Holdem Poker Basics

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You probably have heard the saying, “Holdem Poker takes minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master”. This couldn’t be any more true. To sit down at a table you only need to know a few key concepts, but to win in the long-run you need to dedicate yourself to the game of poker

This article contains the information you need to know to comfortably sit at a holdem poker table, and a few strategies to help you become a winner. Upon completion you’ll have a better understanding of hand rankings and how to play them, the flow of the game and how to use position to your advantage, and the truth about the skill involved in holdem poker.

Hand Rankings, Descriptions, and Odds

High Card
(1 to 1)
high card

When you don’t make a hand, your high card determines how good your rank. Unless you’re playing heads up, or have a good read on a player, it’s usually wrong to call the river without a made hand.

(1.4 to 1)

A pair is two equally ranked cards. Depending on how many over-cards are showing, and if there are flush or straight possibilities, a pair can be anywhere from a weak hand to a very strong hand. Having a top pair with the top kicker, on an unconnected board is usually a solid hand.

Two Pair
(20 to 1)
two pair

A two pair using, both your whole cards, is a solid hand and should be bet strongly. The higher pair determines how good the hand is, and the lower pair only comes into play if another player shares the same top pair. If the board pairs then anyone that would have otherwise had a pair, would have a two pair.

Trips / Set
(46 to 1)

Depending on how you made your hand, having three of a kind is either referred to Trips or a Set. When your cards already make up a pair, without relying on the board, then match up with another card it’s called a set. Trips are when one of your cards matches up with a pair on the board to make a three of a kind. They’re basically the same thing, but experienced players may look at you funny when calling trips a set or visa-versa.

(254 to 1)

A straight is having 5 consecutive cards. The Ace works as both the high and the low, but you can’t wrap around like 32AKQ. If someones betting into you or playing suspiciously, you should look to see if there are any flush possibilities, a pair on the board, or higher straights. A straight is very strong, but getting to attach to it can be costly.

(508 to 1)

A flush is five cards with the same suit. If more then one person has a flush, the highest card always determines who wins. Flushes can be played tricky, because they’re a very strong hand, but it’s not unusual for the board to pair, and get beat by a full house. Another consequence of playing flushes to slow is if a fourth card of the same suit falls on the board, play will slow down a lot knowing that someone just needs to hold one card of that suit to make a flush.

Full House
(693 to 1)
Full House

A full house consists of a hand holding both a pair and three of a kind. If two players both have a full house, whoever has the highest three of a kind wins the hand. Bottom pair only comes into play if both players share the same trips. Unless there’s a strong possibility that someone has a higher full house then you, full houses should be played to keep other players in the pot. Bet just enough to make it right for someone to chase their straight or flush, and hope that they hit it.

(4164 to 1)

A four of a kind is when you hold all four equally ranked cards. Don’t get too excited and play this hand crazy. A four of a kind should be played like a strong full house.

Straight Flush
(64,973 to 1)
straight flush

A straight flush is the highest ranked poker hand. A royal flush is an AKQJT straight flush. If you get one of these, just hope that someone else made a premium hand, to pay you off with.

Using your position

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Holdem Poker Skill

When talking about the skill involved in holdem poker, there’s usually two completely opposite sides people will take. Some believe that poker is just another form of gambling, and the only skill is knowing how to cheat. The other side believes that you can play playing tricky, and reading other players physical ‘tells’.

Poker is a game of skill. The winners are the players who are always studying, have patience, use bankroll management, and understand game selection. You don’t even need to be that good! Just play at a table where you see other players making mistakes.

The better players will always come out ahead in the long run, but in the short run anything can happen. A good player can lose $1,000 playing 3/6-limit holdem over the course of a week. It happens all the time. But then the next week maybe he’ll win $1,200, and come out $200 ahead for both weeks. This is why having a good size bankroll is so important. You should play about 20,000 hands before deciding your win rate

So, Time + bankroll management + practice + game selection = $$$

Now Start Playing!

Now that you have some understanding of holdem poker basics, you just have to start playing. Make a small real money deposit of around $300, and play at a limit where you have at least 300 big bets, like .50/$1 limit holdem.

After playing thousands of hands every month you’ll begin to develop a feel for the game and implement your own style of play. Just keep on working your way up through each limit, keep learning, and before you know it you’ll be making a nice second income from playing poker.

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