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If you re just getting started learning Texas Holdem, keep this guide handy for quick reference. If you ever get confused by the action, read below for some guidance. Each topic contains links to more in-depth articles on that specific aspect of Texas Holdem rules. When you feel you ve got the hang of it and are ready to play some real money online poker, check out our Texas Hold em poker site rankings for the best places to get right into a Texas Holdem game online.
Before we get into describing the full rules and game play, here s a quick glossary of terms you ll encounter:
Watch our How to Play Texas Hold em introductory video below. Then read on underneath for a more detailed look at all of Texas Hold em s unique rules. Texas Hold em is a community card poker game with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played. Although the rules and game play are the same the end goal is slightly different depending on if you re playing a Texas Holdem cash game or a Texas Holdem tournament.
A Texas Hold em tournament is the same as any other game of Hold em with a few added rules and twists. Learn more about the unique rules of Texas Holdem poker tournaments. Meanwhile, a Texas Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal is simple: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time. You win a pot by having the best hand or by having all other players fold before the showdown.
A Texas Hold em game can be broken up into three main parts:
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Once you have your players around the table the first thing you need to have is chips. Before you can figure out what kind of chips to give each player, you need to understand how the game works a little better, so we ll get back to this. For now, assume all players have chips in front of them.
The next step is picking the player who will start with the dealer button. Hold em is played with what s known as a rotating dealer, meaning a player will act as the dealer for one hand and then pass the role of dealer on to the player on their left when the hand is completed. To choose the dealer, either deal every player one card or spread the cards facedown on the table and have every player choose one. The player with the highest-valued card (aces are high for selecting a dealer) starts as the dealer.
If you re in a live poker room or casino with a professional dealer (or someone volunteers to always physically deal the cards) the dealer button will still rotate around the table. Even though he or she is physically dealing the cards, for all intents and purposes the person with the button is viewed as being the dealer for the hand. Once the hand completes the player with the dealer button will pass it to the player on his or her left.
Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack.
Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds. There are two blinds in Texas Holdem a small blind and a big blind. These are forced bets required by two players to make sure there are some chips in the pot worth playing for. Without any money in the pot all players might be inclined to fold much more often, slowing down the action considerably.
The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind. The big blind (usually double that of the small blind) is then paid by the player to the left of the small blind. The size of the blinds will dictate the stakes of the game you re about to play. Typically, you want players to buy in for no less than 100 times the size of the big blind. If you want to buy in for $20 you should play with blinds of 10?/20?. For convenience, most people will play 10?/25?.
At a live casino or poker room the maximum and minimum amounts a player can be in for will be in relation to the blinds. For example in a $1/$2 game the table minimum is usually $40 (20x the big blind) and the maximum is $200 (100x the big blind).
Back to the chips: If you re playing in a live casino or online your chips will be provided for you in increments that make sense for the stakes you re playing.
If you re playing at home, you ll need to determine which chips to use and how to distribute them. Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we ll need to play with. (In the above example we d use 10? chips, 25? chips and maybe a few $1 chips.)
You want to give players enough chips in each denomination to allow the game to run smoothly. Typically a player will need only 10% of their total chips in the smallest denomination, as they are only ever used to pay the small blind. For the most part, all Texas Holdem betting will be done with chips larger than that of the small blind. Once you have the chips sorted out and the first blinds in the pot, you re now ready to deal the first hand.
The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first and rotates clockwise around the table. Each player gets one card at a time until each player has two cards, both face down. These are known as your hole cards and they are for your use alone when making your final 5-card poker hand.
A round of Texas Hold em consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. A hand ends when all players but one have folded. Or the fourth (final) Texas Holdem betting round completes with multiple players still in the hand whichever comes first.
At that point players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section) and the player with the highest hand takes the pot. If two players share the highest hand, the pot is split equally between them.
(Note: The following betting rules apply to Limit Hold em Poker. See more about No-Limit and Pot-Limit betting formats here.) When all players receive their hole cards you re now in the pre-flop betting round. Each player looks at his or her cards and decides what action to take. In Hold em only one player can act at a time. The pre-flop betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
Once a player has made their action the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the current bet (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call; if no one has bet it s the big blind amount) or raise. In Limit Hold em a raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet. For example: if the big blind is 25? and the first player to act would like to raise they put in a total of 50? (the big blind + one additional bet).
If the next player would like to re-raise they would put in a total of 75? (the previous bet + one additional bet). Again, though, in No-Limit Hold em a player can bet as much as the total amount of their chips on the table at any time. A Texas Hold em betting round ends when two conditions are met:
Example Betting Round 1
There are five players at the table:
Start of betting round
End of betting round
When Player 2 calls the big blind all players now have the same amount of money in front of them. But Player 3 (the big blind) has not had a chance to act so the betting round is not over. Once Player 3 checks both conditions are met and the betting round is over.
Example Betting Round 2
There are five players at the table:
Start of betting round
End of betting round
In this scenario all players had had a chance to act when Player 3 made the re-raise. But all players did not have the same amount of money bet. Once Player 4 folds, only Player 3 and Player 5 are left in the pot. When Player 5 calls, both conditions are met and the betting round ends.
Once the preflop Texas Holdem round ends, the flop is dealt. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck facedown on the table (called the burn card, it s not in play), followed by three cards face-up in the middle of the table (see below). These are the community flop cards which all players can use to make their best 5-card poker hand.
Once the flop has been dealt the first post-flop betting round begins. The rules of a post-flop betting round are the same as a pre-flop with two small exceptions:
A bet on the flop in Limit Holdem is the amount of the big blind. In No-Limit it has to be at least twice the size of the big blind but can be as much as all of a player s chips. In our Limit Hold em game as described above, a player must put out 25? to make a bet in the first post-flop betting round.
Once the betting round on the flop completes (meaning any players who want to see the next card have matched the value of any bets), the dealer again burns one card face-down out of play followed by a single card face-up in the middle of the table beside the 3 flop cards (see image below). Once the turn has been dealt the third betting round starts.
The third betting round in Limit Hold em is identical to the flop betting round with one single exception: The size of a bet for this round, and the final betting round, is doubled meaning that to make a bet in our game will now cost a player 50?. In No-Limit Hold em a player can again bet any amount of their chips as long as it s at least twice the big blind or double that of any previous bet.
Assuming more than one player is left having not folded on one of the previous streets, the river is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn with one card being burned facedown followed by a single card face-up.
This is the final street and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The final betting round is identical to the Texas Holdem round on the turn.
Once the river betting round has been completed the players now enter into the showdown. At this point the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold em showdown:
For more on How to Determine the Winning Texas Hold em Hand and Which Hand Wins, check the links below:
In Hold em you must make the best 5-card hand possible using any combination of your two hole cards and the five community cards on the table. You can use both, one or none of your own hole cards to make your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:
The board is 2 J Q K A
Player 1 holds 10 9
Player 2 holds 10 2
Both players hold the very same hand (a straight from ten to ace). This means the pot is split between the two players. The remaining cards and the fact Player 1 also has a pair means nothing only the best five-card hand factors into deciding the winner.
Once you determine the winning poker hand that player receives the pot. The dealer passes the dealer button to his or her left and the two players to the left of the new dealer put out their big and small blinds respectively.
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A Texas Holdem buy in refers to how much it costs to enter a poker cash game or tournament. There are usually specific rules for Texas Holdem buy ins, which can also differ from one poker site to another. But here's the general gist of it. Most poker rooms will have minimum buy-ins of roughly 20 to 40 big blinds for cash games. Whereas the maximum buy-in would be capped at around 100 big blinds. In deep stack games, this can increase to 250 big blind stacks - and even more.
Occasionally you may get a choice of buy-in amount so you can choose to enter deep or short-stacked. It obviously costs less to enter short, but the downside is your implied odds decrease significantly post-flop. Meaning you your gameplay is limited, you'll see less flops and can win less chips. Also, you need to take rake into consideration - which is the % taken by the card room. This also makes a short stack less profitable.
However, you should still buy-in with what you a) can afford to lose; and/or b) are comfortable losing. Your buy-in amount may also reflect the skill level you're playing at and your bankroll. Even the best poker players have losing stretch and you should be able to cater that without affecting your life negatively. Remember: You should never take chips off the table - especially not pocket them to keep them 'safe'.
While the rules of Texas Hold em might seem a bit complex in spots they really are quite easy to pick up in practice. And there s nothing more important to learning the
Playing Texas Holdem online might even be the easiest way to get comfortable with the rules of Texas Hold em as you can play hands at a much faster pace. You can choose to play for real money, of course, or you can start playing the free Texas Holdem games offered at every site. Check our page for the best places to play free Texas Holdem online here:
1. BUY-IN - In a cash game, there is a minimum buy-in to enter, but you can reload or buy more chips at any point outside a hand. In a tournament you buy-in once, with the possibility of re-entering. Your starting stack is typically 100 big blinds or more.
2. DEALER BUTTON - This represents the 'rotating' dealer which moves after each hand. To choose the first dealer, each player picks a face-down card from the deck and the one with the highest value card is the dealer.
3. BLINDS - There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand.
4. DEALING - You need to deal clockwise around the table, starting from the small blind. Each player gets one card at a time for a total of two hole cards. After a round of betting here, you deal 3 cards for the flop followed by another betting round. Then one more card for the turn, more betting, then one more river card and final betting. Before dealing each round, the dealer must 'burn' the card at the top of the deck
5. ACTIONS - Every time cards are dealt or turned on the board, there is an action. Choose to check (do nothing), bet (add chips to the pot), call (match someone's bet), raise (add even more chips than the bettor), or fold (discard their hand and exit the round). A bet must be at least worth two big blinds. Or if you raise, it must be at least double the previous bet. Each round is only over when all players have acted - either placed their chips, folded or checked around.
6. BETTING / RAISING RULES - You need to declare your intent to raise or the amount before making an action. Or bring their chip raise amount into play at the same time. You can't place chips gradually - This is known as a string bet and would be considered a call.
7. SHOWDOWN - Unless everyone folds to one player, the best hand at showdown (showing cards after last betting round post-river) wins the pot. The player who bet on the river should reveal their hand first. The other/s can show or muck/fold their hand and give up the pot.
8. THE BEST HAND - Poker hand rankings are as follows, with the best ranging from top to bottom:
Three of a Kind
While it is easy to learn poker rules so that you can sit down and play, it might take a hell lot of time to master the game, and that is why I decided to create this Texas Holdem strategy guide.
While these top 57 best Texas Holdem tips alone will not make you a world-class player, they will surely help you build the right fundamentals, avoid many costly mistakes, and outgrow a big part of your competition.
To make these changes last even longer, I want to cover essential tips that will help you approach Texas Holdem as a professional player just before going into actual strategy, so make sure to go through all of it.
Mindset, performance, and your approach to the game play a huge part in your overall success as a poker player and likelihood for you to reach long term results.
That being said, if you are entirely new to this game, your priority should be to master the strategy part since you want to be playing sound poker.
But even then, building proper habits will help you more than you think and will not require too much of the effort if you understand the underlying need and benefits it can bring.
One of the essential things in poker is to keep improving and never stop growing as a player.
With countless poker tools and resources available these days and new players hungry for success, you are bound to work on your game if you want to reach your long-term goals.
While getting a professional course or even coaching is by far the most efficient approach, you can do a lot of things on your own, which will help you take the upper hands against most players.
However, if you want faster results, joining a training site is one of the most effective ways to improve at your game, you just have to pick what suits you.
There is no doubt that learning from more experienced players can boost your progress. That s why every professional athlete has their personal coaches, and every high-performer heavily invest in his education in the chosen field.
Being a poker player is no different since you need to perform at your best all the time.
Of course, if you are playing just for fun, this does not apply to you. Still, if you want to earn a living or make a side income from poker, a training site can not only help you learn the basics faster but advance your Texas Holdem strategy to an entirely new level.
If you are not sure what would be the best option for you, just take this short quiz and identify your exact situation and even get some tips for your games.
Here are the most common options with full program reviews that you might want to check:
Of course, you can find programs for any other game as well, so make sure to review your options before making the final decision and pick one of the best poker training program based on your game of choice and skill level.
Finding great games with weaker players is the easiest way to boost your win rate, so table selection should be taken very seriously whenever you play.
While you can win some money even in tough games, your profit can easily be doubled or tripled when finding a table full of recreational players.
You probably heard a famous quote from movie Rounders :
If you can't spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.
So instead of showing your ego at the table, you should be looking to do what is best for you, and most of the time, it means finding a good game in the first place.
If you keep battling against the best players, you will not end up winning much money. So take some time to find the best games and boost your win rate. You should be looking for:
If you find games with such players, you can quickly fill your pockets instead of battling out against other professionals, and that is the end goal.
Table selecting is one thing, but finding proper time for your session is entirely different and also is often overlooked by many players.
Of course, it depends on where you live if you are playing live or what games you choose in an online setting, but it is worth figuring out.
Your goal is to identify when recreational players appear at the tables and build your playing schedule around those times so that you could take advantage of weaker competition.
Firstly, you can use your common sense and think when players who want to have fun will come to play. Most often than not, it will be weekends rather than workdays, and evenings rather than the middle of the day when they are likely sitting at work.
On top of this, you can get even more data by taking advantage of poker trackers like Holdem Manager , which can quickly filter out the most profitable days and times for you.
If you find that you are winning a lot playing from Friday till Sunday and barely breaking even on other days, you can play only on weekends and use the additional time for improving your skills.
This alone will optimize your $/hour and help you progress faster by learning and improving your skills.
Bankroll management is another vital tip for Texas Holdem, and it can make you or break you.
Even if you are one of the best players in your games, you are almost guaranteed to go bust at one time if you do not follow sound bankroll strategy.
What I mead by this is that you should always have enough money to outlast short term variance and only play in the games that you can afford.
It also depends on your game, since MTT players need much higher bankroll than someone playing cash games, so make sure to understand poker bankroll requirements based on the format you play.
Moreover, on top of the actual money in your account, these few simple tips will help you a lot:
If you follow these simple tips and have enough money to outlast inevitable swings, you will put yourself into a much better position to reach longterm success.
Your bankroll is not the only thing you need to consider when choosing which stakes to play since your skill also plays a massive role.
At the beginning of your poker career, it makes sense to play lower stakes than you can afford just to get hold of Texas Holdem strategy and environment at the table.
However, you should be looking to move up as soon as you are ready. Playing on higher stakes and taking aggressive shots have a lot of benefits:
If you take a shot at a higher stake and lose a couple of buy-ins, there is no reason to go mad about it. More likely than not, you can learn from your mistakes and identify areas where you need to improve, which is exceptionally valuable information.
The same could be said about moving down.
There is no point in wasting your money if you clearly can t beat the games you play at the moment or you faced an extended period of bad luck, and there is no shame in moving down.
Quite the contrary, if you can make this decision when needed, it only shows that you are not playing based on your ego, but rather consider all of the information and make the most profitable decision for you.
Poker variance is one thing no one will be able to avoid, so you should take your time to understand what it really is and how bad it can get.
Even if you are a winning player, you will face huge swings over your poker career because this is how this game works. Let s take a look at an example of a possible outcome for a cash game player.
According to the primedome.com calculator, there is more than a 30% chance that you lose money over 10.000 hands even if you are a solid winner and have a 5bb/100 win rate. So never underestimate the power of variance and better be ready than sorry.
However, as hard as it is to see this as a positive thing, it actually is. Variance is the only thing that keeps the games going since weaker players would not even play if they did not have a chance to win due to short-time luck.
So next time you are mad when someone hit his draw on the river, think about this. If you keep making better decisions than your opponents, you will win at the end, as simple as that.
You are here for the long run, so let short term variance play its part and concentrate on what you can control.
The best thing you could do to yourself is to concentrate on decision making and detach from emotions from short-term results.
We already talked about variance and embracing it in your games, so hopefully, it will not cause you rage attack or negative emotions when your opponent hits his two outer on the river. You know that it is meant to happen due to the nature of the game, and will be able to continue playing sound poker.
However, if you feel any influence of negative emotions or are tired due to one of the hundreds of possible reasons, it will be much harder to control it. Therefore, you should:
At the beginning of my poker career, I forced myself to play as much as I possibly can, and that never led to anything good. I was too tired to work on my game, was not able to concentrate much when playing, and constantly made emotional decisions, which killed a big part of my profits.
So take things slower, leave yourself some room to rest and learn to control your emotions.
I had an interview with Eliot Roe , who is the leading poker minded and performance coach in the world, and he shared many valuable tips.
To keep your concentration and focus on the game as long as you possibly can, you need a lot of energy.
Luckily for you, that is a trainable skill as almost everything else, and simple things can drastically improve your performance and concentration:
It might look like small and irrelevant things, but it can entirely change your results on the tables and life quality in general.
I went through all of those fazes and lost 21kg on the way, which gave me a lot more energy while playing and led to much better results.
Another thing that helped me a lot was getting a regular sleeping routine by going to bet and waking up at the same time. Sleeping is the most essential part of resting, so you should not skip it lightly.
If you want more advanced strategies on how to optimize your performance, I highly recommend taking a look at A-game masterclass and learning from the best.
Planning your sessions in advance will help to avoid wasting your limited mental energy deciding when to play, and you will be able to use that focus where it is needed the most in your games.
However, the most significant advantage comes from the ability to plan your learning sessions.
From hundreds of students that I worked with, I noticed that without a fixed schedule, more than 90% of players find some excuses to postpone learning to the future.
Most of the time, they never even start working on their game. As you can guess, this leads to pore results and tremendously slows down improvement, so if you want to reach high stakes or mane a lot of money, planning is essential for you.
The last Texas Holdem tip I want to cover before going into actual strategy is about enjoying the process and identifying what you like in this game.
Firstly, do not force yourself to play too much since that can quickly lead to burnout, which is undoubtedly not much fun and can drastically reduce your volume and results.
On top of this, always leave some time to do what you actually love outside of poker, be it watching funny videos online, enjoying a movie, going out with friends, or visiting the gym. Whatever helps you relax, make sure to add it to your daily routine.
If you just happen to lose interest or just want to rest from your main game and have some fun at the tables, you should try something new. If you are playing Texas Holdem, you might try PLO or even Short Deck poker to relax and have some fun at the same time.
Just don t make your life a constant grind and learn to enjoy the process, or you will struggle to keep up with everyone else n the long run.
We already covered Texas Holdem tips that will help you approach the games as a pro, but we also need to analyze a strategy part of Texas Holdem so that you could make better decisions when playing.
Do you know what separates professional poker players from the rest? They never try to guess the exact hand of their opponents.
One of the most important skills you can grow as a player is putting your opponent on a range of cards instead of guessing his exact holding.
The fact is that reading your opponent and putting him on likely holdings has little to do with guessing, and it is a mathematical approach comparing different probabilities of him playing in one way or another.
If you want to take your game one step further, you will have to learn how to put your opponent on a range, and this is the simplified explanation of how to do it in Texas Holdem:
Of course, everything is a bit more complicated than that, but if you follow this approach, you will have a good idea of what he could have on the river and can make a decision based on that information.
This is an advanced topic that is further broken down in the hand reading lab , so check it out when you are ready to progress with this subject.
For now, always put your opponent on a range instead of trying to predict what exact hand does he have.
Proper hand selection in Texas Holdem can help you avoid many costly mistakes on later streets, so learning to adjust your opening ranges based on your position and opponents is very important.
The best way to quickly learn it is to grab a poker cheat sheet with all of the balanced ranges for different positions.
When you know which hands you should be playing in a standard situation without any reads, you can easily adjust it based on various opponents and their mistakes.
Playing fewer hands is one of the best Texas Holdem strategy tips you can ever get. If you avoid unnecessary hands pre-flop, you will have much less room to make mistakes postflop as well, so naturally become a better player.
On top of this, when you decide to play, you should do it aggressively to put your opponents in tougher spots, so be raising and betting much more than calling or checking as a rule of thumb.
If you choose hands correctly, you will be playing most pots when you are in position , which gives you a huge advantage over your opponents for a couple of reasons:
This clearly shows the advantage of being in position, so you need to carefully select holdings that you choose to play from early seats.
The closer you are to the button, the less chance you have to be OOP after the flop, so you can play more hands and realize your EV in that way.
When you are the first player to enter the pot, you should not be limping and should raise or fold instead. There are a couple of reasons why you should not be limping first-in:
If you decide to limp first, then you are just hoping to hit a magic flop since you will be playing against multiple players a lot of the time and will not have a chance to bluff them.
However, if someone already limped before you, you can join the action with some speculative holdings like small pocket pairs and suited connectors just because you are getting great odds.
However, this is more an exception than a rule, and if you want to take advantage of other players, you should be looking to raise more hands rather than play limped pots.
If you notice players limping in front of you, you have a perfect opportunity to take advantage of their play.
Be ready to raise even medium-strength hands when there is a limp in front of you.
This will help you isolate weaker players and play heads-up against them, which is always a desired outcome.
On top of this, even if your opponent calls preflop, they will fold a lot when facing a c-bet, and you will take many pots uncontested.
So you should be attacking limpers both in cash games and MTTs alike. Since tournaments have more dead money because of the anty in play, you should take advantage of this opportunity and build your stack.
However, you should play quite carefully against limp/raises since this is a move that often indicates a lot of strength, and if you do not have a particular read on your opponent, continue with caution.
Many new players somehow get a habit of slow playing too often without any particular reason, which leaves a lot of money at the table.
As a rule of thumb, you should be playing your strong hands aggressively to protect your equity and build the pot while you are ahead.
That being said, sometimes, you will flop complete monsters on very dry boards where your opponent is not likely to have much, and that could be a reason to slow play.
When considering slop playing in Texas Holdem, you need a couple of things to be true:
However, you should rarely slow play on wet boards where your opponent can easily outdraw you and should go for maximum value unless you have an excellent reason not to.
Blockers play a huge role in the Texas Holdem strategy, so it is essential to understand what it is.
Blockers are cards than reduces the possibility of your opponent having a specific holding, or than card hitting the board.
For example, if you have an A and a board with three spades like T 7 3 K 2 , you know for sure that your opponent does not have a nut flush because you are holding that card in your hand, so you block this possibility.
Having blockers gives you a piece of information, which can be used to make better decisions:
These are a few examples of how it can help you make better decisions, but here you can find more information about blockers in poker .
Texas Holdem is a complex game, and you will not be able to win without learning how to bluff. However, you surely do not take it too far and try to win every pot, which is a massive mistake that many players make at the beginning.
Most of the time, you should concentrate on playing strong hands and avoid getting involved in unnecessary ego battles trying to prove something to others.
However, you will need to bluff from time to time not to become too predictable, and there is a couple of things you should know:
While this is an extensive topic, these Texas Holdem tips alone will help you choose more profitable spots.
While bluffing could be profitable in many different situations, one of the best spots to take advantage of this play is to fire a triple-barrel bluff.
While many players are used to calling on the flop or even on the river with medium-strength hands, most of that goes into the muck on the river.
Therefore, it creates a great opportunity to take down many pots by using your aggression. Of course, randomly firing all streets with every single hand you have is not going to be a winning proposition, but if you choose your poker hands properly, you will rake in many pots.
First and for most, barrel hands that have some blockers and reduces the possibility for your opponent to have a holding that he can call all three streets with.
Also, some additional equity is a benefit when bluffing on the flop and the turn since it gives you added ways to win the hand, by either improving it or continuing your bluff.
Since bluffing is a stimulating play and one of the reasons why some players choose Texas Holdem games in the first place, you need to understand how to counter this move.
Bluff catching is calling with a hand that can only beat the bluff.
You will surely need some practice to get hold of when bluff catching is a profitable move , but you will get better with time. However, you should consider a couple of things when you are just starting:
So instead of randomly folding or calling based on your feelings, take some time, and evaluate this information before making your final decision.
Calling too many hands out of position against 3-bets is not a sound Texas Holdem strategy most of the time. Therefore, you need to learn to fold speculative holdings OOP to avoid costly mistakes later on.
Even more so when you have a relatively short stack because these holdings lose a lot of value in such a situation.
While flatting suited connectors might be ok with 100+ big blinds stack, it is rarely the right play with 50bb or so.
Instead of flatting too much OOP, you should add more hands in your 4-bet bluffing range and fold the weaker part of your range.
Do not be afraid to take an aggressive line and use a squeeze play when you are in a good situation since many players are vastly over-folding against this play.
If one player opens the pot and someone else calls, you should be looking for every opportunity to squeeze them out of the pot.
Make sure to use proper bet sizing of at least 4x the original raise, and use good hands with some blockers like broadways or Ax holdings.
A lot of the time, you will take down the pot uncontested, but even if one of the players decides to call, you will be in a favorable situation since you are the one dictating the action.
Floating can give you additional ways to win extra pots and is something you should add in your arsenal. So what is floating in poker ?
Floating is calling a bet with a weak hand with the hope of bluffing your opponent later on.
However, this is something you should not do randomly, and most of the time you want this to be true:
If you can pick the right spots for floating, it could be another tool in your Texas Holdem strategy and help you take down quite a few additional pots.
Check-raising lets you build the pot when you have a strong hand, but it also should be used to put pressure back on your opponent with some weaker holdings.
You need to carefully consider the board texture since you should mostly use this play when you have a clear range advantage.
This will help you represent strong hands and get more folds with your bluffs, and it is precisely why you should not be check/raising only strong holdings.
If you choose the situation correctly, you can have even more bluffs than made hands and still put your opponents in many thought spots, which will move more pots in your direction.
While playing Texas Holdem poker, you will flop some kind of the draw rather than the made hand most of the time, so learning how to play it is quite critical to your over poker success.
Not all poker draws are equal in value, but if you are not sure what to do, taking an aggressive line is probably a better option.
That being said, you should not play all of your draws aggressively, especially when you are out of position.
Another Texas Holdem tip is to play your inside straight draws carefully when out of position, and aggressively when IP.
Many players believe that you should almost always be betting your draws, but if you keep firing even with weak hands out of position, you range will be way too weak, and that can easily be exploited.
Therefore, while it is ok to be betting gutshots in position, you should mostly check these hands OOP as well as some of your stronger holding to protect your entire checking range.
Extracting value is vital in Texas Holdem games, and the more chips you can get from your opponent with medium-strength hands, the better your win rate will be.
Thin value betting is one of the best ways to maximize your profits.
It means that you should be betting even medium-strength hands where your opponent is likely to bluff catch and call with weaker holdings.
This is mostly true on the boards where all draws miss, and your opponent will be able to think that you missed your flush or straight draw and now are bluffing, so will call very lightly.
On top of that, you should be thin value betting against players who are known to call too much and are identified as calling stations since you can drastically increase your winnings by that.
More often than not, players are ready to give up in the pot and move to another hand when they show weakness. This is where you should take advantage of probe bets.
When you are out of position, and your opponent decides to check on the flop, you should fire most turns and rivers.
This way, you will win many pots right away and build plenty of profitable bluffing spots on the river. As a rule of thumb, I am always looking to make a probe bet in these situations.
If the board is connected and hits your range pretty good, an aggressive line will help you put many chips in your pockets, and this is one of the most underused moves in poker.
Many players overplay suited connectors and pay a high price in regards to their chips for their simple mistake. While being a pretty hand as it is, it is not always the best option to get involved in large pots with these speculative holdings.
Suited connectors gain value as the stack depth increase, but are quite weak hands when playing short stacks.
The most important takeaway when playing suited connectors is that they should be mostly played aggressively preflop. While it is ok to use this hand to raise or 3-bet, it is rarely a profitable option to be just overcalling another player s raise.
Is there is one hand that is often misplayed by beginners it is Ace-King. If you can detach from emotions and learn how to play this hand correctly based on the math, you will quickly realize how profitable it can be.
If you have a chance to put all your money in before the flop, go for it when holding Ace-King.
Unless you have very deep stacks like 150 bb+, you will be a mathematical favorite to win the hand. Even against an extremely strong range of JJ+ and AJ+, AK is a favorite. If we add all the possible bluffs and weaker holding or account for dead money in the pot, this is a slam dunk.
Even if you miss the flop, you still be ahead of your opponents range most of the time, so learn how to play Ace King in the right way to maximize your profits.
While you will be playing heads-up pots most of the time and all of Texas Holdem strategy tips perfectly applies in these situations, you need to understand how to adjust against several opponents.
The most important thing to remember is that you should be betting much less in multiway pots.
Your bluffs are less likely to work against several players, and you will surely do not want to be value betting your medium-strength hands, so you need to check more often.
If you happen to hit a strong hand, there is no reason to slow play it, and you should start betting as soon as you can to deny other players free cards and opportunities to outdraw you.
No matter which Texas Holdem format you choose to play, you will encounter players with different stack sizes, and you need to adjust to it since your hand value changes based on this situation.
For example, while suited connectors have a lot of value when you are deep stacked because it can flop strong hands and win huge pots when this happens, it is not very good holding in short stack situations.
When you stack becomes relatively shorter, hands with blockers gain much more value.
So a hand like K9o is a better candidate to try and steal the blinds than something like 65s, which is not something many players consider.
Generally, you have to play tighter against short stacks not just because suited connectors and small pocket pairs lose a lot of its value, but also because these players are likely to 3-bet shove wider and you do not want to be folding to that too often.
While it is essential to observe other players, and we will talk about that just in a minute, you should also know that your opponents are likely watching your play and can take advantage of this knowledge.
When players make an assumption about your play, they are not likely to notice a change in your strategy, so you should take full advantage of your table image and shift your gears when needed.
If your opponents see you as an extremely tight player, they will not expect many bluffs from your part so you can take advantage of this situation and bluff raise them in a big pot.
This will force them to fold even very strong holdings and will move the pot your way.
Contrary to this, if your opponents see you as an overly aggressive player, you can switch to playing only made hands, and they will likely pay you off most of the time.
To adjust against various players, you firstly need to observe your opponents and notice their mistakes. More often than not, poker software will do the lion share of the job if you are playing online, but you have to rely only on yourself in a live setting.
However, even if this requires additional focus and concentration, knowing what mistakes different players commits will help you make better decisions and significantly increase your win rate. That s probably the reason where there are some poker books on this subject .
One thing that can have lasting results is taking notes about irregular lines that a specific player makes in the game.
If you build a habit to take notes about your opponents, every time you sit down to play in Texas Holdem game with the same players, you instantly know how to adjust versus them.
If you notice that one player is a calling station and is ready to call your three street barrels with merely third pair, you can widen your value betting range and force him to pay more.
Just like this, you can mark other things in both live and online games and increase your chance of winning.
You do want to be one of the players who follow Texas Holdem strategy blindly, without considering the skill level of your opponent or his mistakes at the table.
While learning a GTO poker strategy is essential if you want to reach success in today s games, it should only be used as a starting point or when playing against very tough competition.
In most other cases, you can win more money by exploiting specific opponents or even population tendencies, but for that, you need to learn how to categorize different players. A lot of the time, recreational players fall in one of these categories:
Each of those groups is making massive mistakes that you can easily exploit. You should not bluff against someone who hates folding and be willing to fold even reasonable hands when passive players show a lot of aggression.
Of course, these are just simple common sense adjustments, but if you want to learn more about this specific topic, I created a detailed guide on how to play against different players that you can read.
When you know how to identify recreational players, you can take one more step and learn how to save some of your money for later use, and this is especially true in lower stake games.
If the player who has been very passive out of nowhere stars raising your bets, it is a good time to fold even strong hands.
More often than not, tight passive players will not start bluffing out of nowhere, so you can easily fold much more than you should in theory and exploit their play.
Even if you end up making some wrong laydowns, the times you will be right will pay for it many times over, so this is a very profitable adjustment you should have in mind.
Texas Holdem is based on math more than anything else, and while you do not need an advanced knowledge of it at the beginning, learning how to calculate your odds and outs will help you a lot.
Whenever you have a draw, there will be some cards that can help you make the best hand. For example, if you have a straight draw with JT on 98 4, you have 8 outs to hit your straight (four queens and four sevens).
When you know your outs, it is easy to figure out how likely you are to hit it using the rule of 2 and 4 , and base your decisions on that.
If you want to know how likely you are to hit your draw on the next card, you just need to multiply your odds by 2, and multiplying your odds by 4 will show you how likely you are to hit your draw with the next two cards, turn and the river. Here are a couple of common situations:
|Your draw:||Outs||The probability to hit on next card||The probability to hit till river (two cards to come)|
|Insight straight draw||4||8.5%||16.5%|
|Any pair with unpaired cards||6||12.8%||24.1%|
|OPED straight draw||8||17%||31.5%|
|Flush + open-ended straight draw||15||31.9%||54.1%|
Here you can find more poker odds and outs that you should know and learn some advanced stuff.
Building proper c-betting ranges requires some studying, and many training sites such as Upswing poker lab can help you with this.
However, you should know some of the basics even before sitting down in the games, and one of the most important things is to have some strong hands in your checking range on the flop.
If you keep betting all your made hands like top pair and better, your checking range will be very weak, and you will have to fold to aggression much more than you would want to.
So checking some made hands helps you balance this out, and also gives your opponent a chance to bluff with his air hands, which he would snap fold when facing a bet.
While you want to check some strong hands when you are in position, it is even more critical OOP, so make sure to check enough hands so that no one can exploit you by bluffing whenever you check.
All previously mentioned Texas Holdem strategy tips can be used in both cash games and tournaments alike, so no matter what you play, you can significantly improve following these tips.
However, there are specific situations in MTTs that require additional adjustments, and this is something we are going to cover next.
One of the first things you need to understand about Texas Holdem poker tournament strategy is that your chips are not equal to real money, and this is where ICM calculations come into play.
ICM can tell you the value of your stack by converting your chips into real money value at any moment.
It is especially crucial on the bubble or final table with high price jumps. If you lose your whole stack in this situation, you will go bust, but if you double up, you are not guaranteed to win.
Of course, this is a very simplified explanation, but the chips you lose are more valuable then chips you win in these situations, and ICM helps you learn mathematically correct plays.
Undoubtedly, it has some limitations since it does not take into consideration your skill level or specific dynamics, but ICM offers one of the best ways for mastering end game situations.
Bubble in poker is a situation where there are just a few players left until everyone reaches paid places, and it creates a perfect atmosphere for building your stack.
A lot of armature players are merely waiting for the bubble to burst since they want to reach the money phase and avoids all confrontations.
That s why you constantly see all of those short stacks going crazy as soon as everyone reaches paid places.
The same could be said about middling stacks. These guys do not want to risk it all and bust against chip leaders, so they will quietly sit and wait until the bubble is over.
It gives you many opportunities to build your stack.
While you should not go too crazy against big stacks, you can take calculated risks against medium and short stacks.
Of course, if you have built a big pile of chips yourself, this is a time to go crazy cause you can literally be opening almost every hand if the money pressure is bit and other players are scared to play.
Push fold is a tournament stage, where you have a very short stack that only allows you to move all-in if you decide to play. It can happen late in the game, or early if you manage to lose a significant part of your stack, but either way, it is vital to play it correctly.
Most of the time, when you have less than 10 big blinds left in your stack, you will just have to go with the hand or fold it.
You can t afford to raise and then folding after investing a significant part of your stack according to the GTO poker strategy , so this is where push-fold comes into play.
The closer you are to the button, the more you should be shoving since stealing blinds in such a situation will significantly increase your chip stack and might give you a fighting chance to take it all down.
On top of, that you should avoid entering the pot if someone has already raised unless you have a premium hand and want to play for your stack.
While stealing blinds is profitable in cash games, there is no need to go crazy and steal very wide. However, that changes when you start playing MTTs.
When you have antes in play, stealing blinds can add a lot of additional chips in your stack.
Of course, this does not mean that you should be stealing all the time, but if you are in late position or have a huge stack on the bubble, you should opening almost any two cards and taking advantage of your situation.
Another strategy tip for Texas Holdem that is specific to tournaments is to defend blinds extremely wide. It all breaks down to simple math.
If you face a small raise and have dead money in the pot (antes), you are getting insanely good odds and should defend any playable hands.
For example, if you face a min-raise and everyone folds around to you, you need to call 1bb while the pot is already 4.5 big blinds (2bb raise from a player, 1bb posted by you, 0.5bb posted by small blind and around 1bb in antes).
So you only need 18% equity against your opponent range, and even 72s has around 31% against a range of 20%.
Of course, it will not be easy to realize your equity out of position, so you can fold some hands that are close in regards to the math, but everything else should be defended, so you see how wide you can go.
Live games are also very different compared to online formats, be it Texas Holdem or anything else, so you need to understand at least the basic adjustments before hitting the casino .
One of the most significant advantages of live games is that you can take all the time that you need to think through your choices, and you should take advantage of this option.
It is much better to take some extra time than regret your decision as soon as you make it.
Of course, this should not become just wasting time when you know what you are going to do, but giving yourself enough room to consider all of the options will also help you improve your Texas Holdem strategy and progress as a player.
Often you might be tempted to show your hand even when you don t need to, but resist this feeling and much your holdings.
Showing your hand when you don t have to only reveals information about your strategy.
So if your opponents table a winning hand when you call his river bet, do not show what you had with a hope to get some sympathy just because you got very unlucky and simply muck it.
Giving away information is never a good idea, so play it smart rather than let emotions control your actions at the table.
While playing live, you have an added benefit of seeing your opponents, and this opens the door for observing them and finding some patterns.
I will not list all of the tells in this place since that is beyond the scope of this article, but you can check a full list of poker tells here. For now, I want you to remember one statement:
If your opponents pretend to be strong, he is likely weak, and if he shows uncertainty and weakness and then bets, he is more likely to have a very strong holding.
So the old saying weak equals strong and strong equals weak is true in poker, and it makes complete sense.
Imagine a situation where your opponent hesitates, shows many signs of uncertainty, and then raise your bet on the river. Would he be doing it with a weak hand? He could, but it is extremely unlikely.
If we had a weak hand, he would not show you that weakness since he would want you to fold and, more likely than not, would try to pretend confident and robust.
While tells should not be your only source of information when making decisions, observing simple signs can be very valuable additional information, so use this option when playing Texas Holdem games in a live setting.
Observing other players can give you a lot of information just as we discussed in regards to poker tells, and one of the best times to do it is to notice how they react after seeing their cards.
While it is not your time to act, observe other players and only then take a look at your hand.
This a great moment to identify some tells since players tend to react quite differently when seeing strong and weak holdings, so try to notice their reactions.
It is easy to get bored when playing live if you are used to a lot of action and multi-tabling in an online setting, but you should resist your desire to play more hands than you need to.
No matter if you play live or online, you should stick with proper pre-flop hand selection.
The fact that you are playing in a live setting does not magically change the value of your hands or let you profitably play trash. That being said, since you are likely to face weaker competition, you can play a few more hands, but do not take it too far.
If you are really boards, just build a habit of observing other players while you are not in the hand, and it will surely be way more profitable than playing weak hands in the long run.
Poker is an exciting game, and many recreational players choose it mostly because of that, so you should try to keep it this way and don t ruin all the fun at the table.
It s considered extremely rude to slow roll other players, and can even break the game when the atmosphere gets heated fast, so you should avoid it as much as you can.
On top of this, it will not win sympathy points and might even close some doors for you in the future, so it is not worth it.
Of course, you can accidentally angle shoot someone without even knowing that you are doing something wrong, so it is worth studying this subject and prepare for your first trip to bricks and mortar poker room.
As a rule of thumb, always be kind, do not insult other players, and don t offer your advice about the hand if no one asks, and you will be good.
One of the most costly mistakes new live game players often commit is string betting .
String betting happens when you fail to put all of your chips in one motion that you intended to bet.
It might lead to a very costly scenario, where you will be forced just to call in a situation you wanted to raise and create many ridiculous problems.
The good news is that you can easily avoid this misunderstanding by verbally announcing your play, and saying how much you are going to bet.
Then you can place your chips however you want, so if you are not sure how to proceed, always choose the latter option.
Even if you are exceptionally playing only live games, joining an online poker site to practice your skills could be the best thing you can do to yourself.
You can play many times more hands online in the same timeframe and gain experience at a better pace.
On top of that, you will find many useful tools that can help you progress even further and will quickly leave your live game opponents behind if they fail to improve at least at the same pace.
Last but not least is online poker and all of the nuances that come with this format. Just like live games require specific adaptation, you also need to adjust your Texas Holdem strategy and how you approach the game in an online setting, so let's cover this topic.
While you can t control your environment when playing Holdem in a casino, you can set up everything in a way you like or want it to be when playing at home.
Removing distractions before your session will give you a boost in concentration and focus.
So, you should mute your phone, turn off the TV and close all irrelevant internet browsers or do anything else that will remove the distractions.
This will force you to concentrate on your games and will help you play at your best for an extended period, which has a massive influence on your overall results.
With an online setting, you have the privilege of playing a few tables at once and many more hands than playing poker in live games.
While you should not mix different formats at the same time, multi-tabling will help you boost your $/hour.
Of course, if we assume that you will dedicate some time to table select, which is also vital when multi-tabling.
It is better to play a couple of good tables, than 10 games but with much tougher competition. It all breaks down to how much you are making per hour, and that figure will be way higher in passive games with weaker players.
Experiment how many tables you can comfortably play at the same time, and carefully select the best games.
This tip mostly applies to cash games, where you want to make sure to maximize your earning potential.
You want to have all weak players covered at your table, so buying for maximum and auto toping up will help you increase your EV.
Imagine a situation where you have a player who open-shoves every hand, and you call his bet just to lose the big part of your stack and are left with 5bb after the hand, and you get AA before reloading your stack.
If you would have auto-top up enabled, you had been automatically refiled and had 100bb in your stack when AA arrived, making that much happier situation for you than winning 5 big blinds back from weak player.
Of course, this is an extreme example, but there are many situations where having low stack or auto-top-up disabled will cost you a lot of money, so take a better approach and always be prepared.
Online players can get a lot of help from the best poker tools and software available today. All things considered, tracking software is one of the most essential parts of your poker set-up.
It will help you see your opponent s real-time statistics so that you could make better decisions based on math, not only the feeling.
It shows much more than just VPIP or PFR poker stats , so you can analyze the most profitable lines both in-game and while studying away from the table.
So if you do not have one, make sure to grab one of many available options and start using in in your games.
Finding the best rakeback deals and rewards can also increase your win rate by quite a bit, so you should research where to play instead of randomly jumping to the most known or biggest site.
While I would say that the level of your competition is the most important thing to consider, bonuses also play a significant part in this equation.
If you decide to go with any decent room that is regulated and offers fair services, your only job is to identify the weakest players and best bonuses to strike the right balance between them.
No matter what and where you play, always make sure to have some fun and enjoy the games. It will inevitably lead to more satisfaction and success in poker and everyday life, so it is an easy WIN to take!
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Any post with an ambitious title claiming that the concepts in the post are the most important is bound to generate controversy. Texas holdem is a complex enough game with enough levels of thinking that there are probably hundreds of concepts you could discuss in a blog post. Just thoroughly covering 7 concepts takes more space than most blog posts do.
At any rate, I m going to give it a shot. These are Texas Holdem concepts that are less related to the play of individual hands and have more to do with your overall approach to the game.
One of my favorite poker writers, Steve Badger, often points out that poker isn t a game where you should slavishly follow a cookbook recipe. He told me once that it s more like making a stew the exact amounts of each ingredient are open for negotiation, but you want a reasonable balance of those ingredients.
That s what I ve tried to do with my blog posts related to Texas Holdem ideas.
Being able to choose the most profitable game for your skill-set might be the most important poker concept to learn. It s also probably one of the lease talked about skills, too. In fact, you can be a relatively poor player and make more money than a better player if you re better at choosing the appropriate game.
This skill comes in most handy when you re dealing with online poker because you have such a large number of games to choose from at any time.
But game selection comes up and is important in live play at brick and mortar poker rooms, too. Your goal is to find a game with more players who call a lot and play a lot of hands. (These are called loose passive players.) You want to avoid games with a lot of players who only play a few hands but bet and raise with them when they play them. (These are called tight aggressive players.)
You can read more about categorizing poker players in the section on concept #5, below. For now, just know that your goal is to find a table where you re at least one of the best players at the table, if not THE best. You can make money if there are better players than you at the table, but you ll probably avoid confrontations with them. If you re good, they ll avoid confrontations with you, too.
Finally, unless you have a big bankroll, stay away from games where there s a lot of loose, aggressive action. Even if you have an edge, you might not be able to withstand the swings of luck that are part and parcel of playing at such a table.
One of my biggest leaks as a new poker player was my tendency to not pay attention to any hand I wasn t involved in. You ll see plenty of players who do this. They re often wearing earbuds. Sometimes they re watching TV or just gabbing away with the other guys at the table.
When I learned to start watching what was going on more closely, my game improved dramatically. Paying attention gives you a better idea of your opponents playing tendencies (see concept #5 below). It will also help you figure out which hands are likelier to win in various situations.
I know from reading that big pairs win more often against smaller fields, but I need stronger hands to win against larger fields. Some of this depends on the texture of the overcards but getting a real feel for what wins in which situations requires attention and experience.
You might think that being patient enough to fold until you get premium cards is the most important Texas Holdem skill you could have. If that s the only trick you have up your sleeve, you re in trouble. That will beat a lot of competition at the lower levels, but even at low stakes holdem, you ll find opponents who are paying attention to how you play and are compensating accordingly.
I d suggest that being able to put your opponents on a range of hands is a more important skill. In fact, it might be the most important skill. This isn t something someone has an innate talent for, either. You have to work for it, and that requires paying attention and thinking.
If you re having trouble concentrating at 1st, I suggest singling out one opponent and pay attention to his playing tendencies. How aggressive is he? Does he bluff? Is he a calling station? Does he defend his blinds?
These are all questions you can answer about opponents if you pay attention to them for a while. Some players are easy to evaluate in this way. I often tell a story about a guy who played every hand preflop, and he raised with all of them, too. Putting him on a range of hands preflop was easy he could have anything. He tightened up a little bit after the flop, though.
Most players are going to have subtler playing tendencies than this, though. The only way you ll be able to pick up on these tendencies and put them on a range of hands is by paying attention to what they re doing, even when you ve folded and aren t involved in the hand.
People who watch poker on television or in the movies think that bluffing and tells are the 2 biggest components of the game. Both of those skills matter, but neither of them are hugely important compared to things like hand selection, aggression, and calculating outs and pot odds. But you can t succeed in Texas Holdem if you never bluff at all, either not unless you re playing at the lowest limits imaginable.
One rule of thumb I learned early is that you should never try to bluff more than 2 opponents at a time. To win a bluff, all your opponents must fold so that you can win the pot. The more opponents you re trying to bluff, the less likely you are to succeed. Your best option is to bluff against a single opponent.
Look at it this way:
If you re bluffing one opponent who you estimate will fold 50% of the time, you don t need a huge amount of money in the pot to make this a profitable play. You only need even money to break even.
But if you re bluffing 2 opponents, each of whom has a 50% probability of folding, your chance of succeeding drops to 25%. (To calculate the probability of multiple events happening, you multiply the probability of each of them.) You need 3 to 1 to break even.
If you re bluffing 3 opponents like that, your probability drops to 12.5%. Now you need 7 to 1 to break even. You won t usually be getting pot odds good enough to warrant bluffing in this situation.
The best times to bluff are when you see scare cards come up on the flop or the turn or when an otherwise strong player starts acting weak. If you can find a situation where both situations are true, then you re well-positioned to win a bluff.
The worst times to bluff are when you re dealing with calling stations. These are players who play passively but rarely fold. Often they ll check in front of you, but then when you bet into them, they call you down.
Poker players are said to go on tilt when they get upset about how a hand turns out. They start betting and raising aggressively with lousy cards. Or sometimes they ll start calling bets with hands they should fold. Players on tilt are trying to force an outcome.
If you re going to play winning Texas Holdem, you absolutely must learn how to avoid going on tilt.
If you re new to the game, you might think you re immune to going on tilt. That s a common beginner mistake, too. Until you ve experienced getting your aces or kings cracked several times in a single session, you don t know how you re going to react emotionally. It s easy to get discouraged and think that short-term variance means that everything you know about poker is meaningless in the face of random chance.
The best thing to do if you go on tilt is to quit playing temporarily. You can lose tremendous amounts of money while you re on tilt. The money you save by getting away from the table when you re upset is worth just as much as that same amount of money in a pot.
Learning to keep calm and handle the swings of the game is a skill like any other and takes practice. It s also easy to tilt and not realize you ve tilted. Recognizing when you re not playing your best game because of your emotions is a critical skill.
One way to develop this skill is by practicing meditation, by the way. People who meditate pay better attention. They re more easily able to recognize what s going on, both inside and outside. I m not sure about other benefits of meditation, but I m convinced that poker players who meditate on a regular basis have better luck than those who don t.
One of the 1st things I learned about poker strategy had to do with playing styles. I d never given the concept of playing style much thought until I read Andy Bellin s book, Poker Nation which was my 1st poker book, by the way.
The different styles of play make poker so interesting. Luckily, the number of styles can be categorized into a handful of groups. How you should play against opponents of a specific style varies based on how they play.
If you pay attention to your opponents general tendencies, you can put them into 1 of 4 categories:
Think of these as being 2 continuums. One the tight-loose continuum describes how often a player participates in a hand. Tight players fold a lot and only play premium hands. Loose players don t fold often, so they might have any kind of cards.
The other continuum the aggressive and passive continuum describes how often a player bets and raises versus checking and calling. Aggressive players drive the action by betting and raising. Passive players, on the other hand, check and call more often.
But these aren t binary categories, either. You can face a tight player who folds 90% of his hands preflop, or a tight player who folds 80% of his hands preflop. You can face a loose player who only folds 50% of his hands preflop, or you could even face a player so loose that he plays 100% of his hands preflop. (I played a guy like this at the Winstar in Oklahoma not long ago.)
Also, some players play looser from the blinds even if they play tight the rest of the time. Other players might play loose before the flop but tighten up considerably on the flop and the turn.
That s why I suggested that these categories are continuums.
The consensus is that tight aggressive is the best playing style, so that s the style you should emulate. Don t play many hands, but when you do, bet and raise with those hands. Go big or go home.
The 2nd best approach is loose aggressive. If you re facing the right opponents, being willing to bet and raise a lot is enough to get you an edge at the poker table. You get extra equity if you re facing tight players because you win a certain percentage of pots just because your opponents fold. And even if you have 2nd best cards, you ll occasionally hit your draw.
A passive poker player is always the worst. Rocks (tight-passive players) tend to lose their money in the face of aggression. Calling stations (loose-passive players) tend to pay off their tighter opponents. Passive players of either persuasion never (or rarely) give their opponents an opportunity to fold.
When you categorize your opponents, you can make better-educated guesses about what kinds of cards they might be playing. If you get good enough at that, it s like playing poker with someone whose hole cards are always exposed.
If you re a winning player at the $2/$4 tables, you might also be a winner at the $5/$10 tables. You won t know until you take a shot at that level. If you ARE able to win at the higher limits, you should be able to make more money just because there are larger amounts of money in play in those situations.
One thing to think about is how big your bankroll is. Even if you have an edge, short-term variance (i.e. bad luck) can cause you to lose all your money and go broke. You should have about 300 big bets at a given level if you want to avoid risking going broke. Of course, if you re a bad player, it won t matter how big your bankroll is. The size of your bankroll only starts to matter when you re a winning player.
That s only one aspect of moving up in stakes, though. You also need to be skilled enough to win at that next level. You might be ready; you might not.
My suggestion is to start with a bankroll that will get you through to the lowest limit game in the cardroom. If you re playing $2/$4, then you should have a $1200 bankroll.
Set yourself a goal of winning enough money to move up to the $3/$6 tables. That means you have to win $600 at that level before moving up.
If you lose that $600 and get back down to $1200, you go back to the $2/$4 tables.
But if you re winning, you move up in stakes to the $4/$8 tables once your bankroll has increased to $2400.
This kind of approach guarantees that your skills are improving, because it s almost impossible to grow your bankroll like that without being able to win at the higher stakes, too.
In other words, you ll know when you re ready to move up because your bankroll will tell you.
If you watch TV or movies about poker, you might think that picking up tells is the #1 most important skill in poker.
But learning to read your opponents tells can help you win more money than you might win otherwise. It won t make up for a lack of ability to fold or a lack of ability to read other players. But if you ve mastered the basics, looking for and finding tells can take your game and profits to the next level.
Not all tells are individual, either. Some players fall into predictable categories. You can read Caro s Book of Tells by Mike Caro or Read Em and Reap by Joe Navarro to learn about some common tells that apply to most players.
Here are some tells you can look for without reading an entire book on the subject, though:
Shaking hands A player whose hands are shaking when he goes to bet or raise isn t bluffing, usually. That s a release of subconscious excitement about how strong is hand is. Keep this in mind when putting that opponent on a range of hands.
Are they going to play the hand? Most players learn pretty quickly that they re not supposed to act out of turn. But if you watch the players to your left, you can often see clues to what they re planning to do before they do it. It s obvious when a player puts his chips on top of his cards that he s planning to play his hand. If he s picking up his chips even though it isn t his turn to act, he s getting ready to call, bet, or raise. Paying attention to this tell can help you avoid some of the disadvantages of playing out of position.
Weak is strong, and strong is weak. Players who act one way are usually representing the opposite. A player who s trying to stare you down when he s betting or raising into you often has a weak hand and is hoping you ll bluff. A player who s staring at the television and calling in a disinterested manner probably has a monster and is hoping to get some action with it. Most of the time, players try to be deceptive and act in the manner opposite of their hand strength.
It s easier to pick up on your opponents tells when you re not involved in a hand. See concepts #2 and #5 above.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that most important Texas Holdem concepts is a highly subjective idea. These are the concepts I think are most important, especially if you re just getting started. I ve tried to focus on concepts that apply to the game as a whole and your overall approach to it.
You ll find other blog posts with specific details about how to play hands of certain types from certain positions at certain levels. There s nothing wrong with those posts, either. I just think you need to grasp some of these other elements of poker first, or at least concurrently, with those tactics.
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