Texas Holdem Differences and Variations

Like any poker game, Texas Holdem comes in a variety of shapes and sizes that appeal to a wide range of players. No-limit Texas Holdem tournaments might make for the best TV but tournaments are just one piece of the picture. In all, Texas Holdem Poker is played in all of the following formats:

  • Multi Table Tournaments (MTTs)
  • Cash Games
  • Sit and Go Tournaments (SNGs)

On top of that, each of the above poker variants can be played in any one of the following formats:

  • Fixed Limit
  • No Limit
  • Pot Limit

Multi Table Tournaments (MTTs)

The multi table tournament is the form of poker most commonly played on television and at casual home games. Players participate in tournaments by paying a specific buyin fee and then receiving a set number of chips. Unlike cash games, these chips don’t have an inherent monetary value. They are only used to determine the winner of the tournament.

Tournaments are also marked by having constantly rising blind levels. At the beginning of a tournament, the blinds will be fairly small and reasonable. As the tournament progresses, however, the blinds will continually get bigger and bigger. The pressure slowly increases on the players so that they eventually have to start making big moves or going broke to the blinds.

The chip stack you receive at the beginning of the tournament is the one and only stack you’ll get. Once the tournament begins, the play will continue until one player has all the chips and is declared the first place finisher.

Big time tournament players will tell you that it requires a great amount of fortitude to play MTTs for a living. The lure of big prizes is always there, but wins are very infrequent simply because so many people enter tournaments. If you can handle going long stretches without cashing, the occasional huge score will make it all worth it.

Cash Games

Cash games don’t make for as exciting television so you won’t see big name cash game professionals on TV as often. But that doesn’t mean cash games don’t have their appeal. Many poker professionals will tell you that there is a lot more money to be made in cash games because they allow more flexibility and the skill factor becomes apparent sooner than it does for tournament players.

Cash games don’t have fixed buyin amounts and players can rebuy or top off their stacks as often as they want. The blinds always stay at a set amount and players can come and go as they wish. In cash games, there is no first place winner. The only way the score is kept in cash games is by how many dollars you have won.

Sit and Go Tournaments (SNGs)

Sit and go tournaments are played like normal multi-table tournaments except SNGs don’t have a set start time. They simply remain open for registration until a certain number of players (usually 9 or 10) join the table. As soon as enough players join the tournament, it begins.

Most SNGs are single table tournaments but lately multi-table SNGs have become more popular at some of the bigger poker sites. As long as there are enough players at the poker site, it doesn’t take long at all for SNGs to fill up and begin.

Sit and go tournaments are nice because you can join them at any time. At the biggest poker sites, SNGs run around the clock and you can join in as many as you want at a time. SNGs are also nice because they don’t take nearly as long to play as MTTs. A typical single table sit and go only takes about 45 minutes from beginning to end.

If you like poker tournaments but can’t stand the huge fields and frustration of being knocked out after 4 hours of play with nothing to show for it, SNGs might be the thing for you. It’s not hard to get in 10 or more SNGs in a single session and if you’re an experienced player, you’ll usually cash in at least one or two of them.

Fixed Limit

The one difference between fixed limit and no-limit poker is that in fixed limit poker, there are rigid betting limits. In a game of $4/$8 fixed limit poker, for example, all bets during the preflop stage and on the flop must be made in increments of $4. Once the hand progresses to the turn and river, the upper betting limit is enforced and all bets must be made in increments of $8.

Fixed limit poker is seen as more of a left-brained, mathematically challenging game in comparison to no limit poker. In fixed limit, your goal is to make lots of small, mathematically correct decisions so that in the long run, you show a positive win rate.

No Limit

No limit poker is by far the most popular form of poker. In no limit, you can bet all the money in front of you at any time. That’s the only difference between limit and no limit but it makes all the difference in the world.

Every time you play a hand in no limit poker, there is always the risk that your entire stack will be put in the middle of the pot. In limit poker, you can pretty much guarantee yourself that you’ll only spend a certain amount of money on any single hand. In no limit poker, there are no such guarantees.

No limit poker is more of an art than fixed limit poker. Math is still important in no limit poker but it doesn’t dictate every play you make. Sometimes mathematically incorrect plays can be made in no-limit in order to set up bigger plays down the road that make it all pay off. In the end, no-limit poker involves more psychology than fixed limit poker. Where the object in limit poker is to make the right decision every time, the object in no limit poker is to do whatever it takes to win big pots.

Pot Limit

Pot limit rests somewhere in the middle of fixed limit and no limit poker. In pot limit poker, the maximum size of each bet can never exceed the current size of the pot. That means that early in the hand the bets will be small but if the pot grows, the size of the bets can grow too.

Pot limit lies closer on the scale to no-limit than it does to fixed limit because in pot limit, the pots can get large very quickly. It only takes a single bet and raise before the betting limits are virtually removed. If two players want to get all-in with each other, they can do so at any time in pot limit poker by simply raising each other’s bets.

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