Winning at low-limit Texas hold’em, part 1

Oct 20, 2009 5:02 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

This series of columns will share these secrets with GamingToday readers. (Just don’t tell anyone else; let’s keep it between us.)

Let’s start with the Four Basic Rules for Winning. Next week we will examine Pre-flop Strategies for Made Hands, Drawing Hands and Quasi-Made Hands. Then we will discuss strategies for playing on the flop, on the turn, and on the river. Let’s get started!

The 4 Basic Rules for Winning!

These rules were developed applying my 50+ years of engineering experience in solving technical problems. (That’s one reason the GPS satellites can operate in space for many years.) Our four rules actually apply to all games of poker … These rules are discussed at considerable length (about 70 pages) in my first book, The Greatest Book of Poker for WINNERS! But here’s a summary:

1. Have a goal when you sit down to play – how much do you hope to win; then use Money Management so you don’t give back all your winnings. Goals are essential to success in any endeavor. Use money management techniques to deal with variance – ups and downs in poker because luck is a big factor, over which you have no control.

2. Carefully select the game and table at which you play. Select a game and stakes at which you will be comfortable. Specializing in a particular game is advisable. (The best doctors and scientists focus their efforts on a particular specialty; that helps to make them more expert than if they practiced several fields at the same time.)

Play at a table where you are one of the best players. Carefully observe how your opponents play. Poor players stay in with one-third of their hands or more often. Avoid tables with three or more tight players. Nor do you want lots of pre-flop raising. If there is a very aggressive player at the table, try to sit to his left, so he bets before you must act.

3. Play only hands that have a reasonable chance of ending up as the best hand at the showdown. Consider the value of your two hole cards (high cards, pairs, suited cards, connectors), betting position, number of opponents staying in, any raises and texture of the game.

Be more selective in early positions. Many books provide tables for starting hand selection. My Poker for Winners! has two tables: one with hands to consider as playable, and another with hands that usually should be folded pre-flop. (Note: The Hold’em Algorithm makes it much easier to make that decision. See Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.)

4. Be alert. Avoid alcoholic beverages or drugs while playing. If the label on the bottle warns against driving shortly after taking a prescribed medication, you shouldn’t be playing poker at that time either. Don’t play if you are tired or disturbed. You want to be able to give your full attention to the game, and observe your opponents to gain information, including tells. Classify each: tight, loose, aggressive, passive, deceptive.

Few poker players follow all of these four rules. Many pay heed to one or two, but very few obey all of them. To be a consistent winner, it is necessary to abide by ALL of these rules; otherwise don’t complain when you go home a loser.

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

Watch every Tuesday for a brand new Poker by George article.