Poker 101

Let’s take a look at a few concepts you will need to have a basic understanding of in order to

implement many of the strategies found within this book.

Relative Hand Strength

Tiers Reading Board Textures

Hand Ranges

Equity & Fold Equity

Expected Value

Among them are:

The sections on hand strength tiers and board textures are key to using the charts and developing a betting strategy. The rest are introduced only to enhance your ongoing understanding of poker. Each concept could be the subject of an entire book. It is my goal to introduce you to what is generally common knowledge among strong players. I encourage you to do your own further study as your poker education continues.

Hand Strength Tiers

In order to use the post-flop charts included in this book, you will need to be able to evaluate and then categorize the relative strength of your hand. My approach for assigning specific hole cards to hand strength tiers is based loosely on the Renton Theorem. The strategy consists of sorting holdings into sub-groups of hand ranges and playing the hands within each group in a similar manner.

The benefit of playing this way is that it simplifies things for you and inherently balances your range. In other words, it makes you much more difficult to read, because you will sometimes play completely different holdings the same way and other times play hands that appear to be identical very differently.

Here are the four tiers of post-flop hand ranges:

Tier 1This is the post-flop “nut” range. Hands that you never fold and would like to get all-in with. Hand types in this range are two-pair using both cards, three of a kind, flushes, straights, full houses, and better.

Tier 2This is your strong non-nut range. It includes top-pair hands with a decent kicker and big draws.

Tier 3Showdown value hands. This includes any hand that has a chance of beating an opponent’s air or bluffing range, but is seldom good against a value range.

Tier 4Air. Hands that have little or no showdown value and little chance of improving by the river.

Once you have assigned your holding to a tier, it makes planning the hand much easier. You simply follow the line of play that you feel is most profitable, given the variables. Keep in mind that your hand tier is decided on a street-by-street basis. Your hand can be tier 1 on the flop and tier 2 or 3 by the river. In turn, your hand can be tier 4 on the flop, and then become tier 1, 2, or 3 by the river.

For example, take the hand A♠A♣ on a A♦5♦7♥ board. You currently have the nuts and thus have a tier 1 hand. Let’s say the turn is a 9♦. You no longer have the nuts, but your hand is still very strong. It is likely that if you got all-in on the turn that your hand would frequently be behind, but it is still profitable to do so. Therefore, your hand would now be tier 2. On a board pairing river, you would once again have a tier 1 hand, but if the river were another diamond or a 6 or 8, then you would have a tier 3 hand.

Relative Hand Strength

Assigning your hand to an appropriate tier is not always cut and dried. Situational factors can cause the strength of similar looking hands to vary wildly. For example, top pair mid kicker might be the nuts against a particular loose and aggressive post-flop player, but against a total nit, it might be considered very weak if you face a lot of action.

How you decide to group your hand is based on a number of elements: the pre-flop action, your opponent(s) in that particular hand, and your image at the time. Each of these variables factor into your decision regarding the relative strength of your hand.

Understanding your relative hand strength is one of the most important skills to develop. For now I suggest keeping things simple when it comes to categorizing your ranges and focus on concrete hand groupings. Just keep in mind that this is an area of your game that you need to focus on mastering as it is one of the keys to becoming a top player.

Next is a short quiz to give you some practice on assigning value to hands:

Hand Strength Tiers Quiz

Assign a hand strength tier of 1, 2, 3, or 4 to each readless situation provided. Answers are found in the appendix.

1. A♣ 5♣ on a 7♥5♦T♥ board
2. T♠9♠ on a 7♠J♠K♣ board
3. 7♥7♠ona6♦J♣9♦9♠board
4. K♦J♦ on a A♥4♥6♣ board
5. K♠K♦ona6♣3♥3♠board
6. 2♣2♥ona6♥6♥K♥Q♥2♦board

7. 8♦7♠onaA♦8♠7♣A♠board

8. A♠Q♠onaQ♣6♥5♦board

9. Q♦J♥ on a 9♦8T♥ board
10. 4♥2♥ on a 4♠3♣ T♥K♠J♣ board

11. 4♠4♦ on a T♠K♥6♠T♥6♣ board

12. J♥T♣ on a 4♥8♣ T♠ board
13. K♠T♠ on a J♠9♥2♣ board

14. A♣T♥ona2♥2♠4♥8♠8♦board

15. T♦8♦ona8♣8♥A♦board
16. A♥J♣ on a 4♦7♥6♦8♥9♥ board

17. A♥K♥ on a 5♠T♥2♥ board

18. J♥2♦ on a 2♣ 8♦J♦9♥T♣ board

19. A♥Q♦onaA♣2♥2♦board

20. Q♣J♣onaJ♥4♣4♦board

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