In just about every game in the casino you are competing against the house. Blackjack, you are trying to beat the dealer. Roulette, you are competing against that spinning ball owned by the casino that can ruin so many people’s nights.. The slot machines are designed by, yup you guessed it, the casino.
But there is one competitive and highly skilled game that removes the house odds from the competition and puts you up against an equal playing field. In Texas Hold ‘em, you don’t face unfair odds against the table. Instead, you are playing a game of skill against another player with a similar agenda as you. To win the game and walk away with money in their pocket.
This will not serve a step by step guide for entry level Texas Hold ‘Em players. Instead, I’ll cut through the BS intended for the beginners and discuss specific strategies and how to win money at the tables. Keep reading to become a highly trained, professional Texas Hold ‘Em player.
Understanding the game and understanding your opponents is the first step in becoming a successful Texas Hold ‘Em player. From experiences at the table and watching professionals face off on television, I’ve learned that the number one skill in this game is reading people.
You can’t trust the look on a person’s face at a poker table. Instead, you have to read their tendencies and monitor their body movements.
Before you can sit down at the table with real confidence in yourself, there are a few rules you need to follow to play the odds to better your chances.
1 – Knowing When You Should Fold
As a player, you need to understand that you can’t play and win every single hand you are dealt. The bets that you don’t make will be equally as important as the bets you do make. Most, if not all, bad poker players have this same common problem. They are absolutely clueless when they should fold.
When you become addicted to staying in hands, you are no longer playing a game of skill. Avoiding blinds with weak hands, folding on raised bets in the right situations, and saving yourself money compounded over 10+ hands will add up a lot over time.
Knowing when to fold does require an ability to read your opponent’s moves but it comes down to understanding your hands and the positions you are in. Don’t chase after straights or flushes on the river mindlessly and protect yourself from big losses when your hands are weak.
Sticking out a pair of 2s with constant raises by your opponent is something I’ve witnessed firsthand and it goes south very quickly for the player on the losing side.
2 – Don’t Be The Player Who Bluffs Too Much
Perhaps the most overused tactic in poker is the player who is ALWAYS bluffing.
This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing when to fold. Don’t chase after hands that simply aren’t there.
It takes time to learn how to bluff in the right moments and your opponents will keep track of the times you are raising with not much to show for it. Be patient and don’t raise with a poor hand if your opponent is already committed to the hand. You don’t want to be stuck all in with Jack high.
Bluffing is a strategy that requires training and practice. It is far more complex than going all in after the flop.
3 – Learn How To Bet Properly
I’ve never considered myself much of a pro with any casino games before but I’ve always had an extraordinary skill to raise and lower bets at the perfect times.
If you’ve ever seen The Office – Casino Night episode, Michael Scott goes all in on the first hand of the entire night. Toby calls him and turns over a great hand. Though an extreme example, you should never be betting 10x the normal raise before the flop unless in a rare circumstance. Your opponents will instantly be alarmed and fold right away to waste your good hand.
The same applies after the flop and each round following that.
A good example of value betting is at the river when you find yourself with a strong hand in winning position. Under raising your opponent could cost you money. You shouldn’t necessarily go all in but betting 50% of the pot is a good indicator (in lower limit games) to get your opponent to bite. Chances are they are pretty committed to the hand to make it to the river and you should be able to get one last bet out of them to increase your take from that hand.
Setting A Budget
My most important principle for gambling is responsibility. Bringing your rent money to the casino is never acceptable and creating a set budget for yourself is absolutely necessary to keep yourself honest and safe in a casino environment.
This is the best way to keep yourself in control and never lose sight of the real reasons you are gambling. For entertainment. Gambling, specifically poker, is not a career choice except for those players who are proven professionals. These professionals do not gamble money they don’t have either.
Only you know your own budget, financial situation, spending habits, and other financial obligations you already have. Create a reasonable budget that is within your means and never exceed it under any circumstances.
Never borrow money or gamble on credit. Don’t drink while you are gambling or do anything that will alter your ability to make good decisions. And, don’t play games you don’t know the rules too. I wouldn’t recommend sitting at a poker table with no knowledge of the game and gambling away money.
Discipline is the first step towards success in any field.
1 – Playing with the short term in mind
Sometimes, you’ll lose with a great hand on a bad beat. Its gambling. It can happen. You should play the odds and use math to your advance. If you have pocket A’s, you are playing the hand every time. Don’t get scared away because you lost with that hand once before. In the long term, if you play the right way you will become profitable. It can’t happen after the first few hands.
2 – Being too emotional with the games
This can turn things ugly. You cannot let the game get the best of you mentally and emotionally. Maintaining your cool and keeping your head on your shoulders is the best way to avoid big losing streaks or bad decisions. Some beginner’s tend to lose their cool after a couple lost hands and make start to play more risky or raise their betting to earn it back quick.
Stay smart no matter what.
3 – Playing too many hands
There is a rule for poker players. You shouldn’t be playing more than 25% of your hands. Ideally, you are playing about 20% of them. Not many new players understand this role and lack the patience to turn away hands and keep their chips in front of them.
Develop principles for hands that you’ll be playing and throw away the unsuited 4 9 hands that you get dealt. If it looks ugly, don’t try to talk yourself into playing it.
4 – Getting too invested into a hand
Sometimes, beginners will see a hand they like and try to turn it into something it’s not. It might be chasing after a straight or a flush. It might be chasing the Ace pair. But no matter what, you can never let the ifs keep you raising or calling bets when the cards aren’t there.
If you ever want to reach a level of profitable poker playing, you have to be willing to make the choice to cut your losses while you can before you gamble away your entire stack.
Tactical Hold ‘Em Moves
The Bluff Spotter Bet
I’ve already discussed bluffing and how dangerous it can be if you aren’t able to execute it correctly. This move is a way to catch a bluffer in action and profit off of their mistake.
This move is specifically used to call someone who is bluffing on the final bet of the river. The beauty of this move is making money from usual, mediocre hands. For example, a pair of 4s is not a spectacular hand and can be beaten very easily. However, the bluff spotter technique could turn this hand into a winner.
This move relies heavily on reading your opponent and learning how they play. If you have never seen this player bluff before, it may be difficult to call them on a bluff. Getting into the mind of your opponent, learning their value bet ranges, bluff frequency, and table behavior can turn this move into a simple technique.
Learning the strategy of your opponent in a river bet situation is crucial to make the proper bluff spotter call. It relies heavily on your ability to assess the probability of a bluff and can be a big way to turn weak hands into money earned.
The Stop & Go Bet
The stop & go move is a way of calling a preflop raise despite your hand with the intention of going all-in on the flop. This is a move many players rely on when they have a short stack against larger stacked players to steal big blinds.
Ideally, you want to get your opponent to fold on hands he usually would want to play in a less aggressive, lower bet situation. When you make this decision before the flop, the opponent is faced with a tougher decision because of the uncertainty of both your cards and what cards are coming. You don’t allow them to see what they are holding despite their chip advantage.
Like all poker bets, this is effective when done correctly and controlled. You should not be going all in before the flop every 5 hands because your opponents will learn after the third or fourth time what you are doing. Use this betting technique with finesse.
Position describes the place you are betting. When you are betting before a player, you have the position and those who bet before you have the position on you. A simple concept that is often overlooked.
When you have position, it allows you to see the opponents make their decisions. Having position on a player throughout a round gives you consistent opportunity to analyze their behavior and betting strategies. You can use positions to play hands more profitably after the flop. It allows for you to gain an edge and bluff more effectively throughout the round.
Position also allows you to take advantage of value betting on thin river calls. This also illustrates the importance of blinds and how blinds are unfavorable because a player is bought into a hand before the cards are dealt.
Pay attention to your position to learn a thing or two about your opponents.
The most important thing, have some fun.
A Texas Hold ‘Em live table will be a lot of fun. You are introduced to people you won’t see anywhere else in a competitive, yet casual atmosphere. There will be a little trash talk so stay on your toes.
Be friendly but keep your poker face. When you watch TV, you’ll see everybody wearing glasses and doing crazy things to preserve their look and try to stay difficult to read by opponents. This is a persona that takes time for a player to build as they gain more experience.
Approach the game with a laid back, approachable style. Watch and learn closely from your opponents. Make mental notes of misplayed hands for future reference. Ask questions to other players. Use each round as a chance to improve your game and learn something new. The oldest saying of time, practice makes perfect, has never been more relevant.