doesn't pair on a jack high board or lower.
It's still profitable to play a tight range of hands from early position, but every once in a while you need to play a hand that doesn't fit so you don't become too predictable.
Continuing with the example about playing from early position, what hands could you play without giving up too much expected value beyond the ones mentioned above?
Before answering, you need to realize that your ability to read situations and adjust to changing circumstances after the flop have a great deal to do with your long term expected value.
Suited aces with kickers of nine or higher may be added from time to time as well as large suited connectors like king queen, king jack, and queen jack. You can also occasionally play pocket pairs as low as eights.
All of these hands can be trap hands when you hit a big hand, but they can also trap you in losing situations if you aren't careful.
If you play a suited ace nine or ace jack and the flop comes ace high, giving you top pair can you lay it down if an opponent starts playing aggressively? If you can't it's going to cost you a lot of money in the long run.
When you start adding a few hands like these to your early position play you have to win enough when you hit a big hand to make up for the majority of times when you have to fold these hands on the flop or later.
But remember the reason you added these hands in the first place is to avoid being too predictable.
The biggest mistake players make when they start trying to alter their play is doing it too much. You shouldn't add these hands all of the time, just enough to throw off your opponents. Make a mental list of extra hands to play and start playing 10% of them. If this doesn't seem to be enough increase the percentage a little, but if you reach 20% or higher you're probably costing yourself money.
You can also become too predictable in the way you play different parts of a hand. Do you always bet when you have the best hand on the turn, flop, or river? Or do you check every once in a while to give your opponent a chance to make a mistake?
Are you good enough to recognize your own playing tendencies and change them up just enough to keep your better opponents guessing?
Start considering how you play in common situations immediately and then decide on the best course of action to alter these situations from time to time.
If you've reached this level of play you should understand and be using pot odds in your play. But now you need to be using them to not only make your playing decisions, but also use them to make it incorrect for your opponents to call when they're drawing against you.
If you have a made hand and you think your opponent is drawing to a flush you can determine how large to make your bet in order for it to be incorrect to call. If your opponent calls anyway it increases your long term profit on these plays.
If you bet $100 and the pot odds are correct for a player drawing to a flush to call and if you bet $120 the odds aren't correct, every time you bet $120 or more and your opponent calls you make money in the long run.
The same is true the other way. If you bet $80 in this situation you're giving them a better price to call, which costs you money in the long run.
Bet sizing is an advanced concept and that's why you don't see it discussed much. Until you reach a certain point in your development you need to concentrate on improving the rest of your game. But when your overall ability reaches a point where you start using bet sizing it can improve your returns enough to make the medium limits profitable.
Table selection is an important part of learning how to beat the lower limits in Texas holdem and it's still important at the medium limits. But at this level you start seeing that player or opponent selection is what you're really doing.
It becomes more and more difficult to find tables filled with players who're significantly worse than you. So you have to start looking for players with a few poor players and hopefully only one or two who are better than you.
This is defiantly not the time to get cocky and / or overestimate your playing ability. You have to recognize the players who're better than you so you can play at the same table with them without losing too much money to them.
Start keeping track of all of your opponents who offer an opportunity for profit and look for games where they normally play.
Limit Verses No Limit
At the medium levels of Texas holdem you won't find a big difference in the skill level of the average player between the limit and no limit tables.
Many of the top players are drawn to the no limit tables so at times you can find softer limit games, but almost none of them are extremely easy to beat. Most of the players have a general idea of pot odds even if they don't use them perfectly and have a decent concept of position and proper play.
Most of your profits at the medium limits are achieved by exploiting small advantages. The secret is recognizing possible advantages and then figuring out the best way to take advantage of them.
You'll still be able to find players who play too many starting hands, but instead of playing 40% to 50% of the hands they might play 30%. This is still a large enough discrepancy to take advantage of, but it's not as profitable as you may be used to at the lower limits.
Normal bankroll requirements range from 20 to 30 times the normal buy in for no limit and 200 to 300 times the big blind for limit Texas holdem play. And there's nothing wrong with these recommendations, but when you first move from the low limits to the middle limits you should consider doubling these recommendations until you prove to yourself you can win consistently.
It may seem like overkill to have a $50,000 bankroll to play $1,000 buy in no limit ring games, but with the improved level of competition you need to have a cushion if at all possible.
You also need to consider your overall profitability verses the risk.
If you're playing $5 / $10 limit and winning two big blinds per hour, you're probably better off than playing $10 / $20 limit and winning one big blind per hour. You win an average of $20 per hour in either game but your required bankroll is much lower at the lower limit.
But on the other hand you'll never be able to improve enough to win two big blinds per hour at the higher limit if you never move up.
Poker is one of the staples of many advantage gamblers because it doesn't have a house edge. You play against the other players and pay a fee, usually in the form of a rake, so you only have to be better than most of the other players to turn a profit.
The top level advantage gamblers have a bankroll large enough to let them fully exploit any profitable situation possible. If they can get a 1% edge and place a $100,000 bet on it they want to have enough where they can take the bet every time.
Realize that a 1% edge is only 50.5% to 49.5%, or less than 51 wins out of 100. In order to make a large wager at these odds your bankroll has to be huge in order to ride out the down swings.
What all this has to do with your Texas holdem bankroll is you should be able to play at a few different limits so you can play in the most profitable game without worrying about your bankroll limitations.
If you usually play $1,000 buy in no limit Texas holdem but you see a table with two terrible players at the $2,000 buy in limit it's nice if your bankroll lets you sit down and play.
Is The Move Up Worth It?
Have you ever considered if moving up in levels is worth it?
This may seem like a silly question, but when you consider the additional requirements and dedication required to win at higher levels you have to figure out if you're willing to do what it takes to continue being a winning player.
Every good Texas holdem poker player needs to find the place where they can use their abilities to maximize their winning while still being able to enjoy the game. If you're a professional player it's more important to find profitable situations than enjoying every game, but you still need to achieve a level of satisfaction while playing that goes beyond money.
As a recreational player you need to strive to win, but you need to enjoy the game. If you're not having a good time you could be spending the same time doing something you enjoy like seeing a movie, taking someone you love out to eat, or fishing.
Don't feel bad if you don't know the answer to the opening question of this section. But at least ask yourself if the move up is worth it and spend some time thinking about it.
If you've worked your way through the lower levels and are graduating to the medium limits, congratulations!
If you're one of the few who can consistently win at this level you can count yourself among a select class of Texas holdem players. But of you haven't quite cracked the long term profitability level yet don't give up.
When you're able to incorporate the suggestions covered above with solid play you give yourself the best chance to start winning on a regular basis.