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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

I Wanna' Play That Poker Game Where You Go "All In"

28 February 2004

Texas Hold'em tournaments on cable TV have been such a success that nearly everybody seems to want to get in there and try the game themselves. From country clubs to fraternal organizations, people are putting together their own little Hold'em tournaments. But if you're a previous non-gambler or just a kitchen table poker player who's been bitten by the Hold'em bug, there are a few things you'd better know before you play in a real live card room.

The first is that proper strategy for a typical Texas Hold'em game is nothing at all like you see on TV. If you sit down in a $5/$10 Hold'em game at a casino, no decent player worth his salt will be "raising it up" before the flop with, say, a Jack/8 like you've probably seen on cable. And nobody's going to go "all in" if the flop comes "2-5-9" to his Ace/Jack. Those kinds of dramatics surely make for exciting viewing, but tournament finals and straight limit poker are two completely different things. Here's why.

Tournament finals vs. regular Hold'em

When there are, say, only four players left at a table and the stakes are so high that nobody can afford to lose two hands and survive, you're forced to do some desperate things. Also, they're more likely to work because you have so few possible opponents. And if you lose, that's okay too, because you were already "in the money" anyway. These tournaments usually begin with over 100 players and everyone at the final table is guaranteed a handsome payday -- even if they bust out on the very next hand.

But if you're sitting in a regular 9 or 10 handed Hold'em game for structured limit bets, there's no urgency to get in there and gamble your money. Though you might hold a hand that looks fairly good, there are 8 or 9 other players who could have something better. About four players usually stay to see the flop in a full game, so if you don't have a true quality start, it's better to just wait for the next hand. Regular "limit Hold'em" is a game of patience and discipline. If you haven't got those, pretty soon you won't have any chips either.

Solid Basics

When you sit down at a regular Hold'em table, leave all the television melodramatics behind. Rule number one: high cards rule. As a broad general guideline if you don't have a pair of pocket 6s or higher, you need two picture cards minimum to get involved.

Rule number two: if you miss on the flop, your two high cards don't rule anymore. Unless you're in last position and have two overcards to the flop, don't call a bet.

Rule number three: be acutely aware of your position. If you're up front right after the blinds, you should throw away two smaller picture cards like Queen/Jack. That's because there are still so many players behind you who could have better -- and will raise. If you call that raise, you will have to act first throughout the rest of the hand. It's true that a Queen/Jack will make the best hand just as often from an early seat as from a late one. But it will make more money from a late seat due to its positional betting advantage.

You'll grow to understand this principle more clearly once you've had a Queen/Jack in both positions when the flop has come something like Q-9-5. If you bet from early position and get raised, you don't know whether you're up against an Ace/Queen, a King/Queen or if you have the best hand. As a result, you're paralyzed into just checking and calling the rest of the way. But if you're in late position, you're the one who can do the raising on the flop, then decide whether you want to keep betting or just check along depending upon what you learn from your opponent who must act before you.

This principle of position permeates the entire game of Hold'em, regardless of hands. As a result, it's best to just fold stuff like K/J, Q/J and A/10 up front. Yet, you can call with them in middle position and even raise from a late seat if nobody came in from an early seat.

There are scores of other guidelines to go by if you ever take up this game regularly, but the above is a realistic primer course in limit Texas Hold'em. Now go get 'em.

I Wanna' Play That Poker Game Where You Go "All In" is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey