Beginner's Course in Texas Hold'em
should I do when I make my draw?
Hold'em novices automatically check a good flush from early
position, hoping to check-raise, thereby trapping their opponents
for an additional bet. Others always will bet.
These are two very different strategies. Which is correct?
rule on check-raising - Here's part one of the general
rule on check-raising: Do it when you believe that you will
have the best hand most of the time that you are called.
two of the general rule on check-raising states that you need
to be fairly certain that your opponent will bet if you check.
It's no fun to check a big hand only to have your opponents
check behind you, especially when you know that they would
have called if you had bet.
If you are not certain that you'll hold the best hand if you
are called, or you aren't sure that one of your opponents
will bet if you check, do not check-raise.
pair on the river - An enduring dilemma is what to do
when you're holding top pair against one or two opponents
and all of the cards are out. Now you have to decide whether
to check or bet, or if your opponent acts first, whether to
call, fold, or raise.
If you're observant, you will have noticed that some opponents
almost always will bet top pair on the river, unless there
is a strong threat of a flush or straight. Others seldom bet
one pair, even when the board is not threatening. Most, however,
fall somewhere in between. This is a judgment call. There
is no formula to help you determine the best course of action,
but there are some things that you can do to clarify your
that you are first to act and raise before the flop with A-K.
Two opponents call. You bet the flop and the turn. Now, the
board shows A-Q-4-7-9 of mixed suits.
of the cards are out, no one has folded, and it's your turn
to act. Should you bet or check?
beat any pair, but will lose to any two pair. Unless one of
your callers held a pair of nines and made a set on the river,
you probably can dismiss the notion that there is a set out
against you. If one of your opponents either flopped or turned
a set, he would have raised on the turn - when the betting
Your real concern, of course, is whether one of your opponents
holds two pair. If an opponent held A-Q, he probably would
have raised before the flop, called on the flop, and raised
your bet on the turn. An
opponent holding A-7, A-4, Q-4, or Q-7 probably would have
raised on the turn.
If your opponents would raise with any two pair and call with
lesser hands, such as A-8 or Q-J, you'll want to bet. If they
had made two pair on the turn, that's when they would have
raised. Except for the chance that they are holding A-9, Q-9,
9-7, or 9-4, your bet on the river will elicit a call, and
imagine the same scenario, but this time, your opponent is
first to act. If he bets, should you fold, call, or raise,
and if he checks, should you bet?
your opponent is very aggressive and tends to overplay weak
hands, you can raise if you suspect that he is betting a weaker
hand than yours. If he is a tight player, just call his bet.
If he is a real rock who seldom, if ever, bluffs, throw away
anything less than top pair with a very big kicker if he bets
on the river.
key, of course, is knowing your opponents and their tendencies.
Top pair on the river is a very common situation, and it is
critically important that you learn to play it well.
When the pot gets big - Pots sometimes grow to be quite
large, particularly when there has been a raise before the
flop. This can tie lots of players to the pot, and if the
flop provides a flush draw or straight draw to your opponents,
you can be certain that they'll be there to the end.
If the straight or flush cards fail to come, a bet usually
will eliminate any opponents who were drawing. Often, there
are only two or three opponents contesting a very large pot
on the river. You might be in there with second pair, or perhaps
top pair with a marginal kicker, and your opponent comes out
betting. You're holding a hand that you'd throw away if the
pot were small, but with all of that money in it, what should
you do? Suppose that you're playing in a $3-$6 Hold'em game
and the pot is $90 by the time you reach the river. If your
opponent bets, the pot now contains $96, and it's offering
you 16-to-1 on your money. If you call and are beaten, the
cost is only an additional $6. If you throw your hand away
and your opponent was bluffing, you made a $96 mistake.
The answer ought to be obvious. If you believe this to be
a situation in which your opponent would bluff more than one
time in 16, go ahead and call. Only if you are sure that your
opponent would never bluff can you comfortably throw your
You're always better off committing the small error of calling
with a losing hand than the catastrophic error of folding
a winner. In the situation cited above, even if your opponent
would bluff only one time in 10, you are far better off calling
If you were to call 10 times, you'd lose $6 on nine occasions,
for a loss of $54. On the 10th occasion, you'd win a $96 pot,
for a net profit of $42. If you divide that $42 profit by
each of the 10 times that you called, your decision to call
is worth $4.20 each time that you make it - regardless of
whether you win that particular pot.
you are second to act and think there's some chance that you
have the best hand, even if you don't consider yourself the
favorite, you might want to raise if your opponent comes out
betting. By doing this, you may get the third opponent to
lay down his hand. If your first opponent was betting a fairly
weak hand hoping that you might fold, he in turn now may fold
if he suspects that you're holding a powerhouse. A play such
as this also adds some deception to your game, but like all
deceptive plays, you have to use it sparingly.
Tips for Navigating the River
the river can be tricky. Follow this map and you'll avoid
the sandbars along the way.
Once the river card is exposed, your hand no longer has any
potential value. Its value has been realized.
Your decision to check or bet if no one has acted, or fold,
call, raise, or reraise if there has been action, can be based
only on your hand's realized value.
When you make two pair, it usually will be the best hand.
But if the turn or river brings a third suited card, be careful
- your opponent could have made a flush.
4 When it's heads up and the pot is large, it's better
to err by calling with the worst hand than by folding the
5 Overcalling requires a hand that is strong enough
to beat legitimate calling hands.
Tips for Winning Hold'em Play
you play Hold'em correctly, you'll have incorporated all of
these tips into your game.
Play few hands from early position. You'll throw lots of hands
away, but you'll be saving money.
2 Position is critical in Hold'em. Certain hands that
you would fold in early position can be raising hands in late
Fit or fold: If the flop does not help your hand, consider
folding, regardless of how sweet it may have looked before
4 Many of your opponents will play A-K as strongly
as a pair of aces or kings, but it is not. A-K is a powerful
drawing hand, but it usually needs help on the flop to win
5 Hold'em only looks like seven-card stud. In reality,
it's a very different game due to the use of community cards,
the positional aspect of the game, and the fact that on the
flop, you will see 71 percent of your hand for a single round
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