Texas Hold em Tips: Try Your Hand at Poker with This Expert Guide
Dead Man’s Hand, the Doyle Brunson, and the Johnny Chan Trap are just several famous hands you may have seen that have been enshrined in Texas Hold’em folklore. If you dream of winning your final table, why not pick up the world’s most famous poker game?
In the United States alone, around 60 million people play poker, making it the nation’s most popular card game. But whether you want to dominate your friends or bluff off the competition in competitive play, working out the optimal Texas hold’em strategy is far from straightforward.
In this guide, we discuss the game, how to play, and some top tips for playing Texas Hold Em to help you play poker like a pro. Read on to become the poker shark you’ve always wanted to be.
What is Texas Hold’em?
Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variation in the world. It’s so popular that you’ll see the game under different monikers, like Texas HoldEm, Texas Hold’Em, Texas Hold’em, and more. Today, it makes up approximately 70% of all casino games worldwide. For many players, this is the only version of poker they’ll ever learn.
Within the poker scene, the most valuable tournaments in the world play the no-limit variation of the game, meaning no barriers exist on how much you can wager on any given hand. By far, the crowning achievement of a poker player is winning the no-limit World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Learning Texas Hold’em isn’t tricky, but knowing how to do it well can take a lifetime. For beginners, here are the basics of the game:
- Every player is dealt two cards.
- A round of betting ensues.
- Three cards are dealt face-up, known as community cards. That is the flop.
- Another round of betting begins.
- A fourth community card is dealt, known as the turn.
- Another round of betting starts.
- A fifth community card is dealt, known as the river.
- A final betting round occurs before the showdown, where all remaining players must show their hands.
As a player, the goal is to make the best hand from your two-hole cards and the five community cards in front of you. It’s that simple!
How to Play Texas Hold’em
Even though trying to make the best hand and throwing down some chips seems simple, this game is part skill, part science, and part luck. That’s why mastering Texas Hold em strategy is critical to increasing your chances of victory.
This section will delve into some of the facets of Texas Holdem strategies tips before exploring how some pros have made their names.
Hand rankings are everything in this game. Your goal isn’t just to make a hand. It’s to make the best hand. Of course, this is an aces-high game, so a pair of kings will be higher than a pair of queens.
Likewise, if two players have a flush or a straight, the highest card wins the hand. For example, a queen-high straight will beat an eight-high straight. There’s no second place in this game.
So, let’s run through the different hand rankings and what they consist of from strongest to weakest:
- Royal Flush (30,939-1) – 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the same suit.
- Straight Flush (3,437.8-1) – Five suited cards in order.
- Four of a Kind (594-1) – Four of the same card.
- Full House (37.5-1) – Three of the same card plus a pair.
- Flush (32.1-1) – Five cards of the same suit.
- Straight (20.6-1) – Five cards in order but not of the same suit.
- Three of a Kind (19.7-1) – Three of the same card.
- Two Pair (3.26-1) – Two pairs of the same card.
- Pair (1.28-1) – Two of the same card.
- High Card (4.74-1) – A hand with no matching cards.
Note that if two players have the same hand, the player with the highest card wins. For example, if someone has a pair of nines and the other a pair of eights, the former wins the whole pot.
Only when players have identical hands with identical cards is the pot split equally between them.
Playing from Your Position
Where are you sitting based on the table?
The button or dealer position changes with every hand. If you’ve got the button, you are in the stealthiest place because you always act last, meaning you get to see what your opponents will do before it’s your turn to play.
Likewise, if you’re Under the Gun (UTG), you’re in the weakest position because you kick off the action every round. You’ve got the least information at your disposal.
So, your position defines the range of hands you can play. And this is nearly always the first tactic beginners seek to understand before moving on to the more refined aspects of the game.
Cutting Down the Opposition
The more players involved in a hand, the lower your chances of victory. Why? Simply put, more active players in the game mean more ways for you to lose. While you can win bigger pots with more players, this is a high-risk, high-reward scenario.
Ideally, how you behave and (crucially) how you bet will reduce the number of players in a hand. That is a far better long-term strategy than trying to force multiple players simultaneously.
The Art of the Raise
Raising is increasing the size of the bet sitting on the table. For example, if a player bets $1.00, a call would be to put down $1.00, whereas a raise would push $2.50 into the hand.
So, what are the rules for raising?
- Raises have three purposes. To increase the value of the pot, gain information on your opponents, and scare weaker players into leaving the hand.
- If you have a strong hand, raise it big.
- Raising can also bluff your opponents if you don’t hit the cards you want.
However, raising does have its downsides. It’s easy to commit yourself too much and find your stack growing smaller. Knowing when and when not to raise is vital to surviving at a table for longer stints.
All-in plays are the most exciting moments of the game. That’s when you’re betting everything you have that you will win the hand. Fail, and the loss can be devastating.
Some of the most significant victories have been won with well-timed all-ins. While this play is inevitable when you’re running low on chips, it can also be helpful to bluff a strong hand away from the pot.
Knowing When to Call
Calling is the opposite of a raise. It’s putting in the minimum bet to stay in the hand. However, players can also use it to gain information, bluff, or hide their strength.
Let’s look at some of the rules of calling:
- Draw out the hand by hiding an excellent card by calling. You can raise it during later rounds.
- Calling is always a neutral move that can prevent players from falling out of the hand.
- You can also use it to close out the betting action if you’re on the button.
- Calling can allow you to get a cheap card to see if you can make your hand.
- Finally, you can use it as a stone-cold bluff.
While raising might raise some eyebrows, calling is a vital tactic for increasing your winning percentage.
Observe a raised eyebrow, a grimace, or fidgeting fingers? These are all tells that can indicate something about another person’s hand. Most of us perform tells involuntarily, meaning the pros can ascertain whether you have a strong or weak hand.
Anything can be a tell, and knowing how to read them is critical to rising the ranks of the poker world.
That also applies to online gaming. While you cannot see the other player, their behaviors and text-based chats can still give you information about what they are holding.
However, while reading tells can be perceived as offensive behavior, you must hide your own tells simultaneously. Over the years, professional poker players have devised ingenious ways of hiding theirs.
For example, Greg Raymer, known as The Fossilman, was the 2004 WSOP Main Event winner. He became famous for wearing unique holographic glasses while playing at the tables, leaving his opponents looking back at a pair of big reptilian eyes.
Knowing the Odds
Knowing the odds is one of the most essential pieces of Texas Holdem poker strategy. Yet a surprising number of players have no clue what the odds are, which is like driving a racecar blind.
The easiest way to calculate the pot odds is to figure out the number of unknown cards and the number of “outs,” or cards that can help you make your hand. Sound complicated? It’s not.
For example, let’s say you are trying to make a straight and already have four out of five cards to make it. There are 52 cards minus two hole cards plus four community cards, meaning there are 46 unknown cards.
Since your draw happens to be open-ended, there are eight cards that you can hit to complete your draw. So, your odds are 31.5% that you’ll fulfill your straight on the river. Of course, your actual odds could be far lower if your opponent(s) possesses any of the eight cards you need. You can’t possibly know what their cards are, so they cannot be factored into your odds calculations.
Don’t worry if it sounds complicated. With knowledge of hand rankings, this process will become automatic in time.
17 Texas Holdem Tips from the Pros
Texas Hold em tips are not designed as blueprints but as indications of elements you can mix into your game to make you a better player.
We've taken the best Texas Hold’em tips and strategies from the pros to help you maximize your Texas Holdem poker strategy. Read on to learn more.
1. Beat the Microstakes First
The number one Texas Hold’em poker tip is to spend more time, not less, at the microstakes tables. These tables have the lowest value in the game. Online, they begin at one-cent and two-cent tables.
Even if you’ve dreamed of winning huge jackpots, these are the tables where you’ll learn the fundamentals of the game. Until you can easily beat these players, you shouldn’t be going anywhere without the risk of losing a ton of money.
2. Enter the Pot with a Preflop Raise
Limping in with a call does nothing but give other players a chance to hit their draws. Most of the time, raising preflop lets you take the initiative and control the hand. You’ll limit the field early and may even steal a few blinds.
What makes a great player? The player that makes each community card is expensive. Even a small raise can deter the jokers from trying their luck.
3. Make Liberal Use of the 3-Bet
The 3-bet is another term for raising another player’s raise. In short, the reason to re-raise is to give yourself more ways of winning the pot. While this isn’t something to do with every hand, you should do it with every premium hand, including any pair above a 10 or a hand like ace-king.
The only exception to this rule is when a usually conservative player raises from an early position. That can signal a prediction that they have a strong hand. In these cases, getting out of the way before you get steamrolled is the best strategy.
4. Be Wary of the 4-Bet
The 4-bet is a reraise on top of a re-raise. That is a power move that illustrates a massive show of strength. It will likely amount to a bet valued at thousands of dollars in high-stakes games.
Most players will only do this whenever they have a strong hand. Seeing it through is a big mistake if you know you’re playing against someone clueless or who has a premium hand. Sometimes, letting them have the pot to fight another day is a better strategy.
The same principle works when you’re taking the lead. Don’t throw in a 4-bet on a whim, or it could cost you most of your stack.
5. Don’t Bluff at Lower Stakes
Bluffs are the most challenging part of the game to pull off. For this reason, professionals advise using bluffs extremely infrequently, even at high-stakes tables.
At the low-stakes tables, bluffing should always be kept to a minimum. Why is this? Most inexperienced players are known as “calling stations.” A calling station is a player who consistently calls all but the biggest bets. It indicates a lack of understanding of the game.
While this makes easy prey for seasoned players, trying to bluff the same player will only work if they will call. Sometimes, the most straightforward path forward is the right path.
6. Learn the Art of Value Betting
Value bets are any bet you make when you are 90% sure you have the strongest hand. While most value bets happen during the showdown phase, remember that hands only head to the showdown 20-33% of the time.
In other words, value betting earlier helps extract maximum value from your hand. Premium hands come at a risk, so you need to get as much as possible from them to cover the barren parts of your session.
So, when should you be value betting?
It’s a great strategy anytime you are positive that you have the most substantial hand on the board. Stay strong, and keep calm. Even if they fold, you’re not losing anything you would have gotten by checking. Moreover, scaring them out of the pot is better because it doesn’t give them a chance to hit their draw.
If you’re looking for the perfect value bet size, try 60% of the pot value.
7. Be Wary of 3-Bets on the Turn and the River
Most players start ramping up the heat when they’re in a strong position. It’s common for players to limp in to see the flop and then put in big bets on the turn and the river.
At the lower echelons of poker, raises on the turn and river nearly always signify that a player has the most substantial hand. It doesn’t matter whether a player is tight or aggressive. This rule nearly always applies.
If you encounter this scenario and don’t have the best hand on the board, it’s time to fold.
8. Learn to Handle the Bad Beats
Bad beats are a poker term used when you have played the game perfectly, only to get hit by a single lousy card that lets an objectively weaker player take the pot. These instances are frustrating and can lead to tilting.
When players are on tilt, they are vulnerable because they play emotionally. That is when players start chasing their losses or revenge on a player they perceive to be weaker than themselves.
The big secret of poker is that a newbie can beat a professional over a hand or two. But success in this game is defined by consistency. Professionals may lose to a bad hand, but how they play means they’ll always come out on top in the long run.
If you can’t handle the ups and downs, at least know when to walk away and calm down. It’s the golden rule of best Texas Hold em tips to avoid throwing your bankroll away.
9. Play the Right Games
The right table is just as important as the right strategy.
If you’re at a table where the top player has 10 times everyone else's stack, this is likely an outstanding player to avoid. On the other hand, if you encounter a table where everyone limps in and only raises with a strong hand, this is another table that’s unlikely to yield much in the way of profits.
Sixty minutes in and realize you have a terrible table? Call the floor manager and ask for a change.
10. Mix It Up
Landing on the optimal strategy is one way to win a poker game, but others will work out if you play often enough. With the amount of technology and metagaming activities these days, predictable players are bound to become beatable players.
For this reason, any good player will know to mix things up. It could include throwing in a bluff, playing a weak hand out of position, or throwing a small amount into the pot to “see the flop.”
These activities may not be profitable individually, but they keep your opponents guessing, which can yield profits down the line.
11. Steal the Blinds
Blinds are designed to chip away at stacks and encourage action. While they will gradually reduce your pile, especially in tournament play, they can also increase your stack size if you steal them.
Blind stealing with various hands is a great way to keep your stack ticking over when the premium hands aren’t dropping.
However, avoid doing this against overly aggressive players, or you could get drawn into a hand with weak cards. That is best done against tighter players when acting after them.
12. Learn the Bluff Raise
The bluff raise isn’t as popular as it once was, despite being a powerful technique for stopping aggressive players in their tracks.
Calling a known aggressive player through the preflop and flop is a show of weakness on your part. However, throwing an aggressive raise on the turn or river can throw others off their game.
While not a tactic to employ regularly, it’s certainly one that can help you steal a big pot.
13. Review Your Performance
Take the time after every session to review how you performed. It’s easier online because you can use software to track your play and point out where you made mistakes.
As poker hand analysis solutions become better, there are even AI-powered options that will tell you what you did wrong so that you can learn.
14. Study Advanced Strategy
Always be learning if you want to win. These Texas hold em tips cover the basics and enable you to throw a few curves into your game. Still, there’s enough poker strategy to fill an entire library, especially after graduating from the novice tables.
The pros constantly analyze their game, read poker books, and take courses to improve. It’s the only way that you’re going to optimize your win percentage.
15. Play Multiple Types of Poker
Each variation of poker will teach you some new strategies. If all you’re playing are cash games or tournaments, you will be deficient in one or more areas.
For example, tournament players are masters of short-stack play, but adding in some cash games can teach them deep-stack poker.
Cross-discipline training will allow you to reach your potential and get long-term results. After all, there’s a reason why the TV pros appear in different poker variations instead of staying exclusive to one.
16. Invest in Coaching
Are you serious about the game and want to make a career out of it?
Whether you’re just having fun or want to make some serious money, coaches can be invaluable for dissecting your playing style and identifying your most common mistakes.
Most pros have worked with a consultant at some point, so don’t be afraid to contact a coach online for guidance.
17. Just Have Fun!
The number one piece of advice is to have fun. Whether you’re playing as a hobby, with dreams of glory, or creating a career for yourself, the goal of the game is to have fun.
Players who’re passionate and have a great time commit more to improving their game. They can handle the beats better and are more resilient when dealing with long play sessions.
Try Your Hand with These Texas Hold Em Tips at Arkadium
Texas Hold’em is the most exciting poker variation, but, like chess, it will take you years to reach the top of your game. That’s why the best way to learn is by doing.
At Arkadium, you can learn the ropes by playing our Texas Hold’em game for free, where you can learn the basics, become comfortable with the cards, and deploy some experimental strategies.