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Texas Holdem Strategy: Hand Selection and Position

Texas Hold'em Strategy: Hand Selection and Position
by Poker Pro Ken Williams

Knowledge is power at the poker table. Knowing what to do in what situation can be the difference between raking in the chips or cleaning out your bankroll. You won't become a poker master overnight, but we've put together a quick list of strategy tips to get you started.

One of the most important parts of playing Texas Hold'em is hand selection. In Texas Hold'em there are 169 different two-card starting combinations. Instead of memorizing all 169 and what to do with them it's easier to break them down into sub-categories. These categories include pairs, connecting cards (such as 9-10), gapped cards (such as 4-7), suited connectors and suited gapped cards. Just as a clarification gapped cards are two cards that are not connected, but could still make a straight, such as our example 4-7.

Now that you know the categories you should avoid playing starters that do not fall into one of them. That means do not play starters that are unsuited, not pairs, are unconnected or are gapped cards with four gaps or more. So if you end up with 2-8 or 5-10 don't even think about it, just fold and be done with it.

Now that you know about starting hands let's talk about table position. It matters, a lot. Where you're sitting at the table and where the dealer button is should have an effect on your betting and the cards you play.

Generally speaking at a 10-player table position is broken down into the following categories:

Early Position: First three players after the blinds.
Middle Position: Next three players after early position
Late Position: The last two players before the blinds

To simplify how position should effect your play the later your position at the table the more hands you can play. The reason for this is the later you play at the table the more information you have because more players have already played. With less players behind you to raise it allows you to play more and weaker starting hands. For example a hand like 8-9 has potential, but you should be less inclined to play it in an early position because if a player following you raises you may not want to call and have essentially thrown away money. Know your position and know what it means to your hand.

Position is also a major factor in bluffing. Bluffing from an early position with many players still to play makes little sense because the chances of someone calling your bluff are so much greater. Try and limit you bluffs to later positions. The fewer players that are able to call your bluff the more successful your bluffs will be. There's an unwritten rule of bluffing that says you should try and bluff more than three players which can be impossible to follow if your sitting in an early position.

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