Conservative poker play can pay off

Jan 13, 2009 5:04 PM
by GT Staff |

For players new to Texas Hold’em, or those wishing to refresh their basic strategy, author Dennis Purdy has identified several guidelines to help shape their play, both for limit and no limit games.

The strategy is somewhat conservative, especially in the arena of low buy-in tournaments, where players are very aggressive, to the point of being foolhardy. Nonetheless, these rules should be enough to keep you in the game and weather the storm stirred up by somewhat reckless play.

Purdy, the author of The Illustrated Guide to No Limit Texas Hold’em, was a full time professional gambler in Vegas before retiring to Tacoma, Washington.

Play only good starting hands. This is where everything begins. A good strategy calls for playing just the top 15 to 20 percent of starting hands (see list). Thus, you would be well advised to play hands ranked 36th and higher. Admittedly, you can win with any hand, including the worst (6-2, unsuited), but it’s best to avoid trying to beat the odds.

Consider your position when evaluating your starting hand. This one may take time and experience to develop, but hands such as pocket deuces may be unplayable if you’re first to act, but could be playable if you’re on the button.

If you miss the flop completely and someone else bets, fold your hand unless you started with a high pocket pair. You’ve seen five of the seven possible cards (71 percent), so the odds are against your improving on the turn and river.

If you’re on a straight or flush draw, continue only if you have four cards to making your hand. Don’t rely on runners on the turn and river.

If you’re not on a drawing hand, fold unless you hold at least top pair with a large kicker or you hold an over pair.

Try to imagine what other players are holding, based on what the board reveals. Has your opponent hit a flush, a straight, a set (three-of-a-kind) or something that could beat your hand? Be aware that just about anything can (and often will!) surface at the river.

When you have the best hand, don’t allow your opponent any cheap or free cards. Make them pay to stay in the game, then make them pay dearly at the resolution.

When you believe you’re obviously beaten, fold your hand. Bluffing can sometimes salvage a beaten hand, but it can also compound your problems and cost you more of your chips than necessary.