Poker Grinding: Limit vs No-Limit

A friend and I were discussing this topic and I thought I’d see what the Dope has to say. Let’s say you want to grind 8 hours or so at a poker table for a week (so long-term vs. short-term). Is it better (ie more money) to play a decent limit 4/8 to 10/20 or no-limit like 1/2NL? My thoughts.

You can protect your borderline hands.
If you win large pots and lose small pots, you can make a mint. But what about if someone is protecting their hand and you have a draw (like a nut flush) or an over pair to their 2 pair? I had a situation where I knew I had 9 outs on the flop and 12 on the turn to a huge pot. Do you play for the big pot or give it up because you’re not getting the pot odds?
Tight aggressive can win but you won’t play a lot of hands. TA is more of a NL tournament strategy.
Bluffs and semi-bluffs add to the variance which is never a grinder’s friend.

Tight aggressive wins.
Idiots will call with anything but since they are almost always getting pot odds that’s not a bad strategy. Makes it impossible to protect your hand.
But mathematically, playing right will win more than you lose from bad beats.

My experience which may say more about my playing style than answer the question:
I can grind limit and usually come out ahead. I have won some big money at no limit, but that was usually on the basis of one or two hands. If I hit one of my outs on the hand listed above, it would have made $250 net. And the time I played K7 as the big blind and the flop was K77 and the whale decided to drive me out of the hand by betting a rack and a half.

So what do y’all thing about the pros and cons of grinding out a limit vs. no limit ring game long-term?

Before Gadarene, SenorBeef, or Turble come in to definitively answer the question…

I think you’re going to need to specify the rake, as it will be one of the more significant factors in your projected hourly rate. We’re also assuming the table composition is identical? All else remaining equal, I would assume that the NL table would have less skill, due to the greater T.V. exposure and popularity of NLHE. This may have changed since Black Friday. On the flip side, a casual player might be frightened of the possibility of losing their entire stack at once, and therefore might gravitate more to LHE.

All that said, you might find interesting these threads at 2+2, discussing LHE vs NLHE:
Limit or NL?
What Level of Brick and Mortar LHE is beatable, mathematically speaking?
A Classic NL vs Limit Discussion
Another Beginner’s Question, Limit or No Limit
Limit Has Less Variance than No Limit?

Counter-intuitively (at least for me) the consensus in the last linked thread was that LHE had larger bankroll swings that NHLE. This was thought to be due to the LHE player making more decisions, being involved in more hands, and working with finer mathematical edges than the NLHE player.

With regards to some of the question you pose, ultimately our goal as players should be to make the most money possible. The vast majority of the time, that comes when we make the mathematically proper decision. (But see the idea of intentionally making small mistakes early in a NLHE hand, in order to set up your opponent’s larger mistake later.) Usually, it also comes when we induce our opponents to make an improper decision. We compare our equity in the pot vs that of our opponent’s from their perceived range of hands, and decide whether we are receiving the proper odds (either express or implied) to continue in the hand. If we aren’t receiving the correct odds, we shouldn’t continue, regardless of whether the pot is large or not.

Personally—not that I have much at all—but I have more experience playing and thinking about NLHE. I’m more comfortable with the math in NHLE, and I lack the intuitive feel a lot of questions that come up in LHE (how many people do I need in the hand to try and setmine, how often must villain be bluffing for me to continue after villain’s turn check-raise, etc…) Perhaps it’s different for you? Ultimately, I think it will depend on which game you personally are more comfortable with, though I’m interested in hearing from Dopers with personal experience grinding LHE vs NLHE.

Eight hours a day for a week is still short-term. You’re looking for more like two years of full-time play to be sure you are in the long-run at live poker.

“I can grind limit and usually come out ahead.” has probably been said or thought by everybody sitting at a public poker table. Show me actual records of at least three months of winning play and I’ll consider the idea that you actually might be a winning player at that particular level.

I am a grinder. My main game pre-internet game was the $10/$20 Limit Hold 'em at the Mirage. Right around the time the Bellagio opened and most of us moved to the $15/$30 game there, I found I was doing even better playing online and I left Vegas. At that time there was only one NL game in Las Vegas, a $1/$2 at the very sleazy Stratosphere; No Limit was a totally dead game that only came back to life because of television.

NL is a flawed game. The skill advantage is far too big – there is not enough luck to keep the weak players coming back because the skilled player will basically always win. In Limit HE, there is enough luck involved that the casual player can sometimes get lucky and go home with money. That virtually never happens in NL. And it happens so fast in NL that many players end up with a gut-wrenching sick feeling, tending to go home feeling they have been cheated, even when the game is entirely on the level. The only reason it continued in popularity the past 10 years has been the constant influx of new players from the TV exposure. Once the constant deluge of TV poker ended the games quickly started to dry up.

That said, there is an extremely simple, very tight strategy (that can be learned in minutes) for NL that requires no real skill at all that will allow anyone to beat the game for a small amount of money. If everybody played that strategy, there would be no games. It takes longer (probably six weeks or so) to learn to be a decent Limit player and there are no shortcuts. It takes years of experience to learn the upper levels of either game.

I play poker for the money. NL poker is not fun, but it has been where the money is for several years. Limit is fun, but good games are harder to find than they used to be. I found the mid-level Omaha 8 or Better games to be even more profitable than HE, but there tend to be many unpleasant players in the games. I’d like to go back to the days of 5 Card Draw or 7 Card Stud Hi-Low with no qualifier … but I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past.

BTW, those pros playing the big cash games on TV – they only do that on TV. In the card room, they play other games while they are waiting for a live one with a big bankroll who wants to play NLHE.

I think I’ve told this here before. I once heard Stu Unger say “I had the worst dream last night. I woke up covered in sweat. My heart was pounding. It was horrible. I dreamed I was playing No Limit Hold 'em with my own money.”

To each his own. But also, more information is needed. If I’m in Vegas where the stream of fish is reasonably steady, I want to be playing NL in a nice deep-stack game. If it’s going to be a week, I’d shift my sleep schedule forward a bit and pick 8pm to 4am as my work time. As Turble said, NL offers much greater leverage for exploiting skill differentials. The worst thing in a limit game against weaker players is when you have a spectacular read on someone and can’t do squat about it. In NL, you might be able to win a whole stack. Also, if psychological skills (table image manipulation, etc.) are a real part of your game, then playing limit feels like you’re in chains.

There are some circumstances where I prefer grinding at limit (particularly when the pool of players is limited), but more often than not I would just choose not to play in those circumstances, as I find limit a bit tedious.

Play the game where you have the biggest edge over your local competition. It’s that simple. I’ve been playing for a couple of decades, and during that time in my area I’ve seen periods where the limit games were full of grinders and very little profit was to be had, and other times where the limit games were populated with big fish that didn’t care about throwing their money away because they were rich and having a good time.

TV poker has created a lot of ‘poker pros’ who think they know what they’re doing because they watch all the matches on TV and maybe read a book at some point. They don’t understand the difference between late-stage tournament play (which is what you’re usually seeing on TV) and a ring game. They don’t understand how to modify their play for a full table vs short-handed (which is what they usually see on TV).

Those guys can usually be fleeced for a lot of money if you know what you’re doing. Of course, they think they know what they’re doing too, so make sure you’re not one of them first…

If the games are equal, it comes down to where you are most comfortable and which game you play the best. I actually prefer limit games, but that’s just because of my own temperament. How can you handle a bad beat? It’s one thing to lose 2.5 big bets in limit game because you got drawn out on, but it can be quite another to lose your entire stack to a loudmouth who puts you all in when you have trips and he’s got a small pair, only to watch him back into a runner-runner straight and take all your money. If you want to play no limit, make sure you can handle situations like that without going on tilt.