How to Decide the Strength of Your Hand

Evaluating the strength of your hand is the first major poker skills to win at no-limit Texas hold'em. The value of a hand is affected by the following four factors:

•  Your Cards

•  Your position at the table

•  How many rivals you have

•  The playing style of your rivals

Without knowing your position at the table it is very difficult to explain the strength of your hand. You have a great advantage when there are players to act before you. Late position or having the button always gives you a clear picture of the relative strength of the hands that your rival holds, unless they have limped in with a big hand to try to trap you. If you act first, you will not get the required information on the value of your rivals' hands. This is why you need higher card strength to enter the pot in the first three positions after the big blind.

Your Cards

Below are the hands that we suggest you to play in an early position. Of course with those stronger hands you can play from any position at the table.

With the top pairs aces, kings, queens, jacks you can raise at least two or three times the size of the big blind. With All of the other pairs (tens and lower), you want to come in cheaply with the intention of hitting a set on the flop. You want to see the flop before putting any money in the pot. "No set, no bet" is the guideline.

When you have the pocket aces or kings, it is suggested to get the money in before the flop. You can sometimes limp from up front with aces or kings with the intention that a rival sitting behind you will raise, in which case you can re-raise. By limping occasionally with the big pairs or suited connectors, your rivals might give you a chance in subsequent hands. In other words, they may not raise you on those occasions where you limp in with a small pair because they will fear that you have a big pair, like they have seen you limp in with before.

Be very careful with pocket queens and jacks because they are far much weak than aces and kings. It is always possible that a rival could have an over pair of kings or aces in the pocket or hit an ace or king on the flop to beat you.

Early Position Hands

Hand One Hand Two

Hand Three Hand Four

Hand Five Hand Six

If you pair a big pair, AK or AQ you will play these hands from any position depending on the action. When you have aces or kings, it can be advantage to act first. This is because if you bring it in for a raise, a player in a later poker position may re-raise you. This gives a chance of raising again or just calling and trapping him after the flop. Most of the time, you prefer having position on your rivals, irrespective of your starting hand.

To play in an early position means you will have many players to act behind you. Anybody could pick up a hand and raise you, thus forcing you to fold unless, you have one of the premium hands, aces or kings. The way you play your hand might change considerably, especially if you get short on chips, or if your rivals get short.

Play middle position carefully unless you have a premium pair, AK or AQ. If you do decide to enter the pot with a somewhat small pair such as a small pair or suited connectors, you should be prepared to quit if someone puts in any kind of substantial raise. That is why small pairs play much better in a late position with several limpers already in the pot. You are trying to hit the flop and win a big pot on the cheap. Limping in from an early position with these hands may intend to make a raise, which you cannot call with a small hand.

Below are the hands which you might consider entering the pot with from middle position. If you are the first one to enter the pot, then you must bring it in for a standard raise. In general, the strategy applies it to the middle and later stages of the tournament.

Middle Position Hands

Hand One Hand Two

Hand Three Hand Four

Hand Five Hand Six

Late Position Hands
Hand One Hand Two

Hand Three Hand Four

Hand Five Hand Six

Hand Seven - Any Low Pair

When you are in a late position, you can enter the pot with some other hands, plus to the above based hands. If the pot has not been raised you can play any low poker pair from seven to deuces. In un-raised pots, you can play most suited connectors.

Whether you limp in late position or bring it in for a raise, depends on what your rivals do before it is your turn to act. If you are the fist in the pot, you might bring it in a standard raise. However, if two or more limpers are already in the pot, you should only raise with a big pair or hands such as AA or AK.

Your Position

In no-limit hold'em, your position at the table is very crucial. Anytime you play a hand in no-limit hold'em, you are putting your entire stack at a peril. These are the good reasons to select the hands that you play very cautiously. Always keep in mind that the earlier you have to act, the stronger the hand you need. If you are an experienced limit hold'em player, the important thing to remember in this section is that you will not be playing as many hands in no-limit hold'em as you have been playing in limit hold'em. In simple words, you should be more selective while playing no-limit hold'em.

In early positions, you can play more conservatively. Whenever you enter the pot from early position, you are laying yourself open to raise and re-raise from players who can act after you do. In the first three positions after the blind, you surely want to play stronger hands and generally bring it in for a raise when you enter the pot. You can play comfortably from middle to late position in un-raised pots when two or three limpers are in the pot. You should seek for those situations where you can win the pot and maybe double up, and at the same time trying to avoid getting eliminated. Always keep in mind that in the first round of tournament you cannot win the pot with a bet when it is checked to you.

How Many Rivals You are Against

Depending on the number of players in the game, the strength of the starting hands can change dramatically. Since more players are playing against you in a 10-handed pot, hence it becomes necessary for you to have stronger starting hand than you need in a game with a five-handed pot, for example. A small hand that you would throw away in a 10-handed becomes playable in short-handed pot. Also remember when the poker game is 10-handed in the early stage of the tournament, there isn't much blind money in the pot to contest for, thus you have less reason to try to steal with marginal hands.

Marginal hands can put you into trouble in no-limit hold'em than in limit hold'em. The blinds are very small in relation to the risks involved so why get involved with a KQ when someone rises before you? You could lose you entire stack with the marginal hands.

With what kinds of hands you can raise in the first round? If you are in early position, you want to have a big pair AK or possibly AQ to bring it for a raise. Be careful of raising with AJ - there's Always chance that someone behind you will re-raise and you can't take a risk with AJ. You might want to limp in with AJ, but if you do raise with it, we suggest that you raise only three times the size of the big blind.

You can also raise three or four times the big blind with hands such as AK or AQ. Then if one or two players call, you can take a stab at the pot on the flop to try to pick it up, if you hit or if you don't. If you hit the flop, you might check it and give the chance to someone behind you to bet so that you can check-raise him. Check-raising is also important in no-limit hold'em because you can win the entire stack of your rival at one time. So if you get a hand to trap them with, you can check and then tighten the check-raise when they bet.

It is clear that raising from an early position with hand such as KJ or KQ is rickety but what about raising these hands from the middle or late positions? In the early stage of the poker tournament, you do not raise with these marginal hands, even if nobody has entered the pot. Why? This is because the blinds are so small that there's really nothing in the pot to steal. And if you play with somebody who re-raises behind you, he probably has a better hand than yours.

The times you can consider raising with these marginal hands are:

•  A player with very few chips has limped into the pot in front of you, and

•  The blinds are players who will throw their hands easily. In other situations, you need premium hands so as to raise from middle to late position during the first round of play.

When you see someone limping in no-limit, you should play it carefully. A limper can be dangerous. They can always be limping with a big hand. So you might limp with the marginal hands if you want to play. Of course you don't need to play them because the blinds are so low in the first level. You require a premium hand when you raise because there is very little to pick up anyway. The ratio of reward to risk favors the risk when the blinds are small

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