Texas Holdem Poker Tournament Strategy – Starting Hands

Welcome to the fifth in my Texas Holdem Poker Strategy Series, focusing on no limit Texas Holdem poker tournament play and associated strategies. In this article, we’ll examine starting hand decisions.

It may seem obvious, but deciding which starting hands to play, and which ones to skip playing, is one of the most important Texas Holdem poker decisions you’ll make. Deciding which starting hands to play begins by accounting for several factors:

* Starting Hand “groups” (Sklansky made some good suggestions in his classic “Theory of Poker” book by David Sklansky)

* Your table position

* Number of players at the table

* Chip position

Sklansky originally proposed some Texas Holdem poker starting hand groups, which turned out to be very useful as general guidelines. Below you’ll find a “modified” (enhanced) version of the Sklansky starting hands table. I adapted the original Sklansky tables, which were “too tight” and rigid for my liking, into a more playable approach that are used in the Poker Sidekick poker odds calculator. Here’s the key to these starting hands:

Groups 1 to 8: These are essentially the same scale as Sklansky originally proposed, although some hands have been shifted around to improve playability and there is no group 9.

Group 30: These are now “questionable” hands, hands that should be played rarely, but can be reasonably played occasionally in order to mix things up and keep your opponents off balance. Loose players will play these a bit more often, tight players will rarely play them, experienced players will open with them only occasionally and randomly.

The table below is the exact set of starting hands that Poker Sidekick uses when it calculates starting poker hands. If you use Poker Sidekick, it will tell you which group each starting hand is in (if you can’t remember them), along with estimating the “relative strength” of each starting hand. You can just print this article and use it as a starting hand reference.

Group 1: AA, KK, AKs

Group 2: QQ, JJ, AK, AQs, AJs, KQs

Group 3: TT, AQ, ATs, KJs, QJs, JTs

Group 4: 99, 88, AJ, AT, KQ, KTs, QTs, J9s, T9s, 98s

Group 5: 77, 66, A9s, A5s-A2s, K9s, KJ, KT, QJ, QT, Q9s, JT, QJ, T8s, 97s, 87s, 76s, 65s

Group 6: 55, 44, 33, 22, K9, J9, 86s

Group 7: T9, 98, 85s

Group 8: Q9, J8, T8, 87, 76, 65

Group 30: A9s-A6s, A8-A2, K8-K2, K8-K2s, J8s, J7s, T7, 96s, 75s, 74s, 64s, 54s, 53s, 43s, 42s, 32s, 32

All other hands not shown (virtually unplayable).

So, those are the enhanced Sklasky Texas Holdem poker starting hand tables.

The later your position at the table (dealer is latest position, small blind is earliest), the more starting hands you should play. If you’re on the dealer button, with a full table, play groups 1 through 6. If you’re in middle position, reduce play to groups 1 through 3 (tight) and 4 (loose). In early position, reduce play to groups 1 (tight) or 1 through 2 (loose). Of course, in the big blind, you get what you get.

As the number of players drops into the 5 to 7 range, I recommend tightening up overall and playing far fewer, premium hands from the better positions (groups 1 – 2). This is a great time to forget about chasing flush and straight draws, which puts you at risk and wastes chips.

As the number of players drops to 4, it’s time to open up and play far more hands (groups 1 – 5), but carefully. At this stage, you’re close to being in the money in a Texas Holdem poker tournament, so be extra careful. I’ll often just protect my blinds, steal occasionally, and try to let the smaller stacks get blinded or knocked out (putting me into the money). If I’m one of the small stacks, well, then I’m forced to pick the best hand I can get and go all-in and hope to double-up.

When the play is down to 3, it’s time to avoid engaging with big stacks and hang on to see if we can land 2nd place, heads-up. I tend to tighten up a bit here, playing very similar to when there’s just 3 players (avoiding confrontation unless I’m holding a pair or an Ace or a King, if possible).

Once you’re heads-up, well, that’s a topic for a completely different article, but in general, it’s time to become extraordinarily aggressive, raise a lot, and become “pushy”.

In tournaments, it’s always important to keep track of your chips stack size relative to the blinds and everyone else’s stacks. If you’re short on chips, then play far fewer hands (tigher), and when you do get a good hand, extract as many chips as you can with it. If you’re the big stack, well, you should avoid unnecessary confrontation, but use your big stack position to push everyone around and steal blinds occasionally as well – without risking too many chips in the process (the other players will be trying to use you to double-up, so be careful).

Well, that’s a quick overview of an improved set of starting hands and some general rules for adjusting starting hand play based upon game conditions throughout the tournament.

Until next time, best of luck to you at the Texas Holdem poker tables!

Rick

The Fabulous Four Roulette Strategy

Let’s talk today about another method that my wife loves playing (yes… she’s a roulette freak too!). You’ll probably either love it… or hate it, depending on whether you’re winning or losing.

It’s simple and easy to learn and can be a consistent winner, but it does require a session bankroll of around $200 or more, depending on the minimum chip value of the table you play.

I’ll present it here as I learnt it, then I’ll elaborate and tell you how I adapted it to be a more consistent winner.

As you know (or should!) the roulette table layout bears no resemblance to the layout of the wheel. It’s the roulette wheel layout we are interested in for this method.

For this method, we choose 4 numbers on the wheel that are side by side. Numbers 13,14,15,16 might be together on the table, but they certainly aren’t on the wheel! It’s amazing how many times you hear the comment; “Just missed by one!” from someone who has their chips on 16 when 17 comes up!

Referring again to the wheel layout, let’s pick 4 numbers. It doesn’t matter which 4 you choose, so for the purpose of this exercise, let’s choose 14, 31, 9, 22. Of course, as always, we are working with the European (single zero) wheel. ALWAYS seek out the single zero wheel.

The staking sequence goes like this:-

1 Chip on each for 6 spins

2 Chips on each for 5 spins

3 Chips on each for 4 spins

4 Chips on each for 3 spins

5 Chips on each for 2 spins

TOTAL – 20 Games – 200 Chips

To illustrate, I’ve downloaded an online casino software package and fired up their ‘Play for Fun’ European Wheel. Always play the European wheel. I’ve put 1 chip on 14,31,9,22. I’m using $10 chips. (Easy when it’s Play Money!) Six spins with 1 chip on each.

First spin number 16 – a loss

Second spin number 1 – a loss

Third spin number 32 – a loss

Fourth spin number 31 – a win

$160 out – $360 back – Won $200

Now I can tell you bluntly, that it doesn’t always go that easy. The guy I learnt this method from, recommends that when you have a win, that you double the amount of chips for another spin, hoping of course, for a repeat or a spin in the neighbourhood. Then, if that won, to double up once more! But if the first double-up didn’t win, revert back to the original one chip for 6 spins, re-starting the whole sequence.

I don’t know about you, but that’s just a little too deadly for my blood. Anyone that knows me, knows I prefer to take little drinks from the well… regularly. So I would have stopped with the $200 win and restarted… with different numbers. That’s how I play… conservatively. Maybe that’s why I’ve been successful for the past 25 years or so!

Now what my wife actually does, is watch several spins to get a ‘feel for the wheel’. With experience, you can pick up on what the dealer is doing. She will look for a repeating spin in a certain area and then choose 4 numbers in that area. Hit – win – rinse and repeat.

Alternatively, you can ‘cover’ a larger area of the wheel, by leaving one number out. For example, bet 14, 31, leave 9 out and bet 22, 18.

Another alternative I’ve seen is bet every second number… like 14, 9, 18, 7. That leaves a few gaps though.

As always, never bet with real money until you have practised and practised. Then never bet with money you can’t afford to lose.

Learn the Proper Right Bettor Craps Strategy to Roll With 98% Of Craps Table Players! Here’s How

Craps Strategy for the Right Bettor begins with learning suitable strategy if you want to fit in with the 98% of rollers that bet with the shooter. A Right Bettor is a player that wagers with the shooter, hoping that s/he will win the roll.

A small 2% of players known as Wrong Bettors bet against the shooter, hoping that s/he will lose the roll. This type of player is usually not welcome at the table.

Buying In

Buy in at a five-dollar minimum table. (There’s usually $5 tables available during non-peak hours). Choose a table that offers at least double odds because the odds bet pays off in true odds, which has no House Edge.

It’s wise to buy in for at least 20X the table minimum as you want to have at least three numbers working for you during each roll. When you are ready to play, place your money on the table. Ask for 20 five-dollar chips and 20 one-dollar chips. ($120 total).

There are concave grooves at the edge of the table for racking your chips. Rack your five-dollar chips and place ten one-dollar chips on each side. Keep a watchful eye on your chips even amidst the roars of the crowd. Sometimes predators circle the crap tables hoping that the excitement of the game will distract the players long enough to swipe their chips. Sadly, these are the times we live in.

Right Bettor Strategy

When the dealer announces that a new game is about to start by shouting “Comin’ out”, place a five-dollar chip on the Pass Line. Also place three one-dollar chips on the table toward the dealer and say, “three-way craps.” He’ll put one dollar each on the 2, 3, and 12. This will keep you in the game on the come-out roll with the following possibilities:

If the shooter rolls:

7 or 11 – you win 5, lose 3

2 or 12 – you lose 7, win 30

3 – you lose 7, win 15

4, 5, 6, or 8, 9, 10 – you lose 3 (the five dollars stays on the pass line.) 4 through 6 and 8 through 10 are known as point numbers.

For example, if a 4 is rolled, your five dollars is still active. The 4 becomes the point number. In order for you to win your wager, the 4 must be rolled again before a 7. No other number matters, no matter how long it takes.

The Odds Bet

Once the point is established, always take double odds with your point number. Place ten dollars behind your $5 Pass Line wager for 2X odds. If you win, the payout is in true odds. There are three ways to win with 4 as a point number: 1, 3; 3, 1 or 2, 2. There are six ways to lose with a 7: 4, 3; 5, 2; 6, 1 – or 3,4; 2, 5; 1,6. In other words, there is 2:1 payoff if the 4 comes up before the seven. If so you’ll win twenty-five dollars: five dollars for your Pass Line wager and twenty dollars for your odds bet. Here are the true odds for all the point numbers:

Point Number True Odds

4 and 10 – 2 to 1

5 and 9 – 3 to 2

6 and 8 – 6 to 5

Place Betting

After you’ve placed your odds bet, let’s assume the point is 4, put twelve dollars on the table and tell the dealer to Place the 6 and 8. The dealer will place six dollars on each number. Each time a 6 or 8 are rolled before a 7 or your 4 and you’ll be paid seven dollars. While the place bets are not true odds, it is still a nice payout. You may want to press up one time (double the bet) to have twelve dollars on each number.

If 6 or 8 is the point number, avoid the place bet on that number and place twelve dollars on the other number.

The objective is to invite Lady Luck to drop her 6’s and 8’s before your point number is made or the dreaded 7 is rolled.

Remember that the 6 and 8 can be rolled more than any other number except the 7. This is why the strategy can be beneficial to you.

While there are many other bets on the layout known as proposition (prop) bets, these are one roll only bets that have a very high casino advantage. Stay away from them.

Good Luck with the Right strategy!