Let's Play Some Texas Hold'em
It's important to note that only 20 percent of all online and offline poker players will be winners 80 percent of the time. Therefore, you should only be playing in about 20 percent of the hands dealt. The tighter you play, the less you will lose and the better it will be for your long-term profits and for maintaining a healthy bankroll.
Take a look at the following examples of hands and think about what you would do when faced with the same cards and situations.
When you are in late position, and a few players left in the hand have checked the river, you might want to make a run at the pot by betting. But be very sure there are no possible straights or flushes on the board, and that the board has not paired, before you make that move.
Premium Starting Hands and How to Play Them Pre-Flop
When you only see 20 percent of the flops, you will find that you are playing very tight, and usually with only premium starting hands. Take a look at a few premium starting hands and see how they should be played pre-flop:
A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-Ks should always be raised before the flop no matter what your seat position.
10-10, A-K, A-Qs, A-Js, and K-Qs should always call any pre-flop bets.
A-Q, 9-9, A-10s, K-Js, Q-Js, K-10s, 8-8, A-J, K-Q, Q-10s, A-9s, J-Ts, A-8s, K-J, 7-7, Q-J, K-10, Q-10, J-10, A-7s, K-9s, Q-9s, 10-9s, and J-9s should be played only in a late position with strongly exercised judgment that can be made after watching the action around the table.
You are dealt an As-7s. The flop is Ad-7h-8s. How would you play your cards? You have flopped two pair, but not the nut two pair if someone else is holding the A-8. Or worse, what if someone holds a set of Aces, Sevens, or Eights?
It is worth a bet here, maybe even a raise, depending on how well you know your opponents, to see what the other players are holding and, hopefully, to eliminate any drawing hands. Obviously you are going for the full house and hoping that another Ace or Seven will appear on the turn or river.
If everyone has been a calling station, it is worth a bet on the river with your two pair, in the hope that your opponents are playing a pair of Aces with a high kicker. A calling station is a player who usually calls the bet but will rarely raise a hand. When she does raise, you will need to reassess the value of your hand before calling her raise. However, if you've been dealt a 7-3 in the blind and a 7-J-J hits the flop, your two pair are probably no good. So if everyone checks, you check too, because the odds of one of your opponents sandbagging a Jack in this situation are very good. And if you do see a bet, don't even think about it, just fold.
What is the difference between set, trips, and three of a kind?
Trips is a slang term for three of a kind, also known as triplets. And a set is a term used to describe trips. However, rolled-up, which also means three cards of the same rank, is strictly a Seven-Card Stud term for being dealt three starting cards of the same rank.
If your trips, also known as a set, are concealed — meaning that you hold a pair in your hand, with the third same-ranked card on the flop — you are in good shape, especially if your set is the highest ranked card on the board.
Let's say you are holding a Jd-Js. The flop is Jh-9c-6c. You would want to come out betting, raising, or re-raising to weak out and not give anyone a chance of making a straight or flush unless he pays for it. However, if you're holding a Qh-Js and the flop is Jd-Jc-9h, bet with caution; if someone holds pocket 9-9 or, even worse, J-9, you are dead in the water unless your Q appears on the turn or the river.
But no matter what, you will usually see either one of these three-of-a-kind hands all the way to the river, then decide whether you think you're the one holding the winning hand based on your keen observation and note-taking skills. If you feel there's a possibility you can be beat, especially if you have not filled up or have the lowest full house, you might want to consider checking the river to prevent getting caught up in a check-raise situation.
Ideally, you want to hold high connectors in the hole and flop the three cards that make your nut straight. At the very least you hope to catch a straight on the turn. This is especially true if the flop is flushy and you are not holding any cards of that suit.
A straight is any five sequential cards of mixed suits, such as Qs-Jh-10h-9d-8c. You can flop a straight, turn a straight, or catch your straight on the river. An Ace-high straight is the highest straight you can make.
For example, you are holding a Jd-10h and the flop is Qs-9s-2s. You hold no spades, so, depending on the action before and after, you may want to rethink getting overly excited about your hand, as there are too many ways to get beat. However, it's worth a raise on the flop when the betting structure is still cheaper, in an attempt to weed out all other calling hands. You may not be able to lose any opponents holding a set, two pair, or the hand that holds that lone suited nut Ace, but at least you're building the pot for someone. Hopefully, for you!
Also, any flop that does not contain a pair can make a straight on the turn card, with the exception of the K-8-3, K-8-2, K-7-2, and Q-7-2 flops. It's also important to make the best possible straight, the nut straight, because the second highest straight does nothing to improve your bankroll.
If you flop four cards to the nut straight, you should bet, raise, or even re-raise, because you want to knock out the calling hand of as many opponents as possible. Hopefully, the straight that you are looking to make is open-ended, so that you'll have more outs (cards that can make your hand) than if it's a gut-shot straight, which is when you need one of the cards in the center of the straight to make your hand.
When you have the idiot straight, you are holding the lowest straight on the board, even worse than having the second nut straight. If there are any bets or raises, you should fold this hand unless you're confident your opponents hold nothing higher.
Ideally, you want to hold a suited Ace with any other card in the deck. Of course, if you are looking for a straight flush or royal flush drawing potential, you will need either paint or a suited 2-3-4-5 along with your Ace to make either of these hands.
Flushes are played like straights, but with one major exception. Only thirteen cards per suit are in a deck of fifty-two cards, so if you are hoping to catch spades and you're already holding two spades in your hand, you only have eleven possible ways of making your hand, and at least three of them must hit a board that you cannot afford to see pair. How many opponents are in the hand and what cards have been mucked will determine the likelihood of your getting the spades you need.
For example, you hold an Ad-10d and the flop is Jd-9d-3s. You're sitting on the nut flush draw, so you may want to consider a bet or a raise to thin out the field. This is called betting on the come, and at this point it's a good play, because you also want to build the pot in the hope that it will be pushed to you at the river.
Playing Full Houses
A full house usually starts with a set, or two pair, on the flop, and it's the type of hand that is almost always played to the river. Because there can be more than one full house on the board, not to mention a four of a kind, always be sure that the cards you are holding, plus the community board cards, give you the best possible full house, or you may find yourself paying off the real winner on the river.
Consider that your hole cards are K-K and the flop is A-A-K. Don't get too excited, because if several other players also called all the pre-flop raises, there's a good chance that one of your opponents is playing A-K and holds the best possible full house.
Poker is a game of skill, luck, odds, and patience, and the odds of catching four of a kind on the turn or on the river are a major-league long shot. You'll most often fill up with, hopefully, the highest possible full house.
The A-K hand in this situation has just gotten a fantasy flop, because the chances of it being beaten on the river are slim to none. However, that's not to say that someone who is holding, say, a pocket 8-8 and has hung in there calling all the raises doesn't get really lucky and catch an 8 on the turn, and then miraculously catches the case 8 on the river, and gives the long-shot hand a four of a kind.
Playing Four of a Kind
This is another one of those situations that all poker players dream of, especially when there's a lot of action and you know you can't be beat. Ideally you would want this to be concealed and not flopped outright if you hope to get any action. This is especially true when you're holding A-A and you're a made tight player.
If I flop four of a kind, when should I bet?
Never bet the limit until the river. In a case such as this, you want to give your opponents as much time to catch up as possible. Then, on the river, you hope your opponents make their hands and are now in a position to not only call your bet, but also raise you, thus enabling you to re-raise them.
By flopping an Ad-10s-Ks with Ah-Ac in your hand, check to see where the drawing hands are. Realize that someone could already have a made straight, and expect to see some action on a flop such as this one. However, if there is any action on a flop that contains A-Ax, especially if there are a lot of raises before the flop, you'll be lucky to see any called bets on the flop, let alone the river. This is why it's important to check on the flop to allow your opponents a chance to draw out their full houses.
Playing Straight Flushes and Royal Flushes
Straight flushes and royal flushes are the ultimate fantasy poker hands. They play themselves. You just check and call, and hope that everyone goes all the way to the river with you, where you can raise if you feel you won't lose any callers who have yet to act.