You can read about how to play a game like Texas holdem and
go over strategy advice until you can’t read another word, but
sometimes a good example is more valuable than thousands of
words of instruction.
We’ve put together a list of examples to help you quickly
learn more about Texas holdem and have included the reasoning
behind each one. The examples are broken into six sections
covering limit and no limit play, cash games, multi table
tournaments, and single table tournaments.
The best way to absorb everything on this page is read it all
the way through, then go back and read each section again, and
finally, come back and frequently go over the sections that
pertain to you the most. Keep using this list until you’ve got
every hand down and completely understand the reasoning behind
Once you absorb every situation and have the chance to use
what you learn at the tables, start looking for situations where
you might consider playing a hand in a different manner than
what you find here. While each poker hand has a correct and
incorrect way to play it in hindsight, the truth is there’s
rarely a 100% correct way to play a hand.
Use the examples below to learn more about playing winning
Texas holdem, but also use them to train yourself how to think
about the game and how you can use your brain to improve your
overall profitability at the tables.
Limit Cash Games
Limit Texas holdem isn’t as popular as no limit, but many
poker rooms run low limit cash games for players who are afraid
of the big swings possible in a no limit game and / or for the
players who simply enjoy limit play over no limit.
If you’re a new player and are trying to improve your game
without risking too much money a limit cash game may be your
best bet. You can still win or lose quite a bit of money over
the course of a long playing session, but you don’t risk as much
on a hand for hand basis as you do playing no limit.
The biggest differences between limit and no limit play are
the importance of stack sizes, both yours and your opponent’s
and how you have to play certain hands. The first example shows
You’re playing a $5 / $10 limit Texas holdem game and are
seated in middle position. An early position player raises and
you have a pair of fours. Depending on what you know about the
player who raised you might be able to call in a no limit game
and take your opponent’s entire stack when you hit a set on the
You need to know your opponent’s stack size and the size of
your stack to determine if you both have enough to make this
profitable. The rule of thumb is you have to be able to win over
eight times your original call when you hit a set to show a
profit. This is based on you hitting a set on the flop roughly
one out of nine times.
While you can often win enough in a no limit game to make a
profit, in a limit game it can be difficult to win enough when
you hit a set. You also will have a difficult time controlling
the action of the players behind you in a limit game. In a no
limit game, the threat of a large raise from the original bettor
after the flop makes many players fold speculative hands in a no
limit game. But in a limit game, it’s just an extra small bet so
they’re more likely to call the original raise before the flop.
As a matter of fact, if you call it makes a call from a later
position player with a speculative hand more correct because
they’re getting better pot odds and have the superior position.
The bottom line is in a no limit game it’s probably
profitable to call with this hand if the original bettor is
willing to commit a large portion or all of his stack after the
flop, but rarely will you be able to turn a profit in a limit
game in the same situation.
You’re playing in the same $5 / $10 limit game and have a
pair of aces from early position. The last two times you’ve had
a good starting hand from early position you raised and everyone
folded. You consider limping into the pot this time because you
want to make sure you get some action.
While it’s important to alter your play from time to time at
some levels of Texas holdem, this isn’t one of them. The
competition at a $5 / $10 table isn’t usually that good so you
don’t need to worry about making fancy plays to throw them off.
You also need to raise from early position with pocket aces in a
limit game every single time you get them. Continue raising with
pocket aces in limit games until you’re such a consistent winner
that you don’t need to learn anything else about Texas holdem.
The reason we made the last statement the way it’s written is
because in certain limited situations you may be correct in
limping with pocket aces, but you aren’t good enough to make
this play until you’re a borderline professional player. Unless
you know for 100% certainty that limping is correct, the safe
play is raising.
A raise is correct in this example because you always want to
build the pot when you’re the favorite to win and you want to
force drawing hands to either fold or make the incorrect calling
decision when you have a strong hand.
The best way to play a large pocket pair like aces is heads
up or against two opponents. When you get three or more
opponents your chances of winning the hand start going down
quite a bit. You’ll still make a profit in the long run with
pocket aces even if you have eight opponents, but it’s because
you win a big pot when you win. The more opponents you have the
fewer number of pots you win, but you win enough on the ones you
do win so it more than makes up for the losses.
If you limp in this situation you have no way of knowing how
many players will limp in behind you. So you have to raise with
pocket aces in this situation. The same is true with other
strong hands like pocket kings, pocket queens, and ace king.
The key to winning on a long term basis at the Texas holdem
tables is getting as much money as possible into the pot when
you’re a favorite and reducing your commitment to the pot when
you’re drawing and not a favorite. Raising with pocket aces is
the most profitable long term play, so you have to raise.
You raise from early position with pocket queens and only one
player calls. The flop is an ace, jack, seven in three different
suits. You bet after the flop and your opponent raises. What do
This represents a challenging situation for any Texas holdem
player. You have a strong starting hand but the flop creates a
situation where it’s difficult to determine where you stand in
the hand. It’s easy to assume your opponent has an ace, but how
can you be sure? Let’s look at every possible way you can play
the rest of the hand and try to determine the best way to play
The first thing you can do is call the raise and then check
and call the rest of the hand. If you don’t have additional
information about your opponent this is probably the safest and
smartest play. You may be behind in the hand but you have a
strong enough hand to call a single bet on the turn and river.
The next way you can play this hand is to fold. If you don’t
know anything about your opponent folding is playing too tight.
Your opponent could have a wide range of hands including king
queen, king jack, queen jack, king 10, queen 10, or jack 10.
Don’t give up on a strong starting hand unless you have a strong
indication you’re beat.
This is another example of playing a hand differently in a
limit game than in a no limit game. You risk facing a larger bet
later in the hand in a no limit game so you might be forced to
fold. In a limit game, the bets are set and limited so you risk
a smaller amount.
You can use a simple mathematical calculation to determine
how often you need to win this hand if you call and check and
call on the next two streets to show a profit.
To keep the numbers simple the pot has $25 in it before the
flop. You bet $5 on the flop and your opponent raises, creating
a pot size of $40. You have to call $5 to see the turn and if
you check and call on the turn and river you have to commit $20
more. This creates a total pot size of $85. You have to commit
$25 of this at the time you’re forced to make a decision, so you
risk $25 to get back your $25 plus $60 more.
This can be confusing until you get used to it, but you’ve
already committed the money into the pot before you have to make
this decision, so you can’t treat your original $10 bet and your
$5 bet on the flop as yours at this point. Those two bets are
part of the pot and the only way you can get them back is by
winning the pot.
Before we move forward with this example how often do you
think you have to win the hand to make committing the last $25
profitable? If you win half the time will it show a profit? What
about 25% of the time? How often do you think you’ll win the
hand in this situation?
The basic math of the situation is you risk $25 to get back
your $25 plus a $60 profit. A simple trick to help see the
percentage number of time you need to win is basing it on being
in the same situation 100 times. If you’re in this situation 100
times it costs $2,500 to make the calls. You get back $85 when
you win, so you divide the $2,500 investment by the $85 you get
back and you get 29.41. This means you have to win 29.41% of the
time to break even. In other words, if you win 30% of the time
in this situation you turn a long term profit.
If you don’t know anything about your opponent it’s likely
you’ll win at least 30% of the time in this situation, so the
best way to play is to call.
The final way to play the hand is raise. A raise is dangerous
because if your opponent has a better hand than you it’s going
to cost you more money. Of course, if they don’t have a better
hand they’ll fold to your re-raise, but the problem is the only
time they call or raise again is when you’re beat. The only way
to get more money from them if you still have a better hand is
calling and checking on the turn in hopes they bet again.
If you call, check on the turn and they check behind you, you
should bet on the river.
This hand is a perfect example of why it’s so important to
always be paying attention at the poker table and trying to
learn as much as possible about your opponents. If you know your
opponent plays a wide range of hands and plays aggressively her
raise doesn’t tell you much of anything. But if you know she
tends to play most hands with an ace and she only raises when
she thinks she has the best hand you can probably fold most of
You still need to call or re-raise occasionally to keep her
honest, but if you have a true read on her play it’s best to
just fold most of the time. In this situation if you want to
keep your opponent honest it’s actually cheaper to re-raise on
the flop and fold if she plays back. It costs an extra $5 to
re-raise but if you call and then check and call on the turn and
river it’s an extra $20. So for $15 less you can keep her honest
and it fulfills the same purpose as a call.
This is only true in this specific situation against this
particular player. We still stand by the statement above that
normally against an unknown opponent a re-raise is incorrect.
The pot has $90 in it and you have to call a $10 bet to see
the river against two opponents. You have an open end straight
draw and at this time, you’re sure the only way you can win the
hand is if you hit your straight. But when you hit your straight
you’re fairly sure you can get at least a call of $10 and
possibly as much as a call of a raise from one opponent after
they bet on the river. Should you fold, call, or raise?
This is a fairly controlled situation and requires the
correct use of pot odds to determine the correct play. You have
eight outs out of 46 unseen cards. This means 38 cards don’t
help you and eight cards do. This is a 38 to 8 ratio or 4.75 to
1. The minimum you’ll win if you call $10 is the $100 pot, so
your return is much higher than 4.75 to 1 so a call shows a long
term profit even if you don’t get any additional bets on the
river. The fact you’ll probably get one to three extra bets on
the river when you hit your hand just makes it more profitable.
Recognize that you’re only going to hit your straight a
little less than one out of every six times, but when you do hit
your profit more than makes up for the times you miss. This is
the basic foundation of why pot odds are so important in limit
Texas holdem. The game is a mathematical formula when you reduce
it to its simplest form. Master the math behind the game and
you’ll start winning more.
You don’t want to raise in this situation because remember
that winning players put more money in the pot when they’re the
favorite and less money when they’re drawing to a winning hand.
You’re still drawing before the river so you just call. If you
hit your straight you bet and raise on the river and if you miss
your draw you check and fold.
You practice strict bankroll management and never play in a
game without at least 200 big blinds in your bankroll and
usually keep closer to 300 big blinds. You’re able to win around
one big blind per hour at your current game so you’re a good
player but not a professional yet. You usually play $10 / $20
limit Texas holdem and currently have a bankroll of $5,500.
You walk into the poker room where you usually play and see a
$15 / $30 game with eight players and six of them are players
you know aren’t very good. One of the other seats is filled with
a pro that’s a better player than you but isn’t so much better
that you try to avoid him. The last seat is a female player
who’s as good as you but not better.
You need a bankroll of $6,000 to play in a $15 / $30 game
normally, but this one looks pretty juicy with so many poor
players. Are you going to play?
The answer to this question is based on personal preference
so it doesn’t have a correct answer. Since you know who the
players are that you need to be careful with and it isn’t too
far outside your normal bankroll requirements it looks like a
good opportunity to join a profitable situation. It looks like a
long term profitable situation so you should probably play.
If you’re not comfortable playing outside your bankroll at
$15 / $30 here’s a quick tip that you can use to take a shot in
a situation like this without worrying too much about your
bankroll. The minimum bankroll you like to play your normal
limit of $10 / $20 with is $4,000. This is 200 times the big
blind. You have a total bankroll of $5,500, so take your $4,000
out of play and join the $15 / $30 game and risk no more than
$1,500 in the game. If you hit a terrible streak you can walk
away with plenty of bankroll to move back to your normal limits,
but you also have the chance to go on a nice winning streak in a
If you have a hot streak and win three big bets per hour for
a five hour session you’ll win $450 and all of a sudden your
bankroll is almost to the minimum amount for play at the next
It’s a good practice for every limit Texas holdem player to
take a shot at the next higher level from time to time. While
the level of competition gradually improves as you move up in
limits you may be surprised how little difference there is from
one level to the next.
Consider using the bankroll trick mentioned above and take a
portion of your bankroll to the table. This protects your long
term ability to play at your normal level and gives you an idea
if you’re ready to move up. Just don’t put too much stock in any
single playing session, good or bad. A single losing or winning
session can be short term variance.
Concentrate on the decisions you make while playing. Did you
make the right decisions for long term profit or did you make
more mistakes than normal?
No Limit Cash Games
No limit cash games, or ring games as some players call them,
are played much like limit Texas holdem games but some
situations require different decisions than at the limit tables.
You can afford to play a few more speculative hands in some
no limit games than in limit games because of something called
implied odds. If you have a pocket pair and a player raises you
may be able to profitably call if you can get their entire stack
when you hit a set. As you saw above, this rarely works out in
Sometimes you can play suited connectors profitably in no
limit play for the same reason, even if they aren’t profitable
in limit Texas holdem play. Hands like jack 10 suited are
profitable in some games.
Here are a few examples to help you think through how to play
certain hands at the no limit Texas holdem cash game tables.
You raise from early position with ace king in a no limit
Texas holdem game, get raised by a middle position player, and
one of the blinds pushes all in. You just sat down at the table
so you don’t know anything about the two other players in the
pot. What do you do?
Ace king is a drawing hand, which means it almost always
needs to improve in order to win. With a re-raise and then a
push all in the odds of you being ahead in this situation are
almost zero. You’re likely facing at the very least a pair of
kings and more likely a pair of aces. Even if you’re facing a
pair of queens and a pair of jacks you’re still drawing and
hoping. You shouldn’t be willing to play for all of your chips
in this situation. Wait for a situation that offers a better
chance to have the best hand before risking your entire stack.
A wild player who always bets aggressively and plays a wide
range of hands with a deep stack raises from early position and
it’s folded around to you in late position. You have pocket
eights and also have a deep stack. How do you handle this
This is a perfect spot for a call. If you raise it’s likely
the wild player will re-raise, putting you in a bad position.
You don’t want to fold because when you hit a set the odds are
high that you can win a big pot, more than making up for the
times you call and don’t hit a set. Just make sure you’re
disciplined enough to fold after the flop when you don’t hit a
An early position player raises and you call from middle
position with ace jack suited. A late position player raises and
the early position player calls. All three of you have fairly
deep stacks and the late position player is one of the best
players in your normal game. The early position player is solid
but not as good as you or your other opponent. Is a call the
correct play here?
Ace jack suited is a decent hand but it’s on the weaker side
in this situation. The danger of calling is if you pair your ace
on the flop will you be able to get away from the hand if an
opponent shows aggression?
The value in this hand is flopping a straight or combination
draw with a straight and flush draw or a pair and a flush draw.
You’re still going to be forced to play a big pot with a draw
most of the time, but the math can work out in some situations.
A straight is slightly more camouflaged than a flush but most
players recognize the danger of flops with high cards. If you
flop two pair it might give an opponent a strong straight draw.
This hand shows the difficulty of playing a hand against two
other players who both showed aggression before the flop. You’re
in a drawing situation from the beginning and when you hit your
draw it often results in the other players recognizing the power
of your hand and not paying you off.
You should probably call to see the flop in this situation
but get away from the hand if the flop doesn’t help you quite a
bit. If you were in the same situation but had a player to act
behind you it’s probably best to fold the hand. If the player
behind you makes a big raise you’ll be forced to fold with a
weak hand like this in comparison to your opponent’s likely
However, if you decide to fold in this situation it isn’t
necessarily the wrong play. Playing out of position against a
strong player is always dangerous so if you fold and wait for a
better position to risk your money it may turn out to be more
profitable in the long run.
You’re in the same no limit Texas holdem situation as the
last example and you call and the flop comes king, queen, three,
with three different suits. The early position player makes a
bet, you call, and the late position player moves all in. What
do you do in this situation when the early position player
You have a gut shot straight draw which means you only have
four outs. The pot odds won’t be anywhere near high enough to
make the call, and there’s little doubt that you’re currently
far behind in the current hand.
You’re in the same no limit Texas holdem situation as example
8 and you call and the flop comes king, queen, and three, with
two cards in your suit. The early position player bets, you
call, the late position player moves all in and the early
position player calls.
In this situation, you have to determine if the pot odds are
high enough to make a call correct in the long run. You’re
behind in the hand but if you hit a flush or the straight you’re
likely to win a big pot. You have 12 outs out of 47 unseen
cards, so 12 cards help you and 35 don’t. But if you don’t hit
on the turn you can still hit one of 12 out of 34 unseen cards
on the river. This makes this situation a clear call.
You’ll win the pot less than half the time but you’ll roughly
triple your money when you do win, creating a positive
Limit Multi Table Tournaments
Limit Texas holdem multi table tournaments are the least
popular form of poker listed on this page. While many players
would wonder why we’d even include examples covering it based on
its lack of popularity, smart players recognize that often the
best opportunities for profit come from unpopular games.
While the pros are concentrating on no limit cash games and
tournaments, the smart player knows that this leaves a softer
level of competition where the professional players aren’t
playing. Limit multi table tournaments fit the bill.
In a limit Texas holdem multi table tournament you have
pocket queens under the gun. The last three times you’ve had
queens and raised a player with an ace called and the flop had
an ace. How should you play queens in this situation and does
the fact that the last three times you lost the hand to an ace
on the flop have anything to do with the answer?
In a limit Texas holdem tournament, you always raise with
pocket queens in an un-raised pot. The only way to be a long
term tournament winner is by getting as much money as possible
in the pot when you’re a favorite. With pocket queens, you’re
clearly a favorite against almost every other hand. The only
hands you hate are AA and KK, and AK isn’t great but you still
have basically a 50 / 50 shot against it.
What happened the last three times has nothing to do with
making the correct play. The only thing you can base your play
on in this situation is what makes the most money in the long
run. It’s been mathematically proven that in the situation
described in this example you have to raise.
Is there ever a time when you should fold pocket aces in a
limit Texas holdem multi table tournament? What about pocket
You can easily create a situation where you should fold
pocket aces in a limit Texas holdem tournament, but the truth is
you’ll probably never be in the situation. Just like the answer
to the last question, the most profitable play is playing, and
raising, with pocket aces in limit play.
Here’s a situation where folding pocket aces is the correct
play. You’re playing in a tournament where the top 25 players
get paid and have the second largest chip stack and there are 27
players left. You need to finish in the money to pay for a
medical procedure for your child. The person with the largest
stack has just completed the third raise before the flop against
two other players and the blinds still have to act after you.
You can fold in this situation and continue folding to
guarantee a spot in the money. But the truth is even if you play
you probably have enough chips to get into the money even if you
lose the hand. And if you win the hand you’ll move into the chip
lead with a good chance of advancing to the final table. It’s
not incorrect to fold here because of the 100% need for the
money, but as you can see the best play is still playing the
It’s easier to construct a situation where folding kings is
correct. It rarely happens and the truth is if you never fold
kings before the flop it’ll probably never cost you.
Imagine a similar situation to the pocket aces above but the
first player who raised is ultra-tight and almost certainly has
pocket aces. If you have a good read on an opponent and one of
the largest possibilities for their starting hand is the one
hand that’s better than your pocket kings you should fold.
In order to give yourself the best chance to win a tournament
you need to learn when it’s best to live to fight another day.
It always sucks when a strong hand like KK doesn’t win because
you don’t get it often, but the name of the game is winning
money, not hands.
What this means is it doesn’t matter how many hands you win
if you don’t win any money in the long run. Focus on
profitability instead of individual hands. If it’s clear you
have a losing hand, no matter how good it is, you need to cut
your losses and find a more profitable situation.
You have ace king in late position against an early position
player who raised in a limit multi table Texas holdem
tournament. It’s early in the tournament so you both have plenty
of chips. Should you fold, call, or raise?
You have a strong hand and, more importantly, position
against your opponent for the entire hand. At the very least you
want to call, but in most situations you want to raise. While
it’s true your opponent may have pocket aces or kings, they may
also have quite a few hands that don’t scare you. The only hand
that truly dominates you is AA. A pair of kings isn’t great but
you can still catch an ace.
If you don’t improve on the flop you can get away from the
hand, but unless your opponent has a very strong hand the odds
are she’ll call your bet before the flop and then check to you
after the flop. At this point, you can check and see a free card
or make a semi bluff to see if you can get her to fold.
In a limit Texas holdem tournament you have a pair of jacks
in late position. You’re getting close to the money, an early
position player raises, and a middle position player re-raises.
The two blinds still have to act behind you and if you get
involved in a big pot it could cripple your chances to finish in
the money. But if you won a big pot it’ll put you in a chip
position that gives you a real chance to reach the final table
and possibly win the entire tournament.
A pair of jacks isn’t very strong when facing a raise and a
re-raise and is rarely good unless you hit a set. The only
positive news is if you play you have the positional advantage
for the rest of the hand.
But even with that advantage, you need to fold in this
situation. If you could make a call to close the betting round
and see the flop you could consider seeing if you can catch a
set, but there’s too much danger of facing another raise or two
if you call so it’s better to fold and wait for a better
You’ve reached the final eight players in a big limit Texas
holdem tournament. The payouts are as follows:
First place – $20,000
Second place – $10,000
Third place – $5,000
Fourth place – $2,000
Fifth place – $2,000
Sixth place – $2,000
Seventh place – $2,000
Eighth place – $2,000
You have the second lowest chip stack at the table and need
to improve your position considerably to continue playing much
longer. How do you play ace king from early position with a late
position player who’s willing to jam the pot before the flop, on
the flop, and on the turn? What about with pocket eights?
You need to pick a hand and try to get as much money in the
pot as possible so if you win the hand it improves your chip
stack enough to give you the ammunition you need to move up the
ladder. At the present time, there’s no difference between
finishing fourth and eighth so you need to make a move soon.
With ace king, you should play it aggressively as possible
against a single opponent, even if you don’t improve on the
flop, turn, or river. If you were in better shape you wouldn’t
play it so recklessly, but in this situation, it offers a real
chance to double your stack, or come close, even in a limit
You need to play pocket eights the same way as you play ace
king in this situation. But you need to be the aggressor instead
of the player who calls. If you can make the first raise with
pocket eights then you should play them hard, but if another
player raises you’re better off folding them unless you’re
dangerously short stacked.
No Limit Multi Table Tournaments
No limit Texas holdem tournaments are what you’re most likely
to see when you watch televised poker. It’s one of the most
exciting formats because a single mistake can knock you out of a
tournament but a good hand or two can take you from being in
danger of being busted out to one of the chip leaders.
Most professional poker players concentrate on no limit games
so you can find some of the top competition at the no limit
tournament tables. But because it’s the most televised format
you’ll also find most new players joining tournaments as well.
So if you can learn to avoid tangling with the professional
player too much and learn how to beat the new players you can
quickly start winning at the Texas holdem tournament tables.
You’re roughly half way through a no limit Texas holdem
tournament and the average chip stack is $20,000 chips with 100
players left. The top 40 players get into the money and the top
nine make the final table. It always gives you a good idea of
where you stand in a tournament if you can compare your current
chip count to the average needed to get into the money and to
the final table. What will the average chip stack be when you
reach the money and when you get to the final table?
The total number of tournament chips can be determined by
multiplying the average stack by the number of players
remaining. $20,000 times 100 gives a total amount of $2,000,000
in chips. If 40 players make the money you divide $2,000,000 by
40 to get the average chip stack size of $50,000 when you reach
the money. You divide $2,000,000 by 9 to get the average amount
at the final table of $222,222.
If you currently have $10,000 in chips you know you need to
double up a couple times to be close to the average chip stack
to get into the money. You also know that you have a long way to
go before you have enough to battle at the final table. While
you can get into the money or to the final table with a small
stack, if you want a chance to win you need a much larger stack.
You sit down for the first hand of the main event at the
World Series of Poker and are in the big blind. The first player
to act moves all in and gets called by four other players. You
look down at ace king. What do you do?
Against five opponents ace king doesn’t do well so you should
fold. At this early stage of the tournament it would be great to
take such a big chip lead if you win, but it’s such a small
amount in comparison to what you need to reach the money or the
final table that it’s not worth the gamble. $50,000 doesn’t even
represent one tenth of one percent of the total chips in play.
Look for a better place to risk your tournament life.
If you’re in the same situation as example 17 and you have
pocket aces what do you do? What about pocket kings or queens?
With pocket aces you have to decide if it’s more important to
find an opportunity where you’re a big favorite to win or if you
want to stick with the great pot odds you’re receiving. The pot
odds are overwhelmingly in your favor, but you’ll get knocked
out of the tournament around half the time in this situation. We
can’t recommend folding pocket aces before the flop in any
situation because they’re such a strong hand so the
recommendation is to call.
Pocket kings and queens are an easier decision and should be
folded. You’re likely up against a hand that’s better than yours
and you’ll be drawn out on more often than not even if you have
the best hand pre flop.
In a no limit Texas holdem multi table tournament an early
position player raises and you have pocket nines in late
position. You both have stacks of roughly 12 times the raise.
How do you play this hand?
In a no limit cash game you make the call because when you
hit the set you have a good chance of winning enough to be
profitable in the long term. But in this situation you have to
consider the limited number of chips and if you should risk them
in this situation. The only time you should do so is if you have
much deeper stacks and don’t have to worry about investing such
a large percentage of your stack on a draw that you only hit
around one out of every nine times.
In any no limit multi table tournament you have to weigh the
chances of winning the current hand against your chances of
winning the entire tournament. This is a continuation of the
last example, but it’s such an important point that you’ll have
a hard time being a long term tournament winner without
Most no limit Texas holdem players routinely commit money to
the pot when they have a 60% chance to win. As a matter of fact,
if you play cash games the more times you can get your money in
with a 60% chance to win the more money you’ll make.
But as a tournament player, you need to consider how many
times you can put your tournament life on the line as a 60%
favorite and hope to stay alive.
If you risk your tournament life one time as a 60% favorite
you win 60 out of 100 times and lose 40 out of 100 times. If you
survive the first time and do it again you only have a 36%
chance of surviving both times. The third time your overall
chances are reduced to 21.6% and the fourth time they go down to
12.96%. A fifth time gives you only a 7.78% chance of surviving
all five times.
So you can see that even as a strong 60% favorite if you
consistently get in these situations in a no limit Texas holdem
tournament you’ll eventually run out of luck. So should you
avoid risking your tournament life as a 60% favorite?
The basic truth is you have to take calculated risks in order
to win tournaments and you’re going to have to win some hands
where you’re a 60% favorite. But what the best players do is try
to avoid risking their entire stack as much as possible. If they
have to get in a situation where they’re a 60% favorite they try
to do it without risking their entire stack.
So if you win the first all in where you have a 60% edge it
hopefully gives you enough money over your opponents that you
can stay alive even if the second or third time you have a big
edge goes against you.
Limit Sit and Go Tournaments
Most limit Texas holdem sit and go tournaments are a race
between the blinds that seem to always be accelerating and
receiving enough good starting hands to stay ahead of the
blinds. Often you reach a point where you have to pick a hand
and jam the pot and hope an opponent doesn’t have a better hand
or hit a better one.
Much like limit cash games, sit and go Texas holdem
tournaments boil down to math. If you put yourself in favorable
situations enough times you’ll eventually receive favorable
You’re playing in a limit Texas holdem sit and go tournament
and one player has been betting and raising like a maniac and
has been lucky enough to build a large chip lead. Seven players
remain and the wild opponent has twice as many chips as you and
re-raises your raise before the flop. You have a pair of queens.
How do you play the hand?
Because your opponent has been playing many hands and has
been playing them recklessly you need to play this hand just
like you would if you had pocket aces. The odds are you have the
best hand so you need to take advantage of your opponent’s
maniac play and try to get as much money in the pot as possible.
You may lose occasionally in this situation, but most of the
time you’ll be able to increase your chip stack quite a bit.
Even if an ace or king hits the board you can’t shy away from
your opponent’s aggression because they’ve proven they’ll play a
wide range of hands in an aggressive manner.
In the same situation as the last example, you and the wild
opponent have capped the betting before the flop and a king high
flop lands. How do you play the rest of the hand?
As we mentioned in the last example, a king on the flop
shouldn’t scare you. If you want you can check and call for the
rest of the hand but you should never consider folding in this
situation. It’s probably profitable in the long run to continue
betting and raising on the flop and not back off until the turn
if your opponent continues playing aggressively.
Once again you’re in the same situation as example 21, the
flop lands jack high, you bet, and your opponent raises.
You should bet and raise and be willing to cap every betting
round with a jack high flop. You’ll find occasionally that your
opponent hit a set or two pair, but most of the time you still
have a dominant hand and need to maximize the amount of money in
the pot. You’ll find that many times your opponent will turn
over a hand like ace jack or jack ten when they’ve been playing
in the manner described.
When you’re playing in a limit sit and go Texas holdem
tournament you have to take advantage of the few situations you
have of dominating an opponent and building your chip stack.
This is one of those times when you play aggressively because
most of the time you’re a big favorite.
If you happen to be unlucky and the maniac draws out on you
don’t let it change the way you play these types of situations
in the future. You still need to be aggressive against a wild
opponent when you have a strong hand.
Four players remain in a limit Texas holdem sit and go with
the top three finishing in the money. You have a comfortable
chip lead and should be able to fold until you reach the money
with no problem. The first player folds, the second player
raises, and the third player re-raises. You have a pair of
kings. How do you play the hand?
Pocket kings are a powerful hand four handed and unlike in a
cash game, in a sit and go tournament this situation doesn’t
mean a player probably has pocket aces. Of course, it’s
possible, but more than likely both players have strong hands
that aren’t as good as your kings.
You can play aggressively or call and see what happens on the
flop. If an ace hits the flop you can back off or get out of the
hand, but you’re going to have the best hand most of the time
here, especially when an ace doesn’t hit the flop. In most game
re-raising before the flop will be profitable in the long run.
In the same situation as example 24 if you have pocket aces
do you make a different decision? What about with pocket queens
or ace king?
With pocket aces you should re-raise before the flop and play
aggressively until it’s obvious someone has outdrawn you.
Raising is the most profitable long term way to play this hand.
With pocket queens or ace king, it depends on how large your
stack is in comparison to the betting limit. With ace king, in
particular, you should lean toward folding. With queens, you can
go either way, but there’s no reason to commit too much to the
pot at this point. With a comfortable chip lead, you don’t have
to play hands that may be dominated. With queens, you could be
facing pocket aces, pocket kings, or hands with an ace or king.
Lean toward folding queens.
No Limit Sit and Go Tournaments
While no limit cash games and multi table tournaments are
popular, many players are playing online no limit sit and go
tournaments. These tournaments pay out to the top three
finishers, usually, only take around an hour to complete, and
offer a chance for good players to turn a consistent profit.
You have to play them slightly different than cash games and
multi table tournaments because the blinds tend to go up fairly
quickly and you have a limited number of chips. You have to find
opportunities to double up and when the blinds go up you may
need to find an opportunity to play a hand that may not be the
best in a way that lets you steal the blinds or have at least a
chance to double up.
You’re playing in a no limit sit and go Texas holdem
tournament and you’re one of four players left. The top three
players finish in the money and the fourth player gets nothing.
All four of you have the same number of chips; the first player
moves all in and is called by both of your other opponents. Do
you call or fold with pocket aces?
It’s helpful to understand how the poker room where you’re
playing handles a three way tie for second place, but let’s
assume second and third place prize money is split evenly among
the three players who tied. This means you get back roughly $167
on a $100 plus $10 investment if you lose the hand and $500 if
If you fold you’re guaranteed to finish either first or
second unless the unlikely outcome of a tie happens on the
current hand. A second place finish wins $300, so on the
surface, it looks like you’re ahead financially to fold because
you get at least $300 and still have a chance to win. But if you
win you have to overcome a 3 to 1 chip advantage that your
remaining opponent has over you.
The long term profitability comes out almost even in this
situation, so you can play either way you desire. We usually
lean toward playing aggressively and getting all in with pocket
aces is the aggressive play so that’s what we recommend.
Does your decision change if you have three more chips than
your opponents if you’re in the same situation as the last hand?
In this case, even if you call and lose you’ll still get second
This means instead of winning $167 if you lose you win at
least $300. This makes the situation a clear call because you’ll
still win the tournament over half the time and win $300 the
rest of the time. This is an expected value of over $400 for
The blinds are escalating quickly and if you don’t make a
move in the next three rounds you’ll be eliminated. You’re first
to act and have a pair of sevens. What do you do?
The best play is to move all in. Any time you move all in you
can win the hand if you end up with the best hand or you can win
if your opponents all fold. It’s important to be the aggressor
because just winning the blinds helps a great deal.
Even if you get called by a hand with two over cards you
stand a good chance to double up. If you get called by an over
pair your chances are bleak, but you still have a roughly one in
nine chance to double up.
You’re in the same no limit Texas holdem sit and go as
example 28 with the same hand but an early position player has
raised enough to cover you. Do you commit the rest of your chips
to the pot in this situation?
In this situation, you can only win if you end up with the
best hand. This changes your chances enough that you should fold
and hope for a better hand on one of the next three rounds. If
you’re on the last round before you’re going to be blinded out
you should go ahead and play the pair of sevens. You can’t wait
forever to make a move.
Just don’t forget that you’re always better off to be the
aggressor in this situation instead of the passive player
calling a bet. This is basically good advice in any Texas holdem
situation, but it’s particularly important here.
You’ve been having some recent success playing no limit Texas
holdem sit and go tournaments. The buy in at the level you’ve
been playing is $110, first place wins $500, second place gets
$300, third place wins $200, and each tournament has 10 players.
How often do you have to finish in the money at an average
position of second place to break even? If you play 50 of these
tournaments a week and want to make $1,000 a week, how well do
you have to perform?
The first thing you need to do is determine the average
amount you win. Second place pays $300 but if you finish in
first, second, and third an equal number of times your average
win is actually $333. To determine what percentage of the time
you need to finish in the money with an average win rate of $333
you can look at what happens if you enter 100 tournaments.
It costs $11,000 including the entry fees to enter 100
tournaments. If you divide this by $333 you find out you need to
finish in the money 33% of the time to break even. If you can
move the percentage of times you finish first higher than when
you finish second and third you reduce the number of times you
need to finish in the money.
If you want to make $1,000 a week playing in 50 no limit
Texas holdem sit and go tournaments, it means you need to win an
average of $20 per tournament you enter.
This means instead of $11,000 needed to break even you need
to win $12,000. If you divide $12,000 by $333 you have to finish
in the money with an average finishing position of second 36% of
If you can increase your average win when you reach the money
to $350 you only need to win a little over 34% of the time. The
actual percentage is 34.29%. You raise your average by finishing
first more often.
Here’s an example:
The normal distribution out of 100 finishes in the money is
First place – 33.33 times
Second place – 33.33 times
Third place – 33.33 times
This creates an average win of $333 per finish in the money.
If you can finish first 36 times instead of 33.33 it changes the
numbers to the following.
First place – 36 times
Second place – 32 times
Third place – 32 times
This changes the average win per in the money finish to $340.
If you can reach this number you have to finish in the money
35.29% of the time to make $1,000 a week playing 50 tournaments.
In order to get to an average win of $350 like mentioned
above you have to win 40 tournaments when you finish in the
money and finish second 30 times and third 30 times.
Any time you try to absorb such a wide range of examples it’s
easy to miss a few important points. Go back over the examples
on this page from time to time, especially the ones covering
your normal game.
But don’t make the mistake of ignoring the examples in the
other sections. You can learn how to improve your overall Texas
holdem game by reading examples for every situation you can
find. Plus, you never know when a profitable limit situation may
present itself even if you usually play no limit. You don’t want
to miss out because you haven’t studied the limit examples
Winning Texas holdem players focus on improving the game they
play the most as much as possible, but once they master one area
they start trying to improve other aspects of their game. Once
you become a winning no limit player you should start trying to
improve your limit game.
If you’re a tournament player consider learning how to be a
winning cash game player too. The basic skills needed to be a
winning Texas holdem player are the same across formats and
limits so once you master one format and limit you can quickly
add other formats and limits to your skill set.
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