Texas Holdem Tips

Mon, Nov 24, 2008


1.  The best Texas Holdem tip is to make sure you know the Fundamentals, especially Odds.  Playing No Limit Hold ’em skillfully means you know the basic rules and you are familiar with the odds tables. If you have a flush or straight drawing hand, or a pair, etc., you should know what the odds are that you’ll get the cards you need to improve your hand. As the play goes forward and players fold, you should be able to figure your implied odds too. This is the adjusted pot odds when you figure in what your opponent and you will likely bet. The implied odds tell you if, for instance, you stay in the hand, how much money would be in the pot by the end — so is this next bet worth it, or too expensive and you should fold?


2.  Choose good games:  You don’t want to play Texas Hold ’em at a table full of local rocks who play super-tight and there’s no action. Find a game with players who seem to be playing at your poker skill level or lower, and the stakes aren’t high enough to make you sweat each time you bet. That’s playing with scared money — a losing quality if there ever was one. Seek a low stakes table. There’s plenty of time to move up in levels as you increase in ability and confidence. In order to find the right games, you must absolutely follow holdem tip #3, below.


3.  Observe the players:  Watch the table you intend to sit at.  Do lots of players enter each hand? Do lots of them stay in until the turn, or river? If so, that may not be the game you want; you want predictable actions, not a bunch of idiots getting lucky. You probably want a middling number of players staying to the flop. Watch to see who raises preflop, how they bet it on the flop and see what they have at the end. Were they bluffing, or just confident in a strong hand, or was it even a mediocre hand? Take note to see if they do it the same way repeatedly. It’s great if you can watch a table before joining it. But after joining a table, continue to observe. In no-limit texas holdem, you are playing against someone fighting for his cards. So the player and his style matter even more than the cards themselves. Do your best to identify others’ styles as you play, and above all, pay attention when you aren’t active in a hand. Those are learning opportunities, not time to read a magazine. 


4.   Vary your playing style:  At the poker tables, mix it up. You have some internal rules by now about how to play without losing too often, but you must thwart your opponents by sometimes doing what you don’t usually do — in order to throw them off the scent. Otherwise, when you get a good hand everyone will be able to read you. So if you had KK or AA or QQ or AK  recently and you sense that everyone was aware you had a very strong hand, you should consider betting a poorer hand just the way you did AA. Also:  Keep note of when the table is loosening up — and you may bet  trash hands with better expected results — or when it is  tightening up, and you should make sure you have good cards and decent percentages of completing your hand before you push your bets.


5.  Don’t be blinded by a good starting hand:  Just because the deal gave you AA or AK it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. You can very easily trap yourself if you can’t think of scenarios in which your opponents make it necessary for you to fold that great hand. Poker is an evolving game and your strategy must adjust to each stage and as each card is laid on the board. If the game is loose, and everyone decides to stay in longer, this will make all drawing hands suddenly stronger. Suppose one of those draws completes? Your aces are beaten if you don’t catch the right cards. There are many ways to get trapped if you aren’t paying attention.


6. How does the rest of the table see you? Control your table image, because it’s a key to bluffing with a weak hand, or simply hiding a good hand. If you’ve never played with these opponents before, you’re starting with a clean slate and can create who you are. But the best way is probably to know how you usually play and make slight but deliberate variations on it at times when you know others are watching you because they probably have a middling to good hand themselves. No limit texas holdem is a game of careful misdirection, after all.  If you tend to make aggressive bets, then holding back is immediately noticeable. Will this be seen as representing a weaker hand, and will they all fold?  Or will they analyze this as a double bluff, and raise you? Sometimes you have to try a few bluffs in order to see how the others think, and how they think you think. In any Texas Holdem game you’ll get hints and tips from their actions.

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