“You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold ‘em,” sang Kenny Rogers in his hit song The Gambler. While this is true at every phase of Texas Hold’em, it is especially important after the deal of the first two cards. Any two cards can win, but if you play the first two cards all the time, they won’t win often enough to make you money. You must set standards for yourself with regard to the first two cards. If your goal is to win money, you must be very selective about which hands you are going to play. Your object is to win lots of money with your monster hands, and to lose the absolute minimum with poor hands. No doubt luck plays a part in your success. You can be a terrible player and yet have a session where everything goes your way and you end up a big winner, but in the long run skilled players come out winners and poor players losers. It’s a blend of skill and luck that will serve you best, so spend time developing skill.
Before discussing the actual hands consider the importance of position. The dealer always acts last (except for the first round) and there are four betting rounds compared to two for draw poker. This situation makes late betting positions in Texas Hold’em highly advantageous and puts early positions at a severe disadvantage. If you call or bet in early position, you are open to a raise or raises behind you, and the earlier your position, the higher the risk of this happening. So recommended starting standards for early positions are much tighter than for later positions. In a nutshell not only are your cards important, but also your position is important. Playing after other players have acted is a great advantage.
Know your position. With nine players at the table, the three to the immediate left of the dealer are in early position; the next three are in middle position; and the two to the right of the dealer and the dealer himself are in late position. Make adjustments if less than nine are playing.
In early position only play when you hold the very best hands. Here are some guidelines for playing the first two cards. These are not hard and fast rules carved in stone. Even the Dominoqq experts don’t agree so this list is based on the recommendations of a number of authors. Play pairs of aces through pairs of sevens. Play same suit (suited): aces with a king, queen, jack, ten or nine; king with a queen, or jack; queen with a jack; and jack-ten. Different suits (unsuited): ace with a king or queen; and king with a queen.
In middle position add the following hands: Pairs: add sixes and fives: Suited: play ace and any other card; king and any card eight or higher; add queen-ten; jack-nine; ten-nine and nine-eight. Unsuited: add ace-jack; ace-ten; king-jack; queen-jack; jack-ten.
In late position add: Pairs: no change from middle position. Suited: king and any other card; ten-eight; nine-seven; eight with a seven or six; seven with a six or a five; six-five; and five-four. Unsuited: ace-nine; king-ten; and queen-ten.
In the big blind position you can check if there are no raises in front of you, since your bet is already in. If there is a raise in front of you, call with any pair; ace, king or queen suited; any suited cards that are connected or one number apart; two big (ten or better) unsuited cards. With no raise in front, the little blind should call with any pair, any two suited cards except sure losers like jack-two or ten-four, unsuited ace-anything, king-anything and any unsuited connected cards down to five-four. If there is a raise the same recommendations as for the big blind apply.
All the above assumes there is no raise in front of you unless specifically mentioned; and on some of these hands you should raise instead of calling.
Most important of all, after you set your standards and your cards don’t meet them, FOLD! To win at Texas Hold’em you must have patience. With the starting standards outlined above you may only play one or two hands out of ten, but you will have skill on your side. Just a word about the next betting round. Even if you have an opening hand according to the standards you have set, you will end up folding many of these hands after the flop. Fit or fold. If the flop doesn’t fit your hand, fold.