Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular form of poker played today. Before the poker boom, Limit Hold’em was the dominant variation for cash games, while No-Limit holds that honor today. Both games require discipline, patience, intelligence, and courage to play at a high level. This is probably why Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson once called No-Limit Texas Hold’em “the cadillac of poker games.” If you’re new to poker this is very likely the game you’ll be starting with, and while there is certainly no substitute for experience, it would be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the basics of strategy before jumping in. The following tips will go a long way in guiding you in the right direction:
It’s a lot more fun to play every hand to the river than to dutifully fold hand after hand until you find a top quality one. This can be especially true when you’re losing for the session, or you’ve already been card dead for an extended length of time. Unfortuntaely, if you play all (or even most) of the starting hands you’re dealt, you be at a severe disadvantage against those who simply wait for stronger cards against you, because when you get in a pot together, they’re more likely to have the better holding. It is certainly true that any two cards can win, and that overly loose players can run hot in the short term. However, but over the course of time, regularly playing J4 or T2 at a full table just isn’t going to pay off, even if your name is Doyle Brunson. So if you’re playing poker strictly to have fun, then by all means play every hand you can. But if you are looking to win money, you’re going to have to be pretty selective.
One of the most critical concepts to master in Hold’em is position. This refers to your position relative to the dealer button, and thus whether you are likely to be acting before or after your opponents throughout the hand. While having the superior position will not change the cards in your hand, it will often enable you to make more money on your good hands, lose less with your bad hands, and launch bluffs more effectively. Because position is so valuable, you should play more hands from the later seats (the hands closer to the button), and fewer hands in the early seats (in the blinds and in the first positions after them). Doing so will keep you out of trouble with marginal hands having to act first, and give you a natural advantage at the tables.
Most beginners play way too many hands at Texas Hold’em. Playing fewer hands (tighter) is a good start to improving your game, but that’s really only half of what makes a solid player. The other half is by playing your selected hands aggressively – that is, to be the one pushing the action by betting and raising, rather than being the one checking and calling. When you are the one taking the initiative and forcing the action, you can win the pot by either having your opponent fold or by showing down the best hand. In contrast, when you are the one taking the defensive role by checking and calling, then you can only win by showing down the winner.
One thing that Texas Hold’em novices often fail to realize is that even the strongest starting hands are sometimes worth very little by the river. Therefore, it is a very important skill to learn to re-evaluate your two hole cards after you see the Flop, Turn, and River. For instance, two jacks in the hole (pocket jacks) is one of the best starting hands in the game, but if the board reads A-K-Q-9-8 and there is a bet and raise in front of you, you have to reconsider the strength of your hand. Similarly, if you hold Ac Kc, and the board reads Ah Ts 9s 8s 7s, then it’s important to realize that while your hand showed great strength on the Flop, you really can only beat a bluff now if someone bets into you.
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