The keys to hold’em in poker

Jan 26, 2010 5:05 PM

Hold’em or fold’em? Look at your two poker hole cards; now you must make your most important decision: "Should I call the blind to see the flop?"

(We are deciding only whether your hand merits staying in – not whether to raise.)

In developing the Hold’em Algorithm (Reference: Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision), we examined the key factors – parameters – in making this decision.

1. Hole cards

The higher their rank, the greater their value. An ace is far more valuable than any other card. A king is somewhat less valuable, etc. Two high cards are best, especially if paired. Two unrelated medium – small cards (like 9 – 2) should be shoved into the muck – unless you’re in the big blind and can see the flop for free.

Ace-rag suited has real value only in its potential for making the nut flush; otherwise it could lead to trouble. Connectors – two cards in sequence – offer potential for a straight. Suited hole cards can lead to a flush. High connectors or suited cards are more valuable than smaller ones because pairing up is more likely than making the straight or flush. (Note: The hold’em algorithm booklet provides numerical criteria for assigning value to your hole cards.)

2. Betting position

Late-position players – especially the button and cut-off – have an advantage over earlier positions because they see what their opponents do before they must declare. If there are raises, a late-position can fold without investing any chips.

With a monster hand, he can use his position to build the pot by raising after his opponents bet. Late-position players often can stay in with somewhat lower-valued hands than early/middle positions.

3. How many opponents stay in?

Drawing hands usually are best played in multi-way pots so that the implied pot odds (how much you could win relative to the current bet) can be expected to be high compared to your card odds (the odds against your hand improving to become the best). With drawing hands, most often you prefer three or more opponents calling the blind.

4. Any raises?

If so, you would be wise to fold marginal drawing hands – unless you are in the blind or late position and it has developed into a multi-way pot, with further raises unlikely.

Play more conservatively against aggressive and deceptive opponents. Try to be seated so that you declare after them. Otherwise, consider staying in only with starting hands that can "stand" a raise. Passive and loose players are ideal opponents; lower-valued hands become playable.

6. Table "texture"

Every "table" has a "feel" or character – its "texture" – which describes how the betting is likely to go.

With two or more aggressive players at your table, the texture is very aggressive. Expect lots of betting and raising. Many betting rounds, especially pre-flop, will be capped, making it too expensive to call with marginal drawing hands, especially in early/middle positions – an unwise investment.

"Maniacs" – players who bet, raise or re-raise without regard to the value of their hands – fall into this category. (I have seen maniacs who raise and re-raise without looking at their hole cards until the showdown!) At such a "table," it would be wise to fold marginal drawing hands unless you’re in the blind and believe there will not be a re-raise.

A "passive" table makes it more feasible to call with marginal drawing hands; you could call the blind with A-rag suited even in an early position. "Loose-passive" tables are ideal. "Loose-aggressive" tables call for more conservative play.

In Summary

Consider these parameters in making your decision – hold’em or fold’em? – and you are certain to win more often and win more \$\$\$.

Comments? George "The Engineer" Epstein can be contacted at: [email protected]

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.