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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger
This is the sixth and last in a series of columns 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.

What Should I Do When I Make My Draw?
Many hold’em newbies automatically check a good flush from early position, hoping to checkraise, thereby trapping their opponents for an additional bet. Others will always bet. These are two very different strategies. Which is correct?

General Rule on Checkraising
Here’s part one of the general rule on checkraising. Do it when you believe you will have the best hand most of the time you are called.

Part two of the general rule on checkraising states that you need to be certain your opponent will bet if you check. It’s no fun to check a big hand only to have your opponents check behind you, especially when you know they would have called if you had bet.

If you are not certain you’ll hold the best hand if you are called, or you aren’t sure one of your opponents will bet if you check, do not checkraise.

Top pair on the river
An enduring dilemma is what to do when you’re holding top pair against one or two opponents and all the cards are out. Now you have to decide whether to check or bet, or if your opponent acts first, whether to call, fold or raise.

If you’re observant, you will have noticed that some opponents will almost always bet top pair on the river, unless there is a strong threat of a flush or straight. Others seldom bet one pair, even when the board is not threatening. Most, however, fall somewhere in between. This is a judgment call. There is no formula to help you determine the best course of action, but there are some things you can do to clarify your decision.

Suppose you are first to act and raise before the flop with A-K. Two opponents call. You bet the flop and the turn. Now the board shows A-Q-4-7-9 of mixed suits. All the cards are out, no one has folded, and it’s your turn to act. Should you bet or check?

You’ll beat any pair, but lose to any two pair. Unless one of your callers held a pocket pair of nines and made a set on the river, you can probably dismiss the notion that there is a set out against you. If one of your opponents either flopped or turned a set, he would have raised on the turn — when the betting limits doubled.

Your real concern, of course, is whether one of your opponents holds two pair. If an opponent held A-Q he probably would have raised before the flop, called on the flop and raised your bet on the turn. An opponent holding A-7, A-4, Q-4 or Q-7 would probably have raised on the turn.

If your opponents would raise with any two pair and call with lesser hands, like A-8 or Q-J, you’ll want to bet. If they had made two pair on the turn, that’s when they would have raised. Except for the chance that they are holding A-9, Q-9, 9-7 or 9-4, your bet on the river will elicit a call, and you’ll win.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time your opponent is first to act. If he bets, should you fold, call or raise, and if he checks, should you bet?

If your opponent is very aggressive and tends to overplay weak hands, you can raise if you suspect he is betting a weaker hand than yours. If he is a tight player, just call his bet. If he is a real rock who seldom, if ever, bluffs, then throw away anything less than top pair with a very big kicker if he bets on the river.

The key, of course, is to know your opponents and their tendencies. Top pair on the river is a very common situation, and it is critically important that you learn to play it well.

When the Pot Gets Big
Pots sometimes grow quite large, particularly when there has been a raise before the flop. This can tie a lot of players to the pot, and if the flop provides a flush- or straight-draw to your opponents, you can be certain they’ll be there to the end.

If the straight or flush cards fail to come, a bet will usually drop any opponents who were drawing. Often there are only two or three opponents contesting a very large pot on the river.

You might be in there with second pair, or perhaps top pair with a marginal kicker, and your opponent comes out betting. You’re holding a hand you’d throw away if the pot were small, but with all that money in it, what should you do? Suppose you’re playing in a $3-$6 hold’em game and the pot is $90 by the time you reach the river. If your opponent bets, the pot now contains $96, and is offering you 16-to-1 on your money. If you call and are beaten the cost is only an additional $6. If you throw your hand away and your opponent was bluffing, you made a $96 mistake.

The answer ought to be obvious. If you believe this to be a situation in which your opponent would bluff more than one time in 16, go ahead and call. Only if you are sure your opponent would never bluff, can you comfortably throw your hand away.

You’re always better off committing the small error of calling with a losing hand, than the catastrophic error of folding a winner. In the situation cited above, even if your opponent would only bluff one time in ten, you are far better off calling than folding.

If you were to call ten times, you’d lose $6 on nine occasions, for a loss of $54. On the tenth occasion, you’d win a $96 pot, for a net profit of $42. If you divide that $42 profit by each of the ten times you called, your decision to call is worth $4.20 each time you make it — regardless of whether you win that particular pot.

If you are second to act, and think there’s some chance you have the best hand, even if you don’t consider yourself the favorite, you might want to raise if your opponent comes out betting. By doing this, you may get the third opponent to lay down his hand. If your first opponent was betting a fairly weak hand in hopes that you might fold, he, in turn, may now fold if he suspects you’re holding a powerhouse. A play like this also adds some deception to your game. But like all deceptive plays, you have to use it sparingly.


Navigating the river can be tricky. Follow this map and you’ll avoid the sandbars along the way.

1. Once the river card is exposed, your hand no longer has any potential value. Its value has been realized.

2. Your decision to check or bet if no one has acted, or fold, call, raise, or reraise if there has been action, can only be based on your hand’s realized value.

3. When you make two pair it will usually be the best hand. But if the turn or river brings a third suited card, be careful, your opponent could have made a flush.

4. When it’s heads up, and the pot is large, it’s better to err by calling with the worst hand, than by folding the winner.

5. Overcalling requires a hand strong enough to beat legitimate calling hands.


If you play hold’em correctly, you’ll have incorporated all of these tips into your game.

1. Play few hands from early position. You’ll throw lots of hands away, but you’ll be saving money.

2. Position is critical in hold’em. Certain hands that you would fold in early position can be raising hands in late position.

3. Fit or fold: If the flop does not help your hand, consider folding, regardless of how sweet it may have looked before the flop

4. Many of your opponents will play A-K as strongly as a pair of aces or kings, but it is not. A-K is a powerful drawing hand, but it usually needs help on the flop to win the pot.

5. Hold’em only looks like 7-card stud. In reality, it’s a is very different game due to the use of community cards, the positional aspect of the game, and the fact that on the flop you will see 71 percent of your hand for a single round of betting..


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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