Introduction to No Limit Hold'em

There are many facets of the game of No Limit Texas Hold'em (NLHE) and many different styles of play that can be used to good effect. From the very beginning of this "crash course", I need to engrave within you a concept that must be understood and accepted in order to enjoy long term success in any form of poker.

No Limit Hold'em

We must acknowledge that every decision we make at the table is inherently correct or incorrect to varying degrees. If we play any form of poker against lesser-experienced, less-skilled players we will win in the long term. If we follow proper game theory and exercise correct play we will gain an edge (statistical advantage) over our opponents that cannot be overcome by luck in the long run.

Luck exists as an idea, and it makes perfect sense to say that one player has been lucky in the past, but there is no correlation at all between the "luck" of a player in the past and his or her chances of becoming "lucky" again today. Superstition must be left outside the table. In the game of poker we need to look for edges, and have faith that the edges we find will result in profit in the long term. Everyone has had streaks of bad luck. There is, however no reason to believe that the streak will continue, or that the deck "owes you something" and that you are "due". Luck is in the past; in the future there is only chance. If we play correctly and we play against opponents who allow us to create statistically favorable situations, we will come out ahead.

I encourage logging and tracking your hours of play to find out how much money you are making for each hour you play. After you've established this "hourly rate" it will become apparent that you are no longer gambling in the traditional sense - you are earning. Skilled players are not gambling when they play poker any more than a casino is gambling when it runs a roulette wheel 24 hours a day seven days a week. It may also be interesting to know that some casino table games only offer the house an edge of about 2%, yet they operate without any substantial risk. In even a single session of poker we might find dozens of situations that will offer us considerably more than 2% advantages… are we gambling? The laws of averages will win in the end.

When we play poker we are trying to place ourselves in favorable positions. In fact, that's the only thing we can do as players. Sometimes, if you play well you can get yourself into a situation where you have a 90% chance of doubling your money on a single call or bet. A return like that would rarely occur on the stock exchange, yet stocks are widely considered an investment and poker has the stigma of gambling attached to it. We really need to look at every hand we get involved with as an investment. We have to weigh the risk-to-reward ratio in order to decide if we have "the best of it", (favorable odds), or if we are taking the "worst of it", (unfavorable odds). That is the object of the game - to get your money in the middle when you have "the best of it".

There are many approaches to playing the game of NLHE. There are players that approach the game in very different ways who are equally successful. Your job as a player is to develop a style that is uniquely your own, one that works for you. I'm going to help you do just that in this guide. In fact, that is the very purpose of the next couple dozen lessons. You need to become aware of the basics, and you need to become aware of your own strengths and weaknesses before you can develop your own style. No two players play the same. Even the most brilliant leaders in the field of game theory (as it applies to poker) have differences of opinion on some strategic subtleties.

It is my intention to cover the most fundamental basics of NLHE strategy, and cover them in a way that makes sense to the reader on a "deeper than surface" level. I don't want to provide you with a list of dos and don'ts. I want you to actually begin to grasp strategic concepts that will allow you to develop a more creative and adaptive game, more than a simple list of rules would allow. Typically, writers on the subject of NLHE will begin with starting hand requirements. I'm going to lay a foundation first as to why we need to play only certain starting hands from certain positions. If I don't do this you may be inclined to continue playing mediocre hands like King Jack (KJ) from early position regardless of what you are told to the contrary. I feel that if I begin with a bit of poker theory, you will be more likely to understand the whys of the whats that are later presented. I will start at what I consider the beginning, "The fundamental theory of poker." (A theory published by David Sklansky.)

♣ Continued at: The Object of the Game in NLHE

♣ Back to the index of Dead Money's guide to hold'em strategy.