Let $H_q(n)$ denote the Hecke algebra associated to the symmetric group $S(n)$: this is the $\mathbb{Z}[q^{\pm 1/2}]$ algebra generated by $T_1, \ldots, T_{n-1}$ satisfying the braid relations along with $T_i^2=(q-1)T_i + q$. Ocneanu's trace $\tau_z (T_{\omega_{\mu}}) = z^{l(\omega_{\mu})}$ defined on fundamental elements is the unique normalized trace on our Hecke algebra that can be jiggled to yield invariants of oriented links: this gives the two-parameter HOMFLYPT polynomials $P_L(q,z)$. These polynomials satisfy the skein relation

$$ \Big ( \frac{z}{z-q+1} \Big )^{1/2} P_{L_+} (q,z) - \Big ( \frac{z}{z-q+1} \Big )^{-1/2} P_{L_-}(q,z) = (q^{1/2} - q^{-1/2}) P_{L_0} (q,z).$$

which motivates the common change of variables $x = \sqrt{\frac{z}{z-q+1}}$, $y = q^{1/2} - q^{-1/2}$. Note that the target ring of this trace has to be at least $\mathbb{Z}[q^{\pm 1/2}, z^{\pm 1/2}, (z-q+1)^{ \pm 1/2}]$ if we want to write down the associated invariant $P_L(q,z)$.

Many people take the HOMFLYPT polynomials to be those obtained after the specialization $z=q^{N}/[N]$, which seems to be equivalent to $x=\sqrt{\frac{z}{z-q+1}} = q^{N/2}$. Setting $N=2$ recovers the Jones polynomial, and setting $N=0$ is supposed to recover the Alexander polynomial.

- How am I supposed to correctly obtain the Alexander polynomial in terms of the original $q$ and $z$?

It seems that $x=q^{0/2}=1$ gives the correct specialization. Still, doesn't $\sqrt{\frac{z}{z-q+1}}=1$ force $q=1$, leaving $z$ free? How does the right-hand side of the skein relation survive then?