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Published on 3 April 2014 by Pokerlistings 20672
It sucks to suck at things and poker is no different. In this 10-part beginner poker strategy video series PokerListings.com gives you a crash course on the finer points of not sucking at poker. Episode 1 is an important one: Play fewer hands. Most poker players are too loose and end up losing tons of money betting or calling with the worst hand. In Texas Hold’em there are 169 different starting hands and chances are you’re playing too many of them. When you’re starting out it’s important to keep things simple. One big way to do that is to only play when you have really good cards. Beginners often try to copy what they see on TV by raising and bluffing with any two cards but the truth is, in low-stakes poker games bluffing is no-where near as important as getting value from your big hands. Players might be bored, or just more interested in gambling and having fun than making money, and they’re all going to be playing way too many hands. If you want to make money you have to develop some discipline. Let’s start by playing a narrow range of starting hands and giving ourselves the best chance of showing up with the winning hand at showdown. Sticking to good starting hands will also make our post-flop decisions way easier and cut down on the chances we’re dominated and putting money in the pot with the worst hand.
In Texas Hold 'Em, there are 169 different starting hands and chances are, you're playing too many of them. As a beginner, it's really important to keep things super simple and one big way you can do that, is by only putting money in the pot when you have a really good hand. When beginner's start out, they often try to copy things they see on TV, like bluffing and raising with any two cards, but the truth is, at the low stakes, bluffing is no where near as important as getting big value out of your big hands. Players might be bored or they might just be more interested in gambling and having a good time and they're all going to be playing way too many hands. If you want to make money playing poker, you're going to have to develop some discipline. So let's start by narrowing down that starting hand range and giving ourselves the best chance of having the best hand at showdown. Sticking to good starting hands will also make our post-flop decisions way easier and it'll cut down on the amount of times that we're dominated and putting money into the pot with the worst hand. To understand what starting hands you should be playing, there's a couple things you need to think about. The most important is your position. Position refers to where you're sitting at the table in relation to the dealer button and it's so important in Texas Hold 'Em because it decides who's last to act on every betting round. The second thing to think about is if everyone in front of you is folded or if you're facing a bet or a raise. As a general rule, if no one in front of you is raised and you want to play the hand, you should always raise. Just calling the big blind is known as "limping" and it's usually a sign of a weak, passive player. So let's assume we're playing at a full nine-handed table. No one's raised in front of you and you're sitting in early position. In this spot, we suggest playing less than 5% of your starting hands. That means that you're folding anything less than pocket Jacks and up, plus Ace King and Ace Queen. As your position improves, you can start opening up that range of starting hands because there's less people still to act, and you know you're going to have better position in every betting round after the flop. So if it folds to you in middle position, consider raising hands like medium pocket pairs and up, plus Ace Jack and Ace 10. Once you're on the button, or close to it, you can really open things up because you have such a big positional advantage. You should be raising Ace 8 and up, plus King Queen suited and any pocket pair. The big danger in raising hands like King Jack or Ace 3, is that when you do get called, it'll often be by a hand that has you dominated. Let's imagine you raise with King Jack and the big blind calls with King Queen or Ace Jack, for example. Even if you do flop a pair, you can never really feel safe that you have the best hand. The point is, if you're playing a hand like Queen Jack suited, you're probably going to need more than one pair to win a big potted showdown. Now imagine that instead of the action folding to you, someone else has already raised. In a typical low stakes game, the starting hand ranges we've already gone over are way tighter than what your opponents are going to be raising with. So you can feel pretty comfortable about following the same guidelines for calling a raise. But that doesn't mean you should always be calling. Imagine that someone's raised from middle position and your sitting on the button with Ace Queen. In that spot, raising is probably better than just calling. A lot of loose players will be raising from middle position with hands like Ace Jack, Ace 10, King Queen, or even worse. So by raising, you're giving them the chance to put in more money with the worst hand and the worst position. At the low stakes games, you'll so often see the situation where the flop comes out Ace High and one player's dominated by a better kicker. Because so much of your profits at low stakes are going to come from spots like this, it's so important for you to be the player with the better cards. Once you get a bit more experience and you start to get a feel for how tight and loose your opponents are, you can widen your starting hand range and get a little bit more creative with your post-flop play. But until then, do yourself a big favor and keep it simple, by only playing good cards.