Texas Hold'em Tips #6-10: Juicy Tidbits

Continued from: Hold'em Poker Tips #1-5: Golden Nuggets

Here are some more juicy tidbits to chew on while planning your strategies for playing Texas Hold'em.

Texas Hold'em Tips

6) Make the draws pay. There is no more costly mistake in Texas Hold'em poker than giving your opponent a free card that could beat you.

As an example, let's suppose you raise 4 times the big blind before the flop with Pocket Tens and two players call. Let's assume that brings the pot to $335. On the flop you spike another ten, giving you a set. Let's say something even more exiting has happened, the flop came up Ad Kh Th. Now you should suspect one or both of the players have paired up, and it's not unlikely that one of them disastrously made two pair against your trips. Most players would automatically try to set a trap by checking this flop to the other two players. In my opinion that would be a terrible mistake.

First of all, as the original better before the flop you are expected to make a bet here, so by not betting you will set off alarms in the heads of all but rookie players. More importantly, there are two hearts out there and you have two opponents, one of them may be on the flush draw. Now what happens when you check and they both check behind you is that you run the risk of a heart coming out, putting you in murky water. Another, slightly less significant, problem is that if someone does have two pair they could still draw out by making a full house. It is very important for you to bet here. I would suggest a bet of about 2/3 the pot, maybe $260 or so. Don't worry; if someone has two pair they're not going anywhere. In all likelihood you'll be paid by AQ, or AJ as well, and they could still hit their straight also, which is just more reason for you to bet. If someone is on AK, you'll likely be re-raised and be able to get it all-in right now. Don't check when there are draws out. Slow playing is always a dangerous decision, but in the face of flush and straight draws it's just reckless.

7) Don't make a stop loss or a stop win limit. Most poker players have an amount of money they have decided they are willing to lose before they will quit. A lot of players also put a cap on the amount of money they intend to win before they end the session. If you intend to play cards for any reason other than recreation these concepts are ill advised. You need to think of your entire poker career as a whole as one long session.

If you are better than anyone at the game and you suffered a bad beat or two, you should still stay as long as you have not been emotionally damaged. Let's say you bought in for $100 dollars at a NLHE table and you promised yourself you wouldn't lose more than $200 or you'd leave. After playing for only a couple hours you were up to $600, but you put a player with $500 all-in while holding AA and lost to QJs, taking you back down to even. Then you had a run of rotten cards, had to buy in for another hundred, and lost it all in another hand when an opponent incorrectly called you and hit an inside straight draw.

This is obviously a great game, and as long as you can avoid going on tilt you should stay. Whether the players have to bad beat you to win, or they call huge bets with QJs, or if you were able to make $500 in a couple hours, you need to stay. You have had a run of bad luck and it's cost you some money, but you should look at the quality of the players and figure out that all you've really lost is a couple hours of play time. On the other hand, if you get lucky a few times and double or triple your buy in before realizing that you are at a table full of sharks, you need to use the same thought process. Even if you are way up but discover that you're at a table where everyone is better than you, it's time to go.

You should look at it the same way whether you're winning at a table of fish or if you're losing at a table of poker sharks. Whether or not you continue in a game should have nothing to do with how much money you are up or down. The only thing that should matter is the quality of the game. As long as the game is good, you're not tired, and you have your emotional state under control, you should play. If you are at a tough table and you're tired and maybe are getting a bit rattled, it shouldn't matter if you're up or down. You should just leave the table. As long as you look at your entire poker career as one long session you will understand this. You should never wish you had "stopped when you where ahead." If you were in a profitable situation and you ran into bad luck, then you should simply wish you hadn't run into bad luck.

8) Raise more than you call and fold more than you raise. Especially pre-flop, this advice is so important it may show up in various forms throughout this list of gold nuggets, not by accident. Remember that the standard opening raise is three or four times the big blind. If there are limpers in front, before you raise you should add or 1 full blind to your raise for each limper. If someone raised the pot before you, you now need a very strong hand to play, but if you're going to play you should typically re-raise. The standard re-raise size is three times the opening amount or the size of the pot, whichever is larger. Example: if you are on the dealer button and someone opens under the gun for three times the big blind, $100, you will need a very strong hand to play. If you look down to find QQ you should re-raise to $300, his one hundred plus two more. It will cost him $200 to call into a pot that now contains around $400. He's getting a good price, but you've already shown strength enough that he should fold if he doesn't have a great hand, say pocket tens or better depending on his read on you. If you are not sure enough of the quality of your hand to re-raise when raised, you should seldom call. Remember that when you bet three things can happen and two of them are good.

9) When playing live poker games there is a commonly used way to gauge your opponent's hand strength or weakness. It's called "tell theory" and it's easy. Mostly when a player acts strong he's weak, and if he acts weak he's strong. If a fish (poor player) sighs and says, "okay, I'll call" or something like that, look out. He's probably got a monster.

The opposite is also true - if a fish is staring you down intently and then harshly shoves a pile of chips in the middle, he's bluffing. There are a few players that I've witnessed that try to get sneaky by acting just the opposite, when they have strong hands they act like it, and when they have nothing they act weak. I've even seen a couple of these players who will even announce the exact hand they have thinking that you'd never suspect that they'd do that. This strategy is easy to see through, especially because those who practice it usually make a pattern of it and rarely change gears. It becomes instinctive and it works on enough people that they see no reason to change it. Usually then, strong means weak and weak means strong, and occasionally the opposite is true, but either way fish will usually fall into one of these two categories. And if you're paying attention it will help you decide what to do with your medium strength hands.

10) If you have a choice to sit in one seat or another at a table there is a very easy guideline to use. You will ideally want loose players sitting to your right and tight players to your left. The reason is simple: throughout your poker career most of the money you win will come from the two seats to you immediate right because these players will have to act in front of you. You would like those players to be the kind who play too many hands and bluff aggressively with too high a frequency. You are the one who will have the first chance at that loose money. The reason you want the tight players to your left is because all your blind stealing attempts will have to go right thru them. You'd hope they're not the kind of players who will fight for their blinds. It is also beneficial to you if the players who act after you in most rounds will seldom raise you when you've opened a pot.

♣ Continued at: Rules of Thumb #11-15: Pearls of Wisdom

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