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7. Don't fall in love with small pocket pairs. You will see pros on TV betting their small pairs as strong hands. But, you have to keep in mind that small pairs are really only strong in heads up (1 on 1) play, which is often case when you observe high stakes games. A 22 vs. AK is sometimes referred to as a coin toss, meaning that odds are about even as to which hand will win. But if you have 5 players who are going to see flop then pocket 2s is not so strong because of odds that one of other 4 players will draw a pair on flop, turn, or river. Go ahead and call to see flop, but if you don't get a set, don't be shy about folding. Lee Jones in his excellent book "Winning Low Limit Texas Hold Em" says that you should look for a reason to fold. I interpret this to mean, in this case, that if you have 44 and flop is T82, you might want to consider possibility that one of other 4 players with 8 cards between them paired up with T or 8, eclipsing your 44.
8. Don't assume that just because table checks around that no one has anything. Many players are timid about betting out when have a middle pair. For example, a player has K7o and flop is A74. He may be scared to bet on his middle pair of sevens because he's afraid of someone pairing up with aces. Typically this player will check/call through river in hopes that his pair hold. Also, some unskilled players are so afraid of telling their hand that they will check when they pair on flop or turn. For example, a player has AK and flop is K75. He checks and calls, if necessary, because he's afraid that if he gets aggressive he will be telling everyone he paired kings.
9. Be aggressive when you have a hand that may get outdrawn. Continuing with example above, suppose you had AK with flop of K75. The problem is, even though a pair of kings with an ace kicker is a strong hand, if you let 4 or 5 other players stay in by checking there is a good chance that you will get outdrawn. What if one of unskilled players called preflop with Q2o, even though this is a weak hand? Now, if everyone checks around after flop, then Q2o with that K75 flop has absolutely nothing, but gets to see turn because no one bet. Now turn is a Q and suddenly Q2o likes her hand. You still have her beat, now she's probably going to pay to see river, especially since no one bet on flop's king. Now river is a 2 and your pair of kings is beat by two pair. With this kind of hand you want to scare as many players off as possible.
10. Look for obvious tell from check-caller. Many times in these micro limit games you will see table check around past players in early position and some player in late position bets out, then early position player(s) call bet; they check-call after flop. Then on turn one of early checkers bets out. Why? After flop this player checked then called a bet by a player in later position. More often than not player who bet out in previous round will bet out in next round. When earlier player bets out after turn when he checked after flop is usually a tell that he made his hand. Look at board. Many times this player has just made a straight or flush. The player gets excited and wants to get a bet out, not thinking that player who bet out after flop will probably bet out again giving player who just made his hand opportunity to check-raise.
11. Don't be afraid to lay down a hand. So many unskilled players will play out two pair, trips, or even a straight when they should lay it down. Suppose you have a straight but there are four clubs on board and none in your hand. Is it possible that another player has a flush? Is there someone at table who is betting out with 4 clubs on board? You should probably lay down your straight when someone is betting like they made their flush. I know it's tough to do, especially if you have nut straight, but more often than not, flush was made.
Bluffing 12. Bluffing rarely works in micro limit. Many times you will see a player call all way through river and all they have is a low pair. It's very difficult to get these players to lay down their weak hands. The other reason is there may be players who want to keep you honest. Maybe they've called all way to river on a draw, did not make their draw, but decide that since they came this far, it's only one more bet to keep you honest. Bluff sparingly and do it right.
13. Don't be one who calls just to keep other player honest.
14. Know when to bluff. Sometimes it's unavoidable. Suppose you have been fast playing a drawing hand to try to drive others out. You have AKo and you correctly raised preflop. The flop is 754. Most of time players are going to remember your preflop raise and check around to you. You can check to get a free turn card, letting all preflop callers see turn also, or you could bet because you have two very strong overcards. You should bet out with that flop because you are likely to get a couple players to fold before turn. Now on turn you still don't pair up and everyone checks to you and now you have same decision, check for a free river card or bet to show strength. You should bet out in most cases. This is a semi-bluff because you don't have a hand except ace high and if someone has paired up then you are dead, but you could still make your ace or king on river, which may very well end out being winning hand. Many times your show of strength up to this point may drive everyone else out or maybe one or two players follow you to river. Now river comes and you still don't pair up your ace or king. As a beginner your instincts may be to check because you didn't make your hand, but that would be a mistake if one of other players were sitting on a low pair. Your only chance of winning may be to bluff at pot, and since you've shown strength all along weak pair may put you on a stronger hand and fold, giving you pot. You will probably lose as many pots as you win when this happens, but if there were several callers along way, pots you do win will normally exceed your loses on others. It's worth it at this point to put in one more bet to try to steal pot, because if you don't you will probably lose pot for sure.
General 15. Observe other players. Pay attention to their style of play.
Your next step should be to learn about pot odds and playing situations. I believe you can win at micro limit tables with tips I have outlined here, but to go beyond micro limit you will need additional skill, so if you're anxious to play, pull up a seat at a micro limit table and have some fun. In mean time pick up one of these books.
"Winning Low Limit Hold 'Em" by Lee Jones "Hold 'Em Excellence" by Lou Krieger "The Complete Book of Hold ‘Em Poker" by Gary Carson
© 2004 by Michael Hellmer http://www.mollyspoker.com
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