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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger

Over the course of the next few issues this column will continue to be aimed squarely at beginning hold’em players. The goal is to introduce new players to this exciting game and give them enough background to make them feel comfortable playing casino poker.

You’ve Been Raised
If the pot has been raised before it is your turn to act, you must tighten up significantly on the hands you play. Savvy players might raise with almost anything in late position if no one except the blinds are in the pot, but if a player raises from early position, give him credit for a good hand, and throw away all but the very strongest of hands.

Remember that you need a stronger hand to call a raise than to initiate one. After all, if you raise, your opponents might fold, allowing you to win the blinds by default. If you call a raise, you have to give your opponent credit for a strong hand, and you should call only if you believe your hand to be even stronger.

When someone’s raised after you’ve called
When an opponent raises after you’ve called, you are essentially committed to calling his raise, seeing the flop, and then deciding on the best course of action.

But when you call only to find yourself raised and raised again by a third opponent you should throw your hand away unless it is extremely strong.

Suppose you called with a hand like 10h-9h. Just because this hand may be playable in a tame game doesn’t mean you must play it. The ideal way to play speculative hands like this is from late position, with a large number of opponents, in a pot that has not been raised — when a hand like this is worth a shot. After all, you can always throw it away whenever the flop is unfavorable.

When Should You Raise?
Hold’em is a game that requires aggressive play as well as selectivity. You can’t win in the long run by passively calling. You’ve got to initiate your share of raises too. And here are some raising hands.

You can always raise with a pair of aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. In fact, if someone has raised before it’s your turn to act and you have a pair of aces, kings, and queens in your hand, go ahead and reraise. You’ve probably got the best hand anyway. Reraising protects your hand by thinning the field, thus minimizing the chances of anyone getting lucky on the flop.

You can also raise if you’re holding a suited ace with a king, queen, or jack, or a suited king with a queen. If your cards are unsuited, you can raise if you’re holding an ace with a king or queen, or a king with a queen.

If you are in late position, and no one has called the blinds, you can safely raise with any pair, an ace with any kicker, and a king with a queen, jack, ten, or nine. When you raise in this situation, you’re really hoping that the blinds ¾ which are, after all, random hands ¾ will fold. But even if they play, your ace or king is likely to be the best hand if no one improves.

Playing the Flop
Defining moments are crystallized instants in time, forever frozen in memory, imprinted into consciousness, never to be forgotten. Like Armstrong walking on the moon, and the first home run you hit in little league, these magical moments shape the way you perceive and value the world around you.

Hold’em also has its defining moment, and it’s the flop. Unlike seven-card stud, where cards that follow your initial holding are parceled out one by one with rounds of betting interspersed, when you see the flop in hold’em, you’re looking at five-sevenths of your hand. That’s 71 percent of your hand, and the cost is only a single round of betting.

The implications of this should be abundantly clear: If the flop does not fit your hand, be done with it. Playing long-shot holdings after the flop is a sure way to lose money. After the flop, the relationship between the betting and cards-to-come is reversed. Now you’re looking at spending 83 percent of the potential cost of a hand for the remaining 29 percent of the cards!

Fit or fold
Fit or fold. That’s the concept. Fit can take one of three forms: The flop fits because it improves your hand; it offers a draw that figures to pay off handsomely if you hit it; or you hold a big pair before the flop.

If you don’t improve to a big hand or a draw with a nice potential payoff, get out — and do it now.

Flops you’re going to love
While you’re not going to like the flop most of the time, there are those rare instances when it fits like a custom-made suit. When you’re lucky enough to flop a straight flush, four-of-a-kind, a full house, or the nut flush, your major worry is not whether you’ll win, but how much money you can extract from your opponents.

Your first order of business is examining the texture of the flop. Based on the betting pattern prior to the flop, try determining whether one or more of your opponents has made a hand or has a draw to a hand that would be second best to yours.

Lovable Flops

Straight Flush - Bet the house, the farm, and mortgage your soul. You won’t lose.

Four of a Kind - If there are two pair on board, and you have the smaller of the two pair, it is possible ¾ though very unlikely ¾ that you can lose this hand. But if there’s only one pair on board and you have the matching pair in your hand, you have the nuts. You can’t lose.

Full House - A terrific hand, but you have to examine the board to make sure that yours is the best possible full house before you bet the farm. But don’t be afraid to raise with a full house; it’s probably a winner.

Nut Flush - If you have an ace-high flush when all the cards have been dealt, and no pair is on the board ¾ which means that a full house or four-of-a-kind is not possible ¾ you’ve got the best possible hand. Just keep betting or raising and don’t stop.

Nut Straight - If you have the highest possible straight, and there’s no possibility of a flush or full house, you’ve got the best hand, period. Bet and raise for all you’re worth.


Likable Flops

Set/safe board - If you’re lucky enough to hold 8c8d and the flop is 8hKs2d you’ve flopped a set, and there’s not much to be wary of. There’s no flush or straight draw, and anyone holding a king is going to pay you off.

Trips - If you have Ah8s and the flop is 8c8d7s you’ve got trips. It’s not quite as good as it would be if the pair were in your hand, because anyone holding 8-7 will have flopped a full house. But that won’t happen very frequently, so go ahead and bet and raise as long as the board is not threatening.


Good Flops

Two pair - Top two pair is usually a winning hand, as long as the board is neither paired nor three-suited or sequenced. If your two pair are not the top two pair, you have a good hand, but one that is still vulnerable. Stay with it unless it appears obvious that you are beaten.

Top pair - A lot of hold’em pots are won with one pair, and that one pair is usually the top pair on board. Your primary concern with top pair and an apparently safe board is determining whether your kicker is bigger than your opponent’s.

Overpair - If the board is 8h-7s-3c and you hold 10d-10s you have an overpair. It’s better than top pair, and usually a hand to consider raising with.


Dangerous Flops

Kicker trouble - Even if you flop top pair, your hand is only as strong as your kicker. It’s a lot nicer to make top pair with an ace kicker than a weaker one.

Suited board - Flops where all the cards are of the same suit, or are sequenced, like 10-9-8 are dangerous. Someone may already have made a straight or a flush, and even if you’ve been lucky enough to flop a set, you are staring up hill and will probably have to see the board pair - giving you a full house - in order to win. With top pair, or even two pair, discretion is usually the better part of valor with suited or sequenced flops.


Beginners 6 Part Texas Holdem Course by Lou Krieger

The goal is to introduce new players to this exciting game and give them enough background to make them feel comfortable playing Texas Holdem poker for real online.

Lesson 1 / Lesson 2 / Lesson 3 / Lesson 4 / Lesson 5 / Lesson 6

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