Winning At Texas Holdem Poker; What To Do And Why


Winning at Texas holdem poker is both a simple and complicated affair. Some poker players are most concerned with finding the correct move, thinking they will be done once they find it. However, that’s just the beginning.


Doyle Brunson said, “Knowing what to do is about 10% of the game. Knowing how to do it is the other 90%.”


How To Win At Poker

Live Poker SydneyThere are of course lots of different ways of winning, but let’s take a typical example. You bluff the river when you know the other player has a bad hand, but you have an even worse one. Let’s assume that you expect the other player to have a busted ace-high flush draw, whereas you have a busted straight draw. He has an ace-high, and you have a jack-high. If you bluff in this situation, you will win the pot, but only sometimes. Not always, and not never. What this means is that bluffing in this situation is the right what to do. But the game doesn’t stop here.


What’s even more important than deciding to bluff is the skill you need to pull that move off. If let’s say, player A wins ¾ of his attempted bluffs, and player B wins only ¼ of his bluffs, then clearly player A is a much better poker player.


This might seem like a stretched-out example, but by constantly playing successful bluffs, player A will win a great deal of money, while player B won’t. Both players are making the same move, but one of them is better at the how which leads to a better success rate and that is a very important metric for professional players.


Two players making the same move doesn’t mean that they will get the same results. And even though effectively applying moves is not enough to make a great player, all great players should be able to apply moves effectively.


Yes, player B can still win the game, but the peak of his game is at the what, or the simple part of the game – figuring out what is the best move. But, he still doesn’t have what it takes to be able to successfully implement his moves in the long run, or the how, or maybe the when.


Still, having the knowledge to know what to do remains crucial in playing a winning poker game, but it’s not so difficult to learn as the how. For example, having a hand for a royal flush is not difficult to notice and play, but knowing how to play that hand to win the most money is another thing.


The Maths Of Poker Winning Hands

When playing a poker game for money, every move is a part of a math calculation. Most players don’t even think about the mathematics behind their move, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not involved. If Player B from the example above is pleased with his result of a 15% success rate, he is missing the whole point of the game. He found the correct what (the bluffing), but that’s not where the game ends – there’s a whole how after that.

Talented players regularly alter the math equation based on the circumstances. They know the how and execute it in ways that will make them win in situations other players can’t.

The difference in success rates for Player A and Player B can be caused by a number of different factors, such as age, gender, better bluffing skills, established image, bias by other players, etc. Let’s say that Player B is a young guy who likes to talk a lot, whereas Player A is an older quiet lady. In the usual course of events, player A will correctly bluff more often than player B.


The reason behind this is that Player A took advantage of age and gender prejudgement, and Player A can’t do anything about that. Still, more often than not, two players playing the same move for the same reasons might get two different results, all because of the way they executed that move.


In that example, experienced players expect young talkative players to bluff, because they often do. They have been watching the WSOP and seen all the bluffs that are highlighted and work – not all the bluffs which fail. Older ladies tend to have an image of tight solid play, so if they bet hard everyone expects them to have a hand. This is how you can play your image. But what about the young guy? Well he wins out because when he does have the nuts and bets big, other players still think he is bluffing, and will pay him off. So it doesn’t matter what your image is, you can make good use of it in a game. Skillful players are able to continuously find a way to get a few more dollars from every hand.


Maximising Your Poker Hand


You are in a game against three opponents and the river card is dealt. You have the nut hand and are the last to act. For obvious reasons, you will bet. Betting in this situation is the correct what, but the game isn’t over yet. How you make that bet could prove crucial in the end. Depending on your how, you might get either one, two or three callers, or even a check-raise. In an ideal situation, you need to find the correct how that will get you the most bets from the other players, not just simply betting for the sake of it.


Best Poker SydneyWhat about if you have the nuts in a multiway pot and are not the last to act? You need to base your play on what has gone before. If one of the players who acts after you consistently bets in that position to try and take down the pot, then you should check and let them make their play. You might get a second or third player to come along, and then you can raise. Again the amount depends on the type of player you are up against and chip stack size. If you don’t have a big stack get it all in, someone might call. If you do have a big stack, bet an amount which will entice a call from at least one of the other players.


On the other hand if a player after you is likely to check to showdown, you are far of better putting in a value bet and hoping they will call you. Bet sizing here is really important but is based on all those other aspects, type of player, stack sizes etc. Always try to get the maximum you can out of the opposition. This doesn’t mean over-betting the pot or going all in, which we see so often – it kills the action straight away. No it’s a thinking man’s bet which gets the other player to call.

There’s a general misconception around this subject, and people tend to oversimplify it. Nevertheless, knowing what to do is not in any way insignificant. It’s just that the majority of the what can be easily learned. To be more precise:


  • A player that knows what to do but doesn’t know how is likely to win.
  • A player that doesn’t know what to do but knows how is unlikely to win.


Still, great players need to know both what and how to execute their moves. The how will make all the difference and will set you apart from the other players who only know what to do.

Mastering the what of poker will probably take you a few years, but learning how to exploit that knowledge will probably take your whole life. Learning what the correct move in each situation is should be just the foundation on which you build your poker game. Correctly executing what you have learned is essentially what will bring you the most poker chips and money.


How To Play Poker Conclusion


Having only the knowledge won’t be enough to rank you amongst the top poker players. Professional and skilled players don’t choose between the what and the how. Instead, they understand that both those things are part of a whole and that playing a winning poker game is all about correct execution rooted in actual knowledge.


I know all of this sounds very simple, maybe too simple for you at your stage of development, but for every player it is crucial and if you want to win at Texas holdem poker this is where it counts. You have to get this part of the game right or you miss out on winning chips – which you need to steadily accrue in any form of the game, or your win ratio ends up low and you are a loser. Get this bit right!


Jack Diamond
Author: Jack Diamond