Texas Holdem Strategy
This will deal with all the basic strategies for that great game we all know and love, Texas Holdem. We're going to be separating this into two sections: limit Holdem and no-limit Holdem. The reason behind this is that there are a few key differences between the two games. You can be an amazing limit holdem player, but be terrible playing no-limit. For pot-limit, I’d suggest reading both, but favor the no-limit Holdem guide as pot-limit uses the same type of betting, just with a limit to the maximum amount. However, no matter what type of game you favor, I suggest reading both the limit and no-limit parts of this guide. Before you read this, go look over the 7 Rules of Online Poker. This guide assumes that you know your mathematical odds, hand rankings, and other basic rules of poker.
Limit Holdem Strategies
Table position is a big part of Holdem. Where you sit compared to who has the button will effect your strategy. A general rule is that the person who is the dealer (the person who has the button) is in the best position. This is because you get to see everyone else's bet before deciding what to do with your hand. The one exception to this is the very first round, in which the people who post the big blind and the small blind actually go after you do. However, they are already committed to the pot, while you have no money at risk. For every round after the first, though, the big blind and small blind are the first to bet, giving them the disadvantage. One strategy to try when you're the dealer is, if everyone just checks his or her hand, you place a bet. This is called trying to "steal the pot". Basically, you're hoping that they have a marginal hand (which is likely since they didn't bet) and will fold to you, not wanting to waste their money on their own sub-par hands if they think you have a good one. This can get dangerous, though, as they may be trying to “slow play” you – more on this later.
If you're earlier in the betting round, you need to play a little tighter
than you normally would if you were later in the round. You don't want
to over-commit yourself to the pot. Even if you have a hand that you think
deserves at least a marginal bet, you could get that bet raised to something
higher than your hand is worth, which can wind up being a very bad thing.
Try some aggressive play every now and then. One strategy I like to use now and then is to pretend there's no call/check button, only raise and fold. What this does is make you think whether or not your hand is actually worth playing. If you aren't willing to bet on your hand early on, it may not be a hand you want to play. I don't recommend doing this for every single hand all the time, however. This is a slightly more advanced, risky strategy, but it can be used to great effect depending on your opponents. Don't try it until you feel you're ready.
When you’re facing somebody who’s playing aggressive, on the other hand, you need to adjust your play style to theirs. If you're playing against aggressive players, you'll want to be tighter and only play top-tier hands aggressively. Remember, they'll likely raise or at least call any bets even if they have a poor hand due to their loose playing style. However, you don't need to play so tight that you don't call anything unless it's at least a tier 2. You just need to play tighter than they are. When playing against these types of players, it can be worth your while to call something just to see the flop. Then you can decide whether or not you think your hand can win. They may try to keep betting even if they have nothing to bluff you out, so even having middle-pair or a low pocket pair could win the hand.
I'm now going to talk a little about slow playing, which also called check-raising. Basically, this is when you have a good hand, but only check or call to feign weakness. You're trying to make your opponent think that you have a weak hand so he or she will raise you with his or her marginal hand.
This is where it really helps to know your opponent. Normally, slow playing isn't a good idea. To just bet it out is better. Lots of players will hit the call button just so they can see the next card for a hand that they wouldn't bet with, which is exactly what you want. However, this is just a general rule. If you know that you're playing with players who are very loose with their betting, it can be better to try and slow play them. For example, let’s say you’re later in the table (close to the button, or you have it). If a loose player after you bets $5 and everyone calls, and you have the great hand, you can re-raise it to $10 (or higher, depending on the game type and your hand). They'll be more inclined to call this, as they’ve already committed at least the $5 into the pot.
These are the best to worst starting hands, rated in tiers. The higher tiers are the best hands, the kind you'd want to bet heavily with pre-flop as they have the best chances of winning the pot. I'm going to use abbreviations to describe the hands. For example, A-To would be Ace-Ten off-suit. Whereas Q-8s would be Queen-Eight suited. Note: These are rankings of the best hands prior to the flop. Even if you're holding pocket Aces, a flop of two four's can lose it for you if an opponent happens to have one or two fours in his or her hand.
Tier 1: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-Ks, A-Ko
Tier 2: J-J, A-Qs, T-T, A-Qo, A-Js, K-Qs
Tier 3: 9-9, A-Ts, 8-8, A-Jo, K-Qo
Tier 4: K-Js, Q-Js, J-Ts, K-Ts, Q-Ts
Tier 5: All pairs 7-7 and below, all suited Aces (example: A-Xs), T-9s, 9-8s, T-8s, 8-7s, 7-6s, 9-7s, 6-5s
Tier 6: A-9s, A-8s, A-7s, any two cards ten or higher, A-9o, A-8o
Tier 7: All the rest; play these hands very rarely
Finding a Table
No matter what poker site you play on, you want to find the table that has a high pot average. Some people are nervous about doing this because they think it means more of their money is at risk, or that these people are high rollers. However, what this usually means is that the players are relatively loose in their play style. They raise more often, and more people are calling those raises, and they can’t have winning hands that often. These are the tables where you can make the most profit. If the poker software allows, also look for games with a high flop percentage, as this means that lots of people are calling to the flop.
No Limit Holdem Strategies
With no-limit holdem, bluffing becomes a much larger part of the game. Bluffing is one of the most exciting things you can do in poker, but it can also be the riskiest. This is where it becomes tricky and you need to know your players. You cab bluff in limit holdem, but with no-limit, you can put much more force behind your bluffs and really force your opponent to think carefully. As always, be very careful here, because things can get dangerously out of hand if you aren’t disciplined or don’t know your opponents well enough. There are some general rules for bluffing in no-limit holdem that you'll want to take note of:
1) If you're going to make a bluff, don't make it a weak one. If there's $100 in the pot, don't bluff with a $10 or $20 bet. Remember, you're trying to make them think you have a damn good hand, and you don’t want them to call it. Bet as if you had the top pair on the table, or a flush draw, etc. Also consider the pot odds – if you bet the whole pot, it’s only 2 for 1 pot odds for your opponent. If you bet more than the pot, it gets even worse.
2) Don't bluff too many opponents at once. You never want to try and trick 5 different people. The more people you try to bluff, the higher the chance that they have a good hand and will call your bluff. Generally, you only want to try bluffing 1-2 players, with a maximum of 3.
3) If someone else bluffs you, don't take it to heart. Also, do not make the mistake of thinking that they bluff often. Usually, a good player will play a bluff out, and then play tight for awhile. If they start betting heavy again, it could be that they have pocket Aces, but it’ll seem like they’re on tilt and continuing to bluff. Again, it can't be stressed enough that knowing your opponent is key.
If you think your opponent is on a draw, be sure to make him if he wants to see it. You don't want that draw to hit the table. By betting, you're making him really think about whether or not he wants to bet money on what could be a relatively small chance. Statistically, if you have top pair and you’re sure your opponent is waiting for a draw, you’ll win most of the time.
This goes both ways. Don't get too attached to your own draws. Know your
odds and know your opponents. If there's a good chance of getting the
draw, and if the pot odds are also good, or if you think your opponent
might be drawing to something smaller than you have, then go for it. Just
remember that it could all be for nothing and the draw won't come, so
be sure to weigh the odds and use your knowledge of texas holdem strategy
each time a bet is made.