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Texas Holdem Strategy

Texas Hold'em Poker Basics

Texas Hold'em Basics

Preparation, Application, and Effort

by David Huber
How to Play Texas Holdem Basics

Strategy for Hold'em Article

Learn PokerWhen a player is dealt into a hand and looks down at his/her hole cards, a decision is made on whether or not to “play” that particular hand. Position, chip-stacks, table image, blind amounts, and other elements are considered and mentally tabulated to (hopefully) arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. When chips are placed, the player makes a statement for all to see, and temporarily concedes the amount at risk in hopes of gaining something positive out of that risk (usually to rake the pot, but sometimes solely to gain information or relay a specific message to opponents.).

But entering a pot is just that; and the difficult decisions are just around the corner. At times, the deck will run you over and turn your mediocre holding into a strong hand… but more often than not, you’ll be staring at a flop that could’ve been kinder. As your opponent bets into you and you contemplate the most appropriate reaction, you realize the hand is lost; not necessarily because you have the worst hand, but simply because you have no idea one way or the other… so you muck.

Situations like this come up so often in Texas Hold ‘em that it’s hardly a wonder why many players go on tilt after being pushed-around and intimidated by superior opponents. Failing to prepare for the inevitable “blank flops” is a sure way to reduce your overall expectation and increase your dependence on fortunate cards… a bad deal all the way around. However, there are ways to improve your “read” on different situations; in turn giving you the opportunity to fight back with your skills instead of your cards.

Preparing for a wide range of scenarios when entering a pot is of utmost importance for players who want to gain a statistical edge over opponents. For those who are truly serious about improving their games; putting an opponent on a “range” of hands is the first step towards playing inspired poker. If you don’t have a “guesstimate” of your opponent’s holding, you’re solely relying on cards to give you the best hand – so here are a few Texas Holdem basics that will allow many players to increase their expectation.


Step 1: Putting your opponent(s) on a range of hands

Poker preparation and thinking ahead is essential to becoming a winning player. You need to have a general idea of your opponents’ “probable” cards. Would he/she call a pre-flop raise with low suited-connectors or pocket pairs? Is it possible your opponent smooth-called with a monster? If you can narrow most possible hands and put your opponent on “a mid-pocket pair or strong Ace”, then you’ll give yourself an enormous edge when it comes time to act and react on the flop and later streets.

Remember that your goal is to increase your edge. There will undoubtedly be times when you’re completely wrong (which is fine). One must be willing to make mistakes in order to get better. Even if you can only guess your opponents’ approximate pocket holdings 20% of the time - that’s much better than being clueless on every single hand you play. You may notice that your “reading” skills improve remarkably after a little practice.


Step 2: Prepare yourself for different flops & scenarios

If you’re holding 99, think about how you’re going to react when the flop comes out two over cards without giving you a set. If you have AK/AQ etc., contemplate in advance how you feel about a flop of under cards, and prepare yourself to act accordingly (while using the information described in Step 1 to help you through).

If you’re not ready for difficult situations, you won’t be able to compete when the cards aren’t cooperating. There’s nothing wrong with being in a challenging predicament… you should attempt to confront moments of doubt and convert them into opportunities. Players who religiously avoid adversity at the poker tables are easily “encouraged” by opponents.


Step 3: Collect & Utilize information

Here is where it all comes together. Your opponents release information every time they bet, call, raise or fold. If you’ve been paying attention to the action at your table, you should have a general idea of players’ starting-hand selection tendencies. Combine all information received (including pre-flop & post-flop action) to arrive at a reasonable conclusion.


Step 4: Be Willing To Adapt

Did you put your opponent on a flush draw after the flop came out? If you did, how is he/she reacting to the blank suit that came on the river? Do your opponent’s actions correspond to a player who’s holding a busted-draw? Is it possible he/she could be holding a different hand that relates more-logically to post-flop action?

Nothing is set in stone. While you shouldn’t discard your initial read with frivolity, you shouldn’t exactly fall in love with it either. There are times when it’s obvious you were mistaken (but also times when your opponent’s aim is to lead you to an “obvious” conclusion that is incorrect). Work with what you have, and adapt to changes in the dynamics of any hand to arrive at a course of action you can live with.


Step 5: Execute

The first four steps mean absolutely nothing if you don’t follow-through. For those of you who are thinking “I should do this every hand I play? Isn’t that Insane?” I would answer Yes & No. Players who push themselves to make an effort often-times discover ability they never knew they had.

Sometimes you’ll draw the incorrect conclusion, and you can expect to get burned every now and then. There will be moments when your jaw drops to the floor after an opponent shows cards you never even remotely considered. But poker is about long-term ability and perseverance; not short-term results. More often than not, mistakes will lead to improvement – and improvement leads to profit. Prepare, apply, and make an effort… you’ll begin raking-in pots that sleepwalkers only dream of.

Preparation and Application

Other strategy articles by David Huber:
Online Poker Tells
Poker Expectation
Playing Pocket Pairs
Basic Loose Aggressive LAG Poker Strategy
Basic Tight Aggressive TAG Poker Strategy
Sit N Go Strategy - Part 1: Early Stages
Sit and Go Tournaments - Part 2: Middle Stages
Single Table Tournament Strategy - Part 3 End Game

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