There is a limit on how many starting hands you can play before the flop in No Limit
Texas Hold’em, even for the world’s best players. If you try to play too many hands,
you’ll bleed away your chip stack (unless lady luck is on your side).
The best approach is to play a tight range of strong and/or playable hands, and you need
to play those hands aggressively. Playing all of your hands aggressively, including the
more speculative ones like 7♠ 6♠ or 5♥ 5♣, allows you to disguise the strength of your
When you raise, your opponents won’t know whether you have A-A, A-K, or 7-6, which makes
you super tough to play against. Tight and aggressive wins the game!
Don’t Be The First Player To Limp
Limping (just calling the big blind preflop) is an absolute no-no as the first player to
enter a pot. There are two main reasons why this play should be avoided: You can’t win
the pot before the flop like you could if you raised. You give the players behind very
enticing pot odds, making it more likely you face multiple players and thus less likely
you win the pot.
The only acceptable situation in which to limp is when at least one other player has
already limped. This is called over-limping, and it can be a good play because you are
getting great pot odds to join the action so you can hit something good on the flop,
Semi-Bluff Aggressively with Your Draws
If you want to truly crush poker, you need to bluff effectively. But bluffing
ineffectively is one of the fastest ways to lose your money at the table. So, how do you
keep your bluffing frequency under control?
The most effective way to bluff is to let the cards you have dictate if you are going to
bluff or not. This means bluffing with hands that have outs to improve to the best hand
on a later street, such as straight draws, flush draws, or even just an overcard or two
to the board.
When you’re just starting out, bluffing with total nothing hands prior to the river is
not advisable (except in one situation that I’ll tell you about shortly).
Fast-Play Your Strong Hands to Build the Pot and Make More Money
It’s a sad sight when a player checks their flopped nut flush three times, and then has
to awkwardly table their monster of a poker hand when their opponent checks back the
river. Slow-playing too often is a mistake common among players who are afraid of
chasing their opponents out of the pot when they have strong poker hands.
In most cases, it’s best to bet your strong hands to build the pot and protect your
equity. That’s not to say you should always bet/raise your strong hands post-flop
However, when you feel uncertain, just bet (or check-raise if you weren’t the preflop
aggressor). Yes, it’s disappointing when your opponent folds, but that’s not nearly as
disappointing as getting outdrawn or missing out on potential value.
Defend Your Big Blind (with the Right Hands)
The big blind is a special position because you already have 1 big blind invested in the
pot. For this reason, whenever you are faced with a raise while sitting in the big
blind, you will have better pot odds to call than the other positions – think of it as a
Because of your discount and the fact that you are the last person to act preflop, you
can profitably call with many more hands than if you were sitting in another position.
That’s not to say you should call raises with trash hands like 9♠ 5♦, but the more
borderline hands like K♣ 9♦ and Q♥ 6♥ become playable in most situations.
There are other important factors too, like how often your opponent will continuation
bet post-flop, but the three above are the main ones you should consider.
Fold When You’re Unsure
Want to know the biggest difference between a bad player and a professional player? It’s
the good player’s ability to lay down a good hand like top pair when they think they are
This sounds very simple, but it is very hard to do in practice partly because of the way
our brains are built. We are naturally curious and we naturally want to win. When we
fold, we surrender our chance to win the pot and we don’t get to satisfy our curiosity
by finding out what our opponent has.
Calling too often and in the wrong situations is the second fastest way to lose at poker
(after ineffective bluffs). Whenever you’re unsure whether to call or fold versus a bet
or raise, do yourself a service and fold.
Pro Tip: When you fold in one of these situations, make sure you note down the details
of the hand so you can try to figure out if you made the right fold after your session.
Studying and/or discussing these sorts of hands is a great way to consistently improve
your skills and fill in the gaps of your poker knowledge.
Attack When Your Opponent Shows Weakness
Players don’t check with hands that can call multiple bets as often as they should. This
means that, when they do check, they usually have a relatively weak hand that will often
fold if faced with multiple bets. This is the “bluffing with nothing” situation I
alluded to earlier.
When your opponent shows a lot of weakness in a heads-up pot (like if they check on the
flop and the turn), you can take advantage of them with an aggressive bluffing strategy.
Not only should you bet with your usual semi-bluffs, you should also bet as a pure bluff
with some nothing hands, ideally ones with good blocker effects.
Only Play In Good Games
This is as true now as when Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) said it in Rounders
(1998). If you want to play poker and win, you need to play against weaker players than
Think about it like this: If you are the 9th best poker player in the world, you will be
the best player at almost any table. But if you join a table with those 8 players that
are better than you, you become the sucker.
You should always put yourself in positions where your chance to win is largest. This is
why it’s important to leave your ego at the door when playing poker.
Bottom line is that you generally need to be better than half the players at the table
if you want to have a positive win-rate. And if you want to make a sick-good profit, you
want to play against the worst players you can find.
If you’re in a game with 2+ of these boxes checked, you’re in a great position to make
money. If none of these boxes are checked, get up and find a more profitable table
(unless you feel like putting your poker strategy to a test).
If you play online poker, make sure you take advantage of the table statistics provided
by most poker sites. Choose an online poker table with a high average pot size and a
high percentage of players seeing a flop. This is a key online poker strategy new
players usually miss.