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>> Starting Hand Selection in Texas Hold'em Poker - Poker Strategy

The Importance of Good Starting Hand Selection

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


Like most players, I began my poker career with limit hold‘em. While I worked hard to do well in limit games, I could never really master them. Before I sat down at my first table, I read everything that I could on hold‘em. Most comprehensive books for beginners (from Jones, Krieger, Sklansky, and others) focus on limit games, so that’s what I learned. These fixed betting structure tables provide a great way for beginners to learn the game because they can focus on their cards rather than worry about how much to bet. For years, limit hold‘em was the game of choice for professionals since that was the only game they could find.

However, due to poker’s recent surge and the phenomenon of televised tournaments, no limit hold ‘em is also surging. Not only are no limit tournaments extremely popular, but no limit cash games are beginning to dominate the tables online and offline. After a rough night at a limit table, I decided to take the plunge and try out no limit. I can honestly say that I never sat down at another limit table after that night. In my opinion, no limit hold ‘em is the game of choice for naturally tight-aggressive players. If you’re interested in switching from limit cash games to no limit, what should you do?

To start, you could read some basic poker strategy books. Unfortunately, most books on no limit are strictly for tournaments. Still, you can pick up the general idea of no limit hold ‘em and still get some good advice for playing in tournaments. The rules of no limit are actually very simple. The minimum bet is the big blind, and you can bet as much of your stack as you wish at any given time.

Next, you can try playing online at the micro-limit tables. Most sites offer no limit tables as low as 1c/2c. Check out our reviews on each poker site to see what tables they offer. While these tables generally won’t play as well as the higher limits, some of your opponents will be pretty tough. Most importantly, it will allow you to get comfortable with the no limit structure without risking a lot of money.

One of the biggest concerns from limit players who switch to no limit is, “How much do I bet?” The standard preflop raise in no limit games is 3 to 4 times the big blind. So, if you’re at a $1/2 table, you should raise your pocket Aces $6-8. This is a large enough bet to thin the field without making it too expensive for lesser hands to stay in. Online, I tend to raise my premium hands even more than this at times to make the numerous fish at the table think twice before they try to draw out on me. On the flop and beyond, betting about the size of the pot should be the standard bet when you have a strong hand but want to discourage draws. If you’re looking for information or you’re on a continuation bet bluff, betting 1/3 – 1/2 the size of the pot is standard.

Also, if your experiences with no limit are from tournaments, you should understand how to adapt to cash games. First of all, the blinds always stay the same in cash games, so you don’t have to worry about playing more aggressively because of the increasing blinds. What this means is that you can afford to play a tighter game and wait for premium hands. Most importantly, you’re playing for real money at cash games. In tournaments, you’re risking chips from a one-time buy-in. You’ll eventually need to make a move, and you’ll play until you lose your entire stack or win everyone else’s. You won’t need to take as many risks in a cash game, since you can stand up and walk away at any time.

No limit hold‘em cash games are my preferred way to play poker. They’re excellent for tight players because you don’t need to win as money pots as you would in limit games to consistently come out ahead. You can afford to sit back and play your strongest cards, since you can more than double-up on any given hand. You should be less concerned about winning pots and taking the blinds, and more concerned about choosing the best hand to make the most profit. Dominated drawing hands go down in value when playing no limit, and remember that winning one big pot can make you a winner for the night. Try out some online micro-limit games, tournaments, and read up to become more familiar with the format. I don’t that you’ll ever look back, either.



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