No Limit Hold' Em is sometimes referred to as 'the Cadillac of Poker'. Some people consider it to be the only pure form of poker. You can lose all your money in one hand or the game can suddenly turn around in your favor just like that. The risks in a no limit game are huge and that's what makes the beauty of the game so real. No-limit allows you to play your opponent instead of your cards.
If you decide to enter a No Limit Hold 'Em game, you have to determine how far you could go regarding swings, and how you'd bear any of the negative swings. Your bankroll is the thing that is suffering from bad days, so you have to state a stop-loss limit whilst playing No Limit in order to keep the bankroll intact. Your bankroll will (just as in limit) serve as a buffer to catch up from the possible losses and bad swings. It is unfortunate, but realistically, you can't win every day, even if you are playing at your best. There will always be variance. It's all about making profit in the long run by playing well time after time.
I advise to start with a bankroll that contains at least 25 times the maximum buy-in. This means that if you're playing a NL $.01/$.02 game with a maximum buy-in of $2, you have to have $50 to start with. Be aware of the fact that some online $.25/$.50 tables have a maximum buy-in of $25, but that you have to assume that it's $50. This means that you should have a bankroll of $1.250 for these games! Sounds like a daunting investment, but if you do it right you will thank me!
It's important to sit down at a table with the maximum buy-in. This is due to the fact that you can bet as much as you like in no limit, so the more you have in front of you, the stronger moves you can make. If you want to play a game that lacks a maximum buy-in, you should enter with as much money as the chip leader has on the table. This will give you a big advantage and it will strengthen your position.
The way you're playing no limit completely depends on the amount of opponents you're sitting with and how loose or tight they play. Usually, I'd say that you should play particularly tight and aggressive. If you can't raise, just fold. If you want to play a hand, then do this by raising first. As you gain more experience, you'll see more and more possibilities in the game and you will probably play a bit looser.
Since anything can happen in no limit, it's significant to have position. If you called a raise out of position on the flop and checked the turn it's hard to estimate how much your opponent will bet. This subsequently makes it harder for you to calculate your pot odds and in no limit, dealing with pot odds and implied odds are calculations you have to deal with all of the time.
With implied odds you can add a couple of starting hands to your list, which you wouldn't be playing in limit hold'em (or just with a lot of calls and raises in front of you).
The hands which you normally raise in Limit Hold'em are:
Early position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK
Middle position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AK, AQ, AJ, QK
Late position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, AK, AQ, AJ, AT, QK, KJ
You have to adjust a couple of things for playing no limit. In a ring game you can raise the next hands to a fair amount (by this I mean to at least Â¾ of the pot):
The Good Hands for No-Limit:
Early position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK
Middle position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ, AJs
Late position: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AK, AQ, AJs
As you can see, there are fewer hands in the list for no limit. That is due to the fact that I want to discuss of few of them separately. You have to apply a different preflop strategy in no limit as the pots can get out of hand easily. The hands I removed from the limit list in middle position are 99-KQ (and I've changed AJ suited). In late position these were: 88-AT-KQ-KJ, with AJ still being suited. I will divide the removed hands in two groups. The first group contains hands like AT-KQ-JK and the second group includes pocket 2/9.
The first group of hands: AT-KQ-JK. These are the hands you have to raise sometimes and sometimes not. Again, it's about analyzing the playing styles of your opponents correctly. But if I had to mention a strategy for these types of hands, it will be one that says that you should call if multiple players in front of you limp in, or even raise it up if it is folded to you. Also realize that hands like these tend to become a bit stronger when they're suited or connected.
The second group that I'm discussing separately contains the pockets 2 to 9. These are hands that you can add to your list of playable hands in no limit. Pockets pairs are valuable because of their implied odds. And that's what it's all about: you can call pocket pairs in every position because they have so much implied odds. You can even call a few raises with them (but I advice not to call really big ones). When a lot of players put enough money in the pot preflop it's possible for you to hit trips and win from the players who hold AA, KK, QQ, two pair or one pair with a good kicker.
With pocket pairs you'd like to call instead of raising. Your goal is to hit trips on the flop and if this doesn't succeed, you fold your hand and wait for the next opportunity.
Another type of tricky hand is two cards which are connected and suited at the same time, such as: 5s6s, 6h7h, and 7c8c. Doyle Brunson marks these hands as his personal favorites. Suited connectors have great potential, but it's important to play them correctly. People who just started to play poker might overplay these hands by raising and bluffing with them too often. While these hands are valuable, players without much experience have to fall back into a more conservative playing style. The intention of playing these hands should be to see a flop as cheap as possible, so you can raise post-flop when you've hit an open-ended straight or flush draw, trips or two pair. This could force your other opponents to fold their hands, which is ok. There is no shame in winning a semi-bluff with 8 high! Try to play these hands the same way you're playing small pocket pairs preflop. Hope to hit the flop you're looking for, which is a draw-heavy flop. Use your information gathering skills to decide if hitting your draw will win the hand, and go from there.
What do you do after the flop? You're usually sitting in some sort of situation where you have to decide whether to play your hand or fold it. By this I mean that you already have to decide on the flop if you're willing to play your hand to the river opposed to mucking your hand post-flop.
This is usually due to the fact that the raises you made or called on the flop can lead to inevitable all in situations on the turn. The pot is big which makes the bets on the turn larger as well. You have to look at the pot size on the flop, the amount of players who sit behind you and the possible draws on the flop. Of course, this isn't the only thing you pay attention to, because there are also things such as the stack sizes of your opponents, the position of the button and the tells you might have on an opponent. Poker is a difficult game, because you have to think about so many things. Learning all these things costs a lot of time and effort to understand.
A good rule is to try to take the leading position on the flop by raising people out. A worthy tip, to help you from going broke is: don't overestimate your hand on the flop when three of your suit, or connected cards appear. If it's not the nuts, then you could be behind.
In conclusion, I think that it's the fast paced action which makes hold'em unique. It attracts a lot of professionals, and can scare out the players who have difficulties with making complex decisions in a short amount of time. The skills that eventually build one into a good poker player are a combination of controlled aggression and the ability of laying down monster hands during crucial situations in the game. Good Luck at the Tables!