Learning how to win Texas holdem poker takes practice, experience and patience. The best Texas holdem poker players study the game constantly and practice and play all of the time. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands by now) of books about how to be a winning Texas holdem poker player. The good news is that no matter how much experience you have as a holdem player, there are a few things you can start doing immediately to become a better player.
- The number one thing most people can do to instantly improve their game is play fewer hands. You should strive to be one of the tightest players in every Texas holdem game you play in. You don’t have to be the tightest player at the table, but always one of the two or three tightest. The simple fact is that the player who starts with the best hand wins more hands than the player who does not start with the best hand. By playing only your best hands, you give yourself the best chance to win now and over the long run. As you become more experienced and a better player, you will start recognizing places where you can play a few more hands profitably, but until then play tight.
- Always pay attention to the other players at the table and the action, even on hands you are not involved in. Becoming a winning Texas holdem player requires you to gather as much information as possible and to use this information better than most of your opponents. The good news is that by just paying attention at all times you are doing better than most players. This will give you an advantage over time. Every small advantage is important because as you add more and more small advantages you eventually build a large advantage over most players. That is how you win at Texas holdem poker.
- Start playing at the lowest stakes available and move up as your game improves. I see players jump right into a high buy in game and lose quickly. They then become discouraged and they either give up or don’t enjoy their next game as much. By starting at a low level your opponents aren’t as good as you will find at the higher levels and your mistakes don’t cost as much when you make them. As you become a winning player at one level, move up to the next level with the goal of becoming a winning player there as well. There is no shame at all playing for low stakes. As a matter of fact, I have often seen lower stake tables be more profitable than higher ones even for the most seasoned poker player.
- Being a winning poker player is not about who wins the most hands, but about who wins the most money. I realize that at first it seems like the player who wins the most hands is likely to win the most money, but this is just not always true. For example, in a no limit Texas holdem game, you will often win more in one big pot than you do in five or ten small pots.
The reason this is so important is because to become a winning Texas holdem player you have to minimize your losses on your losing hands and maximize your profits on your winning hands. In other words, when you have a marginal hand you need to either keep the pot as low as possible or fold and on your best hands you need to get the pot as big as possible. Don’t be afraid to fold poor or marginal hands. By folding these hands you conserve money so you can maximize your best hands later.
- Always remember that Texas holdem is one long poker game. Every hand is just a small part of one lifelong playing session. Even the best poker players do not win every time they play. They just win more often than not. In the short term anything can happen, but as the short term becomes the long term, the best hands will hold up as often as they are supposed to and by always making the best possible decision the best poker players will win the most money. Your goal should always be to make the best possible playing decision based on the information you have. As you gather more information and experience, you will be able to play better and better, which will lead to you making the best plays more often. This leads to making more money playing Texas holdem.
- Research and study the game of Texas holdem. Read about winning poker strategy, starting hand selections and winning tournament play. There are plenty of choices, but I recommend starting with a few books published by Two plus Two. Their Texas holdem books by Dan Harrington are excellent as well as their Low Limit Holdem book and Sklansky’s Theory of Poker. As you read and study, take notes of the best points and strategies and refer back to them often. Once you start seeing and using them in real play, you will be able to refine and improve your game.
- Realize that there is a big difference between winning Texas holdem tournament strategy and ring game strategy. Winning a tournament is about getting all of the chips. Being a winning ring game player just requires winning more than you lose. A single mistake can end your tournament while a single mistake at a ring game doesn’t ever ruin your ability to win money unless you are playing over your bankroll. This of course affects many levels of your poker play, but the important thing to remember is where it is often correct to push even very small advantages in a ring game, it may be correct to pass on these same small advantages in a tournament.
- The last thing you need to understand and use to your advantage is possibly the most important thing to learn for new players. You need to understand what position is and how to use it to increase your winnings at Texas holdem. Position is where you are located in comparison to the dealer or dealer button and where you will have to act throughout the hand. Early position is the first three players to the left of the dealer button, including the two blinds.
Late position is the last three players including the button. Middle position is everyone else. The simple rule is that you have to have a much stronger hand to play from early position than you do to play from late position. The earlier the position where you are located, the more people will act behind you. Because playing winning Texas holdem involves acquiring and using information, you will have less information than your opponents who act after you. On the other hand, when you act after your opponent, you have more information than he or she does. This gives you a great advantage at the poker table.