Basic Holdem Strategy – Playing The Cards

“They” (whoever they are) say that poker is 70% luck and only 30% skill. Having said that, describing Texas Holdem Strategy can come across as dictating rules to winning the game. However, nothing can be farther from the truth. Strategies are guidelines to what works best in most typcial situations. A poker game, of course, with multiple individuals, each with their own personalities, and all with the same singular desire to win, is many things – but rarely a typical situation. Therefore, take these guidelines not as hard and fast rules, but as insider information as to what is most commonly considered wise gameplay.

At best, these strategies will make you a contender in any game, regardless of your experience level and that of your competitors and can hopefully get you started learning how to develop your own less rigid and structured style of play. At worst, you’ll be able to identify the tricks and techniques that your (allegedly) poker-savvy opponents are attempting to use on you. Either way, learning basic Texas Holdem strategy is a win-win situation.

Starting Hands

In Texas Holdem, your two hole cards are the only ones that make your hand distinct from your opponents’ which makes them one of the (though not the sole) most important factor in determining how (and whether) you should play the hand. There are precisely 169 starting hands possible. At least half of these are considered totally unplayable (unless, of course, you go into the hand planning to bluff, in which case, any hand is playable).

Widely considered the best starting hand is A-K suited, though some will argue that a Pair of Pocket Aces is even better. The arguments for each are strong, making it worth considering both of these starting hands as “the best”. That said, many playes, professional and otherwise, proclaim other hands than these two as their favorites to start with.

Extrapolating from there, a player serious about winning might seriously consider folding out of a hand should their hole cards feel to be a Pair or a Suited Connecter (two numerically consecutive cards – or pictorially, ie. J, Q, K – of the same suit).

If you start with a Pair (of anything) and don’t pull “Trips” (or 3-of-a-Kind) on the Flop, then at that point you might want to consider folding. If you start with a suited connector and don’t pull 2 more cards towards a straight or a flush after the flop,, your fantastic starting hand is suddenly not so fantastic.

Another worthwhile starting hand is Royalty (J,Q, or K) with a Suited Kicker. The kicker is the card in your hand that does not help make your actual hand. A novice may consider this a throwaway card, but it’s much more valuable than that. In the case of a tie, it is this card that determines the winner. Therefore, the higher your kicker, the better your hand (which is also why many players prefer high suited connectors as a starting hand rather than a pocket pair – as with a pair you have no kicker other than the highest shared card on the table, but if you have a high suited connector, you could still conceivable pull a high pair and have the remaining card as a killer kicker). That said, being dealt a J,Q, or K and an unsuited kicker is also a decent (though not great) starting hand.

Check back tomorrow to read part 2 of this basic hold’em strategy.

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