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Clay's Guide to Poker Domination

Since we are all, ahem,  novice players here is a compilation of good stuff from the web.

No-Limit Texas Hold'em Common Mistakes

  1. Not releasing a decent hand when beat, thus losing the whole stack on one hand.
  2. Calling with weak holdings when facing a bet.
  3. Playing too many starting hands.
  4. Not raising pre-flop with premium hands (putting pressure on limpers holding drawing hands) and then going too far with them after the flop.
  5. Over/under betting the pot (risking a lot to win small/not protecting hand).

Basic Pre-flop Strategy

  1. Most of the time you should raise/re-raise with top-pairs (AA-QQ) and top connectors (AK, AQs) in order to make low-pairs and various connectors pay to see flops against you. Remember, they will often have the opportunity to double up on you if they hit (although many beginners do not realize this and fold too often pre-flop).
  2. Stick to the premium hands. You will pay dearly to "chase" with second-best hands in NL.
  3. Keep most raises down to between 70% and 100% (making it 3 times the big blind to go typically equals an 80% pot bet) in order to save money when you get re-raised or called by stronger holdings. If there are limpers in front of you, raise to about 4-6 times the big blind.
  4. Have respect for strong tight players (for example, you should drop AQ if a strong player raises under the gun).
  5. When very weak players have entered the pot, be inclined to call and take flops with them.



BIG POCKET PAIRS, A-A through J-J. You're probably going to play these hands no matter what, even though there are times when you should throw them away, especially pocket jacks, but I don't expect a saint's patience from you, so there you go. But here's the thing about your big pocket pairs in poker: they play best against few opponents. That's because their high card strength is their primary asset. If your pocket kings encounters a flop like 9-8-7, it's probably still the best hand, but the more foes it faces, the higher the chance that someone is sitting on a straight draw and getting the right odds to go for it. So if you have big pocket pairs, would you please do me one little favor and raise? Raise! Drive out the ribbon clerks. This is imperative.

Don't get cute and try to trap. You're not that cute, and the baby rabbit with his foot in the trap is most likely to be you.

MEDIUM POCKET PAIRS lose a lot of potential to win without help because they're so easily dominated by the flop. Your dogballs (8-8) look like happy warriors preflop, but when the flop comes A-K-T, you have to figure you're beat. What, then, to do with middle pairs? Fold before the flop? Oh, I wish you would, just for the discipline you'd demonstrate. Failing that, treat your medium pocket pairs as the drawing hands they are. They're really not going anywhere for you unless you hit a set on the flop, and that proposition, in Texas Hold'em, is 7.5-1 against. So try to sneak in late in an unraised pot with lots of callers, recognizing that your post-flop strategy is fit or fold: Either you'll get help from the flop or you'll get gone.

Yes, there are times when you'll raise with middle pairs in an attempt to isolate against the A-Ks and A-Js of this world. Just don't try to force the issue by overplaying your middle pairs in early or middle position. You're inviting too much loving attention from all the overcards (or, zounds, overpairs!) behind you.

LITTLE POCKET PAIRS are a great, chip-sucking vacuum. We look at them and our eyes go glassy. We do some rudimentary math and realize that we're better than even money against any unpaired hand. Against any single unpaired hand, yes, but not against even one more than one. (You want math? Oh, I got math. Against Ad-Kc and Qh-Jc , your frisky 4h-4c will lose 70% of the time! Sobering, ain't it, Bunky?) Little pairs, even more than medium pairs, then, demand large, soft fields and unraised pots. Don't even think about playing them in early position, because you won't know if you're going to get the soft field and unraised pot you need. Limp late into large fields or chuck 'em in the muck.

Sure, sure, sure, every now and then you'll flop a set - and confirmation bias will tell you that it happens much more often than not. But the bottom line is that little pairs are little poison, a disastrous leak in most people's play. If you're paying any attention at all to the notion of starting requirements, pay attention to this: Most players can't get away from any little pair. If you can, you'll be so far ahead of them they'll never catch up.



·                     With BIG PAIRS, raise to isolate.

·                     With MEDIUM PAIRS, limp late into large fields.

·                     With SMALL PAIRS, look for an excuse to fold.


GOOD ACES. Good aces are position dependent. An A-T is not a good ace in early position. You probably need to hit the flop twice (with two aces, two tens, or an ace and a ten) to feel confident, and you just can't count on that. The same A-T may be considered a good ace in late position. Thus, give yourself a sliding scale. A-K is always a good ace, A-Q likes a little position, A-J likes a little more position and so on. A-T is a bad "good ace." I wouldn't get all that worked up about it.

Don't get all drippy about suited big aces, either, because they're not much stronger than unsuited big aces. In general they add about 3% of value. 3%! That's less than I tip! And yet you'll encounter players who consider big suited aces to be magically endowed. Don't fall into that trap. Here's a useful rule of thumb:

If you wouldn't play an unsuited ace in a certain situation, don't play a suited one either.

MEDIOCRE ACES. I call them mediocre aces on purpose because I want you to think of these cards (A-9, A-8, A-7) with abiding disdain. They're not good hands, and you shouldn't treat them as such, even if everyone else at the poker table has other ideas. In fact, the more excited your foes are about aces, the less enthusiastic you should get about your middling ones. If everyone plays any ace (in a game that's said to be below the anyace line) then there's no way someone makes a sensible laydown with an out-of-position A-T or A-J. Your promiscuously played A-9 or A-8 will end up being dominated and crushed.

Sure, you'll hold dominance over the nitwits playing baby aces, but you'll only be able to exploit that dominance if you know your opponents very well and can put them on worse aces than your own. And look at the bind that gets you into! If the flop comes A-big-big, you're heading for a split pot situation, but if it comes A-little-little, you could be staring down the barrel of a flopped two-pair.

Again I would repeat: The hand you don't play is the hand you can't lose. With your mediocre aces, you should either be staying out of trouble or raising with intent to clear the field and capture the blinds either before or after the flop. At this point, you're playing the naked strength of your ace. You're looking either for folds all around or for calls from hands like K-J or 7-8, followed by a ragged flop you can bet. But that's running a bluff, not betting a strong ace.

BAD ACES. Like any other hand containing a little card, bad aces are contaminated by little poison. I can see no rational reason for playing A-6, A-5, A-4, A-3 or A-2, even suited, except in unraised blinds. Especially in the aforementioned anyace games (the kind you're likely to encounter at the low limits you now play) any little ace you play is likely to be dominated and crushed by the slightly less cheesy aces your opponents opt to play. They can't stay out of trouble. Can you?

Talking points:

·         Good aces are position-dependent. The later the ace, the better it is.

·         Mediocre aces are trouble hands. Only play them if you're in late position with excellent reads.

·         Bad aces are bad hands. For your profit and your peace of mind, learn to muck bad aces.


WHEELHOUSE HANDS. In my nomenclature, wheelhouse cards are cards between ten and ace-in most players' wheelhouse, so to speak. A wheelhouse hand, then, is one containing two unpaired, unaced cards: K-Q, K-J, K-T, Q-J, and Q-T. Those are some pretty hands, right? Erk. Well, maybe.

K-Q probably gets more players into more trouble than any other hand in the history of Texas Hold'em. It flops a top pair, good kicker, only to get crushed by top pair, ace kicker. Remember, most people will play K-Q, but virtually everyone plays A-K and A-Q, so if you get heat in this situation, it's probably from a better hand.

This whole class of hands, though, represents a slippery poker slope. If you can convince yourself that K-Q is playable, how much argument could K-J require? And if K-J is good, what could possibly be wrong with Q-J? Q-T? Before you know it, you're considering any wheelhouse hand to be playable, even for raises.

Again, in all of this I don't put much more value on suited hands than unsuited ones. All "suited" seems to do is beguile the mind, and make us think that our hands are much, much stronger than they are. Remember my rule of thumb: If you wouldn't play it unsuited, don't play it suited either. Speaking of suited...

MIDDLE SUITED CONNECTORS. These hands have value in one particular way: If everyone else is playing wheelhouse hands, and you play something like 9-8 suited, the hand that hits you is unlikely to hit anybody else. So I say, yeah, go ahead and play your middle suited connectors, with the following big caveats:

·                     If there are raises in front of you, don't call, not ever. Respect the declared strength of those hands, and recognize that they're likely to bet again after the flop.

·                     If you're in late position with many callers, just call. You want to play this holding like the drawing hand it is.

·                     If you're in middle to late position and no one has entered the pot... raise! Yes, it's a substandard hand, but you're raising for deception here, and if you hit your hand, you'll get paid off well.

·                     If you miss the flop, you're done with it. Don't chase.

This last point is crucial. If you can't get away from suited connectors (or any hand) on the flop, you shouldn't play them in the first place. We are our own worst enemy sometimes, and never is this more evident than when we chase, chase, chase with little or no piece of the flop.

Okay, other Texas Hold'em hands.

LITTLE SUITED CONNECTORS. Little poison. Don't play.

UP-DOWNS. An up-down is something like K-6 or Q-5 or J-7. Don't play 'em.

UP-DOWN SUITEDS. Don't play 'em either.

GAPPED HANDS. T-8, 9-7, 8-6, etc. These forlorn ragamuffins are looking to hit the flop twice for two pair, trips or an open-ended straight draw. It's delusional madness. Don't play.

UGGOS. An uggo is an ugly hand with absolutely nothing going for it. 8-3, T-2, 9-4. Don't play. Not ever. I mean, seriously, get real.

Here's the deal with starting requirements: Either you have them or you don't, and either you respect them or you don't. There are plenty of players out there content to play any hand they hold. "Any two will do," they believe, and God love them for their cherished beliefs. Over time, they'll give you all their money... so long as you don't sink to their level.

Every poker hand is a horse race, you know. If every race were equal, everyone would win the same amount over time. But the races aren't equal - not when you have the choice of racing or not racing. When you enter the pot with good cards, it's like starting with a big head start. When you go in with bad cards, it's like starting with a big, fat handicap.

Having - and sticking to - a starting requirements strategy, ensures that you usually start with the lead. Either a big lead, as with big pocket pairs, or a small lead, as with A-big. Start with a hand like 7-6, though, and you're back, back, back in the pack. Yeah, you might win, but you inevitably have some catching up to do, and most of the time you'll finish exactly where you start: behind.

How about skipping that part? If you're not the favorite, scratch yourself from the race! There'll be another one along in a minute.


Winning Tips on Texas Hold’em by Bill Burton

Before the Flop:
Starting Hands:
Position, Patience and Power are the key to winning in Texas Hold’em. The most important decision you will make is choosing to play a starting hand. The biggest mistake a player makes is playing too many hands. Being aware of your Position in relationhip to the dealer is important in Texas Hold’em. You need a stronger hand to act from early position because you have more players acting after you who may raise or re-raise the pot. It is important that you are Patient and wait for Powerful starting hands to play from the correct position.

The player to the left of the big blind acts first before the flop. He along with the other two players to his left are in early position. The next three players are middle position and the ones after that are in late position. The blinds act last before the flop and first after it. Here are some guidelines for stating hands that I recommend you play when you are starting out. They are fairly tight but will give you a good foundation to work with until you learn a little more about the game.

In Early position
Raise with A-A, K-K and A-Ks from any position. (s denotes suited cards) Call with A-K, A-Qs, K-Qs and Q-Q J-J, T-T and fold everything else.

In Middle position
Call with, 9-9, 8-8, A-Js, A-Ts, Q-Js, A-Q, K-Q

In Late position
Call with A-Xs, K-Ts, Q-Ts, J-Ts, A-J, A-T and small pairs. (note x denotes any card) It takes a stronger hand to call a raise than it does to make with one, If there is a raise before it is your turn to act you should fold. Why put in two bets with marginal hands?

Many players will play any two suited cards from any position and they will play an Ace with any small kicker. These hands are losers in the long run and you should avoid getting into the habit of playing them. They are traps that will cost you money.

The Blinds
Once you post your blind the money no longer belongs to you. Many players feel they must defend their blinds by calling all raises even with marginal hands. Don’t waste additional money on marginal hands. Also, don’t automatically call with the small blind if you have nothing. Saving a half bet will pay for your next small blind.

The Flop
Deciding whether to continue playing after seeing the flop will be your second biggest decision. It can also be one of the most costly decisions if you continue after the flop with an inferior hand. It is said that the flop defines your hand. That is because after the flop your hand will be 71 percent complete. Where does this figure come from? Assuming you play your hand out to the end, it will consist of seven cards. After the flop you have seen five cards or 5/7 of the final hand, which is equal to 71 percent. With this much of your hand completed you should have enough information to determine whether to continue. Poker Author Shane Smith coined the phrase “Fit or Fold. If the flop does not fit your hand by giving you top pair, or better or a straight or flush draw, then you should fold if there is a bet in front of you. If you played a small pair from late position and you do not flop a third one to make a set you should throw the pair away if there is a bet.

The Turn
If you think you have the best hand after seeing the Turn card and are first to act, then go ahead and bet. Many players will try to get fancy and attempt to check raise in this position. If the other players also check, you have lost a bet or two. In low limit games the straight forward approach is usually the best as there are plenty of players who will call you. Make them pay. Why give them a free card if you don’t have to.

If another player raises on the turn and you hold only one pair you are more than likely beaten and should fold.

If you get to the Turn and you hold only two unsuited overcards (two cards higher that any cards on the board) with no flush or straight draws, then you should fold if there is a bet in front of you. Too much money is lost by players who hope to catch a miracle card on the river. The best hand you can make with two unsuited overcards is a pair which will probably lose anyways.

The River
If you have been playing properly you will not see the river card unless you have a strong hand that is a favorite to win or you have a draw to a winning hand. Once the river card is turned over, you know exactly what you have. If you were drawing to a hand, you know whether you were successful or not. Obviously if you do not make your hand you will fold.

As with the Turn you should bet your hand if you are first to act. If you bet and the other player folds then they more than likely would have just checked if you had checked in an attempt to check raise.

When you get to the river there are two mistakes that you can make. One is to call a losing bet, which will cost you the price of a bet. The other is to fold your hand, which will cost you all the money in the pot. Obviously folding your hand will be a far more costly mistake then merely calling a bet. If there is a slight chance you may have the winning hand you should call. I’m not advocating calling with nothing but you should call if there is a chance to win.

Reading The Board
Your ability to read the board will help make you a winning player and it is not hard to learn. Since
Texas Hold’em is played with community cards turned up for all to see, you can easily determine the best possible hand that can be made from the board cards and two unseen cards. It is extremely important that you learn determine how your hand stacks up against the other possible hands that your opponents may hold. Two situations should send up a red flag when you see them.

If there are three suited cards on the board someone can make a flush. If a player raises when the third suited card is turned over you should be wary of continuing. If there is a pair on the board a player can make four of a kind or a full house.

Pay Attention
When you are not involved in a hand you should still pay attention to the game. You can gain valuable information about your opponents simply by observing what hands they play. It’s easy to determine the players who plays and suited cards, or single aces by watching the hands they turn over at the end. That brings me to one final tip.

NEVER SHOW YOUR HAND if you don’t have to. If you win the pot because everyone else folded you are under no obligation to show your cards. You don’t want to give away any information about yourself if you don’t have to And player who turn over their cards when they don’t have to are doing just that.