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By this time, almost every poker player knows how to play Texas Hold em.  The basic rules are very simple:

  1. There is no ante in Texas Hold’em.  Instead two players put in a preset amount.  The small blind puts in half of what the big blind puts in.
  2. The dealer deals out two face down cards to each player.
  3. Before the flop, the betting starts to the left of the big blind and ends at the big blind.
  4. The betting has a different pattern after the flop.
  5. The flop is three community cards.
  6. Then there is another round of betting.
  7. Then the dealer lays out one card called the turn and there is another round of betting.
  8. Finally, the dealer lays out the last card called the river and there is another round of betting.
  9. At the showdown, which happens if at least two players stay in the hand throughout, the highest five card hand wins.  Players can use as many of the community cards as they need to create their best hand.

It Seems so Simple!

Yes, it does!

But it really isn’t simple at all.  Those two hidden cards make so much difference!  We have spoken about Texas Hold’em a number of times.  All of the articles we have written on Texas Hold’em are available to anyone, not just to members of Juicy Stakes Poker, and you can find them in the articles section at the bottom of the home page.

In this article, we will try to focus on some elements of Hold’em that many players don’t know, realize, or pay any attention to.

Before the Flop

At this juncture in a hand, everyone has two cards in the hole.  Every player has to at least call the big blind to stay in the hand.  On this round of betting each player, except the big blind, has to either fold, call the big blind, or raise the big blind.

It is important to know that you are playing against the big blind at this point.  It is not unusual for the big blind to fold if someone has raised her and she has a poor hand.  She will not fold if everyone called or folded.

If someone raises the big blind, then everyone is playing against that player.

Calling to See the Flop

Many new Texas Hold’em players think that the flop is a big chance to get a great hand.  This is true and not true at the same time!

It is true that three cards can help you get a great hand.  However, they can also help the other players as much as they can help you!  So, it is not a given that the flop will help you win a hand!

Let’s count cards and see what the flop entails.  If there are seven players at the table, there are 14 down cards.  That leaves 38 cards in the deck.  If you are hoping to get one card to strengthen your hand, the chances of that happening are 3 out of 13 (since the flop is three cards) which is about 13-1 against getting a card to improve your hand.

For this reason, most experienced Hold’em players fold before the flop on at least 70% of the hands.   Poker slang refers to calling the big blind before the flop, as opposed to raising, “limping in”.  The reason this slang term for what most new players think is a very natural bet is so negative is because experienced players know that calling “to see the flop” is a prescription for losing a lot of money.

YouTube Seems to Show a Different Story

That is very true.

The YouTube clips of high level poker always show the most interesting and exciting hands.  But paying close attention, you will see that most of these exciting hands are between two players!  All of the other players have folded rather than call the big blind.

Folding before the flop means that the hand costs you exactly zero dollars!

As a result, the YouTube clips are great entertainment but they are not particularly instructive.

What is Instructive in Texas Hold’em?

Playing is instructive!

We have often told players to start out at low stakes.  One of the best reasons to do so is that simply playing is the most instructive way to learn as much as you can about Texas Hold’em and at low stakes your risk is small.

Simply playing helps new players to learn to pay attention on every hand.  In online poker, you can’t see the opponents but you can still learn from their actions.  Do they limp in too often?  Do they bluff too often?  How do they try to trick opponents into thinking that they have a strong hand when they are bluffing or a weak hand when they are playing from strength?

Playing at low stakes gives players the chance to make mistakes—and new players make a lot of mistakes—at very low cost.  The goal is to eliminate mistakes but that never happens.  Even the top pros make many mistakes!  So, the more realistic goal is to make inexpensive mistakes and to learn from each one.

Are There Examples of this from Everyday Life?

There are many!  Our favorite comes from the great book “Up the Organization” by Robert Townsend who was name the president of Avis almost 60- years ago and led it to become a much stronger company.

He wrote that he considered himself successful if only about 30% of his decisions as president were completely correct!  The idea is to minimize the negative results of a mistake and in Texas Hold’em, the best way to minimize the effects of mistakes is to play at low stakes.

Do Players Bluff at Low Stakes?

Because the cost of bluffing and losing is relatively small, there is actually more bluffing at low stakes than at higher stakes.  But you also have to keep in mind that there is some level of bluffing on every hand since before the flop players only have their own cards to judge their course of action.

Calling to see the flop is a type of bluff.  If the opponents have read the limper well, they can often win some money from him or her since limping in usually indicates a poor hand.  Limping in can also be the best strategy for a player with a good hand—like a pair of aces—that the player doesn’t want to telegraph so early.

This latter play is a classic Texas Hold’em bluff.

Yes, There are Many Nuances in Texas Hold’em

We hope all new poker players—and even many experienced players—can benefit from this article.  Juicy Stakes Poker offers several variations of poker and many different stakes levels.

We publish one new article every week as well.

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