Playing Texas Holdem Tips

Read these 17 Playing Texas Holdem Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Poker tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How should you play blind vs. blind?

Blind vs. Blind

If you're playing a no limit Texas hold em tournament, it pays to be aggressive when it's down to just you and the blind. If you're the small blind and everyone folds to you, it's often a good idea to raise and try to steal the blinds, even if your hand isn't that great. All you need is for one person to have a junky hand and you get some free money.

*On the flip side, if you're the big blind and the small blind raises, you don't need a premium hand to reraise or call. You're going to be in position for the rest of the hand, so calling and taking a flop can work out well, and there's a good chance you blast the small blind off her hand with a reraise.

How should hands like KQ be played in limit vs. no limit Texas holdem?

“Trouble hands” in no limit Texas holdem

One of the most important differences between playing no limit Texas holdem poker and playing Texas holdem with a limit is the so-called “trouble hands.” In limit, hands like KJ, KQ, and AT (that's ace-ten) are pretty good hands. If you have one of those hands on the big blind, it's usually correct to call a single raise. If it turns out that the raiser has AK and winds up flopping a better pair than you, you're going to lose some bets, but it won't be a disaster.

In no limit and pot limit Texas holdem, it's a whole different story. Defending your blind with KJ is not always wrong, but you need to tread carefully. Losing your stack every time a K or J comes on the flop and you're up against a better hand is a sure recipe for going broke quickly. At the same time, that need to be cautious means you can be forced to fold the best hand when you're faced with a big raise from a flush draw or even a stone cold bluff. When you're just playing poker for fun with your friends, go ahead and gamble it up, but in a serious game it's usually best to throw these hands away.

What does it mean to put an opponent to the test?

Putting an Opponent to the Test

Why should you take all the risk when playing Texas holdem? A useful idea in no limit Texas hold em is to put the other player to the test for their whole stack without risking yours. For example, suppose there are two of you in a pot, the opponent has 2,000 chips, and you have much more.

There are 2,000 chips in the pot. If you bet 700 chips, your opponent can't really call and see what comes on the next card and fold if it's not favorable. The pot will be too big compared to the size of his stack – he's “pot committed.” However, if you bet 700 and he raises all-in, if you have no hand at all then you can still fold. So you're essentially asking, “Are you willing to get your whole stack in?” and you're only paying 700 to ask.

What’s way ahead way behind mean?

Way Ahead Way Behind

There is a concept that usually comes up in no limit hold em called way ahead way behind, or WA/WB. The idea is that you're either totally smoked or you're way out ahead. Here's an example:

Everyone folds to the small blind, who makes a moderate raise. You call in the big blind with A6. The flop comes down A 2 7 all different suits, and the opponent checks. This is a very nice flop for you. You're either getting killed by a hand like AJ, or your opponent is drawing nearly dead with a hand like KQ or 55. This means that it's pretty safe to check if you want. You can just keep the pot small so that you don't have to make any really tough choices for big bets on later betting rounds.

What is shifting gears?

Shifting Gears

It's important to do everything you can to keep your opponents guessing. If you have been raising a lot – whether because you've had great cards or because you've been stealing – sometimes it's a good idea to change gears. That means to switch up your style and start playing conservatively for a while.

*This is especially effective in no limit hold em, where one missed read by your opponent can cost them a lot of money – and win you that money! Also remember to keep an eye out for an opponent who knows how to shift gears.

I demand to see more glossary!

Glossary, part 4

Whether your playing Texas holdem in a tournament, or playing Omaha with the guys, it's helpful to know good poker jargon. So you can walk the walk (or sling the cards), but can you talk the talk? Here are some more killer poker terms to help you along:

  • Heads up: Playing poker one on one. This is the most exciting part of a tournament, for obvious reasons.
  • OESD: Open-ended straight draw, which means you have four cards in a row. An example would be if you held 68 on a flop of 792. It's also called an up-and-down draw.
  • Double gutter: This is very similar to an OESD because two cards can make you a straight, but here you don't have four cards all in a row. An example would be 46 on a flop of 852. You can make a straight with a 3 or a 7.
  • Freeroll: A tournament you can play without having to put in any money for the buy-in. Many internet sites have them. You can't beat free Texas holdem poker!
  • Nit: Someone who only player very strong hands.

Is it right to limp big pairs?

Limping Big Pairs – Be Careful

When playing Texas holdem, it's not always smart to limp! In no limit hold em, there's sometimes a temptation to limp – that is, just call before the flop – with a hand like AA or KK. This can be a viable strategy, but it should be used sparingly. If you have several aggressive players left to act behind you, that makes it much better.

The problem is that if you limp in with AA and five more players limp in behind you, you're going to have a tough time knowing where you're at. So many people are in the pot that you don't know if someone has flopped a big hand like two pair, so you have to tread carefully. At the lower stakes games, you don't need to do anything too tricky to get chips in the pot when you've got a powerful hand. Just put in a normal-sized raise and expect to get action from mediocre hands.

What’s crazy pineapple?

Crazy Pineapple – When Two Cards Just Aren't Enough

Next time you play poker and you want to try a new game that's going to reward those in the know, try crazy pineapple. It's played just like you were playing Texas hold em, except that everyone is dealt three cards. After the betting on the flop is completed, you discard one card. The way that you'll get your edge is from recognizing that you need a much better hand in crazy pineapple than hold em, both before the flop and after.

A poor crazy pineapple player will see a hand like AJ6 and figure, “Well, AJ is a reasonably good hand for hold em, so I should play it.” The problem is, the 6 is almost totally worthless. You want hands that are coordinated all around, like 887 with two suited cards. Then when the flop comes A83 you can take a lot of money off the AJ guy who doesn't realize that everyone's going to have a lot more of a hand in this game than hold em.

What is chopping?


Suppose you're playing limit Texas hold em in a casino, and you're the big blind. It's folded to the small blind, who turns to you and says, “Do you chop?” Huh? Is this guy asking if you run an illegal garage where you break down stolen cars for parts? If so, the answer is yes, but it seems weird he knew that just from looking at you. In actuality, he's asking you to end the hand right now: you take back your big blind and he takes back his small blind. Most people in casinos – at least at the lower limits – will do this.

*It's up to you whether you want to or not, but it's considered very bad form, to make your decision based on the cards you're holding; always chop or never chop. The reason that most people say they do it is because the house takes a rake if there's a flop. The real reason most people do it is because they're scared to play a pot against only one other opponent. As soon as I remember to, I like to turn the players on both sides of me and say, “Oh, by the way, I don't chop.”

What’s a stop-n-go?

The Stop-n-Go

The stop-n-go is used when you have a short stack in a no limit Texas holdem tournament and you've decided you're going to play for all chips. However, instead of just reraising all-in right away, which would guarantee a call if you're short enough, you call the raise and then bet all-in no matter what flop (unless you flop an absolute monster).

*Here's an example: you have 500 chips after posting 100 in the big blind, and you have KQ. The button raises to 300. You could reraise immediately, but if you call and then push any flop you have a chance to make a hand like A3 or 22 fold. This would obviously be a huge score for you.

When is it correct to bet on the end?

Betting on the End, part 2

Playing Texas holdem can be tricky business. In a previous tip, we talked about not betting marginal hands on the end when you're the last person to act in a two-person pot in a holdem poker game. So when should you bet? When you have a very strong hand, you should bet.

If you hold 44 on a board on KQ432 you have a very powerful hand and should bet to extract value from hands like KJ or even KQ. You can also consider betting if you have a horrible hand, one that almost certainly won't win if you check. An example would be jack-ten. You've missed your straight draw, but your opponent checks to you on the river. You have almost no chance to win by checking, but you may be able to bluff your opponent out if she holds a hand like 77, QJ, or just AJ. You shouldn't bluff every time in that situation, but it's a spot you can consider bluffing.

Why would you keep a short stack alive?

Preserving the Bubble

In another tip we talked about “abusing the bubble.” Briefly, the idea is that when you're a smallish stack and you're approaching where a tournament starts paying out, you should tighten up some to try to make it into the money. On the flip side, when you're a big stack, you should be running all those short stacks over with aggressive raising. In a single-table tournament, where only the top three get paid, the big stack can actually intentionally keep the short stack alive to keep stealing blinds from the medium stack.

*Once the bubble has burst and everyone's in the money, the medium stacks can stand up to the thieving big stack. This kind of play comes up in all kinds of poker, from pot limit Texas holdem to limit 7-card stud.

Can you define some terms?

Glossary, part 1

Like every other pastime, poker has its own set of jargon and abbreviations. Knowing these will help you navigate the various books and websites about poker:

  • All-in: To bet or call all of your chips. This happens most often in pot limit holdem or no limit holdem.
  • $EV: Dollar expected value. This means the dollars that you expect to win or lose on average in a situation or through a play.
  • CEV: Chip expected value. In a cash game, $EV and CEV are the same, but in tournaments risking chips comes at a $EV price because there is value in surviving.
  • Aggressive: Betting or raising as opposed to calling or checking. This can be used to describe an action or a person.

When should you bet on the end?

Betting on the End

Suppose it's down to just you and your opponent after the last card has been dealt. You hold a very marginal hand, and your opponent checks. Should you bet? These topics relate to all forms of poker, but I'll be discussing pot limit when playing Texas hold em (it's almost identical to no limit).

You have Q6 on a board that reads KQ432, and your opponent checks to you. Even though you think you have the best hand, betting here would almost certainly be a mistake. The reason is that you're very unlikely to get called by a worse hand, and you're probably not going to make a better hand fold. So you should just check and hope you win the pot. We'll discuss this more in the next tip.

How should you play when there are no check-raises?

In Games With No Check-Raising

Believe it or not, sometimes you play in games where check-raising is not allowed. A check-raise means to check, and then when someone else bets, you raise. This is an important tool for the player who is first to act. It prevents the late position player from pouncing just because the early position player checked.

If you play in a game like this, you should be very conservative before the flop in early position. In late position, feel free to open up your game quite a bit. Knowing that the early position player can't wake up and spring a trap on you gives you a lot more flexibility in the game. This is a little bit less true in no limit Texas holdem poker than in limit, but it still all holds.

How do you play baseball?

Baseball – Not Just for the Jocks Anymore

Another fun home game you can play is called baseball. Baseball is played just like seven-card stud, with some special rules. In seven-card stud, you receive two cards face down and one up, then three more up, and then one down. There is a round of betting after each face up card, and also one after the face down card. The twist is that 3's and 9's are wild (three outs in an inning, nine innings in a game).

*If you want to really spice it up, play “Rock ‘n Jock baseball” where anytime you're dealt a 3 you have to match the pot or fold. If you're sick of playing Texas hold em, it's a nice change of pace.

Where’s part three of the glossary ?!

Glossary, pt 3

Are you the silent poker type or the kind that is constantly running his or her mouth? Regardless if you open your mouth a lot or not while maintaining your poker face, it can't hurt to use great poker terminology while you play. There are still a lot more useful terms that come up, so we'll continue with the glossary:

  • C&R: Ciaffone and Reuben. Two famous poker authors.
  • CO: Cutoff. The player to the right of the button.
  • C/R: Check-raise. This means to check, wait for someone to bet, and then raise their bet. This is used much more frequently in limit hold em than in no limit Texas hold em.
  • Folding equity: The value that comes from the possibility that all of your opponents will fold and you can pick up the pot.
  • Drawing dead: When a player has no chance to come from behind and win a hand.

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