Texas Hold'em FAQ
This is one big guide that aims to answer many of the frequently asked questions about Texas Hold'em and other Hold'em related stuff. It's pretty much one big Texas Hold'em FAQ split up in to sub-sections to help you find the answers you are looking for.
Just click on the question in the FAQ to reveal the answer. If you want to minimize the answer, click on the question again. Fire away...
Texas Hold'em stuff.
- Why play Texas Hold'em?
Because it's awesome.
But aside from that, Texas Hold'em is a really enjoyable game of logic and skill that anybody can play. Referred to as the "Cadillac of poker" by poker legend Doyle Brunson, it's one of those games that you can play for a lifetime and it will never get old (honestly). It's also more fun than playing Monopoly.
- Can you win money from playing Texas Hold'em?
Yes, it is perfectly possible to be able to consistently win money from Texas Hold'em. It will take time and a lot of practice before you develop a winning strategy, but as long as you put the effort in there is no reason why you can't win money from the game over the long run.
I wouldn't have bothered writing the Texas Hold'em strategy section of this site if it wasn't able to outplay your opponents and win money.
- Is Texas Hold'em a game of luck or skill?
It's actually both. You do not have control over the cards you are dealt, but you have complete control over the way you play them. Even though poker is a game of chance, there is a very real element of skill, which can be exploited and used to allow you to win money from the other players at the table.
If you can play your hands better than your opponent can play their hands, you will be winning money from them over the long run. This is how professional poker players make a living.
- Which poker game is the most popular?
Texas Hold'em is currently the most popular variant of poker. These tables receive far more action than any other online, which means that there is plenty of soft competition out there for you to play against.
The next two variants in order of popularity are Omaha followed by 7 Card Stud.
- Should I play limit or no limit Texas Hold'em?
Both games are very popular, but I've always been a no limit player so I would recommend no limit Texas Hold'em personally. I find no limit a lot more enjoyable to play.
Limit Texas Hold'em is more of a mathematical game with less "action". If you enjoy a steady and logical game then limit is a great option, but many players will find this on the slow and boring side. I also think that no limit is where the money is at these days.
So yeah, in a nutshell I would very much recommend no limit over limit. Plus this site is geared toward no limit strategy so it's going to be more useful for you.
- Where should I play online?
You can play wherever you like. If you're new to the game though and looking for a good room recommendation, I would go for one of the bigger names like Full Tilt or PokerStars as you're starting out.
- Can I play online poker in the US?
Yes, it is perfectly safe and legal to play poker from the US. Not all poker rooms accept US players though, so you do not have a huge number of rooms to choose from, although there is still a nice selection.
Take a look at the US friendly poker rooms for a list of the top poker rooms accepting US players.
- Is online poker rigged?
No, it's not rigged. As long as you play at the well-known rooms and rooms listed on this site you can be sure that every hand you play is 100% fair. A lot of people like to claim online poker is rigged, but it's far easier to blame losses on a poker room being unfair as opposed to a lack of skill at the tables.
If poker was rigged to take your money, you wouldn't find professional online poker players winning money from the game on a very regular basis.
- What is rakeback?
Rakeback is where you receive a percentage of the rake you pay to a poker room back to your account.
Rakeback is completely legal and acceptable, but it is only available at certain poker rooms by signing up through websites that offer rakeback (like this one). A great number of regular online poker players make sure they are playing at a room where they receive rakeback, as the rake that you pay can really start to build up over time.
- What is bonus whoring?
Bonus whoring is where you move from one poker room to another, depositing and playing enough hands to redeem the new player sign-up bonuses that they have on offer. By bonus whoring you are able to add that little extra money to your bankroll that you would not receive if you were playing without a bonus.
Bonus whoring is frowned upon by poker rooms, as they would obviously like for you to continue playing at their tables rather than just playing at the site to pick up their bonus. However, it's rare to find a room that will prevent you from working off a bonus and then leaving soon after, although it is best to continue playing for a few sessions after the bonus has been redeemed to keep everyone a little happier.
The poker room bonuses section highlights the bonuses on offer at the top online poker rooms if this is something that interests you. It can be quite profitable to bonus whore, but I would much prefer to stick at one room on a good rakeback deal as opposed to having to constantly shift my money around.
- What limits should I play at?
When you play online poker, you want to play at limits that can safely win you some money with the smallest chance of losing it all if you happen to hit a bad run of cards. Deciding which limits you should play at based on the amount of money you have to play with is called bankroll management.
The general rules are (at least...):
Bankroll management is essential if you want to become a winning poker player. Even if you are the best player in the world, if you do not play within your limits you are going to lose money and go broke. They may seem a little strict at first, but the guidelines are there to help you win money from the game.
- Should I play cash games or tournaments?
You should play the game that you enjoy playing the most. If you prefer cash games, play cash games. If you prefer tournaments, play sit and go's or MTTs. They are both enjoyable games, just slightly different structures.
Both of these games can be profitable if you have the right strategy, although newer players tend to have an easier time winning money from the sit and go tournaments at the start. However, many poker players agree that there is more money to be made from cash games if you can play them well (but that's easier said than done).
- How long will it take before I start winning money?
I wish I could say something like 4 months of solid strategy and practice, but it really all depends. Some players take the the game better than others, whereas other players play a lot more and so they learn more quickly.
It took me about 5 or 6 months of regular play and reading up on good poker strategy on a regular basis before I started to just get out of the break-even stage and start winning a little money. After that, it was all about building on my game and improving my win rate.
The fact of the matter is that with good strategy and hard work, anyone that is able to think about and evaluate situations can win money from poker. It may take some time and be hard work along the way, but if you put the hours in you will see results.
Check out how long does it take to become a winning player? for more information.
- How much can I win from online poker?
You can win as much as you like; there is nothing stopping you from winning millions every year at the top levels of the game, it's just all about getting to that level in the first place.
To give you a more real-life example, lets say...
- You play 4 $200NL tables at a time.
- You have a good win rate of 5bb/100 (you win 5 big blinds per 100 hands ).
- You play around 380 hands per hour.
If you do the math you can expect to win $38 and hour on average. Pretty good huh?
The great thing about poker is that there is nothing stopping you from moving up levels and winning more money. You might be playing at the micro stakes today and winning a few dollars here and there, but a few months down the line you could well be up in the much higher stakes making very good money. The more you play, the more you can win.
My article on how much can you win from online poker? gives you a rough guide to the money you can win at the different stakes online cash games.
- Where should I start learning how to win money from Texas Hold'em?
I would highly recommend that you head to the Texas Hold'em guide section, as this will give you the groundwork for a good poker game as the articles are aimed toward newer players looking to build a solid fundamental strategy.
Alternatively, you can head toward the main bulk of the strategy and pick out the beginner and basic articles from the Texas Hold'em strategy section.
It may seem like a hell of a lot of strategy and information at first, but it is important to not feel overwhelmed. You do not need to read and learn every piece of strategy on this site to be able to win money, so take it at your own pace and enjoy the game as you go along.
- What starting hands should I be playing?
In general, you want to be playing big pocket pairs and big cards like AA, KK, QQ, AK and AQ as opposed to random weaker hands like 58, K2, 96, A4 and so on. These big cards give you the best chance of winning money from the hand as they have great odds of giving you the best hand at the river.
Choosing the right starting hands in each situation is one of the fine arts of playing Texas Hold'em, and it is one of the first skills that you will develop the more you play.
There are starting hand tables and charts out there that will help you play good hands in the most appropriate position, but I wouldn't recommend relying on them as you play. You are far better off learning basic starting hand strategy and using your head to decide which hands you play. Texas Hold'em is not a game that you win by playing to a set of rules, as every situation and hand is different from the next.
- How important is table position?
Table position is really, really important, yet many new players to the game do not take enough notice of it. If you are one of the last to act in a hand, you have a big advantage over the other players at the table, whereas if you are one of the first to act you are at a disadvantage.
Hands will often be won based on your table position alone, so make sure you learn about it. The article on poker table position covers the basics.
- What kind of mathematics is involved in poker and how can I use it?
Mathematics is used everywhere in poker, but the majority of the time you are not aware that you are using it. Every time you bet with top pair on the flop, you are betting because of your good equity in the pot.
One of the most common uses of poker mathematics that requires some working out is using pot odds to work out whether or not to call bets when you are on a flush draw. I would recommend this as the starting point for any player looking to incorporate a little mathematics in to their game.
You can also find an overview of the most common uses of math on the poker mathematics page.
- How much should I be betting before the flop?
If you have a good hand, you should aim to be betting roughly 4x the size of the big blind +1 for every limper before you.
For example in a $0.5/$1 game: If you have AK on the button and there have been 2 limpers before you, you should raise to $6. This helps to increase your chances of being heads up on the flop (which is the most ideal situation) by giving bad odds for any players with speculative hands to call.
- How can I improve my game?
In my opinion, these are the best methods for developing your game:
- Read poker books and strategy articles.
- Watch poker strategy videos.
- Post hand histories on forums.
- Think about what you are doing as you play.
Basically, the more you think about your game and how you can make the most profitable plays possible, the quicker you will improve. Posting hand histories of particularly tricky hands on forums and having winning players comment on how you can improve is
A little more strategy.
- When should I move up levels?
You should be happy to move up levels when you have a big enough bankroll to play at the next level above you. You don't have to move up levels, but it's a good idea to try and do so if you want to continue to win more and more money as you play.
Example: Let's say you are playing $25NL and you have $800 in your account. When you reach $1,000 you will have 20 buy-ins for the $50NL games, which means that you have a big enough bankroll to play at those stakes.
If your bankroll drops below the 20 buy-in guideline, you should drop down to a lower limit until you have built up your bankroll once again to play at the level above. You should always be prepared to stick within the rules of bankroll management. As long as you do, you can play wherever you like.
- How should I play flush and straight draws?
The article on playing drawing hands covers this topic pretty well. There is also another article on playing drawing hands aggressively, which is another method for playing hands like flush and straight draws profitably.
The last thing you want to do with flush and straight draws is call big raises in an attempt to complete your draw. If you are paying too much, the chances are that you will be losing money in the long run. The pot odds guide gives an overview on how much you should be prepared to call when on a draw.
- What are some fancy plays that I can use to beat my opponents?
Poker is not about using fancy plays to try and win money; it's about making the most profitable plays in every situation as best as you can, regardless of how fancy or simple the play might be.
Nonetheless, if you want to learn about some specific plays that can come in useful in the right spots, have a look at the float, squeeze (there's a video on squeezing too) and stop and go plays. Don't forget about the continuation bet if you haven't heard of that one yet - that's a very useful one.
- Is it possible to beat the micro limits?
Yes, micro limit poker is easily beatable, but only if you have the right strategy. Far too many players try and play fancy poker at these levels when ABC poker will do the trick. It is no good trying to bluff a player that is going to call you with any old hand, so keep it simple.
There is a ridiculous strategy myth of moving up levels to where players will respect your raises. You actually want players to call your raises with terrible cards - that's what makes the micro limits a goldmine. If you can;t beat bad players, how are you going to beat better ones?
The how to beat micro limit poker strategy article covers all of the essential strategy for beating these games.
- Should I read any poker books? If so, which ones?
Poker books are always going to be very valuable resources for quality Texas Hold'em strategy, even if you think that you know enough about the game already. I would recommend that all players read the Theory of Poker and at least one other book specific to their game.
Here are a selection of the best poker books that are perfect for no limit Texas Hold'em players:
- General strategy books.
- Theory of Poker - David Sklansky
- Pot Limit & No Limit Poker - Ciaffone and Reuben
- Cash game strategy.
- Phil Gordon's Little Green Book - Phil Gordon
- No Limit Hold'em: Theory and Practice - David Sklansky
- Ryan Fee's 6max NL Strategy Guide (free)
- Professional No-Limit Hold'em: Volume I - Ed Miller
- What is poker software?
There are lots of different programs that can help you whilst you play poker online.
Some will run whilst you play and give you advice on how to play your cards at each stage of a hand, whereas others will track your progress and provide you with stats on your play. Visit the poker software section for more information.
- Is poker software legal and fair?
The vast majority of poker software is legal (all of the popular ones I know of are anyway). However, not all programs are able to run with certain poker rooms due to compatibility reasons, whereas some pieces of software are banned by online poker rooms (see PokerStars prohibited software list for example).
Whether or not using poker software whilst you play to help you make the most profitable decisions is fair is debatable. Personally, I am very comfortable with using software whilst I play and I am aware that a large number of regular players are too.
Using poker software is not cheating; you are simply using naturally available information to help you make the best possible players.
- Which poker software is the best?
Poker tracking software that tracks every play you make and stores it in a database is easily the most commonly used and highly recommended software available for regular Texas Hold'em players. The three most popular programs on the market that do this are:
Note: Holdem Manager is currently the most powerful and most popular out of the 3.
The second most popular pieces of poker software are in-game odds calculators that help you to work out the most mathematically profitable plays based on the situation. However, these only work at the lower limits will the play is more straightforward and the games can be beat on good mathematics alone.
Examples of such in-game odds calculator programs are:
One final mention goes to PokerStove, which is a superb equity calculator that is totally free. This is a very handy tool that all regular players use from time to time.
- PokerTracker or Holdem Manager or PokerOffice?
These three programs offer very similar services, but which is the best?
At the time of writing (October 2010), Holdem Manager is top, closely followed by PokerTracker with PokerOffice falling far behind both.
The great thing with these programs is that they all offer free trials, so it is a good idea to try them all out and see which you like the best. One of the main problems with PokerOffice is that they charge an annual fee to use the software, whereas with HEM and PT3 you only have to pay a one-time fee of either $80 or $90.
I also personally prefer using HoldemManager out of the three.
- Can I get this poker software for free from somewhere (if you know what I mean)?
I don't know, but I don't think you should even try. The programs that these people have created are amazing value for money, and I think that the least poker players can do is to show their support by paying the relatively small price to use it.
The software they provide keeps getting better from one upgrade to the next, so it is well worth supporting the developers by sending a little money their way. The programs pretty much pay for themselves after a few weeks with the improvements they bring to your game.
If you want a free piece of software, try PokerStove.
Texas Hold'em terms.
- What does TAG and LAG mean?
TAG = Tight Aggressive
LAG = Loose Aggressive
These abbreviations describe an opponent's playing style. A tight aggressive player will play few hands, but when they do get involved in a pot they will be playing aggressively by betting and raising. A loose aggressive player will also be aggressive, but they will play a much wider range of hand.
"Tight" indicates that an opponent plays only premium hands, whereas "loose" indicates that they play a much wider range of hands other than just premiums.
- What does c/c, c/r, c/f and b/r mean?
These are short hand for check/call, check/raise, check/fold and bet/raise. This notation is used for describing what a player plans on doing in one betting round. I don't use this notation much on the site, but it is very popular in poker forums.
So if I said I was going to c/c on the river, I would check with the intention of calling if my opponent bets. Similarly, if I was going to c/r on the turn, I would check with the intention of raising if my opponent bets.
- What is a continuation bet?
A continuation bet is where you raise before the flop, then continue to show strength on the flop by betting out, even if you did not improve your hand. Your opponent is likely to fold to a continuation bet because they will miss the flop more often than they hit (by making a pair or better).
The continuation bet is plays a key role in every winning poker player's strategy.
- What is floating/a float play?
A float play is where you call an opponent's continuation bet on the flop, with the intention of betting or raising on the turn to take down the pot when they show weakness. When you call the flop to see the turn, you are "floating the flop".
The float play is not often used at the lower limits, but is regularly used at $50NL and higher.
- I still don't understand a lot of terms, where can I find out more?