The Cardinal Sin of Limit Hold'em
There are many mistakes one can make playing Texas Hold'em of the Limit variety, but probably the worst habit you can get into is that of folding the winning hand.
In No Limit Hold'em, players are so wild now and there are so many of them that it may be worth folding pocket kings. But if you're playing Limit Hold'em, and Total Bluffers are not such a drastic concern, you simply must play aggressively when you have (or likely have) the best hand.
Playing not to lose, as it turns out, is a great way to lose your shirt in Limit Hold'em.
Math Matters: Calculating Your Odds
If you are going to be playing poker for any extended period of time, you need to spend some time studying hand values. You need to know exactly what hands will beat what hands, and you need to process this information extremely rapidly.
The more quickly and accurately you calculate the odds that your hand will beat the hand(s) of your opponents, the more swiftly you can step in and bet aggressively if you most likely have the best hand.
In No Limit Hold'em, betting aggressively is always a dangerous proposition, but in Limit Hold'em, opposing players are typically being kept partly honest by the knowledge that players are less afraid of being bluffed into submission because betting limits are lower and fixed.
Learning the percentages is up to you, but suffice it to say that it's a crying shame when someone lays down the winning hand because of an overly-passive playing style that is based upon shaky calculations of what the chances are that your hand is the best on the table.
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What's One More Bet, Anyway?
Besides calculating your odds and betting with those odds aggressively when they're highly in your favor, no conversation about sinning and Hold'em would be complete without a brief discussion of how the cost of being in the hand compares to the cost of being out of it.
Let's say that you're looking at a pot with $100 in it, and four players are going for that pot. You're sitting third in position with top pair, K in your hand and K on the board, and the turn has already happened and the other community cards appear neither connected nor suited.
It's tough to see how anyone could be doing better than K and K, unless someone's holding a set of K's, which is possible but don't bet on it.
However, and totally complicating matters, your chip stack is getting low, so you've got to make every hand count and you'd really prefer to at least play a few more hands.
You might as well quit playing if you're going to play poker like that. If you're sitting there with top pair with only the river left to reveal, get your bet in so you can try to win this hand. Nobody's table image is going to be improved by a fold of the winning hand.
Always compare the riches of the pot to your price of admission. In Limit Hold'em, the price of admission, especially if you're calling from a later position, often represents decent value.
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Keep Your Cards Your Cards
If you like playing poker with friends, but you also like winning poker with friends, be careful of getting into the habit of showing your losing hands.
If your folded cards could've easily won the pot, be especially careful of to whom you show your folded cards. If you show your folded winning/losing hand to a smart player, he or she is going to glean a good amount of information about your playing style from seeing those cards.
He or she may regard you as, in a word, a ninny.
Yes, there are instances where revealing a strong folded hand can work to your advantage--you may get credit for being conservative later in the game--but in the majority of situations, folding a winning hand or even an oft-winning hand is just about the weakest thing you can do.
If you're going to do something weak, do yourself a favor and do it in private.
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