Texas Hold’em strategy

Employing strong strategy when playing Texas Hold’em poker can be the difference between walking away a big winner and losing. While there are no foolproof strategies in Texas Hold’em, it can sometimes seem like it when you run into certain types of players on the felt. This article will teach you the basics of Texas Hold’em poker strategy, link you to further Texas Hold’em strategy articles, and give you some tips for improving your overall gameplay, when playing online or at live events.

Differences between online and offline Texas Hold’em strategy

In terms of how you play your cards there is not a great difference in Texas Hold’em online and offline strategy, with things such as the best basic strategy chart still the best way to play your cards. However, there are some key differences to how online and offline Texas Hold’em should be played:

  • There are no physical tells in online poker, meaning you should be more analytical in your approach; watching your opponents’ betting habits early in the game and researching their history are just two things you can do to improve your online strategy
  • Obviously you need the ability to pick up physical tells when playing live poker. If you only play your cards on merit and fold all of the time when challenged by a hand that is potentially out there you won’t go far in a tournament or cash game.

There is one key trait that is crucially important to any Texas Hold’em game — on the internet or live — and that is patience. Be aware that less scrutiny in an online game does not make a poor decision any less desirable.

Pre-flop strategy in Texas Hold’em

So the game has started and the cards have been dealt. This is a critical time in your Hold’em poker strategy as you will need to decide if the cards are worth playing.

Basically you should play with any two high cards, i.e. 10s up; Ace and 9; or any suited cards with an ace, and pairs are usually played from 7 up.

High consecutive same suit cards e.g. 9s, 10s (spades) and lower pairs can also be played depending on your position and the following factors which are general points to consider before playing the hand.

Number of players – in a 10-player game chances are someone will have a strong hand and you’ll need two high cards (jacks up) or a high pair to play.

Your bankroll – if you are about to be called “all in” choose the hand you play carefully. If you have one last hand you want it to be a good one.

Others playing aggressively – assuming some amateur players tends to raise constantly, let them win the blinds, wait for a good hand and press them to the wall.

Your position – when seated in a later position play more than in an earlier position.

Remember that the key to becoming a good player is to have patience. A player that tends plays a lot of hands will eventually lose.

Hold’em strategy tips

There are many little nuances in Texas Hold’em that can make or break a player, but don’t necessarily fall into a direct area of poker strategy. This section will give you some strategy tips that can immediately improve your gameplay.

Defining good hands and marginal hands

Texas Hold’em is the most popular game being played, both online and offline. There is a fine line between a good hand in Hold’em and a marginal hand. Three of a kind can be very profitable in Hold’em, while two pair often costs players a tremendous amount of money. Two pair just looks so good, but it is certainly not worth the money many players bet on it. I can’t tell you how many times I see a player go all-in immediately with two pair and get wiped out by another player. It is typically the worst-played hand in Hold’em. Good poker strategy is to define your hand as good, marginal and bad and then using other factors to determine whether you play the hand out.

Understanding the players at the table

So often you see a player blow up when they’re done over by a “newb” chasing a hand, who hits and beats a player who clearly had the odds in their favour. This is why it’s so important you pay attention to the styles of each player at the table. The loose players are easy to spot and take advantage of. You simply wait until you have a powerful hand and let them run themselves into a hole with their bluffs. This is a strategy based on patience and observation. The loose player will typically play different when they actually have a good hand. Observing the different styles of a poor loose player will help you to easily identify the strength of his or her hand. The challenge with these players is to be the one at the table to take their money first.

Making profit from tight Hold’em players

Tight Texas Hold’em players are often much harder to crack.They are in very few hands so their playing style takes longer to figure out. The first challenge is identifying them. It is easy to ignore opponents who participate in very few hands. This is a skill new players have to learn and it cannot be done while playing multiple tables or while watching TV. When these players are in a hand you can be sure they have excellent hole cards. Do not be afraid of them, but be aware that you will often need a strong hand to beat them.

Tight players often fall into a pattern, but it takes patience to discern it. A tight player making a decent raise before the flop often can take a pot with nothing by simply raising again after the flop. Use the face-up cards and a well timed re-raise to take a few pots from the tight players. A flop full of face cards is a bad time to try this, but if the cards are low, the tight players are bluffing much of the time with their post-flop raise.

Remember, these players tend to only play with the best hands and are typically not interested in throwing a large amount of money into a pot if they have nothing really good. If you get a chance, try tripling the raise of a tight player after the flop. I think you will find you take a few more nice pots than you would ever expect, even when you have nothing.

Spotting and breaking poker rhythm

Rhythm in Texas Hold’em is a largely ignored area of online poker and one that is very important. There are three types of poker rhythms that I am talking about here, there is action rhythm, speed rhythm and in no limit there is the bet amount rhythm.

Action rhythm: is the propensity of betting, calling, checking, folding, raising etc.

Speed rhythm: is the length of time to take a decision.

Bet amount rhythm: You can throw a player off by changing up your betting.

You may find a table even with decent players settles into rhythms in one, two or all three of these areas more than the hands that are being dealt should dictate. The influence of this is felt even by good players and it is important to realise this discrepancy and take advantage of it.

For example, if people are routinely calling when otherwise they might fold, you either do not bluff or you need to do something to disrupt the rhythm, taking more or less time to launch a bet might do it.

If players are in a rhythm of constantly calling, it’s probably not a good time to bluff, and you’re better off waiting until the rhythm is more suited to a successful bluff. Obviously if you have the cards, bet away, and screw the rhythm.

Avoid playing when not at your best

You should avoid playing when not at your best, feeling just slightly tired or a few alcoholic drinks may be OK if you can stick close to a strong poker strategy. Under worse circumstances than this then maybe you should really just wait for another day. When you are playing when you’re tired or maybe not as stone cold sober as you should be I think the worst time of all to play is when you are emotionally upset, your decision-making can be all over the place and you can be more affected than you are even aware of.

In summing it up then I say absolutely never play when emotionally upset. Do not play if you have had enough alcohol to make you merry. Or when you’ve just finished that left-hander. In conclusion, you should not play Texas Hold’em when outside influences are too much of a distraction.

Implement and stick to a gameplan

Often you enter a poker game with the best of intentions, only for your strategy to go out the window the first time you are challenged. This is a terrible idea, particularly if you are not very adept at thinking Texas Hold’em on the fly. While it’s near impossible to implement a poker strategy without first knowing the players at your table, you can lay out some basic ground rules; like no chasing when a pot is above a certain amount or identifying the tight players and opting not to challenge them when they play, unless you have a great hand. A Texas Hold’em game plan and some ground rules can go a long way to stopping you from calling too much or attempting a dodgy bluff on the river.

Be confident

One of the most important qualities a winning poker player can have is confidence. One of the qualities of a true professional poker player is without a doubt, confidence. By confidence we mean the mindset a poker player has even before entering the game. As a matter of fact, even before entering a casino, the player must have an unshakeable confidence that they will win. Naturally, all players know they will experience losing sessions, even several in a row; nevertheless, the player (you) must enter each casino and game with the confidence that you are there to collect your “money” and that you own the game.

We are not advising you that you should voice this confidence in words to the other players, but merely exhibit physically the inner confidence you feel. “You are a winner and nothing can stop you from collecting your money in the long run.”

This quiet confidence will be intimidating to the other players and will allow you to gain control of the table in any game you enter. This is what is referred to as “owning the table” and is often characterised by having other players look to you before betting or afraid to raise against you, even when it is clear that they should.

A prime example of a confident player is top WSOP bracelet winner Phil Helmuth, who can be quite intimidating for amateur players who come up against him in big events. During the 2019 WSOP Main Event, Helmuth was burnt by a non-pro who was chasing a card on the river, taking most of his more fancied rival’s chips. For the next half an hour of play time Helmuth was berating his opponent. “I just gave you chips when you won’t even be in the tournament in four hours”. It was almost to the point of making the entire table uncomfortable, but he slowly worked his way back into the game. The moral of the story is Helmuth, despite being over the top in his approach, believes he is the best player on any table he sits at.