A good way to practice Hold’em is to deal two hole cards and a flop. Don’t look at the down cards. Look, instead, at your flop and figure out what the very best possible hand could be. Now look at your cards and think about where they stand in relation to the best hand. After you become proficient in recognizing potential hands from the flop, pretend you are in early, then middle, then late position and deal again. Now decide what you would do in any of those situations in relation to the strength of your hand.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of Hold’em, you’re ready to move into more subtle moves particularly bluffing. Much money is won (and lost) through bluffing and most players bluff when they are in a late position.
If you never bluff in Hold’em, even at the low limits, you will probably never win any significant amount of money. But, to bluff successfully, you must have a basic understanding of odds, particularly pot odds in relation to your odds of winning. If you don’t have a full grasp of odds and probabilities, here are some general guidelines for bluffing.
Bluff if the pot is big and you haven’t made your hand by the time the last card comes in especially if you are up against only one player who has checked to you. The reasoning here is that your opponent probably had a drawing hand that didn’t materialize. He might have a small pair, even a big pair, but be unwilling to call another bet because he doesn’t think he’s strong enough to invest any more money. In the meantime, if you have a losing hand and check as well, you’re most likely going to lose.
A bluffing wager might drive your opponent out, in which case you earn good money. Even if your opponent calls and you lose, you lose only one extra wager. (Say the pot is $160 and the last bet costs you $8. You can bluff in this situation 20 times, win just one and not lose money. Win two and you make money.) Bluff against good players. Good players are more likely to fold drawing hands or weak hands.
These players can be intimidated easily. They might have drawing hands, weak hands, or even strong hands, but they have no inner strength. They’re afraid of losing or looking bad at showdown time. You can start bluffing them from the flop to the river and count on them to fold more often than not when the last bet is made.
A ragged flop such as two-six-eight probably won’t make anyone whoop for joy (unless they’re all suited and somebody has two of the same suit in his hand, particularly with an Ace or king). If you have an eight, a six, or even a high card, you can try bluffing and getting as many players out as quickly as possible.
In the article about basic casino poker, we mentioned that the buy-in for low-limit poker is generally $20. Truly, this is not enough to play Hold’em because the game can accommodate 10 or 11 players. To be assured of getting enough action in low-limit Hold’em, you should be willing to invest about $100 per session.
You don’t want to be all-in very often because you will lose the opportunity to take advantage of strong hands. If you intend to play only once or twice a year, you can adjust the amount you are willing to invest in any particular session. If you like the game, invest in a book or two to help expand your knowledge, particularly on starting hands and odds. It might take 100 actual playing sessions to get the table experience you need before you start winning regularly. Above all, don’t be intimidated by other players in your game.