Find a table whose
minimum is no more than 5% of your total
stash. In picking a table, consider rule
variations that help the player like the
option of doubling down on any two cards, or
the dealer having to stand on soft 17. Even
if you don't completely understand them,
these rule variations can work to your
Start with the basics:
Since the dealer has to hit (take a card) on
any hand 16 or lower, you'll never win with
less than 17 unless the dealer busts. Take a
hit on any hand below 17 when the dealer
shows ace, K, Q, J, 10, 9, or 8, cards that
are unlikely to make the dealer bust. Stand
on any hand above 11 when the dealer shows a
4,5, or 6, cards that will lead then dealer
to bust more than 40% of the time.
involves doubling your bet and receiving one
additional card when your suspect strongly
that you will beat the dealer by doing so.
This is the player's chief advantage, so
don't ignore this option. Doubling with 10
against a 9 or lower and with any hand of
11. Rules permitting, double with 9, or with
"soft" hands (hands that count an ace as 11)
of 13-17 against a 4, 5, or 6.
If you are dealt two
cards of the same value, you may "split"
them, doubling your bet and playing two
hands. Never split 10's or 5's. Always split
8's or 7's against a dealer's card of equal
or lower value. Always split 2's or 3's
against a 4, 5, or 6. Always split aces.
Never split face cards, 10's, or 5's.
Tip (or "toke") the
dealer. Unless you're winning serious
stakes, a dollar chip every twenty or so
hands is generally appropriate. If you want
to make sure the dealer has your best
interests at heart, place the tip right in
front of your wagering circle, essentially
turning it into a side bet on your hand. If
you win, the dealer's tip doubles.
MIND GAMES AND NO-LIMIT HOLD'EM
No-Limit Hold'em ring games require
more psychological and bluffing skills than any other
popularly played poker game. However, you should only use
these tools based on the type of opponent you're playing.
If you are playing a lower stakes
No-Limit game (with a buy-in of $100 or under), I wouldn't
suggest using psychological tools much. An occasional flop
bluff against few opponents may be profitable, but these
opponents will frequently pay off their whole stack on hands
as low as second pair. In these games, you should just wait,
make a good hand, and then ream your opponents with
Once you play in a higher stakes game
($200 buy-in or more), mind games will play a larger factor,
especially if people's stacks are deep (more than 100 big
blinds). However, the first thing you need to do is
categorize each of your opponents you are facing:
guys are just playing their hand, not yours.
If you bet big and they have a bad hand,
they will fold. If you bet big and they have
top pair, they will call provided you do not
do something scary like put them all-in.
They will not bluff much at you.
These guys also just play their hand, but
will call less than the fish. They are not
willing to lose all of their chips on top
pair unless they think you are a maniac.
Bluff these guys out of a good number of
pots (but not much so that they will attempt
to trap you later on).
These guys are similar to fish but
understand the game enough to where they
know when the only thing they can beat is a
bluff. However, they often think you are
bluffing and will call you down.
These are your tactically sound
players. However, their No-Limit ability
differs largely based on how well they read
their opponents. In general, they are much
more eager to bet at the pot than call.
Against these players, changing pace is
necessary. You should occasionally trap
these players with strong hands and
occasionally go over the top at them. By
continually changing pace, you may be able
to bully them into becoming too 'weak-tight'
or by becoming a sheriff. Notice which
direction they are going into and then take
advantage of that strategy.
These guys like to bet and raise. It's
almost impossible to tell if they are
bluffing or have the nuts a lot of the time.
These players can be dangerous, but you need
to make an effort to trap them. While it is
good to 'test' them by raising them, do not
always do this with a hand because it will
become a clear signal to them. Do not let
these guys know what you have by raising.
Play your hands differently and certainly
trap them sometimes when you have a strong
hand like a set.
Whatever set these guys off, these
guys are on tilt. They're going to bet all
of their chips in. Best strategy here is to
just let them do the betting because they
may fold if you do it and they have nothing.
In general, you should only
play mind games with tight-aggressive and
hyper-aggressive players. These other players
act predictably, so there is no real reason to
change them. However, you do not want to be
bullied by hyper-aggressive players, and you do
not want to live in fear if a tight-aggressive
player bets because this is what these players
want. You need to consistently change your image
to these players. You want to make it difficult
for them to think you are tight-aggressive or a
hyper-aggressive. When changing your pace, you
should also pay attention to several small,
important things such as:
Where you bluff. If you
always bluff at the flop, they will begin
calling you on the flop in the hopes that
you will reveal your strength on the turn.
So often it is best to switch up where in
the pot you bluff.
Your pre-flop play for
certain types of hands. You shouldn't always
gear your pre-flop play to what is just
'technically' sound. Even though you want to
see the flop for the cheap with small pairs
or suited connectors, you should sometimes
raise just for deceptive purposes. This is
especially a good idea with a medium pair in
However, perhaps the most important
mind game is how much you bet. You should not bet based on
how much your hand is worth, but how much your opponent's
hand is worth. Bad opponents will let you know what their
hand is worth by betting its value. However, good players
will bet how much they think you value your hand. To bluff
someone out, you generally must bet more than how much they
value their hand (if someone is smart though, they may
realize this and call you if you have been bluffing a lot).
However, to maximize the value of your made hands, you
should bet how much your opponent will be willing to call
given their hand. Examples of this in play:
If you have a high full
house, you should especially bet hard
because there is a good chance your opponent
has a smaller full house
If you have a flush and
the board is paired, you should bet 1/2 to
2/3 of pot because you want someone with
trips to just call. Betting very hard in
this situation will only lead you to be
called by someone who has a full house.
Leading into your
opponent. If your opponent is raising (and
you don't think he is bluffing). A good
strategy is to bet small, have your opponent
raise, and then re-raise him all-in. This is
especially strong if you hit a weird
straight and you are certain your opponent
has a set or two pair.