I just wrote a blog post about increasing your chances of winning at Blackjack, and I thought, you know what, this would make a great series of posts!
So, now I’m writing a post about how to increase your chances of winning at Texas holdem.
The good news is that the casino doesn’t care if you win at Texas holdem or lose at Texas holdem.
The house isn’t banking the game, so you don’t have to deal with beating the casino.
The bad news is that you still need to beat your competitors at the table. Here are some tips on how to do that:
If you’re not winning often enough at Texas holdem to break even or show a small profit, you probably need to tighten up. Some of the more experienced poker players reading this might think they’re playing tight enough already, but if that’s true, why aren’t you winning enough to break even?
If you’re a beginner, you might not even know what I mean when I suggest you “tighten up.”
This way you’ll be putting your money in the pot when you have a better probability of winning the pot.
It’s important that you have a gas pedal and brakes, too.
You might have a super hand preflop, but if the flop doesn’t fit your hole cards at all, you should be ready to get away from the hand before it’s too late to get out.
This doesn’t mean you have to lay down and die every time you don’t get a perfect flop. You can still make continuation bets against weak opponents.
Winning in the long run in poker rooms and Texas Holdem poker sites means losing less money on pots you probably weren’t going to win.
Saving a few dollars is just as important as winning a few dollars.
Bet and Raise More Often
The next step is get more aggressive – this means betting and raising more often.
If you’re playing tight, you usually have strong hands.
When you bet and raise with those strong hands, you do 2 things to help you increase your chances of winning:
- You get more money in the pot when you have a better chance of winning a showdown.
- You pick up money from the pot when all your opponents fold.
This means that if you have strong cards, and you’re the first one in the pot, you should bet instead of check.
I’ve read a book recently by Ed Miller where he suggests that tight aggressive players always fold when raised to. I don’t think most tight aggressive players play that simply at all.
But most players who aren’t winning enough are playing too many hands, and they’re playing the hands they are playing too passively.
If you don’t feel good enough about your hand to raise with it, you really don’t need to be calling with it, either.
I’ve seen at least one person describe a tight aggressive strategy as being a “raise or fold” strategy.
That’s not quite right, but it’s closer to optimal than you’re probably playing right now.
Semi-Bluff More Often
I laughed at a friend of mine who’s loose aggressive not long ago because he told me, “Bluffing is an essential part of the game.”
Bluffs work best when you’re bluffing against 1 or 2 opponents.
A better option – for most players – is to learn how to semi-bluff.
A semi-bluff is a bet or a raise you make with a hand that probably isn’t ahead, but it has the possibility of winning on a later round.
The classic example is on the flop in a Texas holdem game when you have 4 cards to a flush and you’re facing a single opponent who you think has a medium pair.
He’s ahead of you, but you get 2 more cards.
If you bet into this pot, he might fold. You’ll win the pot right there and then.
But some of the time, he’ll call.
When he does, you have about a 1 in 3 probability of winning at the showdown by hitting your flush.
Most beginners know what bluffing is, but they don’t know what a semi-bluff is and don’t semi-bluff often at all.
It should be a go-to move for a Texas holdem player.
Play within Your Bankroll
You should have enough money set aside to play Texas holdem with that you’re not stressed out about every bet on every hand. Scared money always loses.
This depends, in part, on your goals as a player.
If you’re just playing recreationally, and you don’t care about the money, it’s okay to play with a smaller bankroll than you would play with if you were trying to play professionally.
The idea behind bankroll management in poker is that you want to avoid going broke because you had a run of bad luck.
This means not playing in games where the bankroll is more than 5% (or 2%) of your total bankroll. In some cases – if you’re conservative – it might mean having 150 times your buy-in as a bankroll.
Most experts agree that the bankroll requirements for a sit-n-go tournament player are different from the bankroll requirements for a multi-table tournament player.
If you want to make optimal poker decisions, you need to have a big enough bankroll that you’re willing to bet and raise when you have a small edge.
I’ve known a lot of ABC poker players who don’t pay attention to hands they’re not playing in. Once they’ve folded, they just watch television or daydream.
If you’re going to increase your chances of winning at poker, you need to pay attention to how your opponents play the game.
Every hand they provide you with information about their playing tendencies, whether you’re paying attention or not.
If you have an opponent who raises every time he sees a flop, you won’t know his tendency unless you’ve been paying attention to how he plays.
In fact, most opponents aren’t this predictable. You should pay attention to your opponents’ ranges.
Do they bet into the pot 50% of the time? 70% of the time?
What do they do most of the time on the turn and the river?
Understanding these tendencies is critical to winning against such opponents.
Read a Book (Or Several)
Some poker players are naturals and learn everything they need to know at the table.
Reading Harrington on Holdem isn’t going to do anything but improve your game, no matter how much experience you have at the table.
At least read David Sklansky’s Theory of Poker.
You can pay for tutoring and coaching. You can even buy a MasterClass membership and learn from Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey.
I lost at poker big-time and consistently until I started reading books about the game. The first book about poker I ever read was Andy Bellin’s Poker Nation, which isn’t the best strategy guide ever.
But for a beginner, it was a lifesaver.
Take Care of Your Health
This probably sounds like some frou-frou hippy-dippy nonsense, but if you take better care of your health, you’ll make better decisions at the poker table.
This means drinking enough water, eating a variety of nutritious food, getting enough rest, and exercising regularly.
A Texas holdem player isn’t an athlete in the traditional sense, but a strong mind resides in a strong body – so do what you need to do to keep your body healthy and strong.
Some very talented poker players have destroyed their poker careers and their lives by abusing drugs and alcohol. Read about Stu Ungar if you want a specific example.
You increase your chances of winning at Texas holdem by becoming a more skilled player.
At lower stakes, this probably just means folding more often and betting or raising more often than you’re doing now.
When you start playing for higher stakes, it will take more effort to be a winner.
But it’s worth the hard work.