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Texas Hold’em Poker Lessons pt.4 Level 1

Paul MetheneyOkay, we have given you the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. We have discussed some of the etiquette so you won’t embarrass yourself going to a casino for the first time. It can be intimidating. Now let’s get to the good stuff. How to improve your game.

There are 3 Levels of Play when it comes to Texas Hold’em:

  1. Level 1: Playing your own cards – determining whether you have good starting cards, if your hand is good once the flop hits, etc.
  2. Level 2: Playing the other guys cards – guessing, by his actions and betting, what he might have in his hand and acting (based on that guess) to get him to react the way he should if he really has that in his hand. You think he has JJ’s in his hand, so how do you play that so you win?

  1. Level 3: Playing with the other guy’s head. – making him think you have something better in your hole cards by the way you bet, act, etc. You think he has JJ’s in his hand,  so you make him think you have QQs or better in yours. (It almost doesn’t matter at Level 3 what you have in your hand, it only matters what he THINKS you have.) Or you have AA and you think he has JJ’s, how do you get him to think he has the better hand so he bets it?

Level 1: Your Position

poker positions

The best way to save money in Texas Hold’em is to NOT play. That’s right. Get out of the hand. If you do not have a good starting hand, fold. (This is not necessarily true at Level 3 or for truly great players. They can win with anything, but for a beginner, start with a good hand and you increase your odds of winning. It also has to do with position (how close you are to the left of the Dealer Button). The first third of the table (or the Small Blind, Big Blind and next seat) are called Early Position. They have the worst spots since everyone else will have more information than they do before they act. Seats 4-6 are called the Middle Position. They don’t have to have QUITE as good of cards, but close. Finally Seats 7-9 (9 being the dealer button), have the Late Position and the best seats as they know mostly what everyone has done before it is there turn to act. The worse (earlier) your position, the better your cards need to be to compensate for the fact that you have less information. The earlier your position, play tighter. Play a little looser towards the button, as you have more information, there is less chance that someone can raise after you.

Level 1: Your Cards

Early Position Middle Position Late Position
Raising Hands AA, KK, AK, QQ, JJ, AQs, KQs, KJs, AJs, A-10s, 10-10 – 88
Calling Hands KQs, KJs, AJs, A-10s, 10-10 – 88 KJo, QJo, JTo, 77 – 55 Suited connectors

You get A6 suited and you’re like “Woo hoo!” Stop and think. If you get and Ace (for a pair), you are probably out-kicked (the other person has a higher second card than a 6), you lose. Even if you catch another Ace (a 93% chance you won’t by the River), his AJ will cost you a lot of money.  It’s very likely that someone will be playing AJ or AK or AQ.  If you get a 6, now you have a pair of sixes. Not a very good hand. You probably lose. There is an 89% chance you will NOT flop a 4 Flush (two more cards of the same suit as yours). Even if you do, then there is more than a 65% chance you won’t catch the 5th suited card by the River for your Flush. You are always fighting the worst odds. As always, it depends on what your opponent has, what he thinks you have, etc.

Now if you were playing AK suited, different story. Besides not being out kicked, you can also catch a flush, a straight, top two pair, another Ace or two, another King or two, etc. Much better odds for having a winning hand. There are 16 combination of ways to make AK (suited vs non-suited, etc.) That being said, AK is still a drawing hand! Many people see it win on TV and fall in love with it and can’t let it go.

Level 1: The 3 F’s

Fit the Flop or Fold. If your hole cards don’t match the board in some way that can make a winning hand, fold. If you get bottom pair, fold. If you are not drawing to the Nuts (the best possible hand), fold.

Level 1: Pre-Flop

The key to successful Level 1 poker is Pre-Flop. If you start off with the best hand, it improves your odds for finishing with a a better hand

  • Only call or raise when your hand can win more than one way such as high pair AND a flush, or a straight AND a flush.
  • You CANNOT bluff in low limit poker.
  • Big Pairs DECREASE in strength according to the number of players against them. The more players the weaker your big pair, because they will inevitably outdraw your hand.
  • Play small straight and flush draws carefully.
  • See small to medium draws as cheaply as possible.

To Be Continued…


Paul MetheneyAbout the Author

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