Top 10 Texas Hold'em Tips
Texas Hold'em takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master, the old saying goes.
But with these top 10 tips, you can make that journey a little shorter. So, if you don't have time to plough through 1,000-page strategy books and want a few pointers before hitting the online tables, take a look at these helpful hints.
Before you know it, you'll be slaughtering those Sit 'n' Gos, mastering the weekly MTTs and crushing the cash games.
1 - Learn the Three Ps: Position, Position, Position
Position is the most important factor in Texas Hold'em. If sitting in Late Position (LP) like Seat 9 or the Button, you'll be last to act and will have a lot more information before the action comes to you. If the action has limped round to you, you can open with a strong bet to take advantage and win the pot. When you're out of position and first to act (Small Blind or Big Blind) you're acting first and at the mercy of the players to act after you.
2 - Good Starting Hand Selection
Most Hold'em players play too many hands when they start playing the game. As you get more experienced you'll learn that you need to fold the majority of your starting hands.
Tight, solid hand selection is a good strategy: stick to high pairs like 10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K and A-A to raise with in early position, while you can add pairs like 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 to raise with when in late position.
Similarly, you can add in suited connectors like A-K, K-Q, and Q-J in early position, and J-10, 10-9 and suited K-10 and Q-10 when in late position.
Hand selection can change depending on the dynamics at the table, of course. If the table is full of weak players who will fold most holdings, you can widen that range even further if you think the bets and raises will get through.
3 - Understand Pot & Hand Odds
Although a game of skill, Texas Hold'em is a game of assessing the odds. If the pot odds aren't as good as the odds of you hitting that miracle card to complete your straight or flush, you need to toss away your hand.
Pot odds can be easy to work out - especially online - but you don't need to be a math whiz to calculate if a hand's worth carrying on with.
4 - Master the C-Bet
A Continuation Bet (c-bet) is a key strategy of Texas Hold'em. Essentially, it's bet you make post-flop when you're first to bet, regardless of the strength of your hand.
Let's say you are dealt Q-10 early in an online cash game. You raise, every player folds, and one player calls. The flop comes 2-7-K. You decide to continue your line that your hand is strong - even though you've missed entirely - and decide to carry on with a bet.
Your opponent may buy the story that you hit the flop hard, and fold, or he may raise as he's made a draw or hand himself. Either way, your decision is easy - you take the hand down there and then, or you simply fold.
C-bets are great for low-stakes cash games where so many hands are dealt. Many players will just let hands go if they have missed the flop and are bet into. Over time, and with enough volume, the c-bet can be the Texas Hold'em player's strongest weapon.
5 - Top Turn Play
OK, so you've tried a sneaky c-bet to get rid of your opponent. Bad news - he's still in the hand and has called. Now, the turn card comes and it looks like it could have completed his straight or flush draw, or paired the board.
Normally, a check on the turn slows things done a lot, but if you bet with a draw and are raised, it's time to get out of there.
6 - Kill 'Em On The River
You and your opponent are playing the river. You're heads-up and now you have to remember what he did at the start of the hand. Was he aggressive pre-flop? Did he raise in early position, limp in late position, or call your c-bet on the flop?
It's now you have to start assigning a hand range to your opponent. You need to make a decision whether your hand is good against a whole range of possible hands he may have.
You also need to calculate the odds. If your opponent makes a strong bet on the river, work out whether a call to go to showdown is worth it based on how much has already gone into the pot.
So many hands take place in a typical online game it can often be a good idea to just let a hand go and fight another day. Another hand is always just around the corner.
7 - Online Bluffs
Bluffing online is just as possible as it is in a live casino or cardroom. You can quickly gauge weak, passive or aggressive players when playing online and learn who will succumb to a well-timed bluff.
While no-surprises ABC poker is good, it's also worth throwing in a few bluffs with marginal hands now and again. Better still, show your cards if you win a pot to reveal the bluff. Then, when you win a hand with a genuine hand, also show it to your opponent. This will sew doubt in their minds as to what the hell you're betting and raising with.
8 - Well-Timed Aggression
The beauty of No Limit is that you can use your chips to bully your opponents. Many recreational players are loathe to lose all their chips during a small tournament or cash session, so make sure you apply some well-timed aggression at the right moments. You want to be the one forcing opponents to make decisions, not the other way round.
9 - Know Your Comfort Zone
There are so many stake levels online, especially in Texas Hold'em, it can be tempting to jump into the bigger stakes to try your luck.
But be aware: at a certain level the aggression will get too hot to handle and the skill level higher.
Start off low, even if you can afford the bigger games. Once you've comfortably mastered the lower stakes games (.02/.04 - .25/.50 in cash games and - tournaments) over a period of time, tentatively start to move up the levels. If you find it too difficult you can safely move back down a level to build up your bankroll again.
Read our dedicated page on Bankroll Management to see the kinds of funds you'll need to comfortably handle the levels.
10 - Know When To Log Off
Walking away in a land-based casino if you're on a downswing is tough; logging off and shutting the laptop can be even harder.
Never be tempted by 'just one more cash hand' or 'one more Sit n' Go'; that way lies financial ruin and a return to grinding up a roll at the freerolls.
If you're on tilt, have had a bad beat or just can't seem to catch a river card, just walk away. Don't turn off the computer, don't log off: just hit the 'Sit Out' button and go out of the house to take your mind off poker for an hour.
Coming back refreshed and ready for another fight is essential for a healthy poker mindset.
Taking Notes On Your Opponents
Most sites will let you type in notes on your opponents, but a pen and paper is just as good. Make use of them and come up with short-hand to make note-taking quicker.
A lot of players you'll meet online are regulars (regs) and they rarely change their play. Poker players are creatures of habit, especially at the lower-stakes levels, so whether it's a cash game, Sit ‘n' Go or tournament, get a handle on your opponents and keep coming back to your notes to see what they'll do in any given situation.
Notes can be basic, but informative, e.g. limps pre-flop, folds to c-bets / calls 80% hands pre-flop / easy to bully on river / has wide range start hands, etc