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Texas Hold'em Strategy

By Gary Steele

The great thing about playing Texas Hold’em online is that you can find any kind of game you are looking for at any time of day. There are literally thousands of games going on 24 hours a day on dozens of sites. If you do better in tight games with good players you can simply search around until you find a good table. If you are looking for a loose crazy game just look for the game with the highest average pot and take a seat. Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular poker game in the world so there are always people playing. The same thing cannot be said for other games such as Omaha and 7-Card Stud.

Texas Hold’em strategy has to start with how to play different positions around the table. If you are sitting directly in front of the dealer (the button) you are in first position. This means you are the first to bet. If you are the dealer you are in last position, or the last to bet. The position is so important to this game that you literally have to learn to play the game three different ways; early, middle, and late. This is a general strategy article, so I won’t go into too much detail, but here are some of the highlights.

If you are in Early position, or one of the first to bet, you have to play much more conservatively than you otherwise would. I play no-limit games almost exclusively and I have found you also have to bet much more from the first position to convince other players to fold pre-flop with mediocre hands. If you typically raise three times the blind with a good hand, you may consider raising five times the blind in early position. It is a tough spot to be in. If you get a decent hand on the flop, such as high pair you can check or bet. If you check you are letting other players potentially look at a free card. If you bet and someone behind you has something good they will let you bet all day and take your money. If I get a decent hand in early position, I usually place a large enough bet to take away the odds of the other players at the table. If someone calls this bet or raises, I admit I am probably beat and check until I have to fold.

Playing from middle position (fourth through seventh position at a ten player table) requires you to really know the opponents behind you. Your bet or raise will tell you a lot about their hands. You have to bet enough to make them fold before the flop because they will play more hands if it is cheap to stay in. It is important to get them out of the game to control the betting.

Playing from late position is much easier. You have all of the information available to decide what to do when it is your turn to act. You can decide to take a free card if everyone else checks or you can throw a bluff on the table to see what the other players will do. Even if you have not made a good hand yet, but you have a few outs, you want to make everyone pay to see the next card. Your bet here may just convince everyone to fold, which is fine with you. Never let them see the Turn for free if you have any chance to make a hand. If you take control of the betting you can check to see the River if you do not get a card to help you on the Turn.

I have found tight conservative play is most profitable for beginners and experienced players alike. You should never start your poker career practicing your bluffing. Start by playing very tight and watch the other players. You will see the beginners sit down and throw bluffs everywhere. You will only see beginners doing this because nobody can afford to play like this long. They either change or end their poker career. I can tell you from experience, the sharks know how to quickly find these players and wipe them out. You do not want to be known as a bluffer (Gus Hanson you are not).

Nothing replaces experience as the most important part of learning to play Texas Hold’em. You cannot expect to win when you first start playing, but you can certainly limit your losses by playing conservatively. Once you find something that works use it all the time. Always play your ‘A’ game. Don’t let emotion change anything once you find the key to winning.

As you gain experience you will learn to read other players, know when to slow-play a hand, learn how to find the suckers, and, most importantly, how to win money. It took me over a year to learn the patience and lessons of how not to lose. It took me another year to learn how to win. If you do not enjoy just playing the game, the first year will be very hard to deal with. Play as often as you can. Try different sites, different games, and different tournaments. You may find you have more luck at limit poker or Omaha. Do not be afraid to try no-limit; it really is more fun, more frustrating, and more profitable. Most of all, have a good time and remember never to gamble money you cannot afford to lose.

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