Poker Strategy for Beginners

Most poker variations have some common ideas and concepts.This guide will explain how in Texas Hold'em, the most popular poker game today, these concepts work.

Pick your starting hands

Don't play too many hands is the number one tip to all new poker players. That is, play tight. Always keep in mind that most of the time, one of the other players has a better starting hand than you. At times your hand will improve with the flop, but not most of the time; if you begin with a bad hand, the flop will most likely not give you the best hand.

So now, how do you know when you are holding a decent starting hand to play?

Well, in Texas Hold'em, good starting hands are either two high cards or a pair. Hands like AK and AQ are strong, as are all pairs from AA to 99.

Smaller pairs and two not-so-high cards are more difficult. Although AJ, AT, KQ may be strong, you may be in big trouble if you hit the flop and your opponent holds a hand like AK or AQ.

Pairs from 88 and down are playable, but the flop will often contain one or more higher cards (overcards). To gauge this, if an opponent appears strong on the flop, you are probably beaten. The lower your pair, the more likely there will be overcards on the flop. For example, to play 22 after the flop, a third 2 on the board is almost a must.

Consider your position at the table

The order in which players act is the same throughout a hand in Texas Hold'em. This makes the concept of position important as the betting order is determined by where you sit.

Late position means that you sit on the button or close to its right. If you sit in this position you will act late in every betting round. This is a great advantage since all opponents must show their intentions before it is your turn.

When you sit in early position, you don't know what to expect from the players after you; the strength of their hands is hard to read. So, it is an advantage to be in a late position and as a result, you can play more hands as opposed to an early position.

Hands like AJ or 44 are much easier to play from a late position. If the flop isn't good for you and someone in front of you makes a big bet, it is easy to lay them down. If no one bets, your hand may very well be good and you can go ahead and play it with confidence.

When you play, assert yourself

~One of the priciest mistakes in poker is playing it safe and betting too little. When you choose to put money into a pot, bet aggressively to make it uncomfortable for anyone who wants to take it away from you.

Betting strongly like this has several advantages. To begin with, you prevent opponents from seeing the next card for free and improving their hands. You cannot prevent players from seeing another card, but you should make them pay for it. Additionally, every time you bet there's a chance your opponents will fold. The fewer the player's in the hand, the greater your chances of winning the pot. If everyone folds, you win the pot without even showing the cards.

Special tips for Omaha

Omaha starts with twice as many cards as Texas Hold'em, giving you six times as many two-card combinations. For example, the hand AKJT can be combined into six good two-card hands: AK, AJ, AT, KJ, KT, and JT. This is why, in Omaha, the average hand in showdowns is much better than in Texas Hold'em. For example, when three suited cards are on the board, someone usually has a flush, and so on.

You need to be very selective of your starting hands in order to adjust to the better average hand in Omaha. Preferably, all four cards should be connected in some way, by rank or suit. For instance, a hand like 8766 is stronger than AK83.

Special tips for 7-Card-Stud

You get to see many more cards in 7-Card-Stud than Texas Hold'em. That means that when the first betting round starts, you have often seen ten cards or so, well beyond what you will see in a Texas Hold'em hand.

You need to remember the cards that other players have folded, or dead cards, to effectively use the number of cards seen during the hand to your advantage. If memory is not your strength, at least try to notice cards that may be important to you or to an opponent. For example, if you have three hearts in your hand, it may not be worth chasing a flush if you have seen five hearts in other players' hands.