A Successful Strategy by Ole’ Poker Face, The greatest Texas Hold’em Player West of the Mississippi
PRE-FLOP STRATEGY – GROUP I & II HANDS
SWEET 16 pre-flop starting Hold’em hands are fundamental to solid wining play. Even though they constitute only 7% of all hands they provide the foundation for formulating an effective aggressive pre-flop strategy. To win at Hold’em, you must play aggressively and this can only be achieved by playing strong hands.
Calling and checking provide limited opportunity to win ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล because you may only win by having the best hand at the showdown. This strategy surrenders effective weapons such as check-raising, semi-bluffing, deception, et cetera. Accordingly, our strategy will be based upon strength and aggressive betting action and will be discussed in terms of pre-flop bet status which will trigger the recommend play.
- BLINDS ONLY POT
Raise with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs & AK
Call with balance of Group I hands
Call with all Group II hands
Group I Hands
AA-JJ, AKs represent the top five hands in Group I. These are powerful hands and should be played aggressively. When in an early position, raising will deter weaker hands from calling and drawing against you. In late position, raising will win the Blinds’ bets. In the event that another player raises, reraise with AA, KK. This will assure that you take full advantage of the two most powerful hands that are possible at the pre-flop stage. These type of raises may be classified as value raises.
Raising with AK is not a value play since it is designed to reduce the number of players against you. AK ranks 9th in Group I and is the most sensitive of the top 10 hands to multi-way (more than two players) play. AK is 40 times more sensitive than AA to multi-way play at the river. Since AK becomes weaker with every player who plays to showdown, you should always pre-emptively raise with AK to reduce the number of players at the pre-flop stage.
AK should be folded if your raise is reraised and two or more players called your raise. In this event, AK is no longer a strong hand but is a hand that will cost a lot of bets and has the high probability of finishing 2nd best or worst.
Group II Hands
Group II hands present a number of interesting plays in a blind only pot. The blind only pot allows drawing to a potentially powerful hand (full house, flush, straight, trips & two pair) at a relative cheap cost; it allows you to set up a semi-bluff (hand in which you have a chance of drawing the best hand and if not successful, bluffing to steal the pot); and it allows you to deceive your opponents into concluding that you are a “loose” player while in fact, you are a “tight” player.
If your call is raised by another player, you must fold all Group II hands that do not contain an A, K or a pair (88, 77). If the raise is reraised, fold all Group II hands. The drawing odds prohibit further participation in the pot. The bets lost by folding are an investment in deception which will pay dividends in subsequent hands. Play aggressively but also play smart!
- CALLED POT
Raise with AA, KK, QQ, JJ
Call with balance of Group I hands
Fold with all Group II hands with exceptions
Group I Hands
AA-JJ represent the top four hands in Group I and are not particularly vulnerable to multi-way play. Therefore, these hands should be played aggressively. If only two players call, raise with AA-JJ. If more than two players call, raise with AA, KK and call with QQ, JJ. Call with the balance of Group I hands. Even though AKs is ranked in the top five hands, it is not a candidate for raising because it is a drawing hand and must have help from the flop to improve. Odds against improving AKs range from 6.5:1 (pair) to 8:1 (four-flush & four-straight) while AA-JJ have a high probability of wining without improving.
Group II Hands
Since all of the Group II cards are drawing hands and none are ranked in the Sweet 16, the odds are not adequate to justify playing against Sklansky’s recommended openers or running a semi-bluff. Therefore, these hands must be folded if more than two players call or if there is a raise ahead of your position. Of course, this means that you may only safely call with all Group II hands if you are playing from a late position and have knowledge of the calls ahead of you.
Occasionally, you will be trapped when playing from an early or middle position and there are three or more callers or a raise behind you. Accordingly, when playing from an early or middle position, you should not play a Group II hand that does not contain either an A, K or pair (88,77). All Group II hands require a mandatory fold if they do not improve on the flop. The odds do not favor pushing these hands – it’s too expensive.
III. RAISED POTS
Raise with AA & KK
Call with QQ, JJ, TT, AKs, AQs, AJs, AK & KQs
Fold with the balance of Group I and all Group II hands
AA & KK are the most powerful pre-flop hands and should be played aggressively. If the raised pot is reraised, reraise with AA Call with KK. Call a single raised pot with QQ-TT, AKs-AJs, AK & KQs but only call a reraised pot with QQ-TT. Fold all other Group I hands where the pot is raised or reraised. The unpaired drawing hands do not have favorable probabilities of winning against strong raising hands. If you hold a pair (TT or higher) before the flop, your odds of flopping trips (8:1) or two pairs (5:1) are acceptable.
After the flop, your odds of drawing a full house or four of a kind from trips is 3:1 and drawing a full house from two pairs is 5:1. These odds are favorable and result in strong hands. If the raising player is bluffing or semi-bluffing, you are in position to win the hand and make him pay dearly if you hit the flop.
At the flop stage, you should ask yourself two questions: (1) Did my hand improve?; and (2) Is my hand the nut (best) hand? If the answer to either of these questions is NO, You must fold. Failure to do so invites disaster.
In order to determine whether your hand improved you must consider the reason that you held it into the flop: was it a pair draw, straight draw, flush draw or combination straight/flush draw? For purposes of discussion, each type of hand will be considered separately.
- PAIR DRAW.
If you held a Group I (AA-99) or Group II (88, 77) pair into to the flop, you would look to improve your hand to trips (8:1) or two pair (5:1). Although it would be possible to flop a four-flush or flush, the hand would have little value unless you held the A of the suit. If you did not improve your hand as hoped, fold any small pair (TT, 99, 88, 77) if the flop holds either an overcard (higher card than your pair), or three connected cards or two or more suited cards. The reason you fold small pairs is that you are a 5:1 underdog to improve to two-pair and a 23:1 underdog to improve to trips while your opponents are only 4:1 underdogs to improve to a flush and a 2:1-8:1 underdog to improve to a straight. The odds for the higher pairs (AA -JJ) are the same as for the small pairs.
However, if you flop two-pair (even though your opponents have the same pair), it is likely that your two pair will be higher. The other benefit of higher pairs is that they do not have as sever of an over card problem. In addition, high pairs played aggressively as recommend above in the pre-flop strategy section will often be the best hand. However, caution sometimes dictates the necessity to fold a high pair. This is a situation where the correct play depends upon unique factors presented by the particular hand.
- FLUSH DRAW.
The odds against improving a pre-flop two-suited card holding to a four-flush on the flop is 8:1 against and to improve to a flush after the flop is 4:1 against. Therefore, if the Group II suited hands do not flop a four-flush, they must be folded. Of course, there are other possible hands that may be flopped from a flush holding but they occur so infrequently that they will not be discussed. If you should flop four of a kind, a full house, trips or a straight, consideration should be given to continuing with the hand.
The Group I flush hands present a different situation since they are of higher values and have straight draw potential and therefore, are much stronger hands. They also should have benefited from the pre-flop raising strategy discussed above. Although the odds against improving the hands on the flop are same as the Group I hands, the dual character (straight/flush) of the Group II hands and the fact that if they pair, the pair will be a high pair allows continued play depending upon the unique facts of the particular hand. As a general rule, Group I connected suited pre-flop hands (AKs, KQs, QJs) are the only hands that should be played into the turn without improvement on the flop.
III. STRAIGHT DRAW.
There are three types of straight draw pocket holdings: singled- gapped, wide-gapped and connected. The odds of flopping a four-straight change depending upon whether the pocket cards are gapped (11:1) or connected (3:1, 8:1). The 3:1 odds apply to middle hands (9T) since there are more available cards that will fill the straight on both open ends. Hands such as AK or A2 suffer the higher odds (8:1) because they are open only on one end. This disparity in odds continues into the turn and river where the odds to flop a straight are 2:1 and 8:1 against for the 9T and A2/AK hands respectively.
The wide-gapped hands listed in Group II (AJ, AT) must be folded if the flop does not pair the As or fill the gaps. With respect to the single-gapped and connected pocket hands listed in Group I (AK, AQ), the flop must improve these hands by pairing or filling the gaps to an open end or four-straight status or the hands must be folded. This system does not allow playing lower ranked straights because of the overall weakness of these hand.
In conclusion, because of the critical decisions that must be made at the flop stage affect your play in the turn and river, the player must exercise an unyielding discipline to the recommended strategy if he is to be successful at Texas Hold’em.
TURN & RIVER STRATEGY
At the turn and river stages, the difficult decisions have been made and your hand should be an extremely strong hand and have a high probability of wining. At these stages, you must play aggressively to prevent other players from staying to draw against your hand. As a general rule, if you can call, you should raise. If you cannot raise, you should consider folding. There should be no checking since to continue you must have the best or Nut hand. The check-raising gambit allows a free card if your opponents also check. You do not want this to occur since your goal is to build a large pot and not allow draw-outs.
An additional benefit of betting aggressively at all stages of play is that if your opponents do not call your raise, they do not know whether you were bluffing or whether you held the Nut. Creating deception and confusion will only improve your game. These, the turn and river, are the stages of the game when you should be very aggressive. Conversely, if you suspect that your hand is no longer the NUT you must fold. This is not the time to be stubborn since the bet limit is at the highest amount.
If the recommended strategy is followed, you will always have the best hand or you will fold. Accordingly, the other strategies frequently associated with Texas Hold’em are irrelevant to successful profitable play. All of the acknowledged “expert poker authors” including Sklansky, Jones, Krieger, Warren and others devote many pages to subjects such as semi-bluffing, check-raising, free cards, reading players, reading hands, poker lessons that apply to everyday life (my personal favorite), slowplay, using tells, poker stories, tipping advice, stealing blinds, faking a rush and many other areas which upon serious intelligent consideration have absolutely nothing to do with properly playing Hold’em.
These irrelevant discussions are merely “page fillers” and no doubt were insisted upon by their publishers to achieve the required number of pages. Although these subjects are entertaining, they are not worth your time to study if you hope to become a “profitable” player – after all, that is the goal to be achieved.
The conclusion is entitled “The River” since it denotes the END. Texas Hold’em is great card game. It provides entertainment as well as the opportunity for profit. It is not a complicated game but it is a game that places a premium on good judgment, common sense and discipline in executing a successful strategy. In the average 8-10 player game, 30-40 hands will be dealt per hour. If the strategy recommended herein is followed, you will play approximately 3-4 Group I hands and approximately 2-3 Group II hands into the flop per hour.
Out of both Group I and Group II hands, you will play only approximately 1-2 hands through the showdown at the river. That’s not very many hands so you must be patient. Of course, the above depends upon how the cards are “running”. Hold’em is both a game of luck as well as a game of skill. Therefore, on many occasions, your profit will be determined by the poker Gods not by your play.
In conclusion, you must play the best cards at each stage of the game and you must play aggressively. It’s that simple.
Lucky Draws To All
Betem Callem Raisem
Published with permission of the Estate of Betem Callem Raisem
Where are they now? Since this is the 13th and final edition of Raisem’s notes which have been published by Table Stakes Publishing, Inc. since 1988, we thought you would be interested in finding out what happen to all of the people described in the Forward.
Looken F. Goodstory died in 1992 and his son, Dot Com Goodstory, took over the management of the Company. In 1995, DC, as he preferred to be called, changed the name of the Company to Gamble.com, obtained bridge financing and brought the Company public in an initial public offering. The stock was offered at $20 and within the first week of trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, the stock soared to $250. DC, who was a shrewd promoter, sold his stock to Tad Turner who merged the Company with Time Barner and the rest is history.
Since the Goodstory family no longer owned a controlling interest in the Company, W. C. Handpeaks, who had a substantial umbrella provision in his employment contract, elected to exercise his “golden parachute” and retire to Pottsville, Texas. Handpeaks sold his substantial holding of the Company’s stock as the Nasdaq hit 5,000 and invested the proceeds in short-term government securities and CDs. Again proving the rule, timing is everything.
Handpeaks enjoyed the retirement that he had looked forward to for so long. He fell in love with and married Sally Sweetpot, lived in Sally’s whorehouse now located on B. C. Raisem Avenue, played Texas Hold’em, drank Texas Horsepiss whiskey and smoked tumble weed cigarettes at Checkem’s saloon, the Ace in the Hold. Handpeaks had everything anyone could want – money, love and entertainment.
However, in 1997, the good life came to an end. Interstate I-10 was completed and it bypassed Pottsville. As a consequence, all of the action at the whorehouse and Checkem’s saloon dried up and the once prosperous town became a ghost town.
Handpeaks and Sally did not know what to do. Both had money. Sally had inherited a great deal of Company stock from the Estate of L. F. Goodstory and she had sold it at the top of the bull market. No one understood why the old man had been so generous but this is not the place to discuss the speculations that have been made. Suffice it to say, both Sally and Handpeaks had money, had enjoyed the pleasures of the good life and they wanted to continue to do so. In addition, they owned the underpinnings of a great business – a whorehouse and saloon. They had bought Checkem out when he left town. All they needed now was a cliental that enjoyed partying hard, chasing women, drinking and gambling.
The solution came to mind almost immediately – open a “den” for Daytraders. They envisioned a “place of pleasure” that would allow the traders to relax in the evening and speculate on the stock and future markets during the day. They started to work: the house was painted white (had been red); the downstairs’ rooms were filled with computers, large TV screens tuned to CNBC, CNNFN and Bloomberg, a moving ticker tape; and comfortable chairs and work positions. Upstairs were the beautifully decorated bedrooms, bar and dance floor and a most impressive poker room where only the play of Texas Hold’em was allowed. The table was placed under a portrait of B. C. Raisem who was decked out in a beautifully tailored green felt suit. It was indeed a beautiful den. It became known as the best daytrader den west of the Mississippi.
The next step was to find a manager and players. They hired Lind Walldick, an S & P future trader from Chicago. They also hired a Japanese trader who was an expert in candlestick charting. They called him Toejoe since no one could pronounce his name in Japanese. After running one month of ads in the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, the players started to come to Pottsville and the word spread like wildfire.
Sally and Handpeaks passed their Series 7 exams, founded their own clearing and brokerage firm which they called Tradem By Day and grew their business into the largest and most respected daytrading firm west of the Mississippi. Just recently, they sold out to Charles Schwaby at a sum that neither party was willing to disclose. Sally and Handpeaks are very happy.