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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

An Introduction To Playing No Limit Holdem Tournaments

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Many people get into playing poker because they watched it on television and it got them curious about the game. Most televised poker is No Limit Holdem tournament poker. The action is fast paced and the capability of being able to risk it all in one hand makes for exciting television. If you're new to poker and are interested in learning how to play tournaments, it is important to understand the various nuances of tournament poker and the basic concepts that will come into play through the course of a tournament.

A major reason that tournament poker is so popular is that there is the potential to win a large sum of money in relation to the amount of the buy in. Take the World Series of Poker Main Event as an example. The buy in is $10,000 but if you make the final table, you'll be guaranteed more than 100 times that amount. It's like a lottery ticket that you have some control over. Tournament poker, however, is not for everyone. If you are going to be a successful tournament poker player you must have incredible discipline and patience. Tournaments, especially the big ones, last countless hours and sometimes days. If you're looking to make a quick buck, try a cash game. Discipline is important because you have to stay alert and focused on what is going on at your table. This might be easy for an hour or two, but when you have been playing for 10 hours straight, it can become difficult.

In addition to discipline and patience, a good tournament player will need to be adept at game theory. This doesn't mean you need to have a doctorate in game theory in order to succeed, but you need to understand the different dynamics that will exist over the course of a tournament and how to adapt your game to best take advantage of these dynamics. It's also important to have the ability to be aggressive. While a patient and tight player can often make a good living in cash games, this isn't necessarily true in a tournament because of the increasing blinds and antes. You simply can't sit back and wait for premium hands and expect to win consistently in poker tournaments. You will need to be able to win pots using imagination, creativity, and well timed aggression.

How To Play

•    In Texas Holdem, each player at the table is dealt two cards face down. These are called hole cards. Each hand there is a dealer button that rotates one spot to the left at the end of each hand; this is commonly referred to as “the button” position at the table. The player to the immediate left of the dealer is the small blind and they typically have to pay a forced bet of ½ the big blind. The big blind is one to the left of the small blind and they typically pay whatever the small bet limit is. For example, if the blinds are 500/1,000, the small blind would post 500 and the big blind would post 1,000.

•    After the dealer has dealt each player two cards, a round of betting takes place. The first player to bet pre-flop is the player to the immediate left of the big blind. This position is called ‘under the gun.’  Each player has an option to bet, raise if there has already been bet(s), call a bet, or fold. After all bets and folded cards have been collected, the dealer deals three cards face up into the middle of the table. This is commonly referred to as the flop – and these are community cards, used by all players.

•    Another round of betting commences on the flop with the action starting with the first player  to the left of the dealer button and continuing clockwise. Players have the option to bet, raise if there has already been a bet, call, check if the action has got to them and there has not been a wager and they do not wish to bet, or fold. Once all bets and cards have been collected, the dealer puts another card face up on the table. This is commonly referred to as the turn.
•    Once again there is a round of betting on the turn with the action starting with the first player to the left of the dealer button and continuing clockwise. The options are the same as they were on the flop and once all bets and cards have been collected, the dealer puts another card face up on the table. This is commonly referred to as the river.
•    On the river, there is one final round of betting with the action starting with the first player to the left of the dealer button and continuing clockwise. Once all wagers have been made, if there are still more than two people left in the hand, the cards are turned over and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

Starting Out In Tournament Poker

When you first start out playing, there are a few things you should do until you understand the game better.

•    Play tight. Until you understand the game better, it is always better to play a somewhat solid, predictable game. The hands you play should be in the upper range of hands for the position you are playing from. For example, you shouldn't be playing a hand like K-10 in early position or a hand like pocket deuces when the pot has been raised.

•    Use position. Position is probably the biggest advantage you can have in poker. The more information you have available to you, the better the decisions you will make. When you play hands from the blinds or from early position, you are working from a disadvantage because post-flop players will be acting after you and can react to the choices that you make. However, when you have position, you are the one who has the advantage. For example, let's say you have pocket 5's and are on the button and called a raise from a middle position player. The flop comes J-7-2 and your opponent checks to you. If you had been out of position, you probably would have checked and your opponent would bet to test you. Because you have position, however, now it is your opponent who must defer to you. If they have a hand like A-Q or A-10 or even a hand like pocket 6's, they will probably release their hand if you make a bet.

•    Be consistent with your betting. Early on when you are starting out in your poker career, it is best that you make the same size bets whenever you are betting. The reason is it gives less information to your opponents and makes you harder to read. If you vary your bets, there is a chance a good, experienced player will be able to pick up on any patterns you might have.

•    Bet big. While small ball poker is all the rage and is probably the preferred style of play, until you get comfortable playing post-flop poker you should be making your opponents pay a premium to play pots with you. Make your pre-flop raises larger than your opponents’ typical raise. If they are opening for 3 big blinds, make your opener 5 big blinds. Make your flop bets big enough to put your opponent to the test. Don't bet ½ pot... instead bet around the size of the pot.

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