Texas Holdem Basics

What makes Texas Hold em so difficult

There is one underlying theme regards Texas hold’em on why players find it so difficult to master and this is especially the case with no-limit hold’em. It is to do with the rather obvious but little understood fact that the game is only played with two starting cards. What exactly does that mean and why does that have such a big impact on how people play the game and why many people struggle to master the game? Well in a no-limit format then once your level of understanding reaches a certain point then one thing becomes very obvious and this is that you begin to understand how difficult it is to hit a flop with two unpaired cards.

This rather common knowledge and the fact that hold’em is a two card game leads us onto games becoming more and more aggressive. This is one of the underlying factors behind why Online Texas Hold em games have become so much tougher recently because more and more players are aware of how conventional poker is played and how to combat that.

But yet it is the very knowledge that your opponent is unlikely to hit the flop that creates situations for highly aggressive players or players with aggressive personality types to get themselves into trouble. There is one very important reason for this and it is to do with the fact that your opponents are not only far more sophisticated and more observant but also better bankrolled as well.

If you were playing against a tight rock or an opponent who was on a limited bankroll then you may find yourself being able to bully them from pots. But you simply cannot expect this to happen to good players too often. If you shove someone from a hand once then do not expect to keep on doing it because not only will you be leaving a pattern but your stronger opponents will be better bankrolled to call you far lighter. It is far more difficult to intimidate someone who is sitting with a 100 buy-in bankroll than someone who is under bankrolled and merely having a shot with a few buy-ins.

So your better opponents are going to be spotting your patterns and then aggressive play will be a terrible weakness instead of a strength. We all know that aggression is important in poker but when you are being aggressive then you are placing more money at risk. If you are doing this in an unskilled and blatant over aggressive way then this may work if your opponents are weak enough. But once you come up against players who will be prepared to call down light and understand polarised hand ranges then you are going to lose far more money than if you were playing tight passive which is one of the worst styles in poker. So aggression in poker is not always the be all and end all and much depends on how often you are aggressive and against who!

Over the years many of my poker friends have asked me how I have been able to be so steady bankroll wise. Online I cash around 18% of the time in multi table Texas Hold’em poker tournaments with more than 180 players. That is a very nice number indeed and one that I am very proud of as it is pretty much the same from year to year. My response is generally the same as it was three years ago. I play good, solid fundamental poker with a few twists so as not to be predictable. No big secret at all. I have a very straight forward approach to the game that works for me.

Fundamental Poker

Fundamental poker means that you must do a few things consistently.

1. When you are beat – FOLD
2. Lose the minimum when involved in a losing pot
3. Extract maximum value from your winning hands

One of the simple things a poker player can do is to fold when they are beat. Yet, time after time after time I see players continue in a hand when it is clear they are beat. The concept is real simple. There is no point in continuing in the hand when you very little chance of winning that hand unless you can afford the risk based on the implied odds.

The second rule of fundamental poker is related to the first. In order to lose the minimum when you are playing a hand you must come to the conclusion that you are beat and fold. As simple as that may sound even some of the best poker players in the world have a hard time folding when involved in a hand. Good poker players have both the discipline and intuition to know when they are beat and lay down tough hands. By doing so you minimize your losses.

As this relates to cash game it clearly affects your bottom line. By losing the minimum you also save yourself real money.

Lastly, extracting maximum value is extremely important. When you watch the best players in the world in cash games or poker tournaments you will notice that they tend to get maximum value on their hands. One of the signs of a truly good poker player is that they get their value bets on the River called more often than not. That translates into making the appropriate bet size in which your opponent would call based on his stack and the size of the pot.

Making the correct bet on the river takes time, experience and feel in order to be consistently successful enough to get calls from your opponent. Without understanding stack size, pot size and your opponents tendencies you will have a very difficult time in getting the value call on fifth street. One of the biggest mistakes I see players make is to constantly push all in with the best hand on the river. Most of the time this is not the best play to make when you are holding the best hand.

Because it sets of an alarm indicating that you are likely to have a big hand. Unless your opponent is also holding a big hand or hit their draw they are most likely to fold. Conversely, when I consider their chip stack and the pot size and the likelihood of them calling my bet I can make a more intelligent bet that my opponent can afford to call.

The bottom line is that there are many different poker strategies to apply to the game. However, without a solid understanding of the fundamentals of playing the game you will find it very difficult to gain traction in poker tournaments or make a profit in cash games. At the same time we also must be capable of playing outside the box and taking risks when necessary. Changing gears is also necessary too. You have to find a way to bring all of the elements of the game together and make them work for you. Good poker fundamentals are just the beginning. Once you do your results will improve significantly.

Curtis Mayfield III