A good starting hand is important, and I advise everyone to only play when you are dealt two nice cards. Beginners in particular would do well to stick to this, because you have to be very good at playing poker to win with bad starting cards.
But don’t think that 2 good cards alone are enough to bring in the pot. Texas Hold’em is as much about judging your opponent as the cards you are dealt. To get familiar with the different hand values in poker, it can be useful to first play a video poker game in an online casino where you can practice for free.
Analyze him and try to estimate his maps. What does his pre-flop raise mean? Is it someone who regularly makes a strong raise with all kinds of hands? Or have you barely seen him raise?
And does he raise from early or late position? A raise on the button when all other players have just called is probably an attempt to bring in the pot with a bluff.
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Poker strategy for top pair
Suppose you are holding J – 9 (jack – nine), the flop comes and puts J – 7 – 3 on the table (all of a different suit).
How are you going to play these cards? You have the top pair, but before you bet, consider the following:
How tall is the pair? In this case, two farmers. Any queen, king or ace that follows can seriously weaken our position. With 2 more cards to follow, the chance that one of these cards will appear is almost 50%.
How big is our “kicker”? With J – 9, we don’t have the best kicker. Opponents with J-10, J-J, Q-J, K-J and A-J are currently in better shape.
How many players are still in the running? The more players, the greater the chance that someone has two pairs or a set (three of a kind). Or maybe the “community cards” give rise to a flush or straight? (with two hearts on the table, there is a chance that someone is fishing for a flush)
I would certainly “raise” with top pair but be careful when someone “re-raises”. This may be an indication that a stronger combination is possible.
It’s important to make a big enough raise so that players who need one more card for a flush or straight are discouraged and fold.
Short handed play
To get an idea of the strength of your hand pre-flop, you need to consider the number of players. Are you playing a short-handed game (few participants) or are you sitting at a full table with 9 opponents?
For example, A-10 is not a very strong hand at a table of ten. The chance that someone was dealt A-J, A-Q, A-K or even A-A is not small. But that same A-10 in a short-handed game is usually a good card.
So the number of participants is definitely a factor to consider when trying to evaluate the value of your hand.