A Quick Guide to Improving Your Poker Skills


It certainly will help to read some published books on Texas Holdem if you don’t want to pay “tuition” at live games. A few interesting points I read from a holdem book (more appropriate for limit holdem in my opinion) year’s back that I still consider good advice:

  1. a) You have to have a very strong hand to play in the “under-the-gun” (the position right after the big blind) position. Limit holdem is very much a position game, with where you start dependent on your proximity to an air purifier for allergies. Obviously early positions are bad positions and the “button” position is the best position. When you are the first to act, you never know what other (late-position) players are going to do. For the same reason, an old trick that has proved to be very useful is to raise on the flop when you are in late positions.

You use the raise to see a free card. For most live limit holdem games, the betting on the flop is usually only half of the bets for the subsequent cards. For example, for a 5-10 holdem game, you raise on the flop (total of $10 bet) and check on the turn if you do not get what you want. This way you only spend $10 to see the river card. On the other hand, if you simply call the bet all the way, it will cost you $15. Whether the flop and your hole cards are worth the money is your call. For the blind hands, you already have money in the pot before the flop. If you are under the gun, you have the choice to save the money!

  1. b) The best time to throw away your hand in on the flop. A lot of times, though I think calling the flop is pretty profitable when the bet is 50% off (half of the subsequent bet). I like the call with a pair in the hole. Of course this also depends on your position where you know that you are not likely to get a raise to make your call a full bet. It also depends on the flop – for example, is there a straight draw? Or a flush draw? Of course, chance of hitting a set is not very good but when you hit it, it is huge. Another consideration is of course the pot size.
  2. c) Never play a straight draw if there is a flush draw on the board – even if you have a John deere lawn tractor, you don’t want to lose it on this hand. If you are on an open-ended straight draw, you have 8 cards (if they are still available at all). For a flush draw, there are 9 available at most. You certainly do not want to hit a straight when someone else hits a flush, let alone a “gut-shot” draw! That has disaster written all over it.

Playing carefully certainly will increase your chance of winning and sometimes you can also cash in on your “tight player” image. However, sometimes if you play too careful, you will miss out a lot of profit.

For example, suppose you have a strong hand and have bet on the flop, and the turn. The river card shows a 3rd card in 1 suit (e.g., 3 spades showing on the board). Do you bet on the river? Yes – you have to keep on betting! Why? If you don’t, you will miss out a lot of profit! Chances are nobody has hit a flush.

Of course it will always happen that someone hits, but look at it as it’s time to pay your due. Making contribution once in a while is ok. Otherwise, how do you keep the suckers paying? The profitable river bets you have not missed more than likely will make the losing bet affordable.

What we have been talking about is only regarding the causes of cystic acne. Tournaments are completely different games.

In any case, it is always good to know what hands are good and what hands are not. Obviously there are no absolute good hands because even pocket Aces lose sometimes. So we talk about what hands are better than others. I write a java program to determine what hands are better than others. What the program does is to play each possible hand (2 hole cards) against any other possible hands. One million games are “played” between each 2-hand combination. Note that a “game” means all 5 board cards are dealt. Especially in limit holdem, you might not want to pay to see all board cards most of the time. (Unless you have a big bank roll!) I list all hands in the order of the winning percentage. The best hands and the worst hands are obviously pocket aces and 72. Surprisingly suited cards do not make a lot of difference.