Playing limit poker as a side gig

The core of limit poker profits seem to be made mostly with premium hands (literally AA-JJ) being called down by rags and draws. I’ve sometimes wondered if I could quit my day job and make a minimalist living with the $4/hour comp benefit at Atlantis in Reno when playing 3–6 limit literally only playing premuim pairs and AKs. Throw in an occasional bluff after turning over a few premium hands and one could make a nice income (including food at the casino) for #vanlife.

How much $$$ do you need?

Typically want 200 BB in your bankroll and 20BB in your buy in. Dan Harrington suggests an even bigger number: if you have 500x the big bet on the or 1000x the big bet you should always be in the money. A 4–8 game is a $160 buy in, a 6–12 game is a $240 buy in, and the 9–18 game at the Bellagio a suggested $360 buy in. Add a zero to those numbers to determine an ideal bankroll to always have “enough to play.”

What’s the ideal playing style?

Aggression, Aggression, aggression — the Doyle Brunson philosophy seems to be effective if done carefully. Preflop play a range that flops well (in early position, raising range is J-J+, AK, AQ suited) and plan on raising rather than simply limping preflop expecting a high frequency of calling, betting the flop, and then getting called by almost all villans who saw the flop. Turn and river aggression is where the field thins, gets scared, and betting to win makes your made hands more profitable and lets you steal a few as well. Remember, what we want to avoid with our betting patterns is giving villans the chance to play perfectly and fold when they are behind while staying in the hand when they are ahead.

What are they holding?

The best way to think about ranges in a limit poker game is to look at player action. Bet and calling usually means the villan is drawing, can’t beat the board right now, or occasionally top pair (if you suspect top pair, check raise the flop to see what the villan does). Raising or especially being bet into usually means villan made a premium hand like a paired Ace w/ K,Q, or J in my hand on the flop, two pair, set, and on later streets flush or draw (if they flopped a straight or flush, may try to trap you by playing possum). Overall, 3 betting is rare and betting into a raiser are all signs of extreme strength, not bluffs. Check raising is rarely a bluff as well.

Life will be much simpler if you don’t try to convince yourself they are bluffing so you can stay in the hand (that doesn’t mean they always have it, but generally speaking there is better ways to make money than being “bluff police” against average limit players).

What can you expect to make?

The rule of thumb in limit poker is 1–1.5X the biggest bet — so a 6–12 game expect to make $12–18/hour with variance. Being disciplined about taking profits may be helpful (“hit and run”) unless you have great reads on villans and want to keep playing.