Transitioning from 1/2 No Limit to 2/5 No Limit by Resident Pro Benton Blakeman
Recently I've been struggling with the idea of moving up in stakes. I have dabbled at the higher buy in No Limit games and had mixed results. There are a few factors that come into play when I'm deciding. First is bankroll. Well, after a good summer at the WSOP and cutting down on my spending habits, my bankroll is in good shape and very sufficiently rolled to move on up to a bigger game. Next- my skill set. As poker players we all seem to think we're better than we really are. I try hard not to fall into that trap and always try to be realistic. I think my skill set is there to move up. Lastly, my mindset. This is the tough one for me. While my bankroll and skillset are ready to rock and roll, my mind isn't quite ready for the journey. The one big issue I've faced when moving up is that my mind can't handle the swings of the bigger games. If I'm in a 2/5 no limit game or a 5/10 no limit game and have $1000 in front of me I don't think about the money at all. Now, put me in a 10/20 no limit game with $2000 or $2500 and suddenly I become afraid of the money and don't play well. This is unfortunate because as I mentioned my bankroll and skill sets can support the game, but unfortunately my mind can't. So, what to do? I think the best route for me is to continue beating the games that I beat, and when I see a bigger game that looks real good and I'm upswinging in my current game, then take a shot at the bigger game. Eventually my mind will come to terms with the swings and I can move up.
So, whats this all mean for you, the reader? Well I figured if I have issues moving up you may as well, and it's mostly likely issues in making the move from 1/2 no limit to 2/5 no limit. Today I'd like to elaborate on the differences in the games to best prepare you for that move. But always remember, you need to evaluate the three things I spoke about above- bankroll, skill set, and mindset. Make sure all three are ready for the move up before giving it a shot. Also, don't be afraid to move back down if it doesn't work out or if you are uncomfortable with the new stakes.
The biggest difference between 1/2 and 2/5 is best summed up in one word- aggression. There is a lot more preflop raising and even three betting in 2/5 than there is in 1/2. Also, there is far less open limping. While it's very common in 1/2 to see four or more players limp in for $2 and the blind check taking you all to a six way flop, there is very little of this in 2/5. Most players know that it is very profitable to isolate limpers in no limit and players in 2/5 take advantage of this. You will often see a bad player open limp in 2/5, a good player from middle position raise to $25, and another good player on the button three bet to $75. What's likely happening is that the good player in middle position knows that it is profitable to isolate the bad limper, and the really good player in late position knows this, knows that the good player is likely isolating light, so now he three bets in position light to isolate the isolator. Plays like this don't always happen but are definitely more common in mid stakes games than in low limit games. It can also be taken to the extreme when the middle position player picks up on the fact that the button knew he was isolating light, so he can now four bet light to force a fold from the buttons light three bet. As you see this can easily turn into a leveling war between good players- and it all started by a bad player limping in for $5!
Apart from the three betting and open raising in 2/5, you will also see more continuation bets from the preflop raiser whether or not they hit their hand. Because of this you will have to be prepared to play post flop more with weaker hands. You can't spend all day calling raises and waiting to flop the nuts because the good players will win all the small pots from you and then shut down as soon as you show any resistance post flop. To combat this you need to learn to continue with weaker hands that haven't crushed the flop against pre flop raisers. This means calling in position more often, floating flops, and taking away pots on the turn or river. Bluffing (more like semi bluffing) becomes a more important part of the game as the limits go up. That doesn't mean that we should be bluffing every pot with no regard to what we are representing. Learning to tell a story with your hand becomes much more important. Always be thinking "if I had X hand would I play it this way." That will help your bets to be believable if you're telling a believable story.
With regards to online poker, I'd say this same principle holds true when moving from 50c/1 no limit games to the 1/2 no limit games. I'd also equate moving from 1/2 no limit online to 2/4 no limit online would be akin to moving from 2/5 no limit live to 5/10 no limit live. The player pool becomes much tougher and you don't get paid off as much on your big hands so learning to win countless small pots becomes much more vital.
With that said, assuming sufficient bankroll, I'd advocate dipping your toe in slowly. Start off by playing tight, observing your opponents, and then join in the fray with calculated bets and bluffs that tell a believable story about your hand. Good luck to all those who are attempting to move up in limits and make sure to post any trouble hands in Table Talk here at PokerAtlas. Good luck on the felt and most importantly, have fun!!
Excellent article Benton! Have you ever written anything about transitioning from Limit to No Limit? If not then that is my request. I always enjoy reading what you write. Few people are able to simplify complex poker strategy and advice better than you.
Benton, I find that for lack of a better word 2/5 is more "predictable." For example, At the 1/2 level you see a lot of players call pre flop raises with Junk hands because it was only another $8 and "they were suited. " 2/5 players are less likely to make that loose preflop call. At the higher levels you get more reliable information in response to your action. As a result players with good hand reading skills can thrive at the higher levels.
While in the long run it's profitable to play against the loose passive 1/2 players that doesn't make it feel better when your AA gets cracked by J4 flopping bottom two pair.
Good read and something I need to make the effort to do. I've mainly played 1/3 lately so the transition might be a bit easier.
I just wish the nearest good cash game wasn't two hours away!
@GameChanger Very kind words. I appreciate it. I don't think I've ever written about transitioning from limit to no limit. That might make for an interesting article, although I don't know how useful considering most limit players have already made the switch or they refuse to ever make the switch. I did write an article about playing limit poker. I personally started as a limit player in 2001 and made the transition to no limit in 2004-2005. Let me think about how to approach that article. Thanks for the suggestion.
@zourah You and me both! 2.5 hours to Lake Charles. At least I get Vegas once a month tho so I shouldn't complain. Good luck with the transition.
Great article Benton, and perfect timing for me. Off to Vegas in a couple weeks to take some shots at 2/5, as I'm a bit hesitant to do so at my local yet, since they'd know I was just moving up and I'm afraid I'd be a bit exploitable until I'm more comfortable. Any reccomendations on best Vegas rooms to play 2/5? Heard Bellagio is a solid go to. Thanks!
Wait, so VegasMikey doesn't live in Vegas? Hmmmm we will have to investigate this in our member screenname policy. hahaha I'm kidding. As long as LasVegasMichael doesn't have a problem with it, I don't either ;).
Bellagio, Aria, Venetian, and Wynn I think are probably known to have the most 2/5 NL games to choose from. Others often have games, but not on as regular of a basis. From my experience, they're all pretty similar to one another, so it just comes down to which room you feel the most comfortable in.
BTW, excellent article Benton. I agree with GameChanger. Would be a very interesting piece....and maybe the reason more Limit players don't switch to NL is because you haven't given them appropriate guidance on how to do so? I'm guessing that is the case.
I'd echo Krusherlaw's comment. In my brief move up to 2/5 (back down again due to bankroll considerations) I definitely felt more comfortable at the 2/5 game due to predictability. I felt I understood bets, and hands played out as expected which I enjoyed, even though I eventually felt overmatched more times than not in these games.
@VegasMikey Good luck with your trip! I'd recommend Bellagio if you're just making the transition. It's a $500 max buy in there and the game is typically softer than the $1k max at Venetian or $1500 max at Wynn. Plus at Bellagio there are regular 5/10 and 10/20 NL games so it makes sense that the 2/5 would be softer than Venetian and Wynn which don't run regular bigger games daily. Aria is an option at $1k max but also tends to be tougher than Bellagio, yet as states by others it is a bit predictable as the players are all competent.
Not sure where you are located or what your buyins are but a great alternative to a 2/5 game assuming your buying in for at least 100bb, is the Wynn 1/3 game. (500 max buyin) on a most tables plays like a 2/5 game. Just like the article states, very few limpers, pretty aggressive games. Plus since the blinds are smaller, its like a jr step before a true 2/5 game.
Thanks for the help and advice guys. Looking forward to getting down there on Sunday. As for my VegasMikey handle Jon, it's just from my friends after a rather memorable trip (aren't they always) a few years back. I'll for sure give Bellagio a whirl (plus the 1/3 at Wynn), and I might take a stab at Aria too, since it's my favorite room in town (mmm burgers and watermelon juice at the table). Also looking forward to the 'ATB hold em' game at TI. Hoping that's still going Sunday night!
Anybody remember limit poker? It was the only game in town for a lot of years. Sort of like $2-5 today. I play a lot @ Bellagio because they have a lot of limit games. The $10 20 limit game, which is rare on the strip is relaxing for me after $2-5 unlimited. I predict limit will make a come back; especially at at the higher limits.
Hey Benton nice article you help me out and in turn I teach military tactics for 12 years ever try meditating before a big poker game .I know people say what meditating brings your life energy back in your body all it takes is 5 minutes listen nice music takes deep breaths though the mouth exhale thru the nose sit in chair spine erect .This will help your mind game.I think you will do well in 2/5 games since you can grind them 1/2 games and make a profit.Good luck and look forward too more poker articles ..Team Pitbull Fighting Ptsd one poker hand at a time..
super interesting article. I actually feel exactly the same but the cutoff depend how I am running :
running good 2/5 --> 5/10 is my cuttoff,
running bad it is from 1/3 to 2/5.
Any ideas / tips how to get thru this psychological leak ?