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A Beginner's Course in Texas Hold'em

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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A Beginner's Course in Texas Hold'em
Part 3

You've been raised -- If the pot has been raised before it is your turn to act, you must tighten up significantly on the hands that you play. Savvy players might raise with almost anything in late position if no one except the blinds are in the pot, but if a player raises from early position, give him credit for a good hand and throw away all but the very strongest of hands.

Remember that you need a stronger hand to call a raise than to initiate one. After all, if you raise, your opponents might fold, allowing you to win the blinds by default. If you call a raise, you have to give your opponent credit for having a strong hand, and you should call only if you believe that your hand is even stronger.

When someone's raised after you've called -- When an opponent raises after you've called, you essentially are committed to calling his raise, seeing the flop, and then deciding on the best course of action.

But when you call only to find yourself raised and raised by a third opponent, you should throw away your hand unless it is extremely strong.

Suppose that you called with a hand such as 10h 9h. Just because this hand may be playable in a tame game doesn't mean that you must play it. The ideal way to play speculative hands such as this is from late position, with a large number of opponents, and in a pot that has not been raised. This is when a hand such as this is worth a shot. After all, you always can throw it away whenever the flop is unfavorable.

When should you raise? Hold'em is a game that requires aggressive play as well as selectivity. You can't win in the long run by passively calling. You've also got to initiate your share of raises, and here are some raising hands.

You always can raise with a pair of aces, kings, queens, jacks, or tens. In fact, if someone has raised before it's your turn to act and you have a pair of aces, kings, or queens in your hand, go ahead and reraise. You've probably got the best hand anyway. Reraising protects your hand by thinning the field, thus minimizing the chances of anyone getting lucky on the flop.

You also can raise if you're holding a suited ace with a king, queen, or jack, or a suited king with a queen. If your cards are unsuited, you can raise if you're holding an ace with a king or queen, or a king with a queen.

If you are in late position and no one has called the blinds, you can raise with any pair, an ace with any kicker, and a king with a queen, jack, 10, or 9. When you raise in this situation, you're really hoping that the blinds - which are, after all, random hands - will fold. But even if they play, your ace or king is likely to be the best hand if no one improves.

Playing the flop -- Defining moments are crystallized instants in time, forever frozen in memory, imprinted into consciousness, never to be forgotten. Like Armstrong walking on the moon, and the first home run you hit in Little League, these magical moments shape the way that you perceive and value the world around you.

Hold'em also has its defining moment, and it's the flop. Unlike seven-card stud, in which cards that follow your initial holding are parceled out one by one with rounds of betting interspersed, when you see the flop in Hold'em, you're looking at five-sevenths of your hand. That's 71 percent of your hand, and the cost is only a single round of betting.

The implications of this should be abundantly clear: If the flop does not fit your hand, be done with it. Playing long-shot holdings after the flop is a sure way to lose money. After the flop, the relationship between the betting and the cards to come is reversed. Now, you're looking at spending 83 percent of the potential cost of a hand for the remaining 29 percent of the cards!

Fit or fold -- That's the concept. Fit can take one of three forms: The flop fits because it improves your hand; it offers a draw that figures to pay off handsomely if you hit it; or you hold a big pair before the flop.

If you don't improve to a big hand or a draw with a nice potential payoff, get out -- and do it now.

Flops that you're going to love -- While you're not going to like the flop most of the time, there are those rare instances when it fits like a custom-made suit. When you're lucky enough to flop a straight flush, four of a kind, a full house, or the nut flush, your major worry is not whether you'll win, but how much money you can extract from your opponents.

Your first order of business is examining the texture of the flop. Based on the betting pattern prior to the flop, try to determine whether one or more of your opponents has made a hand or has a draw to a hand that would be second best to yours.

Go to Part 4

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