Don’t Play Every Hand


Jan 2008

POSTED IN Poker Tips | no comments

One of the things that’s often noticeable about a Texas Hold’em table where people are playing for free is that many of the players you see there will be playing every single hand. Free poker is available in a variety of places, and usually even the online poker rooms that host real-money holdem games have tables where you can refill your chips at no cost and practice playing poker before you actually risk your hard earned money in a game. And why shouldn’t they play every hand, you may ask? There’s nothing to lose moneywise, and it’s good experience to see how often you wind up with the best hand depending on what your hole cards were. Right? Well, not exactly.

For reasons which you can probably read about in a number of places the 7-2 offsuit is statistically the worst hand in holdem poker for games with 5 to 10 players, winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of the time. Just because you bet heavily before the flop on a hand where your hole cards are 7-2 offsuit and you then get a 7-7-2 on the flop to give you a full house doesn’t mean that it was the right thing to do. The thing to remember if you want to be a consistently good poker player over a long period of time (and probably even if you just want to have better luck in the short term) is that the outcome of any particular hand shouldn’t determine the way you play holdem over the long haul.

Unless you are clairvoyant and have the ability to know everyone else’s hole cards plus the flop, turn and river cards, the way to be most successful at Texas Holdem is to know what the likelihood is that your hand will eventually turn out to be the winner, and to bet, check or fold based on that knowledge. Now, does that mean that nobody should ever bet with 7-2 offsuit? Of course not. Even the lowly 7-2 offsuit will beat a pair of Aces about 12% of the time when there are 5 players at the table. But if you are just beginning to play Hold’em poker you probably won’t be able to readily identify the situations where it would be to your advantage to play such a hand. Until you have gained more experience your best course of action is to play the odds, and that means calling a bet on hands that have a high percentage of winning, and raising a bet only on hands that have an extremely high percentage of winning. Click here to see a list of these hands.

What you will quickly notice if you follow this advice is that you will almost certainly be folding the majority of the hands you are dealt, because on average the number of times you are dealt a high percentage hand is far less than the number of times you will be dealt a low percentage hand. Next time you are sitting at the poker table, either real or online, watch and make note of the people who fold most of their hands before the flop when they are not sitting in the big blind or the small blind. The chances are great that when these people bet aggressively or go all-in, they are doing so with a very good hand.

So the lesson is, that in order to have the best chances of success in holdem poker you will generally need to be very patient and generally play with the very best cards, which means that you will usually be folding before the flop. Even at a free poker table this strategy will serve you better because it will allow you to see the outcome of hands that you will eventually be playing at a real money table. Seeing how many times a low percentage hand turns out to be a winner at a free table does you no good, because if you are smart those are not the hands that you will be playing when you sit down at a real money table.

Notice also that we say you should generally play only with the best cards – it should be obvious to you that this is just a rule of thumb. If you were only to bet when you had the very best cards, then other players at the table would catch on to this rather quickly and would pull out before you had a chance to get their chips. For this reason it’s a good idea to bluff at least occasionally when playing texas holdem so they can’t figure out for sure whether you really have a better hand than they do. Use good judgment in these bluffing situations however, and read further here about the strategy of bluffing.

Article Summary;

  1. In the long run, you will be more successful playing only high value hands.
  2. Lower value hands may win occasionally but they are not the way to bet.
  3. If you are playing a proper conservative game you will fold most of the time.
  4. Bluff sometimes so your opponents can’t assume you only bet on the best hands.