It's vital that you focus on what those cards could mean to someone else
at least as much as you focus on what they mean to you. In particular, keep your
eyes open for your opponents' straight and flush possibilities.
Evaluating Your Cards
Usually, the first decision you make in a hand of Texas Hold 'Em Poker
happens with your only knowledge being what your two cards are.
When you look at your cards, be careful not to reveal anything with your
reaction -- facial or otherwise. Taking a sharp breath, no matter how quietly
you do it, can tell a wily opponent all he needs to know to have an advantage
over you. Keyword: emotionless.
How do you know if your cards are good?
It depends in part on how many players are in the game, but a general rule is
that you should seriously consider folding before the flop if you have two
non-pair cards, both less than 10. A more conservative player might fold if just
one of the cards is less than 10; a more aggressive player might stay in with,
for example, an 8 and 9 of the same suit (because those cards give you decent
possibilities for a straight or a flush).
If the big blind (a forced bet designed to ensure that every hand has a pot)
is low enough, it may be worthwhile to pay in so that you can see the flop even
if you don't have particularly strong cards in your hand. But don't abuse this
exception to the rule -- it can get you into trouble more quickly than you
A lot of Texas Hold 'Em strategy is based on the cards in your hand. You must
be willing to suffer through a series of poor hands (e.g. 5-8, 2-6, 4-9) without
getting impatient. The good hands will come, eventually, and you'll be in better
position to take advantage of them if you don't waste your chips trying to get
something out of nothing.
After seeing the flop, don't be afraid to cut your losses. A common mistake
made by novices is to decide, "I'm already in this hand, so I might as well
play it out." Wrong.
With seven players at a table, two pair or better will generally be the
winning hand. If you don't have the high pair after the flop (e.g. if the flop
is K-9-5, the high pair would be two Ks), and you're not in good position for a
straight or a flush, you should probably get out of the hand.
However, remember that as the number of players goes down, so does the
potential of a strong hand -- so if you're at a table with just two other
players, it could pay off to be more aggressive.
If you're first to bet after the flop, don't be afraid to check. This can
work to your advantage in two ways. First, if your hand is on the weak side, you
might be able to see one more card without having to put more into the pot.
Second, if your hand is strong, you could convince an opponent or two that it's
weaker than it really is.
Fourth Street and Fifth Street
Also know as The Turn and The River, respectively, the fourth and fifth
community cards give you two more chances to either get out of the pot before
you lose even more money -- or increase your winnings.
At this point, it's likely there will only be one or two other players still
in the pot with you. The best advice here is to be cautious. After fourth
street, don't stay in the pot hoping for a straight or flush, unless you can do
so on a check (that is, without putting more chips into the pot). Although there
will be times when you would have drawn the straight or flush, they will be
outweighed by the times you wouldn't.
The bottom line is this: Don't allow yourself to get sucked in too far with a
That said, there is a point where the investment you've already made
virtually dictates that you hang in there. It's useful to measure this in terms
of percentage of your chips. For example, if you've already committed 40% of
your chips to the pot, another 5% isn't that much. This is a gray area, so once
again the best advice is to be cautious.
Good luck, and have fun!