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Texas Holdem Startup Strategy

Learn To Master Your Poker Skills

"Any two will do."

Despite the fact you hear this a lot around Holdem tables, sometimes you have to take what you here with a grain of salt. Such is the case with this advice. It is not that its bad advice, as you can always play any set of hole cards and hope to get lucky with a flop or river card, but in most cases that is not a winning strategy. As you wind up playing too many hands. If you are out looking to have a fun time, then great. However if you are out looking to win, then you have to remember its a matter of quality versus quantity when you are sitting at the table.

By adopting a strategy as simple as playing better starting hands than the other players at the table from the beginning, will give you a much needed edge to victory in the outcome. Think of it like dating. If you are out looking to have a good time, then just about anybody else will do. However, when you are out searching for that special someone, life companion and spouse, suddenly things get a bit more selective to insure greater long term success. Well the same principle can and should be applied to Texas Holdem. To learn to score big in the long run, you simply have to be more selective with your first two cards. I simply cannot stress the importance this strategy is to winning at Texas Holdem. With that being said, let us move along.

Determining the best combination of hole cards to play in your starting hand is largely determined by your position at the table (early, middle or late positions). There are other factors at play here as well, whether you are playing against many or few players or even playing heads up. But in any case, knowing where you are positioned on the table, and the knowledge of how the other players are playing usually will lend itself greatly to knowing whether your starting hand is worth playing.

Keep in mind that the later position you start in the better; while the converse is true about the earlier your position. Later positions gives you the advantage of knowing how the players around the table are playing. As an earlier player, you are partially blinded to strategies of other players as you do not know what they will do after you have made your move. With that in mind, we are going to start by learning to play the hardest position first. If you can master play from the blinds then you can master play from any position. And for any player, its only a matter of time before you find yourself in this position, so its better to get it out of the way first and then move on to strategies in the easier positions.

Early Position

An early position is defined as the first four positions

(The lists below are designed to only serve as guides and as such do not rely on the list itself, but rather the game playing principles behind the lists. This is due to the complexities of Texas Holdem)

An early position is defined as the first four positions to the left of the deal (the first position being referred to as the blinds). With most of the players to play after you, playing from these positions is a bit like running in the dark . . . with scissors. From such a position, only the most powerful starting hands should be played.

Large Pairs:
AA KK QQ JJ 10s 9s 8s 7s

Suited Cards:
AK, AQ, AJ or A-10
KQ, KJ or K-10
QJ or Q-10
J-10 or J9

Unsuited Cards:
AK, AQ, AJ, A-10

In first position anytime presented with a pair of Aces, Kings, Queens or Jacks you should bet. If not in first position, you should raise any bets. Large pairs are best played at tables where there are few players. The idea of betting or raising is to attempt to cause later players to fold. Against too many players the possibility that someone will draw lucky cards and win, increases. Getting more players to back out early is very beneficial in these situations.

Drawing Hands:

You are not likely to win the pot with just a pair of Jacks or 10s. Your strategy should be to draw as many players in the hand as possible to increase the size of the pot. And then play toward a straight or a flush. A good example of a drawing hand is a suited K-10 combination.

Middle Position

iddle position is defined by players in the 5th, 6th and 7th positions

(The lists below are designed to only serve as guides and as such do not rely on the list itself, but rather the game playing principles behind the lists. This is due to the complexities of Texas Holdem)

Middle position is defined by players in the 5th, 6th and 7th positions. Things get a bit easier for players playing from these positions, but do not let down your guard or your awareness of others at the table. The late players have yet to make their move and the early players may still have a good hand or are drawing out for a flush. However the advantage to playing the middle as opposed to playing early is that now you can play small pairs. And in those situations, the more players you can draw into the pot the better. The best strategy is to shoot for a three of a kind as you have only an 8 to 1 chance against. Remember, the flop must suit hand or fold - unless it sets you up for a straight or a flush. Below are starting hands to add to the list above, but only if the bet has not yet been raised.

5s and 6s

Suited Cards:
A9, A8, A7, A6
Q9, Q8

Unsuited Cards:
QJ, Q-10

Late Position

The best seat in the house

(The lists below are designed to only serve as guides and as such do not rely on the list itself, but rather the game playing principles behind the lists. This is due to the complexities of Texas Holdem)

The best seat in the house. This is especially so if you are "on the button" or if you are the dealer. From here you get to see how everyone is playing and play accordingly. And as such, there is little wonder that these positions are highly coveted. Not that it is completely safe or a guaranteed winning position, as there is no such place at a poker table, against seasoned veterans of the game.

Using what you have learned from the above two positions, keep in mind that if someone raises or bets from either of the other two positions, then play only a very strong starting hand. If the players in early and middle positions are experienced players, then chances are that if they bet or raised, they have a good hand, and they should be handled accordingly. On an unraised pot, these card combinations can be added to your list of playable starting hands.

4s, 3s, 2s

Suited Cards:
A5, A4, A3, A2
K8, K7, K6, K5, K4, K3, K2
Q7,Q6, Q5, Q4
9-7, 9-6
8-7, 8-6

Unsuited Cards:
J9, J8
10-9, 10-8
9-8, 9-7

Simple Pointers

1. Only play strong hands from early position.

2. Loosen up a bit in middle position.

3. Play loose in late position. Play more drawing hands if the pot is unraised.

Hands like AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ like fewer opponents as too many players the increase the possibility that someone else will draw lucky cards and win.

Hands like J-10, 8-9, QJ, K-10, 7-9, 4-6 prefer lots of opponents as it is better to grow the size of the pot as large as possible before cleaning house with the straight or flush that such hands can build into.

Aces can be fickle. It is often better not to play an Ace with an off suited 6, 7, 8 or 9 as they tend to place you in a bad position getting flushes.

There are seven generally held Texas Holdem opening hand groupings depending upon some of the factors that I mentioned above. I have included them for the sake of completeness of this tutorial - they are listed them below. However do keep in mind several things while playing. No two hands are the same. Is it a tight or loose game? Is there a lot of raising before the flop, or are most players being wallflowers? And always remember that if you are a newbie to poker its good advice to start out playing only premium hands. As you gain experience, experiment with other starting hands and develop your own playing style.

Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK

Group 2:10-10, AQ, AJ, KQ, AK

Group 3:9-9, K-10, QJ, KJ, A-10, AQ

Group 4:A8, KQ, 8-8, Q-10, A-10, AJ, J-10

Group 5:7-7, Q9, KJ, QJ, J-10, A5, A4, A3, A2, J9, 10-9, K9, K-10, Q-10

Group 6:6-6, J8, 9-8, 10-8, 4-4 J9 4-3, 7-5, 10-9, 3-3, 9-8, 6-4, 2-2, K8, K7, K6, K5, K4, K3, K2, Q8, 5-5, 8-7, 9-7

Group 7:8-7, 5-3, A9, Q9, 7-6, 4-2, 3-2, 9-6, 8-5, J8, J7, 6-5, 5-4, 7-4, K9, 10-8, 7-6, 6-5, 5-4, 8-6


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