Texas Holdem Questions and Answers
Texas holdem players who hope to improve their game have questions. We've collected the top 10 questions we've seen and provided in depth answers below. We offer them to you here so you can learn from them, just like the original players who asked them did.
We recommend reading them all, even if you think you already know the answer to one or more questions. You never know when you learn something new or have an answer spark a new thought in your mind that leads to a winning breakthrough in your game.
Question: I see other players bluff all the time and win, but it seems like every time I bluff I get called. How can I get my bluffs to work better?
One thing that jumps out right away is you say it seems like you get called every time. Any time you find yourself saying something seems like it's happening you should instantly start tracking your results. Keep a small notebook and start making a mark each time you bluff and then record if the bluff was successful or not.
How do you know other players are bluffing? Are they showing you their bluffs or are you assuming that they're bluffing? Never assume an opponent is bluffing unless you see the actual cards.
Finally, it's almost certain that you're bluffing too much. The reason we can say it's almost sure is because almost every player bluffs too often. If you want to be a successful bluffer you need to pick your spots carefully and not bluff very often.
If you turn over a winning hand most of the time when an opponent calls you'll find that many of them will start respecting your bets more. When they start folding too much to your bets is when you need to start working in some bluffs. Once they start calling more you need to tighten up more and stop bluffing for a while.
It's also important to know your opponent's playing tendencies. Some players simply won't fold for a single or small bet. Once you learn this about an opponent you know to never bluff them, but you also know they'll pay off your better hands every time.
On the other hand, some players are so scared that the fold to any sign of aggression unless they have a strong hand. Against these players you know you can bluff them with a weak hand, but you also know you need to let them lead the betting if possible when you have a strong hand.
One last thing that is especially important in no limit Texas holdem is that a larger than normal bet in a bluffing situation often doesn't work as well as a smaller bet.
A smaller bet looks like you're trying to get just a little more form your opponent with a strong hand where an over bet often looks like a bluff. Of course you still need to know your opponents because some don't think deep enough about the game for this to work.
Question: I'm a cash game player and am getting ready to enter my first big multi table Texas holdem tournament. Do you have any advice that can help me?
The first thing you need to understand is the difference between your edge on a series of hands in a cash game and in a tournament. This is best shown using a couple examples.
In a cash game you're able to get all in on a series of four hands. You have a statistical edge of 70%, 60%, 65%, and 55% in these four hands. You know from experience that if you can consistently put yourself in these situations that you make money. But for a tournament player you don't have the luxury of buying back in the three out of 10 times you lose the first situation like you do in a cash game.
In a tournament if you get all in with the same four hands and same four chances of winning you'll be knocked out of the tournament a high percentage of the time. You'll be eliminated from the tournament almost 85% of the time. The way to quickly determine your chances is convert the percentages to decimals and multiplying them. .70 X .60 X .65 X .55 = .15015. Convert this back to a percentage, 15.015%, and subtract from 100. This gives you the percent of time you'll be knocked out, which is 84.985%.
This doesn't mean that you don't play your hands with high winning percentages, but you need to try to play them without getting all in. Sometimes you have to pick up enough small pots to give you enough chips so you can still have chips left over when you lose the hands where you're a favorite.
As you get deeper and deeper into the tournament it becomes harder to avoid all in confrontations unless you're among the chip leaders. All you can do is play your best hands and understand that sometimes you're going to bust out. But the good news is you can find plenty of tournaments to play and if you consistently play well you'll break through and win more than you lose in the long run.
The next thing you need to decide is if you're going to play to get into the money or to win. Most players state they play tournaments to win, but when it gets close to the money bubble they start folding good hands in order to sneak into the money.
You're playing in a big tournament and the final 100 players get paid. The buy in was $100 and the lowest paying place pays $150. But the real money is at the final table. 110 players remain in the tournament and you have an average chip stack. This means you can easily fold every hand until you reach the money.
Two players at your table have bigger stacks than you and they are taking turns raising and bullying the table. Most players are folding to their aggression because they want to make the money. You face a raise from one of the big stacks and have pocket kings. If you get all in against them and lose you miss the money.
How are you going to play the hand? What if you have pocket queens, or pocket jacks, or ace king?
If you're truly playing to win you need to try to get all in with pocket kings. Only one hand I a favorite against you and if you can double up your average chip stack it puts you in a good position to have the chips needed to win the tournament.
It's not for us to tell you how to play and there's not a right or wrong answer when it comes down to deciding if you want to play for the money or to win. But you do need to think about it before you start playing in tournaments.
If you're first goal is to get into the money you might even fold pocket aces in the example above. You also need to think about where you cut off your starting hands in a situation like this one if you're playing strictly to give yourself the best chance to win. Pocket jacks and ace king are somewhat weak in most cases if you have to risk your tournament life, but only you can make this decision based on what you know about your opponents and the situation.
Right after the final player busts out who isn't in the money many of the short stacks start taking risks to either double up or bust out. At this point you can play your best hands and quickly increase your stack size many times.
Another thing to remember is that there's no one right way to play in order to win tournaments. Many good players play very tight in the early rounds and look to double up with their very best hands while others are able to play a loose / aggressive game early and do well. You have to find the style that fits with your abilities and work to improve it at all times.
Question: It seems like when I watch Texas holdem on television that there's a great deal of action, but when I play I get bored because it takes so long between good hands. What's the deal with this?
Remember our advice from the first question when you start saying that something seems to be happening? The problem with this situation is you don't get to see all of the hands when watching Texas holdem tournaments on television. They film a bunch of footage and then edit it all of the boring hands, so you only see the action hands.
The ESPN coverage of the World Series of Poker only consists of a few hours and the tournament lasts several days, with hundreds of tables running at the same time during the early rounds.
The next issue is you say you get bored. This is a dangerous thing for a holdem player. When poker players get bored they tend to play too many hands. This leads to playing hands that are weaker than your opponents, reducing your overall chances of winning.
You should never get bored while playing holdem. If you aren't involved in the hand you need to be watching and collecting information about all of your opponents. Watch what hands they end up showing down and how they play in every situation.
Do they only raise with their best hands or do they mix it up? Do they bluff too much? Are they tight or loose?
Every little bit you can learn about how someone plays is an extra chance you have to make money from them in a later hand. Winning Texas holdem players seek and use every little advantage they can possibly find.
A single big hand can be the difference between a winning and losing session, so knowing a single thing about and opponent can be the difference between being a winning and losing player.
Question: I want to be a professional poker player. What advice can you offer me?
The jump from a recreational or part time poker player to a full time pro is a huge one. It requires a change in focus, dedication, time, mental attitude, and lifestyle. No matter how good your results have been playing part time, if you're not completely ready you run a high risk of failure.
Let's talk about the financial considerations of becoming a professional Texas holdem player before moving on. You need to have at least six months worth of living expenses in reserve before making the jump, and a year's worth is better. This needs to be completely separate from your bankroll.
Your bankroll needs to be a minimum of 30 buy in's if you play no limit and 300 big blinds if you play limit. Twice this amount is much better. This may seem like its overly cautious, but when you're a pro you have no life line of a job to replace money when you have a bad streak. And never make the mistake of thinking you won't have a bad streak. Every poker player has ups and downs.
You never should use your living expense fund for poker and you should never use your bankroll for anything but poker. Set a regular time to look at your progress and take profit from your bankroll as it grows. The best system in our opinion is as follows. We recommend this system because your goal should be to grow both your living expense account and your bankroll.
At the ends of every month look at the amount of your bankroll in comparison to the previous month. If you're down then do nothing except look for holes in your game and improve them. If you're up for the month split the amount you're up and put half in your living expenses account and leave half in your bankroll. Over time you should be making enough to extend your living expenses beyond a year and keep them there and steadily increase your bankroll. Your bankroll is your life so you must protect it in every way possible.
You start the month with $12,000 in your living expenses and $30,000 in your bankroll. During the month you spend $2,000 out of your living expenses and your bankroll grows to $36,000. You put $3,000 in your living expenses and leave $3,000 in your bankroll. Your new living expenses amount is $13,000 and your bankroll is now $33,000.
The next month your bankroll is $35,000 at the end of the month and you spend $2,000 on living expenses. Your new living expense amount is $12,000 and your new bankroll amount is $34,000 because you put $1,000 in each account.
The next month you break even playing so your bankroll is still $34,000 and after spending $2,000 on living expenses your living expenses account is at $10,000.
In the next month you have a strong showing and end the month with $42,000 in your bankroll. You spend $2,000 on living expenses, put $4,000 in your living expenses and leave $4,000 in your bankroll. Your new living expense amount is $12,000 and your new bankroll amount is $38,000.
Notice that even though you've had three winning months and a break even month your living expense account hasn't grown. Your bankroll has increased by $8,000 so you're doing well, but the living expense account is stagnant. At this point you need to decide if you continue with the current plan or start building your expense account. It may be prudent to transfer another $2,000 from your bankroll to your living expenses. But once you do that the money is gone forever from your bankroll, so make sure you think it through.
This system is designed so you never have to worry about money while playing. If you worry about your finances while playing you're not going to be focused on what you need to do to win.
Before making the switch you need to ask yourself a question. Have you played enough, and tracked all of your play long enough, to know for a fact that you're a winning long term player? Most players make assumptions instead of tracking everything. Unless you know 100% that you're a winning player you need to get better before trying your hand as a pro.
The next area you need to think about is your goals. You need to have a goal beyond growing your expense account and bankroll. You need to have specific goals every month and year for how much you want to win. When you combine your goals with tracking your results you learn how much you need to play and at what level.
You play limit Texas holdem and are able to win on average one big blind per hour. Your goal is to win $6,000 per month and you've been playing 20 / 40. At this rate you need to play 150 hours during the month. This works out to roughly 35 hours per week.
This also tells you that if you want to make more you either need to win more per hour or play more hours. Winning more per hour can be accomplished by increasing your rate of big blind wins per hour or play a higher limit with the same big blind wins per hour.
Playing this way becomes a grind, which many players realize is as bad as or worse than having a regular job. This requires a mental toughness and dedication that many players simply don't have for the long term. Consider this before making the switch to full time play.
Finally you need the support of your family and everyone else in your life. This is often overlooked, but if you have relationships of any kind with a non-poker player they have to understand how you make money.
One way to still have a relationship and be a professional player is to schedule a day or two completely off every week. This is good for both your relationship and your mental health. Playing poker seven days a week is a form of torture for most players.
Winning players travel to where the best games are located and play when these games are available. This means if a game you can beat is two hours away and starts at midnight and runs for 18 hours you need to be able to be rested before the game, be in good enough health to play, and have the understanding and support from everyone in your life to be able to do it on a regular basis.
Question: My friends all play no limit Texas holdem, but limit holdem seems like a simpler game to win. What's your opinion on this?
You should play the game that lets you win the most per hour. This goes beyond choosing between limit and no limit play. This also includes being willing to play at the limits the offer the most return. The most profitable limit may not be the highest limit your bankroll can afford.
You have a large enough bankroll to play $1,000 buy in no limit Texas holdem or 50 / 100 limit. You're an overall winner at both, but your results are better as a limit player. At 50 / 100 limit you win a half a big bet per hour, but at 30 / 60 you're able to win a full big bet per hour.
This means at 50 / 100 you win $50 per hour, but at 30 / 60 you win $60 per hour. You clearly should be playing 30 /60. If you can win two big bets per hour playing 20 / 40 you should be playing 20 / 40.
No limit Texas holdem offers the chance to win large amounts when you win, but it also has a bigger variance than limit holdem. The amount you can win per hour over the long run is better for some players in no limit, but not for all players. And even if you can win more per hour playing no limit you may be more comfortable with the lower variance of playing limit.
Both games are mathematical in nature, but often limit Texas holdem seems more straightforward. If you're able to remain patient, only play your best hands, use position to your advantage, and understand odds, outs, and pot odds completely, then you can follow a fairly simple script and grind out profits playing limit holdem.
But the same can be said for no limit Texas holdem. So the answer to your question is really which one do you feel more comfortable playing, or which one shows you the best results?
We hate to give answers that aren't specific, but in this case you really need to decide which offers the best options for you. One solid piece of advice we can offer is it doesn't matter what your friends or others think or say. The only things that matters are your results.
Question: I want to start hosting a weekly Texas holdem game. What do I need to get started?
The only things you must have to start are a place to play, enough playing cards, tables, and chairs to run the game. Of course having a few other things can be helpful.
In addition to having the things mentioned above, having a unique set of chips players can use and a software package to track the blinds and levels are the next two things we recommend. You can find free and low cost software packages for Texas holdem tournaments by doing a quick search online.
Chips are available in many places, but you need to be careful about what you buy. The best chips are ones that are unique to your game. If you use common chips how are you going to stop a dishonest player from sneaking chips in from outside the game? Custom chips are expensive, but you can also buy stickers to print and place on inexpensive chips.
It's also nice to have quality playing cards, but the higher quality cards can be expensive. And you need to examine the cards after every tournament to see if any have been damages or marked.
The last thing to consider is whether or not you're going to provide dealers for the tournament. Dealers add more expense to the game but they also help reduce cheating. If the players have to deal some of them may cheat.
The problem with running a Texas holdem tournament is it can be expensive, and if you charge an entry fee to cover your expenses you're breaking the law in many places. In most jurisdictions if you're charging any type of fee for entry to the game you're running an illegal gambling operation.
We've seen some creative ways that organizers have tried to get around this, but we'd hate to have to fight in court using them. Here are a couple that we've seen used.
One of our editors played in a weekly tournament where the buy in was $100 and you paid a $20 fee. The organizers prepared a nice meal for every player and claimed the $20 was for the meal, not the game. But the problem was you couldn't just play for $100, you had to pay for the food.
Another ploy is to call the place a club or organization and the extra money on top of the buy in is a membership fee. In our non-legal opinion, the courts are probably not going to look kindly on these types of things if you get caught.
We realize that poker tournaments are being run all over the place and most of them are never bothered by the cops, but that doesn't mean you can't be arrested and charged. This is especially true if a player feels they've been cheated and complain to the authorities.
We're not offering legal advice, but make sure you consider all of the possible ramifications before you start hosting a game.
Question: I have a hard time figuring my odds, percentages, and pot odds during a game. Are there any shortcuts you can recommend to make it easier?
The easiest way to make a close guess to your chances of winning hand after the flop is to use the following trick. Learn how to count your outs first. This is easy and most players can learn this quickly.
If you have four to a flush you know the deck has nine other cards of your suit. So you have nine outs.
Once you know how many outs you have if you still have the turn and river you multiply your outs by four. If you just have the river to come you multiply you routs by two. This gives you roughly the percentage chance you have of winning the hand.
In the example above of a flush draw and nine outs, the estimated chances with both the turn and river to come are 36% and with just the river to come is 18%. The true odds are 35% and 19.6% so you can see that this quick trick gives you a strong estimate of your chances.
The next trick is to learn the most common situation and memorize them. The flush draw in the example above is a common one, as well as an open ended straight draw, two pair or three of a kind improving to a full house, and having two over cards with hopes of pairing one of them.
You also need to have an idea of how your percentage chances of winning or hitting your hand relate to the pot odds. Pot odds are simply the comparison of the amount of money in the pot and the amount you have to call in order to stay in the hand. When you compare your chances of winning with the pot odds you can determine if it's profitable or not to stay in the hand.
If the pot has $100 in it and you have to call $20 and you have the flush draw mentioned above after the flop, the pot odds are favorable to call. You're going to hit your flush a little over one out of every three times based on the 36% chance. We now know that your actual chance is 35%, but the estimate is close enough.
This means that every three times you win once and lose twice. So if the pot has more than two times the amount you have to put in then the pot odds are in your favor.
If you're in the same situation but on the river instead of before the turn you have a 18% chance, really 19.6%, so this is roughly one out of every five times.
This means that you'll win once and lose four times out of every five. In other words your pot chances are four to one. The pot is offering five to one odds, with $100 in it and you have to call $20, so the pot is offering a better return than your odds of making the hand. This means you need to call.
Pot odds can be intimidating, but if you start with the simple steps we just covered you'll quickly learn to determine your chances of winning and if you should play or fold in most situations.
Question: I play no limit Texas holdem recreationally and do pretty good overall. I track my play and win a little more than I lose and am considering playing more. But I have a good job and don't plan to ever play full time or professionally. Should I try to invest more time and effort into poker or just be happy with my current results?
First of all, let us say congratulations on being a winning Texas holdem player. It's not as easy as many make it seem, so you're ahead of the majority of players.
Concerning the rest of your question, this is getting dangerously close to letting someone else tell you what to do with your life. We can offer advice on what you can do to improve your game, but it sounds like you're somewhat happy with your current situation.
In order to get better at Texas holdem you're going to need to dedicate more time and effort to the game and that time has to be taken away from something else. Only you can decide if you're going to be happier making these changes or if improving your poker results will make you happier.
Being a good recreational player and having a good job you enjoy is a good thing. But having a full time job and being a really good poker player are rarely found together.
If you want to try to improve your results start by taking an extra 30 minutes a day and dedicate it to improving your holdem skills. This can be spent reading about how to be a better player, studying other players, or researching articles online designed to improve the weak spots in your game.
Do this for a month and then try to judge your results and if you're happier than before. Let us warn you about trying to judge your happiness though. This evaluation can be somewhat subjective and change based on other things in your life.
You should also realize that many people who are good holdem players have quit their jobs to play full time and found they hated the grind. Even some winning players have went back to doing something else for a living and playing as a hobby. Being a full time poker player isn't easy and it isn't always fun.
Question: I play in a weekly no limit Texas holdem tournament and many players move all in every time they have ace king. I try to never get all in with ace king, but I'm not very experienced and am beginning to think I might be playing wrong. Can you help me?
Don't worry, just because everyone else seems to be doing something it doesn't mean you're wrong. In this case you're the one who's playing correctly, not your opponents.
In most situations the best you can hope for with ace king is a roughly 50 / 50 chance of winning. When you hold ace kin against a player with a pair lower than kings it's basically a toss-up. But if you hold ace kin against a pair of aces or kings you're dominated.
You don't win Texas holdem tournaments by getting all in with 50 / 50 hands. If you play only four 50 / 50 hands during a tournament all in you only have a 6.25% chance of still being alive.
Focus on hands that give you a much higher percentage chance of winning and winning smaller pots to build your chip stack so you don't have to get all in often.
You also need to understand that most Texas holdem players lose over the long term. This means that just because everyone seems to be doing it, it doesn't mean it's going to win in the long run. Learn how to determine if a situation is profitable of not so you don't have to rely on what others are doing.
Question: I'm a Texas holdem player and often get frustrated when players make bad plays but end up winning. I know in the long run I make money when I play hands as a favorite, but I'm considering switching to Omaha 8. Is this a good idea?
While it's true that Omaha 8 is a more predictable and straightforward mathematical game, you're still going to face the same irritations because players are still going to make bad plays and sometimes they'll still win.
The key in Texas holdem, or Omaha, or any other game of poker is to put yourself in a positive expectation position as often as possible and then let the long term percentages play in your favor. If you do this you'll suffer some ups and downs, but in the long run you're going to win more than you lose.
The reason Omaha 8 is more predictable than Texas holdem is because of the amount of information you have during each hand. In Texas holdem you know the identity of two cards before the flop, your hole cards, and five cards after the flop, your two hole cards and the three on the flop.
In Omaha you know the identity of four cards before the flop and seven cards after the flop. The added cards reduce the possibilities for the rest of the hand and after the flop you have five of the seven cards you're going to be able to use to make your hand.
All of this means that for players who have a deep understanding of the mathematics behind poker Omaha is somewhat easier. But the same player can use the same math to be a winning Texas holdem player also.
The only reason you should consider switching from Texas holdem to Omaha 8 is if you can make more money in the long run playing Omaha than holdem. You need to learn to deal with the frustration of playing against bad players, because the only way you make money at the poker table is by playing against players who are worse than you.
You say you know that you make money by playing hands as a favorite, but this doesn't seem to be satisfactory to you. We suggest stepping back and trying to look at poker as a way to make short term investments instead of as a game. Short term investments can increase or decrease, but if you make the smart investment more often than not they make a positive return over time.
Being the best Texas holdem player you can be requires dedication and constant study. One of the best ways to learn new things is by reading the questions and answers of other players.
Take a few moments to write down the things you learned from the questions and answers above. By writing them down while they're fresh in your mind you won't forget anything important and it helps ingrain the lessons in your mind.