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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Novice Hold'em Players Want to See a Flop with Every Hand

8 October 2005

If you've never played Texas Hold'em, but seen it on TV, you get the idea that you should at least see the flop before you throw your hand away – even if you're holding a "piece-o'-cheese" (terrible hand). In reality, this is a huge misconception.

What you see on TV are poker tournament "highlights". It's like watching football highlights on the news – all touchdowns and interception runbacks. What got edited out in both cases was all the mundane stuff, like run three downs and punt, or fold a dozen consecutive hands before the flop, etc.

To play Texas Hold'em with a decent chance to win, beginners must realize that they have to fold the vast majority of their two card hands without ever seeing a flop. Experienced Hold'em players know that starting hand selection depends upon table position, whether there's been a raise and how aggressive a game is.

But these subtleties are too technical for rank beginners. Neophytes just want simple guidelines to tell them whether they've got a reasonable hand to see a flop with – or not.

So here for rank novices is a super-simple set of rules to qualify your Hold'em starting hands. Mind you, these are far from perfect. They completely ignore position and what's happened in the betting thus far. Still, these five simple rules will get you to see the flop with the top 42 out of the 169 possible hands you can be dealt. That's the upper 25%.

Hold'em Starter Kit

See the Flop with:

A) any unsuited or "nonconnected" hand totaling "20" or more.
B) any suited hand totaling "19" or more.
C) any connectors totaling "19" or more.
D) any suited/connectors totaling "17" or more.
E) any pocket pair.

Use blackjack card values for adding up your points and if you don't have one of the above – FOLD! These rules echo the axiom that Texas Hold'em is basically a "high-card" game.

Under rule "A", nonconnected means your two cards do not run in numerical succession. The weakest hands in this category would be an unsuited Q/10 or A/9. Forget about unsuited hands like K/9, A/8 and weaker. They are generally unplayable.

The weakest hands under rule "B" would be a suited J/9 or A/8. Again, an A/7 suited or a J/8 suited might look good to you, but under most circumstances they're just financial liabilities. Don't mess with them.

In rule "C", the weakest qualifying hand would be an unsuited 10/9. Don't get involved with all this 8/7 and 6/5 stuff, even though you may have seen them win huge pots on TV. They're similar to running a "flea-flicker" play for a touchdown in football. Both will make the news, but they seldom work.

Finally, your weakest playable hand in category "D" is a 9/8 suited – the kind that Matt Damon busted Teddy KGB with in the movie, Rounders. Suited connectors are versatile, but they still miss the flop most of the time. You want at least medium-high cards so that you'll have a chance to win the pot with, say, a pair of 9s when no picture cards flop. A 6/5 suited doesn't have that small extra cushion.

An important point to remember about small pocket pairs (category "E") is if you don't flop a "set" (3-of-a-kind), you're done with the hand. This'll usually apply to pocket 7s on down.

Now, to beginners the above rules probably sound stringent, but believe me, accomplished players will throw many of those hands right in the muck. This starter kit, however, does separate the real "rags" from the better hands. All you need to know is how to add up to 20 and be able to distinguish between suited hands, connectors and pairs. I can't think of any simpler way to pick out a starting Hold'em hand.

Once you gain experience, you'll begin to sense the situations in which many of these 42 hands should be folded too.

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

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