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How to Win

what do I do now?!

21
July
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What are good cards?! How do I know when I should call, fold, or raise??! These are concerns that any normal beginner would have when looking across the virtual felt at the imposing Boston Pkt 8! Hopefully for you, you will never be in this perilous situation, but there are some things you should get a grasp of to buffer the inevitable thrashing you will be be subject to if you find yourself at the table with a shark. As unhelpful as it sounds, the only way to truly know which cards you want to play pre-flop, is by trial and error at the lower stakes. Once you think that you have mastered the lower stakes, and have an adequate bank roll, you may want to spice it up and move on to a level higher.

One rule of thumb you can always rely on at any stakes is that you never want to simply ?limp in?. Limping in is when rather than fold like a decent human being, or get the courage to throw out a raise, you simply ?limp? into a pot by calling. This person who calls all the time is the most likely to lose all of their money for a slew of reasons, and although a beginner may think that calling is the safe play, it is in fact a cardinal sin of poker.

One thing I want to make clear: calling the big blind, is completely different from calling someone's raise pre-flop. It is more than ok to call a 3x or 4x big blind raise with a small pair like pocket 2's or suited connectors such as 6-7 of hearts. However, if the pot has been folded or limped to you, it is your duty as decent human to raise it up. I usually would raise 3 times the big blind in an un-lipmed pot, and add on 1x for each additional limper. For instance, if I had 8-8, and the blinds were .25/.50 and I was on the button (the best position), and 2 people limped in before me, I would make a raise of $2.50. Playing after the flop is an entirely different animal, and I will talk about that later on.

There are some obvious hands that you should throw away regardless of your table position, such as 2-3,2-4,2-5,.....2-k and even 2-a. If you have 2-2 you can raise or perhaps a-2 suited if you are feeling bold enough. The same goes for 3-2, 3-4, 3-5, ?.. 3-k and the same treatment for 3-3 and a-3 suited. Use this strategy until you get to the ?cut off? hands which differ depending on the stakes and table size. The lower the stakes you are playing, the more hands you can play, because you won't have to worry about a monster creeping in the waters of 0.01/0.02. I would usually throw away all hands pre- flop that are worse than a-8. So at a 6 handed poker table (which I exclusively play on pokerstars.com), I would feel comfortable opening a pot under the gun with a-8. My cut off hands for kings would be k-10, for queens, q-10, and for jacks j-10 and better. I would also raise with hands such as 6-7, 8-9, and 9-10 because of the value for connectors. (They can lead to straights, don't ya know). At a 9 handed table, you can use most of these rules, but if you are first or second to act (i.e. bad table positioning), you will want to have no worse than a-10, k-q, or pocket pairs.

To get a grasp of what hands you feel comfortable playing, I would bring five dollars to nl5 (0.01/0.02), and see how it goes. If you are new to the game you can play however you would like and take mental note of what is happening. If you would rather not risk any money, most sites have a "play money" section where you can bet fake money. (This is how the poker companies reel you in, and before you know it you will be 12 tabling nl50, have a nervous twitch, and be a bit anti-social). This is not a good indicator of the play at the real money games however because people will call anything and everything in the fake money games, and a play money expert may be a beauty queen bust at the real deal.

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