Optimal Texas Hold em Strategy

Now that we are well abreast with the Texas Hold’em rules, we can confidently tread the terrain of tactics and technicalities as we traverse this transitory yet tractable transcription. And as I tempt and titillate you further with tasteful tautologies and tedious terminologies on the threshold of tactical tranquility, let me tempt you a little further, with the optimal Texas Hold’em strategy.

Picture showing texas hold em strategy by displaying chess, poker cards and poker chips.

The tips and techniques that one must incorporate in their Texas Hold’em game in order to thrive on the tables constitute a tri edged, tri partite, three pronged approach. And although one may derive their tendencies and techniques from your everyday Texas Hold’em strategy charts, they are at best, tawdry. However, the aforementioned tri- fecta, is a three of a kind. The first, and perhaps the most important, is that of positional awareness. The rules of the game demand, and somewhat tenaciously, that correct Texas Hold’em strategy constitute an astute understanding of positional awareness. Which begs the obvious question, what is positional awareness?

In simple words, your position in a game is your sequential positioning relative to the dealer button. As mentioned in the preceding article, the two places to the left of the dealer constitute the small and big blinds. The following positions are ‘Under the Gun’, ‘Middle Position’, ‘Cut off’, and back to the dealer thereby completing the 6 positions in a 6 handed game. The secret lies, however, not in the innovative christening of the names, but in their values in the different betting rounds. In the first round, the ‘Under the Gun’ position begins the action by choosing to bet or fold his hand. And although this might seem intuitively symbolic or ceremonious, it is anything but. The ‘Under the Gun’ position is christened so, not because he fires the inaugural bullet, but because he is under near lethal duress of having to fire the first bet with no information whatsoever on the holding of his contemporaries. This notion, exemplifies the concept that poker is a game of incomplete information, and so any Texas Hold’em strategy guide would advocate accumulating as much information on our opponents as possible. Therefore, the ‘Under the Gun’ position must compensate this paucity of information and apparent pre flop positional disadvantage with a strong holding, preferably in the top 5 to 10% of any poker hand ranking.

The ‘Middle’ position, is slightly better off than its pre flop predecessor, but not by much. It stands to gain from the actions of the ‘Under the Gun’ position, but nothing more. Should the ‘UTG’ fold; the ‘Middle’ position is no better than its adversary. The ‘Cut off’ position is one better than the ‘Middle’, but enjoys a distinct advantage. Should the actions of the ‘Cut off’ coerce the ‘Button’ into forfeiting his or her holding, the former assumes absolute position in all the remaining betting rounds. This leaves the ‘Button’, and the small and big blinds, whose actions conclude the pre flop betting round. It is essential to take heed of this demarcation since although the player to the left of the ‘Button’ initiates the action post flop, the action pre flop is initiated by the ‘Under the Gun’ position. Hence, the near lethal duress. This is why, the ‘Small Blind’ is the worst position to be in since you are forced to act first on 3 betting rounds. The other positions are valued progressively. The ‘Big blind’ being the second worst, and the Button being the best. The relevance of positional understanding, however, lies in its application and implications. Being the last to act on a betting round allows the player the added benefit of having additional information on the other players. Your opponents decision to ‘check’, ‘bet’, ‘raise’ or ‘fold’ must factor into your decision making process in order to make accurate decisions over the long run. In addition, the last player to act concludes the action of the round by controlling the size of the pot. He in essence is the over riding authority on whether the next community card should be seen cheaply, or, not so cheaply. In summation, it is this understanding of positional awareness, which more often that not, is the difference between a winning and a losing player.

The second sermon that I advocate is that of betting. And as attractive and glamorous as this proposition might sound, it is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in Texas Hold’em strategy. The idea of betting is essentially to make worse poker hands call, and better hands fold. This principle revolves around the concept of equity which dictates that when we have a greater than even chance of winning a hand, it is incumbent on us to bet. Whether our equity lies in us being likely to have the best hand, or in our opponents being likely to fold ( a.k.a fold equity), we must bet aggressively and consistently in these situations. This involves choosing betting over checking, and raising over calling, for raising or betting allows us to win not only by having the best hand, but by forcing our opponents to fold, and at times, to fold better hands. And although this concept constitutes the fundamental advocacies of betting, its lays the bricks and mortar for advanced Texas Hold’em strategy.

The third edge, one discussed in much detail in preceding articles, is that of hand selection. And although this generally pertains to Texas Hold’em starting hands and poker hand rankings, it serves to engage a more subjective precinct of no limit Texas Hold’em Strategy. It transcends mere Texas Hold’em odds and statistics in evaluating the strength of a hand, but shrewdly takes into account the positional awareness and betting strategies as aforementioned into making an informed decision. For example, although QJ is a medium to strong hand, its value is greatly diminished in the ‘UTG’ position as compared to say, the Button. A concept, only a player with astute positional awareness would grasp. In addition, it would seem sensible to check a flop with one other player that reads 24K having already invested money in the pot as the pre flop aggressor. However, an astute player with the relevant understanding of fold equity would understand why it is profitable to bet this flop consistently and aggressively so as to turn a profit in the long run.

Now that we are well abreast with the fundamental concepts of Texas Hold’em, we may implement these timeless truisms with tenacity and temerity in order to thwart any previous tactical transgressions, transcend mere timid and tentative techniques, and finally, find ourselves turning the threshold of the optimum, Texas Hold’em Strategy.
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By Chetan Kaul