by: Glenn McDonald. Diverse Poker Games Feed.
Now let's look at some of the general concepts you should consider once you've taken your seat and the game is underway. We'll approach this in a step-by-step fashion, following the basic structure and betting rounds of a typical low-stakes limit Hold 'Em game. It's important to keep stressing the point made in the previous chapter:
These are rather roomy guidelines and should be taken simply as things to consider when making your case-by-case decisions.
The principal decision you will make pre-flop is whether to play your starting hand at all. Certain premium hands-A-A, K-K, A-K (suited or unsuited), for example-are playable no matter what, except in the most extreme of circumstances. Other high pairs, such as Q-Q and J-J, are strong starting hands. In addition, high suited connectors such as K-Q suited and Q-j suited are worth serious consideration in most cases.
In big games with a lot of players (say, 8-10 in Hold 'Em), high-card starting hands are not as valuable as many beginning players think. Q-10, and even K-j when unsultea, is not particularly strong. On the other hand, smaller pairs and smaller suited connectors are worth considering in looser low-stakes games with a lot of players. Suited connectors especially can be a good hand to pursue in the hopes that they pay off with a straight, flush, or (oh, please, please, please) a straight flush.
On the Flop
Once again, your main decision here is whether to proceed with the hand at all, or muck your cards and wait for the next deal. For beginning players, absent strong reasons otherwise, you should fold your cards if you have not made a decent hand on the flop. Remember that the flop gives you three cards before asking for a decision; the turn and the river are much stingier. Even potentially strong hands that have not strengthened on the flop may need to go in a 10-person game, and this includes the premium hands of K-K, A-K, and even A-A. When assessing the flop, look for what kind of hands your opponents could potentially make. For instance, three suited cards close in rank-such as 8h-10h-jh put an awful lot of scary possibilities out there: the straight and the flush, and possibly two pair, because your opponents may be playing starting hand connectors like J-10.
Lower pairs that have not improved into trips on the flop make for a dubious hand, particularly if there are cards on the board higher than your pair. (For instance, you have 8-8 in the hole and the flop comes 6-10-A.) Inside straight draws, in which only one card will make your straight (7-10 with a 4-8-j flop), are a long shot to improve on the turn and the river.
If you can get out of more bad flops than your opponents, you will be saving bets and ultimately minimizing your losses. Assess what you have, see what the board is offering your opponents, and watch carefully what the other players are betting
when you have position.
The fourth community card-fourth street, the turn-is the point in Texas Hold 'Em when the bet doubles in limit games. You should have a good reason for being here and a good plan on how to come out ahead.
By the time the turn rolls around, your decisions should be based on a number of factors. Making the right call here isn't as easy as dumping a pathetic starting hand or quitting a loser on the flop. Here's one important point to bear in mind: In low-stakes limit Hold 'Em, bluffing is usually very rare indeed on fourth street. If a player raises on the turn, he almost certainly has a tough hand.
Watch the size of the pot and the number of other players still in the hand. Put yourself inside your opponent's head. Consider the kind of starting hands usually played, plus the cards on the flop and the new card on the turn-what kind of hand could your opponent be holding? The turn is the time to gather as much information as possible before making your decision.
In the low-stakes limit game, you probably do not want to be cbasing any kind of draw after the turn. Remember, there is only one more card to go. The odds of making your hand have dropped to their lowest point. If you can check for a free card, that's ideal. Calling a modest bet is an option. Raising on a drawing hand is generally a bad idea. But as always, specific game situations can change everything.
By the time you get to the river, there will often be enough money in the pot to make it worthwhile to call any bet. (See the description of pot odds in the next section.) If you feel you have a strong hand with a good chance of beating your opponents, it's usually profitable in the long run to raise it up and bet it out on the river.
In a loose game with three or more players still in the hand, you'll want to carefully consider your options. That's because the other players may well have been waiting for a miracle draw on the river-and they may have caught it. If your hand has not significantly improved from the turn and your opponents have been doing a lot of waiting around (checking and calling), tread lightly and check in early position.
(© 2006 Deal Me In! Online Cardrooms, Big Time Tournaments, and The New Poker Book . All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)
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