Texas holdem is an easy game to learn, but it has an almost
infinite number of layers between knowing how to play and
becoming a winning player.
And the truth is that even the top players in the world are
always looking for ways to improve their game. So we’ve put
together the top tips every player can use to improve their
Texas holdem results. You might be using a few of these tips
now, but the odds are that you’ll be able to find a few new
ideas that can instantly improve your long term profitability.
It’s easy to think of dozens of possible Texas holdem tips,
but we sorted through everything we could think of and decided
to go with a top 10 type list. These are 10 of the most
important tips and designed so every Texas holdem player can get
the maximum improvement with the least amount of effort.
If you’re a beginning player consider printing this list out
or just copying the main points so you can go over them quickly
every time you’re getting ready to play poker. By just following
these simple tips you should be able to improve your overall
game and profitability by a large amount in a short period of
1. Table Selection
If you aren’t taking the time to choose the best tables to
play Texas holdem you need to change this habit before you play
another hand. Make a commitment right now to find tables that
offer the best chance to win instead of grabbing the first
available seat no matter what.
Most poker players are so excited to start playing that they
don’t worry about where they get to sit. They don’t think about
the other players at the table until they start playing and
don’t bother looking for tables with poor players.
But if you start doing this it can immediately improve your
results. It’s almost as good as free money, yet well over 90% of
Texas holdem players don’t use table selection at all.
If you’re playing at a table with four players who’re better
than you and four who’re not as good as you, in the long run,
you should break even or come close, at least in theory. The
better players will win more from you than they lose and you
should win more from the poor players than you lose to them.
Does this sound like a reasonable theory?
If you agree with this theory doesn’t it hold true that if
you start replacing players who’re better than you with players
who’re not as good as you that your results will improve? When
you take this a step further, if you found a table where every
player was worse than you the chances of you winning go up quite
This first tip might be the most important one you’ll read.
Find a table with mostly poor players. It’s worth waiting
quite a long time to be seated if it means the chance at a
higher profit. You can even change from an overall losing player
to a long term winner if this is the only tip you use on the
Your position at the Texas holdem table is where you have to
act on each round of play in comparison to the other players. If
you’re in early position you’re one of the first to act on each
betting round and if you’re in late position you act after most
of the other players are forced to play.
The best position is the dealer button and the worst
positions are the two blinds and the under the gun player, who
is to the immediate left of the big blind.
Most beginning players and many long time players ignore
their position when making playing decisions. This is a costly
mistake and if you start using your position to your advantage
you can start winning more often.
The reason you need to be aware of your position is because
the later in the round you’re forced to act the more information
you have to help you make a profitable decision. Texas holdem is
a game that only offers limited information before you need to
make a decision. You may know what you have and what the board
shows, but you can’t be sure what your opponent’s hold.
You can pick up clues as to what they may have and put them
on a range of possible hands by watching how they play the hand.
Every check, bet, raise, or call gives you a clue to what they
might be holding and what hand they may be chasing.
If you have to act first on each betting round you have to
give away information to the other players, but if you act last
you get to use all of the information the players give you
before you have to act.
Another advantage of playing in late position is if all of
the players check to you it gives you an opportunity to check
and see the turn or river for free. If you’re drawing to a
better hand this can be a valuable card. When you face a bet you
may have to fold, but if you have the chance to check and see
the next card for free it can complete your draw and change a
folding situation into one where you can win the pot.
In addition to just paying attention to your position at the
table, here’s how you use this information when deciding how to
play a hand. You can play more hands from late position than you
can from early position.
You should play good starting hands in every position, but if
you’re in early position it means you have to play the entire
hand out of position so you need to only play the best starting
hands. The best hand can usually be played for a profit from any
position. But lesser hands have to be folded from early position
or they lose money in the long run.
As your position moves around the table toward the later
positions you can expand the number of hands you play a little.
Don’t overdo it, but you can play more hands for a profit from
late position than in any other position.
The only other important thing you should consider in
relation to position is if you’re in the blinds you should play
them just like you play under the gun. Fold if you have a weak
hand and only play with your best hands. It doesn’t matter if it
only costs a half bet to see the flop from the small blind. If
you don’t have a good hand you’re wasting your money.
3. Alter Your Play
While it’s true that every possible situation at the Texas
holdem table that you can think of has a correct way to play it,
when you’re playing against the best players you have to alter
your play from time to time in order to keep them from being
able to read your actions.
You should raise with pocket aces most of the time because
it’s the most profitable way to play them, but every once in a
while, maybe one out every 30 times you have them, you need to
limp. The opposite is also true. If you usually limp with pocket
eights you need to raise with them every once in a while.
This way when you raise it doesn’t always mean you have a
killer hand and when you limp it doesn’t always mean you have a
weak or drawing hand.
It’s important that you understand this is only necessary
when you play against good players.
At the lower levels, most players aren’t paying attention and
aren’t good enough to know what to do with the information
they’re gathering. So it’s a waste to try to alter your play
against poor players.
You also need to make sure you aren’t altering your play too
often. The reason you raise with your best hands is because
raising is the most profitable way to play them in the long run.
So every time you don’t raise with them you’re costing yourself
money. But if an opponent gets such a good read on your play
that they know every time you raise you have a very strong hand
it also costs you money.
Dan Harrington suggests wearing a watch with a second hand
and doing something different if you look down and the second
hand is in the first five seconds. This means you alter your
play roughly 8% of the time which is too much in the examples I
mentioned, but you can use a similar system to randomize when
you change your play.
Instead of wearing a watch with a second hand, use a digital
watch that has seconds listed. If the seconds are at 1 or 2 you
change your play and if not you stick with the most profitable
play. This is a one out of every 30 system because a minute has
60 seconds and two out of 60 is one out of 30.
Many Texas holdem players make the mistake of ignoring the
casino or poker room’s rewards program or player’s club. Most
casinos have some sort of player’s club that lets you earn comps
and / or rewards just for playing. You’re going to play anyway,
so you might as well earn some free stuff while you’re doing it.
Some clubs even let you earn cash back.
And comps aren’t limited to live game play. Some online poker
rooms offer comps and player’s clubs just like land based
casinos. Ask the support department about the rewards available
if you don’t see information on the room’s main site.
You can learn all about the comps you
can get online in our article explaining how online poker
bonuses and rewards work.
5. Starting Hands
At its core Texas holdem, and all poker games, are
mathematical. Because every possibility depends on a standard
deck of 52 playing cards you can make mathematical calculations
to determine the best way to play.
This is especially true when it comes to your starting hand
choices. We’ve already covered a few points about this in the
section about position but if you improve your starting hand
selection you improve your results.
Almost all Texas holdem players play too many starting hands.
The basic math shows that if you play in a hand with a better
starting hand than your opponent or opponents you’ll win more
hands than they do. On the other hand, if you enter a hand with
a worse starting hand than your opponent you lose more often
than you win.
Of course, every Texas holdem hand has many different things
that can change the outcome and value of the hand, but
everything starts with your starting hand.
A complete discussion of correct starting hand play requires
quite a bit more space than we have on this page, but we have a
complete page about it that you should take the time to read.
As a general rule of thumb, you should be playing fewer
starting hands if you’re not already a winning player. If you’re
playing 40% of your starting hands reduce it to 30% to see how
it changes your results. If you’re playing 30% reduce it to 25%.
Keep reducing the percentage of starting hands you play until
you become a winning player.
If you get down to 15% and still haven’t turned the corner on
profitability you need to work on your play after the flop.
Please read our strategy article on the subject of starting hands for additional advice on which hands
to play in which circumstances.
We’ll cover this in a little more depth, but this tip can
safely be summed up in a single sentence. You need to bluff less
than you do now.
Most Texas holdem players are introduced to the game by
watching televised tournaments. In these tournaments, all you
see are usually the exciting hands. You miss many normal hands
and uninteresting play. So you tend to see many hands that
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the professional
players bluff on every other hand.
The truth is most professional players don’t bluff often.
They only try a bluff when it has the maximum chance of
succeeding and they know that it’s always better to have the
best hand than trying to convince an opponent that they have the
best hand when they don’t.
You do need to bluff from time to time, but if you want the
best chance for your bluffs to work you shouldn’t try them very
often. The best way to reach this goal is to show down the best
hand most of the time. If the other players notice that every
time you turn over your cards you have a strong hand they’ll
start respecting your bets more often.
When you start seeing your opponents folding to every bet you
make it’s time to start trying an occasional bluff. When they
start calling more often you can tighten up again.
But remember the first point. You need to bluff less than you
7. Table Talk
Not only do you need to listen to what everyone else at the
table is saying, you also need to be very careful about what
you’re saying. Anything you say or do can give away the strength
of your hand. If you let something you say cost you a single
hand every time you play it can quickly add up to thousands of
dollars a year.
But on the other hand, if you can learn something about
another player’s hand once a playing session you can add a large
amount to your overall profitability. But in order to learn from
other players you need to always be paying attention and trying
to figure out how they play.
Some players aren’t very good and everything they do is
transparent. If they bet they have a good hand and when they
check and call they’re drawing to a better hand.
But many players are slightly better and try to make fancy
plays and bluff when they miss their hands. The first place to
concentrate is trying to pick up bluffs. When you recognize a
bluff and win a pot it makes a big difference in your profit for
The first place to start working is on your own talk at the
table. If you can’t conceal your hand strength 100% f the time
you shouldn’t talk at all at the table. As you become better you
can start talking a little but you need to practice telling
half-truths and telling outright lies.
As your talk improves you can start recognizing deceit in
your opponents. Learn to combine what they say with what you
know about their playing tendencies. As you gain more experience
reading your opponents you’ll find that you get better and
better at translating what they say.
We aren’t telling you to stop tipping, but you need to start
tracking how much you tip and learn how it changes your overall
profitability. It’ difficult to play a winning long term game
of Texas holdem, so knowing how much tipping costs is a step in
the right direction.
Good dealers run a tight game, don’t let things get out of
hand, and help you play the maximum number of hands per hour.
When you find dealers that do this well you should reward them
with tips. But if you don’t get good service you should consider
not tipping dealers who don’t do a good job just because it’s
the common custom.
It’s your money and only you should decide what’s best to do
with it. If you’re not a professional Texas holdem player and
just play for entertainment you can tip more and / or not track
how it changes your profitability. But if you’re a pro or want
to be one you need to track and understand where every single
cent goes and where every cent comes from.
Until you track your play and everything else about your
Texas holdem game you’re going to have a difficult time being a
winning player. Of course, if you play Texas holdem online you
don’t need to worry about tipping because you can’t tip.
9. House Rules
While most Texas holdem rules are the same from poker room to
poker room, you need to always go over the house rules before
you play. Learn if the house has anything out of the ordinary,
how they collect rake, if they have a bad beat jackpot and how
you qualify for it, and anything else that might be different
from your normal game.
Even if you play at the same poker room or casino all of the
time, take a minute to go over the house rules every month or so
to make sure nothing has changed.
This may seem like a trivial thing, but when you play a game
where a single huge pot or bad beat jackpot can change your
entire profitability for the week or month you need to protect
every possible edge. Learn about the house rules to make sure
you never lose a hand because of ignorance.
10. Never Stop Learning
The final tip is you should never stop trying to learn more
about Texas holdem and how to be a winner. Even when you
practice and play long enough to be a consistent winner, you can
always find a better way to play.
When you reach the top levels of the game even a small
fraction of a percentage can mean thousands of extra dollars in
profit. The best players never stop learning and if you want to
be one of the best you can’t afford to let down for a single
Keep reading, practicing, and learning until you never play
If you follow these Texas holdem tips you’ll find your
results quickly improving. Even if you don’t feel you can tackle
all of them at once, try to work on one per week for the next 10
weeks and in less than three months you’ll have improved your
game in 10 ways.
Once you incorporate each of these tips into your Texas
holdem game start studying the rest of our strategy section.
You’ll find more in depth pages covering these tips and more.
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