Texas Holdem Poker – Basic Strategy
Once you have learned the basic rules of no-limit Texas holdem, you must begin to learn the basic strategy of the game. Learning about Texas Holdem strategy is a fun and exhilarating ride towards consistently making a profit while playing a game you love.
There are several key areas that must be mastered before moving on:
- Starting Hands
- Draws / Pot Odds
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This is the biggest area in which new poker players go wrong. The first thing sharks look for when searching for fish is how many hands their opponents are playing.
The large majority of your starting hands should be folded before you even get a chance to see the flop. Yes, I know that isn’t fun to hear but making good money at poker is more fun so don’t worry.
The problem with playing too many hands is two-fold. First of all, you may think something like “C’mon it’s only a couple extra bucks to see the flop! What if I win the pot!?” Well, over the long run those extra couple bucks will end up costing you more money than what the occasional win can make up for.
Think about it like this. The average online table runs about 60 hands an hour. If you play just two tables, that’s 120 hands an hour. It adds up quickly when it’s going away at a 120 hands per hour.
The other problem with playing too many starting hands is that it gets newer players into sticky situations that then turn into expensive situations. If you’re playing hands like KT and K9 while the other people at your table are playing hands like AK and KQ, your hand is going to be dominated when it gets action. The worst thing that can happen is you pair up that weak king at the same time someone else does the same with a higher kicker.
There are starting hand charts available everywhere, so I won’t get into that here. Starting hand charts are useful to give beginners a general idea of where to start, but they are not the end all solution.
Starting hands need to be picked based on their potential to win more than their fair share of pots. What does that mean? Well let’s look at ten handed tables for an example. If ten random hands are being dealt, everyone should win 1 out of every 10 hands. The goal then is to not pick hands at random. Hands like AK, AA, KK, etc won’t win all the time, but they will win more than their fair share of 10%.
In practice you will want to play about 20% of your hands and fold the other 80%. It’s not as exciting as the movies with big hands and big bluffs, but it’s reality and it will help you win big money instead.
Draws / Pot Odds
The next biggest problem area for new players is playing draws. If someone at the table is playing too many starting hands and misplaying draws, they instantly become a target for the good players.
To profitably chase a draw, the pot odds must be greater than the odds of hitting your hand. Let’s say you’re sitting at the turn with a flush draw. There is about a 4:1 shot of completing a flush draw with one card to come. If someone bets $10 into a $10 pot, it will cost you $10 to win $20. The pot is offering you 2:1. If you’re only getting 2:1 from the pot on a draw that is 4:1 to hit, it’s a bad investment. You will lose money over the long run because the times you do hit and win the pot won’t make up for all the money you spend chasing and missing.
Although it’s possible to learn how to calculate odds at the table, it’s easier to just memorize the odds of some of the most common draws. Here are a few:
|2 Cards To Go||1 Card To Go|
|Open-Ended Straight Draw (8 outs)||2.18:1||4.75:1|
|Flush Draw (9 outs)||1.86:1||4.1:1
|Gut-Shot Straight Draw (4 outs)||5.07:1||4.75:1|
Aggression wins money. Being aggressive doesn’t mean being an insane bluff monkey; it means betting and raising instead more than checking and calling. If you have top pair, the passive way to play it is to check it, let someone else bet, you call the bet, check it to them again, let them bet, and you call again.
That’s bad because it lets your opponents control the action. Obviously your opponents will be playing the hands in ways that benefit them and hurt you. On top of that you’re going to have no information about their hands.
By betting you can take charge and put your opponents on the defensive. You get to decide how much money goes into the pot. You gain an information advantage as well because it will take a lot more money (and conviction) for an opponent to raise one of your bets than it would had you just checked and let him bet. The way your opponents react to your bets is information you can use.
Aggression gets more value for your strong hands. By betting, you can get opponents to make calls with hands that they otherwise would have checked down.
It’s so important to take position into consideration because without it you are at a huge disadvantage. When out of position, you must act first the entire hand. Every betting round your opponent gets to see what you do first before he makes his decision. At the same time, you have to make your decisions before you have any idea of what your opponent is going to do. This is a major information disadvantage. The only way to counter it is to not get in the situation in the first place.
When in position you get all the benefits instead. So use your position advantage to punish your opponents. If you have position, it makes it extremely difficult for your opponents to win a pot from you without having a legitimate hand.
These are a few of the many elements that make up a killer poker strategy. You must believe that you can become an excellent Texas Hold’em player with just a little knowledge and a lot of practice. A very good poker web site for more no limit Texas holdem strategy is BeatNoLimit.com. My friend runs that site and he has a hell of a poker mind.
But you must walk before you can run. Freerolls are poker tournaments that are free to enter, but you can win real money. I suggest that you read my review of poker sites that offer the best freeroll tournaments. Choose the poker room that sounds best to you and start playing today for your poker future tomorrow.