The subject of this article is basic Texas Holdem strategy; the common sense guidelines to smart poker that you’d better know well, because your opponents sure do, and they’re using it against you right now. Here we go!
Forget about what you see on TV. In real Texas Holdem you will be folding more often than anything else. And if you’re not, then you’re probably playing too frivolously. Texas Holdem is about seizing opportunities, not barnstorming through every hand. If you stay in to the Showdown on more hands than you fold, we wager that your time as a Texas Holdem player will be brief.
Overzealous poker neophytes will often fold out of a hand they could just as well have stayed in, if only they’d waited to see if everyone checked before them. Often everyone will check in a hand, and then you — having folded instead because you thought your hand unsalvageable — missed out on a chance to see your next card for free. Oops. If you’re the first to bet and you want to fold, check instead (unless you plan to bluff and then, may the force be with you). Worst case scenario, someone bets after you and then you fold after all. Big deal.
This is when you have the best possible Texas Holdem hand that can be had at the table at that given moment in time. If you’re not sure whether you have the nuts or not, you probably don’t. And if the River hasn’t been dealt yet, the subsequent card or cards in the deal could totally alter what The Nuts becomes.
A passive strategy, whereby you, holding a winning hand, feign weakness to keep more players contributing to the pot. If, after pulling off a slow play to the end, you still believe you have the winning hand, you may want to go all in on the River.
A deceptive strategy whereby you, holding a strong Texas Holdem hand, initially feign weakness by checking the right to bet to the next players; then, when a player does bet and your turn comes around again, you don’t just call the bet, but your raise it (and usually raise it big). With this strategy, even if all players fold at that moment, you still get the chips they threw in after you checked.
Keep Your Emotions at the Door
They will kill you at the Texas Holdem table. You must keep your wits about you, and if you can’t — as will sometimes be the case — get out of the game and get out while you still can.
Change It Up
Whatever your personal favorite strategies, to be truly successful at Texas Holdem, you must mix up your game. Don’t let yourself fall into a rut, and by all means, do not become predictable — it is Texas Holdem’s kiss of death. Keep your opponents guessing, or suffer the consequences.
Consider where you’re sitting in the sequence of betting for each hand. Your strategy must change depending on whether you’re betting first, last, or somewhere in the middle.
Texas Holdem players are either predators or prey. And if it’s often very difficult to tell one from the other. So proceed with caution, and when you smell fear, pounce!
There is one way, and one way only, to play Texas Holdem when you are the chip leader: as a Bully. When you have the most chips, it is your prime opportunity to wipe out as many players from the game as you can. All of them. That is your best chance to win.