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Texas Hold'em Strategy

Contrary to popular belief, Texas hold'em strategy differs greatly from seven-card stud poker strategy. The simple changes in the game call for an entirely different approach to your poker strategy.

Since Texas hold'em shares five communal cards between all of the players, and only gives each player two private, face-down cards, there is much less information for every player to analyze. The simplicity of the game appeals to many, but the lack of information means that our decisions are more based on our intuition and ability to read other's playing style than it would be in seven-card stud. You must master hand evaluation, meaning the best combination of your two cards with the communal cards needs to identified quickly. In fact, as you'll read, it's also about knowing the best hand possible with the five community cards, regardless of whether you hold that hand or not.

The first leg of your Texas hold'em strategy should be to practice to the point of being able to play quickly. Don't worry too much about how smart you're playing at first, concentrate on getting the action portion of the game down. Once you do, you'll have to incorporate some quick thinking skills into this, but Texas hold'em is a fast paced game, and you don't want to get left behind.

Unlike seven-card stud, betting position is a very important part of your decision making in Texas hold'em. The order of betting doesn't change over the course of a hand (whereas stud has the high hand leading) so the later you are in the betting circle, the more info you have to work with, which can be a big advantage. If you're early in the betting position you should learn to be a little more selective on deciding to go with a hand.

There is a term used in Texas hold'em called 'the nuts'. It refers to the best possible hand one could have with all five of the communal cards, if they had any two cards of their choosing to compliment it. For example, let's work out the nuts for a few sets of communal cards:

Ace (H), Jack (H), 9 (C), 6 (D), 4(D)

If someone is holding two Aces, nobody can beat them. Why? There are no potential straights or flushes, so three of a kind would be the best available hand, and since Ace is the highest communal card, three aces would be the highest private hand. Consider the same communal cards but switch the 9 of clubs to a 10 of any suit.

Ace (H), Jack (H), 10 (C), 6 (D), 4(D)

The nuts have changed. Now the best possible hand this communal offering could support is a straight running from 10 to Ace. If any player holds a queen and a king, they hold the nuts. How about the next hand?

K (D), K (C), Q (S), 3 (C), J (H)

The nuts for this hand would be a pair of kings. Four of a kind is possible, but only with kinds, and there are no straights or flushes in sight. If the player held one king and one queen they would have the next best hand, a full house (more specifically, the strongest possible full house).

All of these examples simply serve the purpose of showing you what you need to be able to identify, to know what you're up against. You should be figuring out the nuts even when you're sure you don't have them. You should certainly be figuring them out if you think you do. Too many times people mistakenly think they've got the nuts, and so bet far too much of their money, only to find out they could be, and were, beaten.