Although there is certainly a luck element associated with Poker, Poker is still largely a game of probability, and its most popular derivative, Texas Hold’em, is no exception to this rule. Many players of this game fail to maximize their gains and winning percentages, by failing to adhere to some extremely basic principles. By following these basic strategies, you will be able to enhance your ability to succeed in Texas Hold’em:
Fold on Poor Starting Hands – This is such an important rule. If you do not have a decent pocket hand (first two cards dealt to you), then always fold. A propensity to play bet and play on after receiving a poor pocket hand, is certainly a recipe for disaster, and a way to lose your money.
Typically, you should only be playing the top 25 (or so) of the top hands. These top hands are: A-A, K-K, A-K suited, Q-Q, A-K unsuited, A-Q suited, J-J, 10-10, A-Q unsuited, A-J suited, 9-9, K-Q suited, 8-8, A-10 suited, A-J unsuited, K-J suited, Q-J suited, A-8 suited, K-10 suited, A-9 suited, J-10 suited, Q-10 suited, K-Q unsuited, 10-9 suited, and A-10 unsuited.
Flop must be Worthy – The flop (next 3 cards) must be beneficial to your hand. If it is, then play on based on how strong your hand is; if not, then fold if another player bets.
Drawing Hand must be established by the Flop – If you are playing a drawing hand (e.g., a straight or a flush), then make sure that you have at least four of the five cards needed by the Flop, or you should fold, unless you have an alternatively strong hand.
Moving beyond the Flop with a non-drawing Hand – If you are not on a drawing hand by the Flop, you should only continue beyond the Flop, if you have a high-ranking pair with a big kicker, or a poker pair that is of higher rank than any card showing on the Flop (this is known as an “overpair” to the Flop). Additionally, if the Flop contains three cards of a particular suit (and you do not hold any pocket cards with that suit) or if the Flop contains three consecutive ranking cards (that do not fit in with your potential for a straight), that is also a good time to fold, as the odds of one of your competing players getting a flush or straight exists.
Estimate Potential Damage – After the Flop, estimate what the highest possible hand an opponent may have, and what the likelihood of your opponent getting such a hand might be. Use this as a gauge when deciding to play on or fold.
Press Hard with Great Hand – When you know that you have a great hand (and possibly have the best hand), push your opponents to the limit (in No Limit Hold’em this might mean going All In). In this scenario, press your opponents hard, and do not drag the game out, letting your opponents get extra cards, which could allow them to come back in the game.
Fold When your are Losing – Always fold your hand when you know you are beaten, and do not hang around in the game, betting frivolously. The premise here is to always minimize your losses. Never call a bet, just to verify what cards your opponent had in a hand. The possible exception might be in No Limit Hold’em, when there is certainly a larger degree of bluffing that occurs. In this scenario, make sure that you do not throw away a decent hand superfluously, especially if you are familiar with the bluffing tendencies of some of your opponents.
Be Cognizant of your Seating Position – Always take your seating position into account when you are deciding to play on or fold in a given hand. As an example, if you had a pair of pocket 2’s in the first position of the table, that would be an excellent reason to fold, pre-flop. However, if you had the same pair of 2’s in the last position or in the Small Blind, and no other player raised prior to you (pre-flop), if there are a good number of players in the pot ahead of you, you may want to continue on with a pair of 2’s, and see how the Flop looks, due to pot odds.
Pot Odds need to be greater than Actual Odds – You need to be able to discern between these two types of odds. “Actual Odds”, as the name implies, are the precise mathematical chance of an event occurring. “Pot odds”, on the other hand, is the ratio of money in the pot in relation to the amount that are being asked to bet, in relationship to the actual odds of an event occurring which would give you that pot. The relationship between the two, is most easily explained, via an example. Let’s assume that your pocket hand is (8, 9), and the flop is (J, Q, 8) – in other words, you need a 10 to complete a straight. The odds of you getting that “10″ on either the Turn or the River, is approximately 5-to-1. Depending on the amount of money in the pot, in a scenario where you and only one other player are remaining, the pot odds of you winning would be 1-to-1, which is clearly inferior to your actual odds – in this scenario, you should fold. However, in the same cards scenario, if there are 7 players remaining in the hand, your pot odds would be approximately 6-to-1, which are better than your actual odds — hence, in this case, you should remain in the game and play on. In this latter case, your pot odds exceeded your actual odds, so it would behoove you to remain in the game.
Douglas Hayman, President of Expert Dominoqq Software Systems, is a poker expert, who has developed several entertaining and information poker websites, which include:
Poker Sites – A massive poker informational website that contains a diversity of poker information, including detailed poker rules, hand rankings, free Poker calculators, poker bluffing strategies, power poker tips, a live poker news feed, and many other outstanding features.
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