As with any new gambling, casino, or poker game, you should consider practicing the game for a while to get a feel for the betting, odds, lingo, and the game’s sequence of events. Remember, unless you’re a professional gambler, you’re primarily playing to have fun and hopefully win some cash on the side. If you’re on a losing streak, or start to get frustrated, try taking a break. It will give you time to refresh and will help keep the game enjoyable.
With that being said, entire books have been written on the subject of Texas Hold’em strategy. Though the game is simple to understand, it becomes increasingly complex as you add the concepts of betting and bluffing. There are many different ways to play the game, and you’ll find you’ll lean towards a style that matches your personality. For instance, “tight” players are conservative and only tend to enter large pots when they have a good chance of winning. Contrarily, “loose” players play all types of hands and are not afraid to bluff at a pot to see if they can steal it. Though no style is optimal, the best players avoid being stereotyped, to keep their opposition guessing.
The most important component to becoming an advanced poker player, is learning or knowing how to “read” your opposition. This characteristic is truly what separates the professionals from the “fish.” Many believe it is only a talent given at birth, as it is difficult to learn. If you have a propensity towards knowing when people are lying vs. telling the truth, you may want to invest some time and money into Texas Hold’em.
Regardless, for basic strategy, always remember the player holding two high hole cards has the best chance at a winning hand or drawing into the best hand after the Flop. Play strong hands where you feel comfortable betting through a raise or multiple raises from other players. If you have a strong hand, basic stategy dictates that you should bet aggressively taking all the raises to try to force other players out of the hand. Aggressive betting will also give credibility to your hand later in the round if useless cards come out in the Flop. A more advanced, though riskier strategy for a strong hand would be to “trap” players by betting low initially (“slow playing”), only to raise after the opponent calls or raises your low bet. Again, good players will alternate between these strategies to always keep their opponents on their toes.
Understanding the mathematical odds of winning given your hand is important to playing poker professionally. Knowing your and and your opposition’s “outs” given any sequence of cards, will mathematically dictate your odds of winning a pot. However in poker, luck oftentimes overrides math. Given the Flop, always be ready to fold your strong hand if the Flop presents strong possibilities for other players. Never fall in “love” with a hand or a pot. At any point in a hand, walk away. In poker, objectivity is your friend.
Here’s a few other basic strategy tidbits:
- Play medium strength hands if you think you can get to the Flop without having to bet too much. - Be aware of Flops which could lead to a straight, flush or other strong hands for other players. - Bet aggressively after the Flop if you have the opportunity to make several strong hands (straight, flush, three of a kind, four of a kind). - Be cautious when your hole cards are a low pair. If you don't get the three of a kind on the Flop, consider folding. - Don't stay in if you're looking for the low end or both ends of a straight. - Fold unconnected low cards which could lead to a straight. - Lastly, remember the worst hole cards in Texas Hold'em are the 2 and 7 unsuited. There's no straight opportunity, flush possibility, or high card possibility... even the "loosest" of players will fold this hand.
Remember, there are few “die hard” strategies in Texas Hold’em, as creative betting can make even the weakest of hands strong. Now that you know the basics, good luck! We’ll see you at the tables.