It’s where Texas Hold’em starts to come alive isn’t it? Pre-flop hand selection is all well and good but what you make when the flop comes is when action develops. It’s where you can start to get a feel for your opponent’s likely ranges, deciding whether you want to continue and assessing the texture to determine whether a bluff might work. This article will look at the key factors of playing the flop that will help shape your decision making when playing flop poker in Texas Hold’em.
Beginner Texas Hold’em Question
What is a flop in poker?
The flop is the first 3 community cards that are dealt face up. Players use them with their hole cards to make a 5 card poker hand. Check out our poker cheat sheet for more information.
There are so many possible flop textures to list but we can condense this to 3 types; dry, wet and mixed flops. Dry flops are very disconnected with no potentials for straights or flushes. A wet board is draw heavy or already presents potential for straight and/or flush. Finally, a mixed board is somewhere in the middle, with possible draws but not both. The texture of the flop should be a heavy consideration when choosing how much money to invest in your hand. It’s complex isn’t it? Texas Hold’em is not a simple game to play, if you want simplicity, try 3 card poker instead.
Example: Pocket aces (Ac-Ad) look great but are very vulnerable on a board like 7h 8h 9h. Contrast this to a board of Kc 2s 2d and you can start to appreciate the importance of relative hand strength.
How good is your hand on the flop?
A basic question but one that must be asked. How good is your hand when you’ve got to the flop? Do you have a top pair? Only have 2 overcards? Are you on a flush draw? Your hand value can be converted to represent the following groups.
2 Pair or better
You’re in it for the long haul. Strap yourself in and bet lots.
Over-cards and a straight or flush draw
This hand is has fantastic equity against most hands and should rarely ever be folded on the flop. You’re never in bad shape and actually a favourite against top pair hands.
Top pair is a good hand but consider texture and number of opponents. You will often stick around past the flop but tread careful.
You will often try to peel a turn card off but remember it’s just a draw. You generally want position and bluffing opportunities too to make these calls profitable
Second pair is often worth a flop call particularly heads up. The more players involved, the weaker the value. Keep the pot small and look for thin value if it’s checked down to river.
Bottom pair/ underpair
Bottom pair or underpair can win heads up in small pots but very rarely when multi-way.
Beginners seem to have trouble releasing big cards even they miss. If you have no draws and just 2 big cards, get out of the way, you have nothing and are beat by a pair of 2s.
Flop Poker Tips
If you are new to poker and want some tips on flop poker. The list below is a basic overview of what to do when you get to the flop.
Miss the flop – get out the pot
Top pair is good but remember your kicker. The second card may be beat by your opponent
If top pair is a low card, you can still be beat by overpairs
Flush or straight draws are at best 36% chance to hit by the river. If your opponent is trying to force a big pot or get you all in, you should fold
If you raised pre-flop and are heads up – bet most flops. Check out our article on continuation betting for more detailed tips
Small hand, small pot. Big hand, big pot. Remember this and you won’t go far wrong at low stakes
It has to be the hand players complain the most about. I’ve had many discussions with players over pocket jacks. They’ve ranged from questioning whether they should be folded to a 4 bet to should they be played for set value only. Many players seem to have a phobia about pocket jacks. I think a lot of it stems from players stubbornness, an unwillingness to fold strong hands. This causes them to lose more than they should with a strong, but very beatable hand. This article will cover everything a beginner needs to know about a pair of fish hooks in Texas Hold’em.
Pocket Jacks Odds
Over-card will flop
Ahead of smaller pairs
Chance of beating a higher pocket pair
Beating a random hand
Against two over-cards
Beginner Texas Hold’em Question
How Often Will I be Dealt Jacks?
You can expect to be dealt pocket jacks approximately 0.45% of the time or 1 in 221 hands.
Why Do People Hate Pocket Jacks?
Players like poker to be simple, straightforward and easy. Sadly, this is rarely the case, particularly when you hold pocket jacks. People don’t like being in awkward situations and have tough decision. That’s logical isn’t it? Do you want easier decisions or tough ones? It’s a no brainer. When you’re holding a pair of jacks, a higher card will flop over ½ the time. The problem with this is that people like big cards. They are the most favourable hands to play in Texas Hold’em. Therefore, people get concerned, and rightly so to some extent, that their jacks are already beat.
Tips How to Play Pocket Jacks
Exercise caution and pot control
If you lose lots of money with jacks, try playing a bit more careful. Perhaps you’ve been overplaying them. If it’s an early position raise, perhaps just flat call and take a flop? If you’ve flopped an overpair, perhaps just flat call on the flop instead of raising? Pot control can be a fantastic thing. You can bluff catch, bet for value later and save money if you’re beat too.
Consider the information first
Context is extremely important in poker. Rather than thinking “I’ve got pocket jacks, I’m doing X”, consider who is raising, what position, how many big blinds etc. You don’t need to rush to judgement. Take your time and consider the facts before making a rash decision.
Don’t worry about folding
If a dreaded over-card comes and you’re facing lots of aggression or been check raised, don’t be scared to fold. You are the only one that knows your cards. By the same token, if you’ve 3 bet a tight player and he’s jammed a deep stack, don’t be scared to fold just because you have a relatively big pair.
Pocket jacks is a strong hand in Texas Hold’em. There are only 3 higher pocket pairs so you rate to have the best hand before the flop most of the time you get them. Obviously, you need to be wary in a full ring, deep stacked game, but jacks should win you money in the long run. If you’re losing with this hand over a lot of hands, you need to reassess how you are playing them. We offer a hand history review service that can help you? You can book a session for £90. We’d be happy to look at this with you. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rules of poker do not change based on where you are, but there are many differences between online poker and live poker. If you are only used to one and considering playing the other, this article will inform you of the biggest differences and prepare you better. By staying informed, you will also learn whether it’s more profitable to play one or the other.
More Multiway Pots Live
Online poker is generally tighter than poker at the casino. Online players are often multi-tabling and don’t have a problem with patience. Live poker at casinos has more players at the flop due to the impatience of players. In a live game, players have a desire to be involved and play pots. They don’t want to drive to the casino and sit folding for hours. This results in a looser game, often with 3 to 5 players at the flop.
The Difference in Stakes (Ability)
If you’re used to playing online at $1/$2 no limit Texas Hold’em, don’t sit at the same game in a casino and expect it to be the same calibre. There’s a rule many poker players apply called the ten to one rule. In short, whatever stakes you usually play and win at online, multiply it by 10 to get the same standard in a casino. Why is this? Casino’s don’t have penny stakes, so the lowest stakes games are the more beginner players.
One of the most obvious differences between online poker vs live poker is the pace which the game flows. Online poker is very quick, with the ability to play hundreds of hands an hour. It was made even faster when games like Snap poker were introduced. Live poker is much slower paced. Think about, the dealer has to shuffle and deal (online this is automated). Live poker players tend to take longer over their decisions too. Interestingly, online poker players who play super-fast with 10 tables come to a casino and take ages too!
Live Poker Tells
As great as online poker is, the inability to look at your opponent means you have to rely on everything else to read them. In live poker, your opponent is there in front of you. There is more information available, including poker tells. Without going into the specifics of different poker tells, suffice to say, there are many ways a poker player will unwittingly reveal their hand strength. This important part of live poker is largely absent from online poker. Instead, you must trust your instinct, watch for betting patterns and notice change any changes in speed of decision making to make a read. Check out our article on online poker tells for more detail.
Live Poker is More Social
We are naturally social and this is heightened when we play games together. Visit any poker room and you will hear the riffling of chips, men telling bad beat stories and even political debates. If you love the solace of online poker and prefer to keep yourself to yourself, perhaps live poker isn’t for you. When you sit at a cash game, you are engaged in a social activity. Your neighbours at the table will be doing the same, chatting and making friends. You could be forgiven you’re not playing for money but some people play poker just to play with the boys and get out of the house.
Live poker tends to involve bigger bets. Perhaps the concept of lower variance or small ball didn’t reach the casinos yet, but that is one thing you can expect. A typical live poker game will see raises of 5 big blinds or more. Online poker usually has opens of 2.2 to 3 big blinds. If you don’t think this is a big difference, think again. Consider your stack size when you buy in. If you are buying in for anything less than 100 big blinds, you better bring several bullets. Remember, pots are often multi-way too so it doesn’t take long for a pot to reach a significant size. Before you know it, you might be all in.
The poker straddle is an unforced bet that the person under the gun will post. It’s something that increases the pot and entices more action. I love the poker straddle and would love to see it introduced online. Why wouldn’t you want someone to put money in unnecessarily? This is something a lot of live players opt to do. Rules differ between casinos on the straddle so make sure you know what they are before playing in a game with the straddle. If you want to see more about the straddle. Check out our poker straddle article.
Live poker booms at the weekend. People are off work and ready to game. Whilst this is true online. It is not to the same extent. Go online any day of the week and it will be busy. This is probably due to timing differences around the globe. This is not the same at the casino. People have jobs and better things to do than play poker on Monday night. What does this mean? It means weekends are the best times to play poker at the casino. You can take the egotistical businessmen to school if you are willing to stay late.
Open raising the minimum gained popularity a few years ago. It is twinned with the small ball tournament poker strategy that gained fame through Daniel Negreanu. Whilst it’s an effective and popular strategy for tournaments, it is widely accepted to have little to no merit in cash games. This article will focus on the pros and cons of min raise poker in tournaments.
Pros of Min Raise Poker
Open raising for the minimum allows you to pull off cheaper steals. It’s great taking down a pot with little to no resistance and bluffing for the minimum is even better isn’t it? By min raising you can sometimes steal the blinds with a poor hand and get away with the cheapest of bluffs.
Shorter Stacks – Accomplishes the Same as Big Betting
If you have played many tournaments you will know that a lot of is played with shorter stacks than cash games. It’s not uncommon to play an entire tournament with between 15 and 30 big blinds. Open raising the minimum can be just as effective as open raising for 3 big blinds so why would you risk more? It’s common sense to risk less.
Still Gets Respect
When online poker was booming, min raise poker looked the weakest thing ever. This has not been the case for a long time. People don’t perceive a min raise as weakness anymore. On the contrary, it can be seen as inviting action, particularly from early position.
Open raising double the blinds allows you to play more poker. It stands to reason if you are open raising 2 big blinds instead of 4 than you are going to be playing for smaller pots and have the potential to be involved more. This is definitely a pro if you are a better player than most at your table. After all, you want to play more hands with weaker players, right?
The min raise poker style is likely to yield less variance in tournaments. Why? Well think about it, if you are min raising and playing more pots post flop, you are less likely to be involved in all in or fold mode. You are adopting a style that is risking little, not open raising for large % of your stack and committing your tournament life.
Cons of Min Raise Poker
More Multi-way Pots
Unfortunately, you can expect to play fewer pots heads up if you are min raising. You may think this is ok but mathematically speaking, the players involved, the lower your chances of winning the pot. It’s easier to knock one player our or have the better hand than 3 isn’t it? Multiway pots aren’t ideal, particularly if you are playing shorter stacks.
Opponents 3 Bet’s are Cheaper (and lighter?)
This is anecdotal but I believe it to be true from my own experience. It’s true on the best bitcoin poker sites and real money poker sites. In many games, players are more inclined to 3 bet a min raise than a standard open. They know their 3 bet is costing them less. Consider the example below:
Open raise size at 500/1,000
How much does it cost your opponent to 3 bet?
8,000 – 9,000
5,000 – 6,000
Consider, in the scenarios above you are raising from early position. Your opponent thinks you’re weak and wants to 3 bet you. If the raise is 3,000, he knows it will cost at least 8,000 and may be put off. He will surely be more inclined to 3 bet if he knows it can be achieved for 5,000 or 6,000.
Giving Big Blind Great Pot Odds
Any poker player with sense will defend their big blind very wide against a min raise. This is especially true when there are antes. This is not a con for me personally – I want to play poker heads up in position. However, you are helping them play better, inviting them in with a very wide range of hands that can outdraw yours. It’s generally not a great idea to give good pot odds to your opponents. You want to force mistakes and min bets rarely accomplish this.
More Pots Out of Position
In a full ring game, min raises from early or middle position will often find you playing poker against someone in late position. This is far from ideal as you will be acting before them every round post flop. Decision making needs to be impeccable to turn a good win rate post flop when you’re playing with fewer chips than cash games. The truth is, min raises often get called by competent players in the cut-off or on the button.
As you can see, there are reasonable arguments for and against the min raise in poker. If you are thinking about adopting this style, please make sure you are consistent. There is no use min raising with weak and making it 4x with AA. Even the most basic of players will pick up on this transparency. Instead, be consistent and committed to the style. Ensure you are not adopting a min bet style post flop as the two are widely different.
Few love the idea of paying over 20% or more of their earnings to the government. If you’re a winning player and worried about the tax implications in UK. Don’t worry, I will do my best to answer UK poker tax related questions in this article.
Do you have to pay tax on poker winnings in the UK?
Gambling and poker winnings are not taxed in the UK. This is music to the ears of poker players based in UK. It doesn’t matter whether you play online poker or at the casino. Both are considered gambling winnings and thus not taxable. This law has been in place since 2001 when Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of Exchequer got rid of it. This was largely due to the perceived thread of offshore betting.
There is no tax on poker winnings online or in casinos the United Kingdom. You get to keep 100% of your winnings.
Why is there no UK poker tax?
Simply put, the government makes enough money from the operators themselves. An industry that literally generates billions of pounds every year. There is a tax levy that the gambling operators must pay. Like any other business that operates, they pay tax on their profits. After laws changed in the early 2000’s the UK passed the Gambling Act 2005 and founded the UK Gambling Commission. Both designed to ensure compliance and regulate online gambling.
The Gambling Act 2005
This law had three main objectives; prevention of gambling becoming source of crime or supporting crime, ensuring gambling is fair and open and protecting children or vulnerable parties being exploited by gambling.
What about gambling winnings abroad?
It depends what you mean by abroad really. If you are playing on an online poker site based off-shore, you are safe. The UK Gambling Commission insists that any site offering gambling to Brits have to be licensed. Where they are based is irrelevant. Thus, you are safe here. If you are gambling abroad in USA or any other country that taxes gambling winnings, you should do due diligence of the law in that country. In the USA, you are not required to pay tax on winnings. However, you will need to declare it to IRS. There are a couple of forms you will need to fill in to ensure you can bring back all your winnings. These are the W-8BEN and W-7.
Winnings in Las Vegas are not taxed for UK residents, however, you need to fill in a few forms and show your passport.
Professional UK Poker Tax?
Again, no tax is applied. HMRC makes no distinction between professional poker playing or hobby. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t record keep your winnings though. As a professional, you should always keep accurate records so you know your winnings on a monthly and annual basis. In addition to being common sense, it’s good to retain records if you are ever investigated. If you want help with record keeping, I suggest you read our poker excel dashboard article or ROI article for more information.
If you are concerned about taxes, please consult a qualified tax accountant or contact HMRC directly. The content in this article is researched but I am not a tax accountant and the article is used as a guide. References to relevant laws and authorities are below.
Whether you’re playing micro stakes tournaments or the Sunday Million – you need to know what you’re doing to have a chance at winning. That seems obvious right? But trust me, there are too many players entering tournaments with no clue. That’s great news for you though cos it mean’s poker is not dead, despite what you hear. This article is going to give you poker tournament strategy tips that can be used to increase your cash rate, final tables and wins.
Don’t stop stealing the blinds
Tournament poker regs seem to nit it up and count on making it deep with premium hands. Don’t be one of them. Stay active, keep stealing the blinds from late position and don’t give up. A lot of poker sites are advocating the slow down approach but that’s what your opponents want. Regs are playing too many tables, not paying enough attention and missing profitable spots to steal the blinds. Tournament poker will always reward those who are able to consistently steal blinds and keep their stack alive. The fact that people are defending their blinds loosely should not make you fold more often in late position. Why? You have position. You have the advantage in a hand, even if your hand is weaker. Never forget that.
Pre-flop bet sizing
Consistency is very important when it comes to raising pre-flop. It’s fine if you want to make it 2.5x then stick with that. Please don’t change it based on hand strength. It’s 2020 and even the most basic of poker players will notice and instantly tag you. If you are a poker training video membership member, you’ll know my preference re’ pre-flop bet sizing but I will re-iterate it here non-members.
Early Position Min Raise
When I’m raising from early position, I lack information on the rest of the table. I want to open raise if I play but I also want to steal cheaply and/or keep the pot smaller against my opponents that flat in position. I also have no problem with it folding to the big blind and them calling a min raise. In fact, I welcome it. I will have position, a better hand and have increased the pot a little. My hand range is likely to be stronger than theirs and I have the pre-flop aggression.
Middle Position 2.2x
With fewer opponents behind us, I am happy to increase the sizing a bit and play a slightly bigger pot against the blinds. I don’t want to raise too much as I am still potentially acting first post-flop if someone in position calls. I am also slightly dissuading the blinds to call which is no bad thing in tournaments. I am likely to have a wider range from here so I have no problem with them just folding.
Late Position 2.5x
This may seem counter intuitive to some. Why raise more with a wider range? I want to play bigger pots when I have positional advantage. Sure, sometimes I will be light but sometimes I will be strong too. I want to charge the blinds more than the minimum to play against my wider range. By making it 2.5x I am also protecting myself against 3 bet bluffs a little more. Consider a min raise from the button. The big blind is far more likely to 3 bet bluff that than a bigger raise.
Notice – my pre-flop raises changes based on position – it doesn’t change based on hand strength. Therefore, it is logically consistent as I am raising 2.5x from late position with A-A and K-6s.
Defend the big blind
Everyone and their dog are loving the small ball approach these days. The standard small raise is popular and with good reason – it works. One of the results of this is that you have to defend your big blind more. It means calling raises with hands you won’t necessarily want to but pot odds and solid poker tournament strategy dictate you must. Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate this.
Blinds – 600/1,200 (antes 120) Player A- 42,500 You – 36,900
It folds to Player A on the button. He is a capable tournament player. He raises to 2,500. The small blind folds and the action is on you. Before even looking at your hand, let’s do some poker maths.
Pot – (1,080 antes, 1,800 in blinds + 2,500) = 5,380 Cost to call – 1,300 Equity needed to call – 19.4%
As you can see, you need to defend super wide in this spot. You just can’t afford to fold too many hands when you are getting these kind of prices in big blind.
3 Bet with 30 bbs +
Tournament poker is often playing shorter stacks and less “poker” playing but that doesn’t mean you must play shove or fold poker. You don’t want to 3 bet bluff with short effective stacks cos it means the 4 bet from your opponent will always be all in. With slightly deeper stacks though (30 bbs+), you can afford to 3 bet bluff and take away a lot of pots. Poker tournament strategy is usually to attack short stacks. Screw that, 3 bet bluff the bigger stacks. I find that the big stacks are just as protective as the shorter stacks, if not more. It also means you can potentially get the last bet in if they decide to 4 bet. Good spots for 3 betting are when the raise has come from middle or late position.
CAUTION – Avoid 3 bet bluffing when they are raising from under the gun or UTG +1 as their range is likely to be tighter.
Learn continuation betting strategy
This article is dedicated to poker tournament strategy, not continuation betting but the fact is, c betting is an important part of tournament poker. You need to understand which boards favour your perceived range and what favours your opponent. A lot of players waste chips throwing out foolish continuation bets. You need to appreciate board texture, number of opponents and stack sizes when choosing whether to continuation bet or not. If you want more help with continuation betting, check out our article on the do’s and don’ts of continuation betting.
Isolate the limper(s)
An oldie but goody. Raising over a limper or limpers is still a very profitable play. It’s crazy to think there are still players that adopt this limp in mentality, but it’s great for us. If people want to try and limp into the pot with pocket 3s or A-9 offsuit, that’s fine, we will take their blinds all day. In some scenarios, it may seem prudent to over-limp but most of the time, just raise it 4x and win it. If they call, you can often just win it with a flop bet anyway. It’s a great way to build a stack in tournament poker and is also good for your table image as people. This might help you get paid later in the tournament.
Practice heads up poker
Many tournaments end in deals being done but what if yours doesn’t? What if you’re against a tough player or someone unwilling to deal. You need to know how to play 1 on 1. After all, if you want to win the tournament you have to beat the last opponent. Heads up is a great poker format. Some basic heads up tips are below:
I hope you enjoyed this article on poker tournament strategy tips for 2020 and beyond. A final tip is a little plug for our training videos. If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more, you can. By join as a member you can gain access to almost 1,000 minutes of poker training videos. I give more tips, secrets and advice beyond this article. You can see how I play tournaments, cash games, SNGs and strategy lectures designed to help members make money. The price of membership is only £49.99 for 1 year. You can join by clicking below or clicking the banner below for information. Once you’ve paid for membership, you will be sent your personal login details within 24 hours.
Your kicker is the second card you are playing in a game of Texas Hold’em. To some, understanding the hand strengths is enough to get by in poker. To the rest of us, we know there is a little more to it. Unfortunately, in Texas Hold’em, you are not going to make royal flushes and 4 of a kind very often. You are more likely to end most hands with one pair or high card, this is where your kicker plays.
You may have heard the phrase “kicker problems” before. This is when you’ve made a top pair type hand, read your opponent for similar hand but identified a problem – your kicker is low. Understanding when your kicker is no good and getting out of the way is an important skill to develop to help curb your potential losses in poker. To win at poker, you will have to learn to minimise your losses and sorting out kicker problems is one way. One of the biggest problems’ beginners have is overplaying ace rag, not realising the rag is the kicker costing them money.
Example Poker Kicker Hand
You’re in a $1/$2 cash game and a conservative old gentlemen limps in from early position (nice game eh?), 2 others limp in late position, and you complete from the SB with Ac 3c.
The flop comes: As 9d 6d.
You check, BB checks and the conservative old gent bets out $9 into $10. The button calls and action is on you: What do you do?
This is a spot where you are probably up against another ace in the hand. An observant player will recognise the early position limper almost certainly has an A 10 + type hand and is way ahead. Rather than calling with your top pair and potentially losing $10 +, folding would be a wise move here.
When does a Kicker Count in Poker?
Texas Hold’em is played on best 5 card hand. Remember, the community cards are yours and your opponents. If the secondary card in yours and your opponent’s hole cards exceed that of the board, then the kicker will count. So if you have K-2 and your opponent has K-8 on a board run out of K-3-5-J-J than the 8 plays because the best hand is:
K-K-J-J-8 > K-K-J-J-5
Kings and Jacks with an 8 kicker beats Kings and Jacks with a 5 kicker.
The kicker’s can only count in the following hands:
Understanding your poker kicker and when it counts is very important to being a solid player. You need to combine hand reading, hand selection and table awareness to judge whether a kicker will be your friend or foe. If you’re ever unsure, stick to playing solid starting hands and you stand a better chance.
Whether you are playing short-handed or full ring, you know the positions of the poker table. You probably have them grouped in your head “early, middle, late position and the blinds”. Have you given much thought about the small blind? How much do you win there? What strategy do you employ? Playing from the small blind is difficult for several reasons whether you know it or not. This article will explore why it’s challenging and why I think it’s the worst spot at the table.
Battling with the Big Blind
Blind battles are prevalent in both cash games and tournaments. The psychology involved in blind battles is almost as important as the quality of your hands. The problem is that being out of position from small blind puts you at the disadvantage. When it folds to you in the small blind you know you are getting a fantastic price to play the hand, regardless of your hand. This leads to many players opting to raise with junk in a bid to steal the pot. Here’s the problem, any half decent player knows this and is liable to defend or 3 bet with impunity. Then we are getting into the “I know that he knows that I know” to infinity…. This can potentially lead to a lot of unnecessarily large pots and lost money.
First to Act Every Round
You want to act last when you play poker don’t you? Well playing from the small blind means you are first to act, on every round of betting post flop. This is less than ideal to put it nicely and completely sucks to put it truthfully. You can’t pot control, extract full value or gain information when you are the first one to act all the time. You can throw in a check raise or try to trap an aggressive player but other than that, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Gus Hansen’s style of donk leading into raiser’s is an interesting strategy but rarely the optimal play.
Of the 6 or 9 spots at the table, the small blind will be the one you lose the most money or win the least. Unless you’re very weak at some other spots at the table, then it’s almost certainly going to be the worst position from a win rate perspective. There are ways to mitigate your loss or help improve your win rate though. Without delving too much into technical poker here is a quick guide to help you:
Throw away the hands that look pretty but play awful heads up e.g J 8s
Adapt to who is in the big blind. If it’s a nit, steal. If it’s a LAG, play solid
Play careful, let the strength of your hand do the work
Limit your bluffing, when you don’t have someone checking to you, it’s harder to narrow ranges