1. The Rules of Texas Holdem
First things first, you have to know the rules of the game inside and out. Don’t worry, this is the easy part.
Texas Hold’em is a community-style poker game based on the classic, 5 Card Draw. Instead of giving each player 5 cards, you only get two. As the game progresses, five more cards are played face-up to the middle of the table. The end result is each player having 7 cards to work with – two of their own (hole cards), and five shared by everyone (community cards). In the end, the player with the best hand – or the last one standing – wins.
That’s the gist of it, but there are many foundation rules you need to understand, like poker hand ranks, limit structures, small and big blind betting positions, and the various betting rounds leading to a showdown. If you aren’t already familiar with these concepts, please visit this link for a quick crash course.
2. Starting Hand Value
A good starting hand is one that has a relatively high potential of developing into a winning poker hand. Obviously, we all want to see pocket aces, and would never fold them pre-flop from any position. But what else constitutes a worthy starting hand?
The 10 best starters are, in order of greatness:
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK suited, TT, AK off-suit, AQ suited, AJ suited, KQ suited
3. Practice Folding
You just learned about all the hands that should give you complete confidence moving into the flop. That’s not to say they are the only hands you should play, but do be careful playing lower pairs or any other two suited cards, as your odds of winning fall dramatically.
Realistically, a good, tight poker player only risks money on 10% of all starting hands. That means folding the other 90%. Practice folding – a lot!
Not convinced? Read this:
4. Pre-Flop Aggression
Most of today’s successful poker players are what we call “tight-aggressive”. Tight, as we learned above, means folding at least 90% of starting hands. An aggressive player is one that takes full advantage of the hands they do play by betting aggressively – especially before the flop.
If you’ve got the goods early on, don’t bother tricking people into action with a check or limp. There’s every chance the flop will improve their hand instead of yours. Aggressive betting/raising is designed to scare more people out of the hand, increasing your odds of winning.
5. Forget about Bluffing (for Now)
Don’t even think about bluffing at this point. A bluff is only successful when opponents fear you. They only fear you once they’ve gotten to know your style, and think they have you pegged. When you have a good enough reputation as a tight-aggressive player, then you can bluff, but keep it to an absolute minimum.
Think you’re ready? Read this first…
Still think you’re ready? Read this, too:
6. Be Confident, but Cautious
When you make a move, do it with confidence. Never hesitate. Whether you intend to fold, check, bet or raise, do it with the quickness and fortitude of one who is certain of their actions. At the same time, be cautious. If your starting hand isn’t strong enough, or if you don’t think you have the best hand to continue, don’t make the move.
7. Be Observant, but Paranoid
Reading this and other educational materials is good for your game, but observing other players and recognizing the execution of the very actions you’ve learned about will give you a greater understanding of just how important and effective they can be. It will also help you delve deeper into another player’s psyche. You’ll be able to pick up on betting patterns and physical behaviors, tight/loose and passive/aggressive tendencies, etc. Once you’ve identified a player, you’ll know how to play offense and defense against them.
In the same token, be very paranoid! Just as you are observing them, you can rest assured they are observing you. Try not to fall into any specific pattern of play. Sometimes you have to mix things up. Remember, a moving target is much harder to hit than a stagnant one.
8. Leave Your Ego at the Door
It doesn’t matter how good of a poker player you are, or how good you think you are – or even how good other players think you are. What matters is the cards in your hand. Play every hand based on your cards, not your “illusory superiority”; (a clinical term pegged by UCLA Prof. Palamourdas in reference to the “poker ego”).
9. Value Betting Against Amateurs
We know that a tight/aggressive strategy is best, but that’s assuming you’re playing against other people who are also actively strategizing their game. It does no good against maniac amateurs who will call anything just to see the flop, or invest in a 3-card flush post-flop. Against players such as these, you’re better off leaving the tight/aggressive nature behind in lieu of value betting.
First, stick to your tight-folding guns as you observe your opponents to determine what range of hands they’re playing, and how much they’re willing to risk on them. This will allow you to loosen up your own hand range when you can be fairly certain you’re still ahead.
At the same time, try to be less aggressive. These players are more likely to call, so you’ll need to keep a tighter leash on your bankroll.
10. New Age Tips and Tricks
People have been learning how to play Texas Holdem well enough to win for the last fifty years. Think about that for a moment. Half a century of playing the same game, by the same rules – but with the same strategies?
Johnny Moss went beast-mode in the 1970s, winning the very first, second and fifth World Series of Poker Championship. Does this mean studying how he played will make you better? No. His methods were phenomenal for his time, but game theory changes every few years. A player’s strategy must evolve with the game to remain relevant.
Some of the newest concepts are discussed in the following suppositions: