Texas Hold'em (or just "hold'em" for short) is currently the most popular variation of poker, thanks mainly to televised coverage of the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour, and various celebrity-based events. The no-limit version is often described as the "Cadillac of poker, taking only a minute to learn but a lifetime to master."
Each player is dealt two down (or hole) cards that only they can see. A round of betting occurs. Three community cards (known as the "flop") are dealt face up in the middle of the table. Another round of betting occurs. A fourth community card (known as the "turn") is dealt face up on the table. Another round of betting occurs. A fifth and final community card (known as the "river") is dealt face up on the table. A final round of better occurs. The player's hole cards are revealed and the player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. Your five card hand can consist of none, one, or both of your hole cards along with five, four, or three of the community cards. If two or more players share the same best hand, the pot is divided equally among the winners.
Poker hands are ranked in the order specified below, lowest to highest. Note that only card rank (deuce through ace) matter in poker when comparing individual cards. The suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades are all considered equal.
• Limit Hold'em: In Limit Hold'em, the amount you can bet or raise is fixed, according to the posted stakes. A bet placed before the turn card (4th community card) is dealt is known as a "small bet" and is fixed at the size of the big blind. A bet placed after the turn card is dealt is known as a "big bet" and is equal to twice the size of the big blind. In tournament play, these stakes are raised at set intervals, referred to as "levels". For example, in a 100/200 level, the "small bet" is 100 and the "big bet" is 200. This means that in the first two betting rounds (before and after the flop) you can bet or raise exactly 100 chips and in the last two betting rounds (before and after the river) you can bet or raise exactly 200 chips. In limit play, the betting is capped at three raises per round, unless two players are "heads-up" in the round.
• Pot Limit Hold'em: In Pot Limit Hold'em, there are no fixed stakes. Instead, you can bet or raise up to the amount currently in the pot. This includes bets in front of you plus your call. For example, if there are 100 chips in the pot and you are the first to act in the betting round, the maximum you can bet is 100 chips. But the next player could then call that 100 and raise an additional 300 chips.
• No Limit Hold'em: In No Limit Hold'em, you can bet all of your chips at any time (referred to as going "all-in").
In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the minimum bet or raise is equal to the big blind (see below). Once a player raises, the minimum reraise is equal to the last raise. The minimum resets to the big blind on the next round of betting.
In a home game, the players take turn dealing the cards, rotating clockwise. In casino and on-line play that use a dedicated dealer, a dealer button (or just the "button") is a white disk that is rotated clockwise among the players. The player that is "on the button" is the last to act in each betting round, after the flop.
In Texas Hold'em, there are forced bets called "blinds" made prior to the dealing of the hole cards. These blinds are similar to antes except they only involve two players and the bets do not immediately go into the pot. The player to the left of the button posts the "small blind" and the next player posts the "big blind". The small blind is typically half of the big blind and the big blind is the minimum bet or raise that can be made in this and all subsequent rounds. In Limit Hold'em the big blind is equal to the "small bet". In tournament play, the blinds are raised at set intervals, or levels. This keeps the action going and puts a definite end point on the game. Otherwise, players could just keep folding their hands and the game would go on for hours or days.
Once the two blinds are posted, the player to the left of the big blind is the "first to act" and has the option of folding, calling the big blind bet, or raising. Play continues around to the button. Then the player who posted the small blind has the option to call or raise the bets so far. And the same goes for the player who posted the big blind. If no one raised the big blind then that player has the option to "check" and the flop will be dealt. There are no more forced bets after the flop and first person to the left of the button (who hasn't yet folded) will be the first to act in subsequent betting rounds.
Preflop is the most straightforward part of Texas Hold’em poker as there are no community cards yet.
This makes the permutations significantly fewer compared to the other streets.
However, the preflop play is extremely important and there are still lots of mistakes many players make as the street is not nearly as simple as many believe.
In this article, we will discuss 4 of the most crucial preflop mistakes to avoid:
1) Over-relying on Pre-made Starting Hand Charts
You can find hundreds or even thousands of charts for preflop hands on the Internet. Most of them are similar and can be very useful to you, especially if you are a beginner in the poker world.
You will get the basic ideas and avoid costly mistakes until you learn to make decisions by yourself.
The problem is many players don’t actually reach that point.
They continue relying on charts instead of using their experience and knowledge to optimize their strategy.
Remember, the charts are just a decent solution for newbies who are incapable of working with ranges properly. As soon as you develop this skill, it’s time to move on and start being more precise.
2) Not Paying Enough Attention to Table Dynamics
This is another common issue that once again is born out of over-reliance on software. There are multiple tools to adjust your preflop strategy and lots of people are using them as an additional advantage.
However, poker is still a game of situations and taking maximum advantage of the table dynamics. There are lots of spots where we should adjust different ranges based on the opponents. Here are some examples where we could easily widen or tighten our range depending on the table dynamics:
– Let’s say you’re facing two nits at the positions right behind you and they almost always fold preflop. It seems like a great spot to open pretty much any two on the button and just steal the blinds;
– Another similar situation would be to have a huge fish around us. We wish to play more hands if unopened and isolate ourselves against the donk. This is especially true if we’re in position against him;
– This could apply to your 3-betting range as well. If a regular is isolating a fish, you can get more value by 3-betting more hands.
There are many other situations when you should adjust your ranges to the table dynamics and get additional value.
Not 3-betting Often Enough
Lots of players feel uncomfortable 3-betting preflop since it requires a larger investment and makes the pot big early.
This could be a bit scary and many people stick to top hands only which is a big mistake.
However, it can be very profitable with a broader range if done right. Timing is always crucial and you can put lots of pressure on your opponents and capitalize.
The two most typical cases when you can increase your 3-bet percentage are when you are defending the blinds and isolate fish on the table.
The former is among the most common mistakes as plenty of people don’t defend their blinds nearly as often as they should.
Reraising against aggressive players that are often stealing could improve your profits.
The current metagame is such that most regulars raise up to 50-60% of their hands from the button or the cut off. However, they are not really competent after the flop, especially on micro levels. That’s the reason you should not back down and call or raise on a regular basis.
The other common situation is when there is some bad player at the table that is playing a loose weak style. Such guys limp and call lots of raises pre and are great to play HU postflop. Try to isolate them with 3-bets to get the best value.
Not Utilizing Software
Back in the day, it took long hours of analysis to find where your good and bad spots are.
Today, this can be done with few simple filters that will show you in no time at all.
You can easily find out what’s your play by position and hand. Use this advantage, find your mistakes and adjust your game.
If you are a beginner, you most probably make all of these mistakes.
Even an advanced player would probably find a leak or two that can be fixed. Try to get the best out of your reads on the table and the software available and you will see your profits rise significantly.
“Wow you got your money in great there, nice suck out fish!”
Ever hear this or similar tirades from a player who looks like his head is going to explode?
Don’t be that guy; it will hurt your image and your wallet. Here are some ways in which the comment above can have devastating consequences on your winnings at the poker table.
1. The “Fish” Leaves
That’s right. Dinner just swam away. Criticizing your opponent for their bad play made them so uncomfortable that they left the table leaving you with less potential chips to earn from a bad player.
Many recreational poker players expect to lose money when they come to the poker table to enjoy themselves. They think of poker as ‘gambling’ and hope to win not through skill but rather by getting lucky. But you, Mr. Negative just ruined the experience for them and now they have left the table. No matter how bad their play was, your play of opening your big mouth, was worse.
2. The “Fish” Leaves and Now you are the Fish.
Has it ever occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t as good at this game as you think? For 99% of poker players (yes even the self-proclaimed professionals) this is true. Poker is not about being the best, it is about playing against opponents who are worse than you.
When you berate an opponent for his or her bad play and that player leaves, you suffer the primary consequence of losing that player and the secondary consequence of potentially making yourself the new “bad player” at the table. When a skilled player notices someone react emotionally after losing a big hand, they are more likely to target that player as they may not be thinking clearly. Don’t paint a target on your back by losing the table fish.
3. Don’t Give out Free Tools
Meet old man Sam who walks into MGM Casino in Las Vegas and sits next to you. Sam is a special player because he only plays pocket AA. So Sam sits in his chair very quietly for two hours until you raise AK for $10 and Sam immediately sticks in his entire chip stack for $180. Everyone else folds and the action is back on you. You chuckle, show Sam your hole cards and fold. When Sam asks you why you folded, you make a comment about how bad Sam plays and that you know he has AA.
A week later Sam sits down to your left again only this time, he is playing about 15% of his hands, and making reasonable sized raises. You aren’t sure if Sam is raising with AA or 22 and now he is much more difficult to play against. When you ask Sam why he changed his strategy he tells you, “Well you said I was a bad player, so I got myself some coaching so I can start taking your money.”
Are you still sitting there chuckling?
4. Soft Playing your Friends
“Wanna check it down?”
When I see two players repeatedly playing soft against each other at the table it makes me wonder if there could be collusion at the table. What does that mean? Think about it this way. If Suzy is in a hand with you and your friend Al and Al bets half pot, Suzy folds, and you call, then proceed to check the rest of the hand down, how is Suzy going to feel when she figures out Al was bluffing and you had a draw? She’s going to feel cheated! If you are going to play with your friends at the table, then make it fun for everyone. Play the same way against your buddy as you would against Suzy.
5. Blaming the Dealer
“You just had to put the ace out there didn’t you?” A menacing regular glowers at the dealer with gritted teeth before finally throwing his hole cards at her face and paying his opponent $100.
I saved the worst for last. Dealers are low wage employees of the casinos relying heavily on their tips to make a decent living. They do not influence card distribution or have any control over Flops, Turns and/or Rivers; so verbally abusing them isn’t just mean it is completely illogical. By creating a negative playing environment you can expect to slow down the game, upset the dealer and possibly be barred from the casino. All these outcomes can have a negative expectation on the dollar amount you can expect to win in a given session.
The take away message here is to always try and carry yourself well at the poker table. If you aren’t sure what to say, less is more