How many times have you been dealt a AA, KK, QQ and called the bet or checked figuring you will limp in and build up the pot, only to lose when someone else beats you with a better hand. If anyone says it never happened to them…they are either lying or had Texas Holdem figured out from the start. This is a novice mistake and we will look into how to prevent this from happening. For this article, we will focus on no-limit Texas Holdem. Limit Texas Holdem relies more on odds and less on bluffing and strategy.
The worst thing you can do when you have a strong hand is call or check. The best thing to do is raise pre-flop. I usually will double or triple the minimum bet (depending on the maximum bet and my chips). You are probably thinking “Won’t everyone fold?” The answer to this is yes, some will. But if you want to win the pot, play the odds. The less the players, the better chance you have to win the pot. Chances are you will have 2 or 3 players that will stay in the game at this point. If someone re-raises you, this is where you need to read your opponents. If the opponent has a history of folding often, then they probably have a pretty strong hand. Keep a close eye on how this opponent plays the hand. If the opponent has a history of playing most hands, then you know this person can have anything in their hand. With an AA, KK or QQ, I would still probably call the opponents raise unless the raise is too large. At this point, you need to check your stack size to see how much it will hurt you if you lose.
After the flop, this is where you analyze your next bet. If you get a flop that doesn’t help you and probably doesn’t help your opponent (ie. 3c,6d,10h), you know your hand is still pretty strong, and I would match or increase my pre-flop bet. There is a chance your opponent has a 3 of a kind but this is where you need to know the history of your opponent. If the opponent is someone who folds often and matches or raises your bet, think before you bet. If you have a flop with suited or connected cards and one of your opponents either bets or raises, chances are they have or are going for a straight or flush. Read your opponents and if you feel the flop could help them and it didn’t help you, you may want to fold. Normally if the flop doesn’t help me, I will fold unless I have a strong set of pocket cards to work with. There are times I won’t fold if I get a bad flop, but this is where the art of bluffing comes in and will be discussed in a future article. If you get a 3 of kind with ace, king or queens…I would bet large! Normally people will fold and the pot is yours.
If someone is still in the game for the turn (4th community card), really pay attention to the community cards to see what your opponent can possible have. They may be bluffing you or have something legit. If it looks like they have a better hand, you may consider folding and cut you loses. Another novice mistake is staying in a game due to your investment in the pot.
I know a lot of people don’t recommend betting on the river (5th community card), but if I have a flush, ace high and there is no chance for a full house by an opponent, I will bet large here. This will either make the opponent(s) fold and let me steal the pot or increase the chips in the top. Be prepared if you do this, many players get upset and will send you a nasty chat message, don’t worry about it. Your only concern is winning the pot.
Being an aggressive player, your stacks will fluxuate more often. But if you read your opponents properly and only bet large with great pocket cards, you will win more then you will lose. A passive player will stay in the game for a long time, but their chips will slowly dwindle away. Once you get comfortable with this betting strategy, you can adjust it for other good cards – AK suited, AQ suited, AJ suited and other connected suited cards as they set you up for a straight or flush…both strong hands!