There is so much information about poker online. However, most of the information is for players who are at least no longer beginners. We, at Intertops Poker, decided to run an ongoing tutorial geared directly at new players. So sign up, grab your poker bonus and let's get going.
Poker Simplified Does Not Mean that Poker is Simple!
We would like to begin a series of articles that will, hopefully, take you step-by-step in Texas Hold’em from the first cards to the river and thereafter. The pre-flop cards have great significance even though you get to see five community cards if you stay in to the end of the hand.
The hole cards are the ones you don’t see. When you bluff, or an opponent bluffs, it is only on the basis of his or her hole cards. This seems so obvious yet many new players don’t make this simple yet profound observation.
Before you can even think about bluffing, you need to be able to evaluate your cards. If poker can be defined as a game in which we cultivate good actions, good decisions, or good habits, these all begin when the hole cards have been dealt and everyone, in theory, is evaluating their own hand.
At this point, we should point out the great value in playing online poker at Intertops Poker. When you play poker online, you get in many more hands than when you travel to a land based casino. Online poker is a lot more flexible. If you find an online game that is too sophisticated for you, you can always find a game with players more like yourself.
Finally, when you play online, you can access many poker bonuses that might be unavailable to you on land. Anytime you can enlarge your account with a poker bonus, you can use that money to gain the experience you’ll need to be a winner in poker tournaments.
Categorizing Hole Cards
There are a few ways to categorize hole cards. You can have a pair, you can have two suited cards, you can have sequential cards, you can have high cards, and you can have low cards.
There are a large number of hands that only the top pros can play. These hands occur in specific situations. Pros might play them based on table position, their own chip stack, their opponents, and other factors.
Beginning players should consider these hands to be immediate folds. If you aren’t defending the big blind, you would have to put money in the pot in order to call. If you are sitting in early position, you don’t know what any opponent might have but you might expect that at least one opponent will have a much better hand than you do.
So, for now, and because we are running this tutorial for beginners, we say that you should see any hand that isn’t a pair or a hand with sequential, suited cards, as a fold.
A Pair of Aces
This is clearly the strongest hand pre-flop so we should start by evaluating all pairs. Most pros play all pairs, even the low ones, because they can get three-of-a-kind and confuse opponents. The pros tell new players to fold low pairs.
The middle level pairs are problematic for new players because they can quite easily lose to a higher pair. But in later position or in defense of the big blind, you might choose to stay in with even a pair of eights, as questionable as that hand is.
The only pairs that are strong enough to play pre-flop are aces, kings, and queens. However, if you know that a player always opens strong with aces or kings and you have queens, you might decide to fold a pair of queens.
This conundrum points to the vast uncertainty in Texas Hold’em.
Some hands that begin as suited cards end up as a flush. This is neither common nor rare but might lead new players into temptation. If you don’t get two more cards on the flop, you should fold this type of hand.
However, we are still talking about how to handle this hand pre-flop. A lot depends on where you sit in the betting rotation. If you are in late position and no one seems to be showing strength, you can enter the fray with even a low suited hand.
More often than not, players ahead of you will raise the big blind. If you have a weak suited hand and anyone raises ahead of you, fold your hand.
This applies to low suited hands. Higher suited cards deserve a little more consideration since even if you don’t get two more cards to your flush, you might pair a high card. Again, a lot depends on what others are doing but high suited cards are much better than low suited cards.
The best suited cards are sequential cards. A hand of suited consecutive cards is far better than a hand of just suited cards. However, you still have to be careful. You might get four to a flush or four to a straight but the straight flush comes only once in a very long time.
Unpaired and Unsuited Cards
If you don’t have a pair and your cards are not suited, your hand is very weak unless you have two high cards. Most beginners make a fundamental mistake when they get an unsuited and unpaired hand with either an ace or a king.
While these cards are certainly good, it is at this point that you have to consider your kicker. If the second card is low, you have a good chance to lose the hand at the level of the kickers. When you have two high cards, you can pair one and have a high kicker to go along with the pair.
Again, your betting position and your chip stack also have a major role in determining your course of action. If you are in early position, you should be much tougher on your cards than if you are in late position. If you are in a tournament and have managed to grow your chip stack, you might play a little bolder.
Always keep in mind, however, that there is a fine line between bold play and foolish play.