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How to Play Poker, Texas Hold 'Em Style

Introduction

Poker is one of the most popular games that have widely been accepted by all the casinos of the world. Its growing popularity can be judged from the fact that daily millions of people play poker. The word poker itself is searched over 1 million times a day. Due to its enormous demand poker has been made available on the Internet. Yes! This is true. You can even play poker online. But still I have found a lot of people are scared of this game because they think it is a game of chance and they will loose their money. But that’s not true. If you believe me then poker, rather than a probabilistic game, is a strategy game which involves presence of mind and ability to make right decision. I bet if you have the right attitude, skills of this game and can stay calm then no one can beat you in this game. I know many people who make a living by just playing poker. Poker is a game of strategy that can easily be learned and applied. Knowing the right strategy, necessary skills and a little awareness about when to play and when not, you will be seeing stack of chips at your side. It is a game and so you must realize that you can not win every time. You may have bad hands and so you must know when to pull out. The best part of this game is that you can learn all of this. Like any other game, poker is a game of skill and you should be a master in order to excel in this game.

5 Tips for Poker Beginners

Strategy
*Be patient - Fold early and often, the idea is to only play when you have an advantage.
*Be aggressive - Don't be afraid to raise, Often the best choice is to raise, next best is to fold and the worst choice is to call.
*Get inside your opponent's head - What do you think he has?

Choose your opponent
*If you are a new player you should play with the fish and not with the sharks. A fish is the most irritating player to play against. The plays moves and bets they play make no sense at all. Fish like to chase hands and are sometimes called "calling stations" by other players.

*You cannot bluff a fish, so don't try. A shark, a top player, is good at every aspect of the game and can adjust his play to all types of players. Sharks are very hard to sit with - you can never really get a read on them.  
 
Learn your opponent.  
 
When you play online poker you are not able to see your opponent and thus you can not gauge his emotions from facial expressions and gestures. Thus, you need to make use of whatever information is available. Online poker games offer an indication of whether the person you are playing against is a fresher or an experienced poker player. If the player takes time to make his move, chances are that he is new to online poker and you can probably try to bluff him more than you would otherwise do.  
 
Don't become overconfident!  
 
The worst thing that can happen to a novice player is to win too big and too fast. When you start to win big, make sure to maintain your caution and gamble only with your head, and not with your emotions.  
 

Keep a low profile!  
 
Whether you are winning or losing never tell anyone how well you are doing.  
Never tell anyone in the poker chat room where you are from, where you live or how much you've won.

Poker Etiquette

Sitting down at a poker table can be an intimidating experience for a beginning player.

A good way to calm first time jitters and avoid unnecessary embarrassment is to understand poker etiquette.

As with many subcultures, poker carries its own set of unwritten standards of behavior. These standards collectively make up what is known as the game’s etiquette. It exists to keep card games running smoothly and with minimal personal conflict. Seasoned players can be especially prickly about breaches of poker etiquette. This sensitivity is understandable given what can be at stake, and there is an expectation that any player who sits down to play a game will do his best to follow these rules.

I recommend that you do your best to understand both the written and unwritten rules of poker before sitting down to play. Here are a few tips that should help you to maintain a friendly relationship between other poker players while avoiding unnecessary trouble.

1. Paying Attention

Nothing is more aggravating to poker players than a player who holds up play due to lack of attention.

Players who need repeated reminders that it is their turn to act are disruptive to the game. Many poker players earn a living from their time spent at the poker tables. Unnecessarily holding up play cuts into their hourly wage. This is highly discourteous. Players should always be aware of when they are required to ante, what has previously been bet, and whose turn it is to act. By paying close attention to the game you will not only display proper poker etiquette, but increase your chances of winning as well.

2. Splashing the Pot

While it may look cool in movies, tossing your chips into the pot in a haphazard fashion (known as splashing the pot) is considered poor poker manners. Splashing the pot makes it difficult for other players to follow bets and prevents the dealer from getting an accurate count of what is in the pot. When betting, simply slide your chips neatly toward the pot and let the dealer take care of the rest.

3. Deliberately Acting Out Of Turn

While accidents occasionally happen, you should never deliberately act out of turn in an attempt to influence the game. An example of this would be to announce a big bet while the person yet to act in front of you is still contemplating his move. Acting out of turn can unfairly influence another player’s decision making and is a pain in the buttocks.

4. Commenting On Other Players’ Hands

It is considered poor poker etiquette for those who are not actively involved in a hand to discuss the play of those who are. This includes offering commentary or opinion on the action as it unfolds or attempting in any way to influence the outcome of the hand. If you are not involved in the hand you should also take care not to disrupt the action with loud conversation or other distracting activity.

5. Reacting To Community Cards

If you are not involved in a hand you should never react to shared or community cards in such a way that it may allow active players to guess what you may have folded. For instance, grimacing or groaning during a game of Texas Hold ‘Em as two 6’s appear on a flop after you’ve folded could conceivably alert an active player to the fact that you were holding a 6 and unfairly affect his decision making for the rest of the hand.

6. Rabbit Hunting

Asking the dealer to show you the next card from a deck after a hand has concluded is called rabbit hunting. This is usually done by players who have folded and would like to know what would have happened had they stayed. Asking for such information is a breach of poker etiquette and marks you as an amateur – something you definitely want to avoid. If you think about it, most poker etiquette is little more than common sense and good manners. Players who are careful to exercise courtesy and respect at the table will usually find their experience to be better for it. If you do slip up, quickly apologize for the offense and move on. Most poker players will forgive you as long as it is clear that you simply made a mistake, if not then they are probably just stuck (i.e. losing money) ;-). And remember, these are rules that 99% of the time apply, but sometimes you're just sitting in a game where people are doing wild crazy annoying things and having fun. In this case, you should have fun too! That is, if you are into that :)

Terms used in Texas Hold ‘Em Poker

  1. Fixed Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker
    Here the betting is limited to a predetermined amount which you can see as the limit description of the poker room display as $5/10. This means that all bets are limited to $5 in the pre-flop and flop and $10 in the turn and river.
  2. Pot Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker
    These also have limited betting but it is not predefined; rather the limit is set to the current size of the pot. As the pot increases so does the betting limit.
  3. No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker
    It is no limit betting. However, some casinos place a restriction on how often you’re allowed to raise in a single game. These games are mostly played by experienced poker players.
  4. Blind Bet
    Blind bets are forced bets. A blind bet is used to begin the betting before the players are dealt any cards. The first two players to the left of the dealer button are normally required to place blind bets.
  5. Call
    A call is a betting option. To call in poker means to match the bet of another player.
  6. Check
    To ‘check’ is to not place a bet. You only have the option to check if no other bets have been placed in the round.
  7. Fold
    To ‘fold’ is to quit the current hand. You stop betting and end that particular hand.
  8. Raise
    To ‘raise’ means to place a larger bet than the player before.
  9. Going ‘All In’
    Going ‘all in’ means you’re betting everything you have on your hand. If you win the hand you’re paid a portion of the pot in relation to the amount you’ve wagered.
  10. Dealer Button
    The Dealer button is a token which is passed around the table in a clockwise direction after every hand and is used to determine who the dealer is for that hand. It also determines who needs to place the blind bets.
  11. Pre-Flop
    The pre-flop is the first round of Texas Hold ’Em poker. Players are dealt two cards each which are referred to as pocket cards.
  12. Flop, Turn and River –
    The flop is the second round of poker, and occurs when the first three communal cards are dealt face up on the poker table. These cards can be used by everyone in the Poker Room to create the best 5-card hands. The turn is the Third round and a fourth communal card is dealt face up here the river is the final round of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker and the firth communal card is placed face up on the poker table.

Poker hand ranking

Poker hand rankings are one of the most essential factors of a poker game. While playing a fast online poker game such as Texas Hold ‘Em Poker you must be able to quickly discern which cards are needed to create a better poker hand. Beginners in poker tend to lose as they are not able to identify the best opportunities to build a strong hand. In order to do that it is important that you understand the poker hand rankings.

Remember that when you’re playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker you are trying to create the best 5-card poker hand from a total of 7 cards. There are 2 hole or pocket cards and 5 communal cards. You may use any combination to create your best hand. You may even use all five communal cards.

Poker Hand Rankings are as follows:

Royal Flush
This hand is the highest ranking hand possible and cannot be beaten A Royal Flush is made of 5 cards of the same suit, Ten, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.

Straight Flush
A straight flush made up of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit. An ace can play both high and low

Four-of-a-kind
This is any hand containing four similar cards.

Full House
A full house is when you have Three-of-Kind and a Pair.

Flush
A flush is any five cards of the same suit.

Straight
A Straight is five cards of any suit in succession. Straights are very common in Hold ‘Em Poker.

Three-of-a-kind
This hand is any three similar cards of any suit.

A pair

Any 2 matching cards.

Best Texas Hold ‘Em Starting Hands

This is just a primer into what kind of cards you should play pre-flop and I advice you to study deeper.

Super Overpairs (AA and KK)

I call aces and kings super over pairs for one reason; they are the two best starting hands you can get in Texas Hold ‘Em. You can usually go broke with them in standard online (or live) no-limit Hold 'Em games where the stacks are around 100 big blinds deep or less ($1,000 in a $5/10 NL game).

Your objective with these two hands is to try to get your money in pre-flop if you can.

But know that usually if you start making big over-bets pre-flop other players will know what is up.

But I do not recommend slow-playing aces or kings, because people will give you their money when they have hands like AK or JJ. You will want to raise or try to re-raise pre-flop* and get your money in on the flop or turn.

There are not many flops you are afraid of with AA or KK. Although KK has the disadvantage of an Ace flopping. I recommend you bet if there are 2 players or less in the pot to try and see where you stand. If you get called, check-fold the turn if you do not improve.

* A good re-raise is about 3-3.5x an opponents raise. For example if you are playing $100 ($0.5/$1 NL) and an opponent raises to $3 and you find yourself with pocket kings. You should reraise to about $9-10.5. Of course if you think your opponent is very loose and will call a bigger re-raise then go for it!

Good Overpairs (QQ and JJ)

Queens and jacks are what I consider good overpairs. They are a bit harder to play but are still among the best Texas Hold ‘Em starting hands you can get.

You can usually treat queens as kings or aces, but you have to be careful if a tight player is putting in a lot of money. He could very well have you beat with aces or kings. Basically, you have to have better reads to put all your money in with QQ or JJ. But don't be fooled, if you're playing vs. an aggressive player and you have QQ and the flop comes J92 you should be pretty willing to put your money in on the flop if you get raised.

He can have so many hands like any Jack, a draw like QT, KT, T8 or a flush draw with A5 or a suited connector like 76.

A disadvantage with queens and jacks is that the flop will bring overcards more of the time. Again I recommend you play them the same as I recommended you play KK when an Ace flopped. With 2 players or less you should bet about 2/3-3/4 of the pot* and give up if called and you do not improve.

Bottom line: Treat these hands as monsters. Raise and re-raise with them pre-flop but try to have reads on the players who will have you severely beat when they give you action.

* This means that if the pot is $10 you should bet about $6-8.

Super Broadways (AK)

I think ace king should have its own column because it is still one of the best starting hands in Texas Hold ‘Em if you know how to play it.

You generally want to play it aggressively pre-flop raising and re-raising as with the other hands above. You will flop an Ace or King about 1/3rd of the time. So what to do 2/3rds of the time? That is the question. My recommendation is to not automatically continuation bet a flop that has missed you. It now becomes even more important to know your opponent. But if you do not have any specific reads you can always just give up if you do not flop anything. Sometimes when you check in position you turn an ace or king. It is better for you as a new player to take it easy and play straightforward. What will end up happening if you try to outplay people is that you will lose a lot of money.

Good Broadways (AQ, KQ)

Are you beginning to see a pattern repeating itself here? We are going through the best Texas Hold ‘Em starting hands but the same concepts keeps coming up.

With AQ you generally want to raise and re-raise in late position*.

With KQ I recommend that you open-raise in any position in a 6-handed no-limit game. Fold to a tight early raiser but call a late position raiser. Why a late position raiser you ask? Because his opening range is likely to be much wider. This means that your KQ will dominate his hand-range.

As your hands get weaker you need better and better reads to commit your whole stack. But in general you want to play AQ and KQ the same way I advocated playing AK when missing the flop. Just play straightforward! When you hit top pair you should just value-bet. Most opponents at lower stakes will call down with almost anything. But remember, if you get put all-in when you have top pair with KQ on a flop like Q92 you have to fold without reads.

Always play solid poker if you do not have SOLID EVIDENCE of how your opponent plays. You cannot start guessing how he plays; this will cost you too much money. There's nothing wrong with folding. Every excellent poker player folds the best hand now and then.

* If you re-raise a tight UTG raiser then you might get yourself in a dominated spot where your opponent has AA, KK or AK. You want to avoid that, it is one of the biggest traps in no-limit Hold ‘Em.

Mediocre Pocket Pairs (TT and down...)

Don't get me wrong. Hands like tens and nines are still excellent Texas Hold ‘Em starting hands but you have to be very careful with them. I recommend you just call raises with tens and lower for set value. Sometimes you flop an overpair with tens and you can proceed to play after the flop but be careful if someone is betting big into you or an overcard comes.

You will also want to raise 77 and higher in late position* and continuation bet almost any flop, except the really ugly ones. For example if you have 88 and flop comes AKJ.

So then which flops are good to bet? Usually the dryer the flop the better it is to bet. Examples of dry flops are:

J 72

K93

TT6

What is so special about dry flops you ask? A dry flop means that less of your opponents’ hands will have hit the flop. If the flop comes JT9 and you're sitting there with red sevens you should probably just give up. Your opponent is VERY likely to hit this flop!

* When I say late position I mean the last two positions--the button and the cut-off. If you are unfamiliar with these terms then visit the learn poker lingo article.

Mediocre Broadways (AJ, AT, KJ etc...)

With Texas Hold ‘Em starting hands like these you want to play carefully. I prefer to play them in late position. If you are first in you want to open-raise them and go by the straightforward rule. If you miss then you're out of there. If you hit then you should value-bet and be careful if someone is willing to put in a lot of money and you do not know if they are a crazy maniac who just escaped a mental hospital!

Texas Hold ‘Em Starting Hands Summary

  1. Be aggressive with good hands
  2. Know your opponents, get reads as fast as you can
  3. Study as much as you can
  4. As always, keep it fun! :-)

Poker Hand Reading 101

Developing the ability to make accurate assumptions about what your opponents may be holding is the cornerstone of winning poker, but it doesn’t come quickly or easily to beginners. One common misconception about professional players is that they are able to frequently put their opponents on an exact hand. This is rarely the case. What the pros do is put their opponents on a range of hands and make their decisions based on a rough estimate of their likelihood.

How do they do it? Hand reading is ½ art and ½ science, but it begins with observation. You should view every hand as a story that must be pieced together with the following elements:

  1. What are your cards?
  2. What are the blinds?
  3. What is your position?
  4. What is your opponent’s position?
  5. How many people are at the table?
  6. How many chips do you have?
  7. How many chips does your opponent have?
  8. What type of player is your opponent?
  9. What type of player does your opponent think that you are?
  10. What is your opponent’s emotional state?
  11. What does your opponent think your emotional state is?
  12. What has been bet, who bet it, and how much?

After the flop, you have additional information to consider:

  1. What hit me?
  2. What likely hit my opponent?
  3. What are my outs?

How your opponent bets or reacts to your own bets will give you the final pieces of information to make an educated guess about where you stand in a hand. Seem like a lot of work? You bet it is! Most beginners never get past thinking about their own cards. If you want to accelerate your ability to read hands, you should treat every single hand as a learning exercise – especially the ones that you are not involved in! As you watch hands unfold, follow the action and begin building the “story” in your mind. Don’t be discouraged if you are often wrong. With time, you will start to see familiar betting patterns emerge.

How to Review Poker Hands

Most people don’t realize that much of a poker player’s improvement actually takes place away from the table. One of the ways that players do this is through reviewing hands that they’ve already played.

Hand reviews are meant to help players take a methodical and logical approach to the game. Because there is so much information to process in the heat of the moment, reviewing hands after the fact can reveal insights that the player missed the first time around. Reviewing your hands regularly will also help you to process information at the table more quickly and accurately. When reviewing a hand, it is important to include as much information as possible about what occurred. If you are an online player, most online poker sites give you the option to save your hand histories.  If you are playing at a brick and mortar casino or at home, you should carry a notebook with you and jot down all the details of any interesting hands that occurred during your session as soon as you are finished playing for the day.

Example of a Hand History

Here is an example of what should be included in a hand history:

12/13/07
Full Tilt Poker No-Limit Hold ‘Em Tournament, $20 Buy-In
Big Blind is 60, Small Blind is 30 (8 handed)

*Villain was somewhat loose but no other real reads

Cut-off (2750)
*Hero (1555)
Small blind (570)
Big blind (2070)
Under the gun (1445)
Under the gun +1 (1520)
Middle Pos 1 (2225)
Middle Pos 2 (1365)

Preflop: Hero is on the button with 5 , 5 .
UTG+1 calls 60, MP1 calls 60, 2 folds, Hero calls 60, SB completes, BB checks.

Flop: (t300) 5 , Q , T (5 players)
SB checks, BB checks, UTG+1 checks, MP1 bets 300, Hero ?

*Note that players often refer to themselves as “hero” and their opponent as “villain” when documenting a hand history.

In this case, I would shove all of my chips into the pot, but what I would do isn’t as important as the thought process that leads me to this decision.

Hand Reviewing Tips

  1. Give yourself time to forget the hand before revisiting it for a review. This will allow you to see it with fresh eyes.
  2. Keep the actual results of your hand hidden. Knowing how it ended will taint your analysis.
  3. Show your hand histories to players that you respect and get their input as well. They may have a different perspective that you can learn from. You can also post your hand histories to online poker forums for further input.
  4. Don’t just review hands that you lost. Whether you won or lost has no bearing on whether or not you played the hand correctly.

Poker Tells

Good poker players, besides playing well, have one essential strength – they have the ability to read their opponents at the table. They are able to do so through human tell tale signs called ‘poker tells’. A “tell” is any physical reaction, behavior, or habit that gives (or tells) the other players information about your hand. If you learn the most common tells, you will be able to read your opponent, their body language and thus all their secrets. While doing so, however, you must maintain your body posture so as not to give away any of your secrets. If you can accurately read your opponent’s tells, you’ll make the right decisions against them more often and win more money.

Some Poker Tells cry out to say – ‘I have a good hand’

  1. Acting uninterested in your hand is usually the most common sign of a strong hand. He may even tend to shrug away his cards saying that they are bad. Although he is pretending he does not care, he is excited about something in his hand
  2. Shaking Hands – When a player has a fantastic hand, it is often that he will exhibit this through trembling hands unable to contain such excitement.
  3. Rapid Breathing – Some players are unable to control their heart beating rapidly while seeing pocket aces or hit the flop really hard. If you can see a player’s chest visibly rising and falling, they have an excellent hand
  4. Glancing at Chips continuously – When a player looks down and sees strong hole or pocket cards, he will keep glancing at his chips to see just how much he can bet.

Some Poker Tells that cry out ‘I Have a Bad Hand’

  1. Staring down Other Players – If an opponent is staring you down, he’s trying to represent strength which is typical when he has a weak hand.
  2. Holding Breath – Often, inexperienced players, incapable of lying, will hold their breath if they are bluffing.

Some Poker Tells that cry out ‘I Have a draw’

  1. Checking Hole Cards after a Flop – If the flop shows the possibility of giving someone a flush or straight draw, players will start re-checking their hole cards to ensure that they are not missing out on some vital card.
  2. Taking your time to call a Bet – If a player looks into the pot and seems to be doing some calculating in his head, he probably is. He’s most likely figuring out the pot odds to see if it’s worth it to try and catch the cards he needs to complete his drawing hand.

Winning at Texas Hold ‘Em

Texas Hold ‘Em is a game that you can learn quite quickly. However, like most games of skill it takes time and practice to master. There are a few virtues that come into play in Texas Hold ‘Em and the fist one of them is Patience. Do not go chasing and playing every hand. Be selective and you will increase your chances of winning greatly. Be aware of how the other players are playing, whether they are playing loose or tight. A loose player likes to bluff; you can bring him out by raising his bet or by check raising him. Observe how they react so that you understand his style. A tight player generally only plays the “nuts” early on but in the later rounds tries stealing the pot with a big bet. If you have a feeling he might be trying to steal the pot, raise the bet. If a tight player is quick to call, he is likely to fold. Else he may put you on a higher hand, fold and wait until his hand comes along. Try and understand the betting style of each player. Is he betting on flop, turn and river or slow playing his hand? Does he have a made hand or is he on a draw? This intuitive analysis will help you later on in the game when the blinds are higher.
There are some things to remember while playing Pocket Pairs. The higher number of players the higher the risk. Wait until you see the flop and then if your pocket pair is higher than the board, bet aggressively and see how others react. Do no be afraid to fold if need be. Later in the game and with fewer players, pocket pairs increase in strength, because you are not on a draw. Bluffing plays an important part in the game. Since people tend to bluff more online, you need to get a feel if the players’ playing styles so that you can establish whether it is a bluff or not. Another important aspect of this game is controlling your emotions. All players will have ups and downs, but it is important to keep cool. Think and refocus. Be patient and your chances of winning will increase. It’s always better to rake a small pot than to lose a big one.

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