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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 4

Overcards - Should you play overcards or not? Many of your opponents will routinely call with overcards. Suppose that you call before the flop with K-J, you're up against three opponents, and the flop is 8-6-3 of mixed suits. What should you do if someone bets? Should you call, hoping that the next card off the deck is a king or jack - one of the six remaining cards in the deck that presumably will give you a winning hand? Or, are you better off folding, and waiting for a flop that fits your hand?

Making a good decision involves knowing your opponents and the hands that they are likely to play. Then, examine the flop. Is it the kind of flop that will tend to hit one or more players? Or, is it so ragged that it's unlikely that any of your opponents are holding cards that the flop would have paired? You also should be aware of how many opponents you're facing. The more opponents, the more likely the flop will hit at least one of them. If you're unsure what to do, err on the side of caution until you gain enough playing experience to feel comfortable in these situations.

Flopping a draw - When you flop a four-flush or a four-straight, you'll have to decide whether to continue with your draw. Here's how to make that decision. You'll need several opponents so that the size of the pot will offset the mathematical odds against completing your hand. How many opponents do you need? If you're facing three or more, it's worthwhile to draw. If you're holding two large cards, such as A-Q, you're probably favored against any lone opponent regardless of whether you make your hand. You also might win by pairing either of your cards on the turn or river. Sometimes, just two big cards will be sufficient to win in a showdown.

Multiway possibilities - You'll occasionally flop hands that offer a plethora of possibilities. Assume that you hold 8h 7h and the flop is 7c 6d 5h. You've flopped top pair, as well as a straight draw, and you have backdoor flush potential.

A hand with more than one way to win is stronger than any of its individual components. Your pair might win by itself. Your hand could improve to trips or two pair. You might make a straight on the turn or river, or a flush if the next two cards are both hearts.

Here's another example: You hold the Ac Jc and the flop is Ah 9c 4c. Chances are that you hold the best hand and are favored to win even if your hand does not improve. You also might get lucky and turn your good hand into a great one. A jack gives you two pair, an ace gives you three aces, and any club makes the nut flush.

With a hand this promising, you want action. Get more money into the pot by betting or raising. And if you think that one of your opponents is going to bet, you can try for a check-raise.

Six tips for winning play on the flop - Here are six tips that will help you play successfully on the flop:

1 If the flop doesn't fit your hand, most of the time you'll have to release it. The flop defines your hand.

2 When you flop a big hand, give your opponents an opportunity to make the second-best hand, but avoid giving them a free card that could beat you.

3 If you are new to Hold'em, err on the side of caution. It costs less.

4 When you have a hand with multiple possibilities, play it fast. It has value exceeding any of its component possibilities.

5 Be selective about the hands that you plan to play both before and after the flop, but be aggressive when you have a hand that warrants it.

6 If you flop a draw, stick with it as long as the pot promises a greater payoff than the odds against making your hand.

Playing the turn - Some poker pundits have suggested that the turn plays itself. While you can't play the turn on autopilot, you shouldn't get yourself into too much trouble unless you've already made the mistake of seeing the turn when you shouldn't have. If that's the case, you're probably throwing good money after bad.

Much of the time, you won't even see the turn. You'll have thrown away most of your hands before the flop, and released others once you saw that the flop didn't fit. If there's no logical reason to be in the pot by the turn, you should have folded. It's very easy to squander your bankroll one bet at a time. Poor players do just that, calling one more bet and then another. While calling any one bet might be insignificant by itself, collectively, it can break you.

If you've made it to the turn, you should be holding a good hand, a promising draw, or believe that your bluff can pick up the pot. What should you do when you improve? Your hand can improve on the turn in one of two ways. The first, and best, happens whenever the turn card helps your hand. But you'll also benefit if you had a good hand going in and the turn - while not helping your hand - does nothing to improve your opponent's, either.

If you have top two pair on the turn and an opponent bets, you usually should raise. If you are in late position and none of your opponents have acted, go ahead and bet. If you're in early position, check with the intention of raising if you are fairly certain that one of your opponents will bet. If you think that your opponents also might check, forget about trying to check-raise and come out betting.

If you have the best hand, betting gets more money into the pot and makes it expensive for anyone to draw out on you. But it's not a totally risk-free strategy. If your opponent has made a set or has turned a straight, you can count on being raised or reraised.

And when you don't? It's unfortunate, but true: Most of the time, the turn card will not help you. What's a player to do?

If you've got an open-end straight or flush draw, and you're up against two or more opponents, call any bet on the turn. However, if the board is paired, and there's a bet and a raise in front of you, be wary. You might be facing a full house. If you are, you're drawing dead.

You might be facing a set or two pair. Once again, knowing your opponents will help you determine what they might be holding. If you're up against someone who never raises a three-suited board unless he can beat that probable flush, release your hand.

If the turn didn't help and there is a bet in front of you, not only has the cost gone up, but the number of future betting rounds has decreased. You have less opportunity to punish your opponents if you make your hand.

Moreover, many of them probably will fold on the turn, too, leaving you with fewer opponents to punish, if indeed you were to get lucky on the river.

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