Texas Hold'em: Basic Strategy ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥
Yes! Texas Hold'em, my favorite card game!
Coincidentally, I'm from Texas. I was taught this game when I was young, and it always interested me. We used to play with dried beans instead of money when I was a kid. The game does not only consist of skill, but chance also. It is a very dynamic game requiring many different skills in order to win. Mathematics is one that comes to mind instantly. Reading someone and recognizing habits can also be a very effective skill, but playing online this is limited. You have to posses courage. Sometimes it comes down to an all-in moment, or perhaps you need to make a bluff to stay in the game. Intuition plays a major role as everything is circumstantial, and considering every factor involved is a must. To play the game you are dealt 2 cards that only you can include in your final 5 card hand. Then there are 5 community cards dealt that everyone can include in their hand. There are 4 betting opportunities in a hand. Pre-flop, the flop, the turn, and the river. Many factors have to be thought out when playing a hand.
Some of these factors include:
Knowing your opponent can help determine if you should play against them, or proceed with caution. If they are strong I would avoid them unless I had a premium hand. If they are weak then you can usually play a wide range of hands against them without risking too much. If they are a tight player(they usually play the best hands), you can count on them having an advantage. If you are up against a loose player(they usually play various hands), there is a good chance that they can have almost any cards. How aggressive and consistent they are is something to look out for as well. If they are consistent then you can figure them out over time. Good players are never consistent! This is interesting because most professional sports depend on consistency! Not poker. It is a competitive player vs. player mind game. Therefore consistency can be detrimental.
Your Starting Hand
I could go into more detail about this, but I will keep it simple for now. Ace/Ace is the absolute best starting hand that you can have. King/King after that and so on. If you have a pair as your starting hand, it's called a pocket pair. Pocket pairs are good starting hands, but be careful with smaller ranked cards. They can be trouble against high ranked community cards, or a higher pocket pair. Suited cards, or cards that have the same suit like Queen of Hearts/Four of Hearts increase your chances of making a flush(5 cards of the same suit). Connected cards, or cards that have adjacent ranks like Six/Seven increase your chances of a straight(example: 8-9-10-J-Q). The less gaps between them the better. Suited connectors are frequently played and have both great straight and flush possibilities.
The texture of the board is important. Example: you have a 5/5 pocket pair. Although, the flop brings a 7, 8, and Jack. This is generally bad for you because if someone has any of those cards then you'll be at an immediate disadvantage because of the higher pair. If the board flopped 3, 2, and 6 this would generally be good for you, because the chances of someone having a Six is fairly low depending on their play style and the number of opponents. Always think of what your opponent might have, and remember that your hand strength is always relative to the board texture.
Ohhh the bluff. I generally stay away from bluffing unless it's a small bluff to try and win the pot against one or two opponents. Semi-bluffing is also a pretty cool move if you have a decent amount of outs(cards that will improve your hand to the best hand). The intention of this is that you will win the pot uncontested, but if it goes wrong and they call you still have outs to improve your hand. Stone cold bluffing(when you have nothing or a bad hand) sometimes works, but not always. If they call you have nothing to rely on, so if this is done you absolutely need them to fold. This is an aggravating move that a lot of loose players like to use. Watch out for this, and be careful using it.
Pot odds and card odds are important things to know when making calling decisions. Pot odds: how much are you calling compared to the pot size? Card odds: how many outs do you have, and how many hands can beat yours? A more in-depth post is need to explain this effectively, but mental mathematics is a huge part of the game.
How much are you betting, and how much should you be betting. If you are betting for value,(based on how good your hand is) then too big of a bet might scare off your opponent or if they have a better hand you would loose an unnecessary amount of chips. Too small of a bet and you will not make as much as if you were to bet bigger. Also, a bet is a test for your opponent to see how they will react. Sometimes this test is nullified by their inconsistency. Like, they could call with a monster hand instead of re-raising. Vice versa, they could re-raise with a shitty hand. Most of the time though, this will give you a read on their hand strength. If you are betting for a bluff be careful not to always bluff the same amount or they will pick up on this quickly. For example, some players go all-in every time they bluff. Inconsistency is key!
I've had some bad beats from allowing myself to become distracted. Play with total focus and awareness every hand and the rewards will become apparent.