Lessons 6-10

If you have visited our pages for Lessons1-5, you know by now that we like to move quickly, and we do not want to waste your time. We are going to keep up with that tradition in Lessons 6-10. While all of our lessons are geared mainly toward poker novices, you can pick up some useful info here even if you are a poker expert. We strive to touch on all major subjects of interest during our lessons, since most players tend to be good in one area and less good in others. A well-rounded poker player is a lethal weapon! These pages try to help you expand on your skills to make you as well-rounded as possible. Just click on the links below to get some useful pointers on important skill sets.

Lesson 6

Although we touched on it in Lesson 1 , we’ll now take a deeper look at the importance of seat position, and how where you sit during a game can seriously affect the outcome.

The importance of positioning can’t be stressed enough. Even if the same cards turn out in the same order, the results will be vastly different depending on where you’re sitting. Hands that are playable or winning combinations in late positions will often be unplayable in earlier positions.

So how does it work? Well, if you are first, second or third to play after the dealer, you are said to be in early position (also known as up front). If you are the dealer (also known as playing the button) or are one or two seats to the right of the dealer, you are in late position. All players in-between (and normally facing the dealer across the table) are in middle position.

If you’re in early position, the type of hands you’re forced to play are restricted to high cards as, of course, you have no way of knowing what other, later players are holding.

While playing in middle position, you’ll have callers waiting behind you and some who have already played. The chance of a raise is slightly reduced and there are already several players in the pot, so you’ll get better odds playing somewhat weaker hands than normal.

When you are in late position you have the advantage of having seen almost every play so far, and you’ll at least know how other players feel about their hands by the way they’ve checked, bet, raised or re-raised.

If you are playing the button (i.e. the dealer), you are last to act in each betting round of that hand, which is a major advantage. As with late positions, you can play a much weaker hand than normal and can optimize the use of bluffs, particularly as the game progresses.

The next time you’re playing, take a look at where you’re sitting in relation to the dealer and think twice about your hand. It could make all the difference!

Lesson 7

You’ll probably realize very quickly after you’ve started your poker career that the level of your opponents is crucial to making money and being successful at poker. Whole books have been written on this subject, but we don’t want to scare you or intimidate you. Suffice to say that knowing your opponents and reading their moves is a skill every poker player should continually try to improve.

One of the basic ideas of opponent observation is that you should analyze your opponents as much as possible, even when you are not involved in any given pot. Always try to pick up on styles and patterns of play that can make all the difference when the game gets going, and when you yourself are involved in the pot.

One of the most common faults among inexperienced low-limit poker players is that they will see the flop in Texas Hold’em with hands they should have folded. In other words, many players tend to keep playing long after they’re beat. If you can pick up on this kind of a pattern, you should do your best to exploit it. Don’t do your opponents any favors in poker; they won’t do any favors for you.

When a poker player is playing a bad hand long after it’s been beat, they’re said to be playing loose Conversely, you’ll hardly ever see a beginner low-limit Hold’em player playing too conservatively or tightly Poker beginners will almost always decide to call if they have the option of either calling or folding. They came to play and it’s no fun for them to fold without calling one last final bet to see what you have. Take advantage of this beginners character trait.

The major difference between inexperienced low-limit players and experienced medium/high-limit players is that the latter do a lot more raising pre-flop. If you ever find yourself in a game where there is an excessive amount of raising going on with even the flimsiest of cards, that’s a sure sign you’re up against a talented player and it’s worth thinking about getting out!

One last tip: always assume your opponent is better than you until you have clear evidence to the contrary. Overconfidence is a crime in this game!

Lesson 8

A lot of the action in poker unfolds before the flop, and many times what you do (or don’t do) during this period can heavily influence your results in the game. In Lesson 8, we’ll take a quick look at some good strategies for approaching the pre-flop portion of a game of poker:

Calling before the flop

Calling that first bet is one of the more important decisions you’ll make during a hand of poker, since when you do decide to call you will almost always have to put more money in the pot.

The cost of voluntarily calling the blind when you don’t have a premium hand adds up over the course of a game. Remember, a dollar saved is worth just as much to you as any dollar you could win.

In late positions you can call with average to good hands, but in early positions you’ll need a very good hand to call. For long-term success, the trick is to consistently play the hands that you think have the most chance of becoming the best hand by the time the showdown rolls around.

Raising before the flop

In a lot of cases, a good thing you can do to immediately improve your game is to not routinely call pre-flop raises, unless you have a genuine raising hand. This will impact your game signficantly as there’s usually a lot of pre-flop raising, especially in the average low- limit game.

When you do raise, you should do so only with genuinely premium hands and not with hands that you figure will be beaten before the flop. This is especially true when you are in a very late position, as very few players will throw away their hands when they know they only have to call one bet to see the flop.

Don’t forget: a raise in an early position will tend to narrow the field while a raise in a late position will tend to build the pot.

Lesson 9

If you see the flop and you are genuinely undecided between checking and betting, you should usually choose to bet. By betting you won’t give away any free cards so you won’t get beat on the river by a player who would have folded. Also, the pot will be bigger if you do win.

If you flop a good hand your decision to bet depends on a number of things: the strength of your hand, how many players are left in the hand, the chances of getting an over card on the turn or river and, of course, your estimation of what your opponents are holding. Your decision should be based on all of these factors.

You should bet your good hands for value but you should also occasionally check to vary your play and to keep your opponents guessing.

Raising on the flop

The first thing you should remember about raising on the flop, especially in a low-limit game, is that it will rarely force out any player who flopped any kind of hand at all or any kind of flush or straight draw. When you do raise on the flop, what you are doing is building a pot and making your opponents pay to draw out on you.

You should raise and re-raise if you flop top pair with top kicker and think you have the best hand at that point. You are the favorite to win the hand against any single straight or flush draw, and also against any other player with top pair and a weaker kicker.

A side benefit to playing your hand this way is that when there is also a flush draw on the board, your opponents won’t know which of the two hands you have: the top pair or the flush draw. This doubt helps you as you will be called more often on the river when the flush card doesn’t come.

Always play with caution, however. If there’s a lot of raising and re-raising all on the flop, it’s likely that someone has flopped a set or two pair and already has you beat. You also have to be careful if one of the raisers is in the blind. They could have anything in the pocket: maybe they got a miracle flop and are now betting to protect it.

Lesson 10

Well, class, after Lesson 8 and Lesson 9, there’s only one way to go for the final lesson in this unit—that’s right, it’s time to look at the turn and the river. As you know, the turn is the fourth community card in Texas Hold’em and the river is the fifth. If you’re still in the game in these later rounds, good for you! Here are some short hints that will help you stay in the game until the very end (in other words, to help you win).

Betting on the turn

The turn card is the first big opportunity to bet more, raise when the bets have doubled, and make the draws pay to beat you. If you have decided to see the turn card, you must be quite sure of what you need to win and what the odds of making it are. If you have top pair or make two pair on the turn, you should usually bet and raise to protect your hand and make the draws pay.

You should also consider raising on the turn if you have a medium-strength hand with a chance of improving on the river. Since you were going to put two big bets in the pot anyway, you can put it all in on the turn, giving the impression that you have a great hand and possibly winning the pot right there.

Betting on the river

There are two main reasons to bet on the river, when all the cards are out and you’re the first to bet. The first reason is to induce a weaker hand to put more money into a pot that you think you’re going to win. The second reason is to get a better hand to fold when you have the second-best hand.

Another time to bet on the river is when you’ve missed your straight or flush draw and you feel that your opponent has also, but holds two big cards. If you feel that your A-J will lose to his A-Q, you should consider betting. Your opponent will be hard-pressed to call with only an ace-high, and you could steal the pot.

Also, if you make the nuts on the river and you have to call a bet in early position, you might make more money if you call rather than raise. It’s better to have five players call behind you than to raise and only get one or two.

Good luck and go get ’em!