Before we can walk through a few hands of a typical Texas Hold ’em game, we must discuss some very basic strategy. Seeing as you only get dealt two cards prior to the first round of betting, it stands to reason that you need to know how to make the right decision before parting with your hard-earned money.
Similarly, you will need to consider how you will progress with your game after you have seen the Flop, as well as the Turn and the River.
We shall keep to teaching extremely basic decision- making strategy as it applies to the typical game flow of a simple no-frills game, that once learned will allow you to follow along with any basic game of Hold ’em.
Winning strategies are not discussed in this chapter and will be covered later in the book. For now let’s just continue to concentrate on the structure of Texas Hold ’em poker and the base information that we need to play.
TIGHT OR LOOSE?
When you are said to be playing a Tight game of poker, you are playing hands that are highly likely to win. This means that you will have a set of rules that you keep to with regard to the cards that you are holding, that will determine whether or not you continue to play that hand, or whether you will fold. Playing a tight game can increase your chances of winning over time and you are less likely to consider taking chances.
Playing a Loose game is the exact opposite of playing a tight one. It means that you are more likely to take chances that the cards you require will turn up on the Board at some stage and that you will seriously consider playing hands that have an outside chance of winning. Although any method of gambling includes some element of luck, playing a loose game means that you are relying on luck much more than strategy.
With a Tight game being at one end of the scale and a Loose game at the other, the type of game that you decide to play can vary not only game to game, but also hand to hand.
Experienced poker players may at times play an extremely loose hand if they believe that they can bluff their opponent into believing that they hold a potentially winning hand, at other times they may play their hand fairly tight if that is how the game needs to be played.
It all comes down to experience when deciding how you are going to play each hand. For the purpose of this book we shall stick to playing a tight game, which is the best method for those who are just starting out playing poker. As your experience grows, you will be able to make informed decisions about how to play your game.
WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKET?
There are numerous things to take into consideration when determining the strength of your two pocket cards. Where you are seated at the table, your Position, how other players have acted towards their own hands and whether or not you are playing on the Button all have a part to play.
We have to start somewhere and so will leave the more advanced strategies until a little later on and concentrate on the very basics of how you can determine whether or not your pocket cards have the potential to make a quality hand that is worthy of betting on.
When learning how to play Hold ’em, it is a good bet (pardon the pun!) to stick to the basic strategy of determining whether or not the cards that you have in the hole are playable, or whether you would do better to fold
(otherwise known as ‘mucking your hand’).
There are no hard and fast rules and as your experience
grows you will find your own judgement, but for the time being at least, your pocket cards can be placed into three different groups depending on their strength; Strong starting hands, Medium-Strength starting hands and those that may be considered as Other playable starting hands.
Let’s start by looking at some of the Strongest starting hands that you may come across.
Pocket Cards – Strongest Starting Hands
A high-pair is always a good combination to hold and can always be converted on the flop into Trips. Ace’s (Pocket Rockets), Kings and Queens are the higher value pairs, whilst Jack’s, 10’s and 9’s are more commonly classed as medium-value pairs. Anything below this are of low value.
If you hold a medium value pair and a high-value card appears in the flop (such as an Ace, King or Queen), keep an eye on your opponents to see if they raise the bet. If they do and they didn’t raise before the flop, it is likely that they hold another high card and have made a pair.
Although Jack’s and 10’s could be included here, but are more commonly medium pairs rather than high-pairs.
Ace with a High Kicker
This combination is always a good hand to hold and the higher the Kicker the better. If you are holding A-K and there is another King in the flop, then you will be holding a top pair with the highest possible kicker, A-K-K. Similarly, if you draw an Ace in the flop, then you will be holding A-A-K, which is the top pair with the highest kicker. It almost seems like a win-win situation.
Holding an A-J or A-10 is still a good hand, but you need to consider what your opponent may hold as A-Q will beat your hand.
If the cards are suited and you are holding A♦-K♦ and the flop pulls a Q♦-J♦-2♠, then you need 10♦ for a Royal Flush on the turn or the river.
If your 10♦ does not appear, then you always have the chance of getting an Ace-high Flush with any other diamond.
Face Cards Suited
If you hold a pair of face cards, the you will probably be looking to make a high Pair on the flop.
If you hold K-Q and you flop a King, then you will hold a high Pair with a Queen Kicker. This may not necessary be as good as a pair of Queens with a King kicker, but it’s worth holding.
When the cards are suited, making a high-card Flush or Royal Flush is a long shot, but possible. You may more commonly see as straight appear on the flop, turn and river.
If you are dealt any of the above hands, then there is no question that the odds of making an even better hand on the flop are good, although things can change very quickly in Hold ’em.
Next we will look at some medium-strength hands that have the potential to become strong as the game unfolds.
Pocket Cards – Medium-Strength Starting Hands
Face Card with a Ten Suited
Obviously not as good as a a pair of suited face cards, this combination can produce a winning hand.
Flopping another face card that matches will give you a high-card pair with a 10 Kicker if you hold a King or a Queen. These will be beaten by a similar pair with a higher kicker.
When suited can be built to a Royal Flush or a Flush, and if unsuited are not too far apart to bring about a Straight.
If you hold a pair of 9’s, 8’s or 7’s, then you may not have the best hand but it may be able to be improved if you flop a high-card pair, although it may be likely that your opponent could hold a higher pair. Flopping a lower pair will make the hand fairly weak and chances of producing a winning hand will be slim, but not impossible.
However, holding a medium-strength pair can produce a much stronger hand if the flop turns them into Trips.
The value of these cards are not so low as to be able to produce a Jack, Queen, or King-high Straight or a Flush if suited.
Having two high-value cards in the hole can certainly be improved upon to a strong Pair or Trips with a high Kicker, or a high Straight or Flush if suited.
If you hold Q-10 and flop another Queen, then you will hold a High Pair with a 10 Kicker. If you flop a 10 instead of a Queen, then your pair is much weaker and will be beaten by a stronger pair, even J-J.
Do not be tempted to hold on to your hand if it contains an Ace or King and the flop doesn’t further improve your hand.
Medium Connectors Suited
Connectors are cards that are close in value and are capable of producing a Straight on the flop.
Play with these hands carefully and if the flop doesn’t improve things, then don’t be afraid to muck your hand swiftly.
Finally, there are some other hands that you may wish to consider, but are not very strong hands to start with so you may want to play with caution or decide that you don’t really want to play this type of hand until your experience level increases.
Pocket Cards – Other Starting Hands
Not regarded as a very powerful hand, low card pairs have the potential to be made into Trips on the flop, making them stronger than a high-pair.
Let it go if the hand is not improved by the flop.
Ace with a Low Kicker Suited
An Ace with a low card suited has the potential of becoming an Ace-high Flush, which is the top flush and depending on the other cards on the board, could be the Nuts.
If you flop two or more cards of the same suit, it may be possible to complete the flush either on the flop, turn or the river. This is known as Drawing Hands as you need to Draw a series of cards in order to improve on your hand.
Low Connectors Suited
Low hole cards that are suited, have the potential to become a Flush and can win the pot. However, the odds are not very strong in seeing another three cards of the same suit appearing on the board.
Being close together in value, getting a consecutive run of cards to make a Straight Flush would be more beneficial than a Flush on its own.
It would be best to fold the hand if it is not improved on the flop, or if it is suspected that your opponent has a stronger hand.