As opposed to shorthand, longhand poker refers to games with six or more players. What follows is an overview of some strategic hints that can help you improve your play at longhand limit Texas Hold’em. Note that this section is geared more toward strategy at lower limit tables of $2-$4 or less.
This is where most beginning poker players make their mistakes. Simply stated, they play too many hands. What beginners fail to recognize is that longhand limit Hold’em is a game of patience. As sad as it sounds, you can literally just wait to be dealt the quality hands, and just win with those.
So what are the good hands? David Sklansky, a poker expert and author of numerous books on poker strategy, groups hands into eight categories. We’ve decided to simplify his method a little bit by not separating the suited cards and keeping it to five categories (trust us, it’s much less complicated our way). If you’d like a comprehensive look at poker strategy—strategy that’s on the “very advanced” level—we highly recommend checking out one of Mr. Sklansky’s excellent books. In the meantime, let’s move on to the ranking of hands.
A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, A-K
These are the best hands, bar none. You should raise or re-raise with them, pre-flop. If you hold A-A, you especially want to jam as much money into the pot as possible.
T-T, 9-9, A-Q, Q-K
These are good hands, but they aren’t amazing. You generally need help from the board. Almost always in low-limit poker, you’ll need to hit a set with T-T or 9-9 to win.
A-J, A-T, K-J, Q-J, 10-J
These are good hands. However, be careful playing A-J, A-T and K-J as these hands are vulnerable to losing to a higher kicker (i.e. if an ace is on the board, but someone else has A-K, you would lose because he has a higher “kicker”). You should generally play these hands only if they are suited.
8-8, 7-7, 6-6, 10-9, 9-8, 8-7, 7-6 (only play the connecting cards if they are suited)
These hands are OK, but generally don’t win. They need a lot of help from the board.
5-5, 4-4, 3-3, 2-2 (in other words, small pocket pairs)
Category I hands should almost always be played. The only exception is if you hold A-K or, say, J-J and you are positive that someone has K-K or A-A by the way they are raising (in other words, the person is a very tight player normally but is acting like a maniac, pre-flop). These hands in general should be raised from any position and you want to get a lot of money at the pre-flop stage. However, remember, for A-K you need to hit an ace or a king. Don’t get in a raising war with one person because that person is likely to have a pocket pair already.
Category II hands should generally be played. These hands do best with less people, so you should raise to knock people out. Don’t jam the pot, though, i.e. re-raise, because these hands have little value before you see the board. Don’t call three bets cold with these hands (if you raise, and someone re-raises, call, but don’t call if someone raised, then re-raised, and then it’s your turn.) The reason not to call three bets cold is because you clearly don’t have an advantage going into the flop. THE ONE THING TO REMEMBER IN LIMIT Hold’em IS THAT YOU WANT TO HAVE AN ADVANTAGE GOING INTO THE FLOP. Go ahead and call one raise in a late position, unless the raiser was in an early position and is a very good player (in this situation, your opponent probably has you beat with a category I hand, unfortunately).
Category III: Treat these hands with caution. They are easily defeated by category I or II hands, so these hands are best played with fewer people in the pot who don’t hold category I or II hands. In other words, raise to knock people out, but don’t call a raise with something of this caliber.
Category IV/V: These hands are very different. You want a large, multi-way pot. The reason is that 95% of the time, these hands are trash. But 5% of the time, these hands are amazing (i.e. if you hit a straight, flush, or trips). Therefore, you want to be paid off big when you actually hit something with these hands, which is why you want a lot of people in the pot. Consider this example: You hold 6-7, the board is ace-5-8, you call a bet on flop, 9 comes on the turn and then you jam the pot. Thus, you want to commit as few chips pre-flop with these hands as possible while hoping that a lot of people go into the flop. If you are the dealer, then, and one guy is in with a raise, fold. But if you’re the big blind, and five people have called a raise, go ahead and call and see the flop.
Once you hit the flop, you’ll be in one of five situations:
1. You’ll be winning, but you’ll have a beatable hand. You’ll have a top pair, a top kicker, for example, or an overpair (i.e Q-Q and the board is J-T-5). You want to jam the pot and knock people out. Thus, you want someone to bet to you and then to raise if you are in early position. If you are in late position and no one has bet, you must bet to knock people out.
2. You’ll have a boss hand. More than likely, you’ll have three of a kind or maybe even a full house on the flop. There’s no reason to knock people out because you will probably win (unless you have trips and there’s a flush draw out there; then you need to make them pay). In these situations, it’s generally best to wait until the turn to really jam the pot, but jam the pot on the flop if you think a scary draw is out there that will beat you.
3. You’ll have the second-best hand. If you follow our pre-flop strategy, this is unlikely, but it could happen. An example is if you have A-Q and K-Q-4 is on the board. In this case, treat the hand as a drawing hand or simply fold, unless you really believe that you may have the best hand at the moment (this is unlikely in a larger, multi-way pot because someone is bound to have the king).
4. You’ll have a drawing hand. An example is if you have two spades in the hole and there are two on the board. For these hands, you must use outs/pot odds. For detailed explanations of these terms, check out our Poker Jive and Pot Odds pages.
5. You’ll have nothing. An example would be if you have 6-6 and flop is A-K-7. You’re clearly beat; just fold at the first bet.
This is the basic way to win at limit longhand. There really aren’t that many tricky situations to encounter. Just remember, the larger the number of people, the higher the likelihood that someone has the boss hand that’s out there on the board, so be careful of that. Don’t get attached to A-K if A-Q-Q is on the board, because somebody probably has the queen.