Texas Hold'em Basics
Fundamentals for Playing Texas Hold'em
Along with the dramatic increase in popularity of poker
in general, and Texas Holdem in particular, comes a tidal
wave of new players who may not be newbies to poker itself,
but definitely are beginners in comparison to experienced
players. These beginning players have been influenced
significantly by what they have seen on television. While
this is cool and all, from a practical standpoint it has
some disastrous implications for the beginners.
The thing newbies need to remember is that the poker
hands we see on TV do not well represent what makes a great
poker player. First and foremost, the truly great players in
all game disciplines master the fundamentals. Ted Williams,
Magic Johnson, Earl Anthony, Cheryl Miller, Joe Montana,
Martina Navratilova... all these folks spent hours and hours
on fundamentals even after they were superstars. In fact,
great players devote much of their time to improving at
those fundamentals they aren't particularly good at.
Like any other game, Texas Holdem has basics that aren't
very flashy or readily apparent, but must be mastered (and
continually mastered) before excellence can be achieved.
No skills matter if you don't have the wherewithal to
follow through. If you know you shouldn't tilt, but tilt
anyway, you suck at discipline. And, you suck as a poker
player compared to the poker player you could be. You may
still be better than average, but you are a shadow of what
you should be. It is almost impossible to work too hard on
The bet is the atom of poker. Chips are electrons and
protons, but the bet is the building block of everything
good and bad that takes place in poker -- if you play for
money, that is. If you play to satisfy ego urges, rather
than to win money, then you have different priorities, and
you've blundered onto the wrong website. All ring game poker
concepts revolve around the bet. (Tournaments are different.
Surviving and being the lone winner are tournament concepts
that don't transfer to ring games.) You are not trying to
win pots. You are trying to get the best of it on bets. You
are trying to wager money, make bets, with a mathematically
favorable expectation. This involves having as a
coincidental goal the winning of pots, but that is not the
main goal, and certainly not the focus of our efforts. We
simply want to get our money in with the best of it. Win or
lose, good luck or bad luck, that really is not the point.
Let the bad players fixate on the results. You should fixate
on doing the right thing.
Having the discipline to do the right thing all the time
(more or less) is the basic of the basics.
Poker is a thinking person's game. When bets are made
without thinking, either by bad players or when "forced" via
game rules (as blinds or antes), this is the fundamental
money at stake in the contest. Thoughtful play must
significantly focus on the bets that are made thoughtlessly.
Attack the bad players, and attack the blinds. Thoughtful
players have an edge over semi-thoughtful players, but
thoughtful players have enormous edges over bets made
without thought (again, either by thoughtless/bad players or
by any player because they are forced by the rules to make
Limit versus No Limit.
Most of the Holdem on television is No Limit Texas
Hold'em tournament poker. This is about as different from
Limit Holdem ring game poker as two things of the same
species can get. Many of the winning tactics used in No
Limit tournaments are either useless or counterproductive in
Limit Holdem ring games. Chainsaws may cut most things
better, but butter knifes are more appropriate for some
tasks. Just because you saw a skilled lumberjack cut down a
tall oak tree with one doesn't mean you should use a
chainsaw to cut butter.
One of the most poorly considered basics of Texas Hold'em
is the fixation novices have on starting hands, with a
corresponding focus on starting hand charts and groups.
Hold'em is more of a post-flop game than a pre-flop one, but
novices and mediocre players fixate on following guidelines
on starting hands. Without learning to understand why you
are playing a certain hand, and how you intend to play it
after different types of flops, you are fully missing the
point of the game. Learn why and how to play hands, not the
simplistic what to play.
Fundamentals win ballgames and poker games and games of
every sort. Let the suckers try to buy lunch with their
egos. You should focus on the basics of making thoughtful
bets when you have the best of it, and then you can focus on
buying lunch with your profits -- profits courtesy of the
bad players, the ego players, and the players who simply
don't work on the fundamentals enough.
Rules and Irregularities at land-based casinos