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Fun at $1-$2 No-Limit

by Jonathan Little |  Published: May 19, 2015


I have been asked a few times in the recent past to make a training product geared exclusively to small stakes live cash games. Seeing how I have no experience actually playing no-limit hold’em at $1-$2 (most of my live play is at $10-$20 and higher) I decided to put in some time playing at the Borgata before the $15,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship. I experienced numerous fun situations over my 15 hours of play. This hand was one of the first major decisions I faced in my first hour of play.

My table was populated with mostly 50-70 year old recreational players who liked to limp with almost their entire range of playable hands. When someone raised, it was usually to six big blinds, which typically resulted in everyone folding. Talk about a great game! In this hand, a middle position player, the hijack, and the cutoff limped. I picked up AHeart Suit 10Spade Suit on the button, and limped as well. Both raising and limping are fine options. I would typically raise in this spot, but I was trying to get a feel for my opponents’ tendencies. The main reason limping is great is because it forces your opponents to stay in the pot with numerous worse A-x hands. Raising is ideal if only one or two people will call then play straightforwardly after the flop.

The player in the small blind, the only loose player at the table, a 30-year-old Asian guy, raised to $7, which was quite abnormal. The big blind, middle position player, hijack, and I all called. I don’t particularly like his raise with any hand because when you are out of position, you generally want to play small pots. You certainly do not want to play a bloated pot versus four opponents with fairly wide ranges.

The flop came ADiamond Suit KDiamond Suit QHeart Suit, giving me top pair and a gutshot. Everyone checked to the cutoff, a 65 year old guy, who instantly went all-in for $45 into the $35 pot. He had made this move a few times during my first few orbits at the table but never got called. When you see someone making the same overly aggressive play over and over, you have to assume he has at least some bluffs in his range. However, he was 65 years old, so I folded with almost no thought. I also had to worry about the player in the small blind, who was clearly cutting out calling chips. This may sound quite tight, but I think I would fold K-Q and worse made hands in this spot, reluctantly calling off with A-Q and better. If I thought the player in the small blind was certainly putting $45 in the pot, perhaps A-K should be folded. When you are against two likely premium ranges, you need almost the nuts to get involved.

That being said, the players in this game seemed to play fairly weak and passive before the flop, but they almost never folded after the flop with any sort of decently-strong made hand. I think most people at this table would have made the call with top pair plus a gutshot, mainly because top pair is “strong,” which is clearly a mistake. Just because your hand is reasonably strong on the hand ranking chart does not matter when you are against a range that is almost certainly premium made hands and premium draws. As expected, the player in the small blind decided to look up the cutoff, and they both chopped the pot with the nut straight.

While I think my decision was fairly easy, both of my opponents played their hands horribly, assuming they think their opponents are capable of getting away from marginal made hands, as I did. After I folded, the small blind instantly put his stack in as if he could not wait to get his chips in the pot. Clearly this is a terrible idea because the middle position player and cutoff were still in the pot. When you have the nuts, the last thing you want to do is make your hand appear as strong as possible. This instant all-in move repeated itself over and over throughout my sessions, almost always with the fast bettor having the nuts. I can’t comprehend how they get action, but somehow they do. In these games, it seemed to me like most players were playing blatantly face-up. If you listen to what they are telling you, you can steal the pot whenever they have nothing and make big folds when it is clear they want action. To get information about my upcoming training product going through all of the hands I played at $1-$2 no-limit and to get a free training video, sign up for my email list at ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker.