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THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS OF HOLD’EM

Calling Before the Flop   Calling that first bet is the most important decision you’ll make in hold’em strategy.  You’ll have to make that decision as many as forty times per hour, and when you do decide to call, it will almost always cost you more money after that.

  The most of voluntarily calling the big blind when you don’t have to adds up over the course of playing thousands and thousands of hands.  It’s something you should know how to do correctly because the penalty for making a bad decision here is so great.  Remember that a $ 2 bet saved is worth just as much to you as any $ 2 bet saved is worth just as much to you as any $ 2 you could win.
  At the beginning of every hand you should remind yourself of the following winning principles: “You can’t beat the odds in the long run.  You cannot play hands out of position, call raises when you don’t have the right odds, play a drawing hand in a short handed game, or call hoping to get lucky.”

  Keep in mind that when you choose to play a hand, it’s really you against all of the other hands combined.  It’s almost as if a single player gets to play all of the other calling hands and at the end of the hand he gets to choose which one to make his hand with.
  You have to consistently play only hands that have a reasonable chance of improving to the best hand at the end.  This is a perfect illustration of why you shouldn’t give free cards if you have a hand.  with a lot of players in the hand, almost any card in the deck can hurt you.
  Whether or not you should calling pre-flop depends on several factors:

Your Position
  This is your first and foremost consideration every time you’re dealt two cards.  Play tight in early position and play looser only as your position improves.
  The seat to the immediate left of the big blind provides you with the biggest opportunity to save the most money in this game.  Because of the possibility of a raise, these are the only hands you should play in this position : A♣ A♦ , K♥ K♠ , Q♦ Q♥,J ♠ J♦ , A♦ K♦ , A♥ Q♥ , A♠ J♠ , A♣ T♣ , K♥ Q♥ , K♣ J♣ , A♦ K♥ and  A ♥Q ♣ .  Any other hand, even T♦ T♥, A ♣ 9♣ or K♠ T♠ are just not profitable in this position.

Strength of Your Hand
  This goes with your position.  How strong your hand is depends upon your position coupled with the strength of your cards. Be careful not to play cards too weak for your position ad especially don’t play garbage hands like 9♠ 5♦, K♥ 4♦ or 6♣ 2♥.  Play only those hands that are clearly poker winners in the long run.

Whether It’s a Loose or Tight Game
  You should call with slightly more hands than usual in both a loose and tight game.  It is popularly believed that you should play tighter than usual in a tight game but that is incorrect.
  Playing looser in a tight game gives you more opportunities to win more hands because the tight players will fold more often, thereby surrendering pots to you that you won’t have to play to the end to win.  In a loose game that won’t happen as often.

Strength of the Opposition
  Your  profit in this game comes from the mistakes your opponents make.  Naturally, if everyone in the game is a better hold’em player than you are, then they won’t make too many mistakes when playing against you, but you’ll make a lot of mistakes playing against them.
  One of the things that goes into the make-up of a better player is his ability to disguise his hand and make you play incorrectly against him (because you misread his hand).  In other words, they know how to play against you but you’re never sure how to play against them.  (Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to disguise your hands and put doubt in the minds of your opponents.)

Prior Bets and Raises
  Normally, the first thing that a pre-flop raise tells you is that you’re already beat at this point and you’re a big underdog in the hand.  Most low limit players go ahead and call to see the flop.  This is a big mistake because you’re bucking the odds from the beginning and that’s not the way to play winning Hold’em.
  Another reason that his is a mistake is that you’ll often get a piece of the flop and now you’re tempted to call because the pot is so big and you have a draw.  Now you get to lose a small bet on the flop, a large bet on the turn and another large bet on the river, and that’s if there’s no raises in the hand.  And all because you had to see the flop.  If this is how you play, then you are a typical low limit player and cannot be a winner in the long run.

Whether You’re Winning or Losing
  Theoretically, this should have no bearing on how you play your cards, but in reality it does.  Think of your poker playing as one life-long game where only your cumulative win or loss matters.  How you’re doing at any particular stage of the game is of no substantial consequence since you’re playing for the long run.
  But if you do not have the bankroll required to tolerate large negative swings in your short-term luck, a series of losing sessions could wipe you out and keep you from playing the game at all, then you have to protect what you have while you’re in the game by playing more carefully.
  The easiest way to do that is to not play drawing hands that normally require a big investment to find out if you’ve made the hand or not.  J♣ T♦ is a good example of a hand that you would normally play, but you should muck it if you’re on a short bankroll.  Stick with hands that don’t need much improvement to win, such as big pairs and two higher cards.

Playing Early Position
  It’s very important that you learn how to play in early position since that’s the position in which you’re most vulnerable to raises.  You have the built-in disadvantage of having to act first on every round of betting.  If you have a marginal (undecided ) calling hand in early position, you should remember:

  • Your call improves the odds for potential callers behind you.  It brings in drawing hands (and small pairs) that might otherwise not be getting the correct odds to call pre-flop.  That extra one or two players in the hand often turns your hand from a winner into one that has a negative expectation.
  • You won’t even know for yourself what kind of odds you’ll be getting on your hand or how many players you’ll be up against.  This is why you have to play poker better than average hands in early position.  You also don’t know if you’re going to have to play your hand for a double bet or not.
  • You can’t play purely drawing hands up front.  True, hands like K♦ Q♣ and Q♥T ♥ are drawing hands but they can still win pots without making a straight or flush.

Playing Late Position
  Don’t forget the one major, inherent advantage that calling in late position has over calling has much more information available to him with which to make his decision than the early position caller.  If you’re last to act, you’re the most informed player in the game.

Raising Before the Flop
  The number-one thing the average player can do to immediately improve his game is to quit routinely calling pre-flop raises unless he also has a genuine raising hand.  This will have a big impact on your game because there’s so much raising in the average low limit game.  In low limit, players will call with almost anything to see the flop.  A raise means nothing to them.  Realize that you’re just building a pot when you raise pre-flop.
  When you do raise, you should raise only with genuinely premium hands and not with hands that figure to already be beat before the flop.  This is especially true when you’re on the button and you raise.  Very few players will throw away their hand when they know they have to call only one bet to see the flop.
  A raise in early position will tend to narrow the field while a raise from late position just builds the pot.
  One of the disadvantages of raising from early position is that you don’t know who behind you would also liked to have raised, but only called.  In other words, if you had only called, who behind you would have raised?  Who wanted to raise but disguised his intention by just calling your raise?  Some experts suggest that you should almost never raise pre-flop with any hand because you save more money in the long run that way.  Since it seems that most flops are unfavorable bluff , and if you raise you’ll just get called anyway, you probably should see the flop as cheaply as possible most of the time.
  If you are in late position and everyone has called and then you raise, you risk “unleashing” a raise from one of the players who originally called.  This is a common situation in low limit Hold’em.  Some players just like to build a pot and they figure that since it was raised anyway, they might just as well go ahead and rerasie it.  There are also a lot of players who like to raise in late position just because they are in late position and they know it will build a huge pot.

  Sometimes you will be genuinely undecided about raising with your hand or just calling with it.  You should ask yourself , “If my opponents could see my hand, would they prefer that I raise or just call with it?” Obviously, you should do the opposite of whatever they would rather have you do.
  There are five major reasons to raise before the flop:
  1. Eliminate Players

This is the most common reason to raise pre-flop.  Most often you’ll have a big pair or A ♦ K ♥ and want to narrow the field so your hand will have a better chance of standing up at the end.

  1. To Get Value from Your Hand

You think you have the best hand and want to win as large a pot as possible.  You will most often have a good hand in late position with many callers already in the hand.

  1. To Gain Information

A player who raises pre-flop could have almost anything, but a reraise from you will help narrow his possible holdings.  He could have anything when he raised but if he reraises you, then he almost certainly has A♣ A♥ or K♠ K♦ in the pocket.  If he had A♥ K♦ or a smaller pair, he would usually call.
You should know that three out of four pre-flop raising hands are not a pair.  In other words, it is 3 to 1 that a pre-flop raiser does not have a pair.  He almost always has two big cards and if an Ace, King or Queen does not come on the board, then he can usually be beat by any pair.

  1. To Bluff or Semi-Bluff

There are some pretty good skill poker players in this game despite the fact that there seems to be so many bad players.  There are times when a raise or reraise from you just screams  “A♥ A ♦ “ and some players will throw their hand away right there or they’ll call to see the flop and then fold it if they don’t hit it perfectly.  This gives you an opportunity to represent Aces in the pocket when you don’t have them and it definitely puts your opponents on the defensive.
  A lot of players would rather fold than pay to play a guessing game.  Betting with a hand that probably won’t win if called, but has a chance to improve, is semi-bluffing.

  1. To Get a Free Card

It’s very common for everyone to say, “Check to the raiser,” on the flop.  While you should resist this temptation to check to the raiser, you should train other players to check to you when possible.  The advantage in having everyone check to you is that you can also check and see the turn card for free.  Often, everyone will assume that you are now going to bet and they’ll check to you again.  If you want, you can check again and see the river card for free.  See how one little pre-flop raise can enable you to see the entire hand for free?

  If you’re known to raise only with the best premium hands, then you’re setting yourself up to have pots stolen from you.  Players will always know what you have (or more importantly, what you don’t have) and they will always know how to play against you, based on the flop.  That is why it is important that you occasionally vary your play and raise with different hands.  Just make sure you raise with cards that still have a reasonable chance to make a good hand.
  Raising with many different hands has the benefit of disguising your hand and getting calls from players who are misreading your hands.  This works especially well when you raise pre-flop with two big flush cards and you make the flush.  Most of your opponents will figure that you raised with a pair and couldn’t possibly have the flush.
  It’s also nice when you raise with something like J♥ T♣ and you get a flop like 9♠ 8♥ 7♦ or Q♦9♥ 2♣ and you make the straight.  Anyone who can beat A♦ A♠ or K♣ K ♠ in the pocket will call you all the way down, just “knowing” he has you beat.
  If there is a conservative player in your game, you will notice that he often does not even call the other $ 1 in the small blind to see the flop, even though there may not be a threat of a raise from the big blind.  Keep an eye on this player.  If he does call in the small blind, he probably has what you would consider to be a very good hand.  He won’t be loud about it or call attention to the fact that he’s calling, but you should be aware of it.  It’s worth money to you.  Play him a little tighter and more carefully than you would most other players.  Also, a player like this is usually a very good player and you should give him credit for a hand when he’s in the poker pot.

  One important note about pre-flop raises: you should pay attention and remember who did the pre-flop raising.  No one at the table, including the dealer, is allowed to tell you who did the pre-flop raising after the flop hits the board