Do you want to play poker for a living? Do you want to know the best ways to start? We will cover a Texas Hold’em Strategy for on and off the felt. Most poker strategy articles only cover in-game strategy; this article will cover both. Without an out-of-game poker strategy, you have already lost, regardless of how good you are on the felt. You can win all the poker hands you want, but if you’re not managing expenses, those expenses will eat up your bankroll.
Build Your Bankroll
Sometimes players are handed a bankroll as a stake, but these are usually players who have more than $1 million in earnings on HendonMob (a site that shows you a poker player’s total lifetime earnings and their biggest score). You also have to remember that these players had to start somewhere. It’s extremely rare that someone handed them a bankroll as a stake when they had no results.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and most of these players had to work their butts off to build even a small bankroll. They likely went deep in a tournament or two with that bankroll, which allowed them to play more because they increased their number of buy-ins with those scores. They continued to run up their total over the years, and that impressive HendonMob number is what attracted investors.
However, the point is that they started after building their own bankroll. When you build your own bankroll through hard work, you’re going to appreciate that money a heck of a lot more than when someone hands it to you. This will likely lead to better quality play. This applies to all poker games. Unfortunately, many poker players don’t know how to manage a bankroll during their first year. It’s one aspect of Texas Hold’em strategy that often gets overlooked, even though it should be a top priority.
The first-year player’s bankroll often goes to alcohol, drugs, women/men, excessive buy-ins to tournaments that don’t match their style of play or are too expensive for their bankroll, or reckless spending on travel instead of fighting tooth-and-nail to find great deals. Spending money recklessly is not against the poker rules, but you won’t have to worry about poker rules if you keep it up.
The second-year player is much different. They have likely lost their bankroll due to the aforementioned vices and other pitfalls and have learned their lesson. If they can build their bankroll again, they’re going to be more conservative and intelligent with their money.
Vices will be reduced (and sometimes eliminated), they will be more selective with the tournaments they play, and they will simply manage their bankroll better because they remember how much it hurt when they lost their bankroll the first time. Hopefully, by reading this, you can forgo the first-year woes and manage your bankroll better.
Pick The Right Tournament Series
Part of being a successful poker player is selecting the right poker tournaments. You begin this process by searching for a live poker tournament series. You will find tons of information online. This will include location, dates, buy-ins, tournament structures, and more.
Let’s say you have to decide between a poker tournament series at the Venetian in Las Vegas and the Horseshoe Tunica in Mississippi. You live in Kentucky. At first glance, any poker player would choose the Venetian. Why? Because it’s in Las Vegas. But the player who actually pays attention to a Texas Hold’em strategy won’t necessarily go that route. They want to do their research first. Both tourney series are during the same week, but that’s the only similarity.
Let’s say the average buy-in at the Venetian is $500. The prize pools are bigger and it’s Las Vegas, but it’s also on the strip. Therefore, all food and drink is going to be expensive, temptation/distraction is going to be high, and the competition is going to be intense. Not only that, a round-trip flight is going to be around $400. As far as accommodations go, this is during the summer when the WSOP is in town, so rooms are expensive unless you want to stay in a dumpy motel.
If you look at the tourney series at Horseshoe Tunica, you find a much different picture (remember, this is all hypothetical). The average buy-in is $200 and the prize pools are smaller, but this is Mississippi. Therefore, all the food and drink is going to be cheap, temptation/distraction will be low, and the competition will be soft (for the most part). Not only that, you won’t have to spend any money on airfare because you can drive there.
As far as accommodations go, they might give you a discounted rate if you’re playing in the tournament series. Even if that’s not the case, you can book the Hollywood Casino 15 minutes away for around $50 per night. Think about how much money you’re saving on food, drink and travel.
Now add how much you’re saving on buy-ins. You might “only” have a chance at $30,000 if you come in first opposed to $250,000 if you come in first at the Venetian, but think of how many more bullets you can fire. Would you rather have two shots at $250,000 or five chances at $30,000?
You might want the big score, but think of how many bullets $30,000 would get you for a WSOP Circuit Main Event. The answer is 17! And the paydays on those range from $130,000 to $350,000. This is how you should be approaching your Texas Hold’em strategy. You should not be approaching it in the standard form.
Select The Right Tournaments
Once you have determined which tournament series you want to play, you have to decide which Texas Hold’em poker tournaments you’re going to play in within that series. This is also part of the Texas Hold’em strategy you need to apply. Some of these poker games might fit your style, but others won’t.
First look for a buy-in you’re comfortable with. As we just covered, don’t go for the big score. That’s a fast way to going broke without even realizing you’re doing it. You will keep thinking you can win big on the next one to make it all back, but once you start doing that, you’re chasing.
When you’re in the right frame of mind, you will be playing down. This means that you will be playing at a level that’s very affordable for you and against competition that is mostly inferior. I say mostly because there will always be some strong players. This is good news because it will keep you in check. Without some good players there, it’s more likely that you would be a bit reckless.
After you have determined the correct buy-in level and tournaments you’re considering, look at their structures. Do you like playing deep (a lot of chips for grinding) or do you like playing short (a lot of shove vs. all-in decisions)? You have to admit to yourself what kind of player you are. When you’re in denial, it’s not going to work. If you want to memorize your push-fold charts, then go with a turbo. If you want to grind and read your opponents while making a lot of tough decisions, go with the deepstack poker tournament.
The Two-Bullet Plan
If you’re familiar with some my writings and basic Texas Hold’em strategy, then you know I like to buy-in late to poker tournaments. This is within the poker rules and I strongly believe it saves you buy-ins, which minimizes your risk while not impacting your upside potential. It also keeps you in the game, which refers to playing poker for a living. That said, there is one approach that I will use sometimes. It’s a two-bullet plan.
The two-bullet plan can only be applied to a poker tournament with at least two flights. For simplicity purposes, let’s say there are two flights for a poker tournament at the Hard Rock in Tampa, Florida. It’s a $200 buy-in with a $200,000 guarantee. The two flights are Flight A and Flight B. Flight A begins at 11 a.m. on Friday and Flight B begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday. You can buy-in until 4 p.m. on each day.
For Flight A, it’s recommended that you buy-in at around 3 p.m. This is pretty late and you will be approaching shove/fold territory, but that’s fine because if you pick the right spot and double-up, it’s going to be close to the average stack, and that’s without sitting around for four hours. You can then play position poker by only playing premium poker hands and coast to the money. It almost seems unfair, but that’s how I like to do it sometimes. Shhhh!
Now let’s say you buy-in to Flight A around 3 p.m., find the right spot, shove, and lose. You didn’t last very long and your $200 is down the toilet. You are not feeling very good about yourself, but there is good news.
When you fail here with the two-bullet plan, it means you will get to play more poker because the reward is that you buy-in at 11 a.m. on Level 1 for Flight B on the following day. Perhaps you were intended to play a lot of poker on this day. Sometimes it works out that way. If you fail here, it’s unfortunate, but notice that the cost was a total of $400 for two shots at around $50,000 for first place. Not bad. And even when you lose, you gain experience.
Texas Hold’em Strategy: Start Slow
Regardless of when you buy-in, be patient. Even marginal-to-strong hands should be folded unless you’re in late position. If you start out fast, you will immediately lose respect from your opponents, even if you’re not a maniac. The human mind cannot erase a first impression. Of course, if you have a premium hand, you have to play it, but stay out of the marginal spots so you can establish a tight image. This is what you want so you can pull off a bluff or two a few hours later when the blinds are higher and the pots are bigger.
Play Position Poker
If you’re not sure what to do when it comes to a Texas Hold’em strategy in poker tournaments, stick to position poker. This means hands like JT-suited, KJ-off, and AT-off should all be folded in early position.
The best way to look at it is like this: Can you call a raise with this hand? If the answer is no, fold. You might miss some opportunities, but you’re saving money over the long haul. You will also be establishing a very strong image, which will allow you to do as you please down the road.
Just make sure you choose your spots wisely. Don’t get carried away with bluffs. If you do that, it will all go to waste. Stay tight if you want to win, and only bluff and semi-bluff the right players in the right spots. Believe it or not, those are passive players and professional players. Unless the professional player is an I-read-your-soul kind of player, he/she is going to fold more times than not.
The real professional poker players know that it’s about chip preservation and waiting for the right spots. The most successful poker players in terms of winnings are the most patient players. These players know to take traditional a Texas Hold’em strategy and toss it out the window.
Those kinds of strategies are cut and dry and tell you what to do in certain situations, but they don’t account for what kind of player you’re playing against. Player A might call with top pair when you put him all-in and Player B will fold. It’s your job to figure out your opponents and their patterns. This is the real Texas Hold’em strategy. Be patient until you’re up against the right player in the right spot. That’s when you attack.
For the record, I have not come across one profitable poker player who is also a maniac. The only players I have seen that are consistently profitable are patient players. Those are just the facts.
Texas Hold’em strategy isn’t just about what you do on the felt. That’s definitely part of it, but it’s only about half. The other half is finding ways to minimize expenses so you can maximize your buy-ins. This, in turn, gives you more chances at a big score. Even if you don’t get that big score yet, you’re gaining experience, which will help you the next time around.
Texas Hold’em Strategy – FAQ
How do you build a poker bankroll?
You first build a poker bankroll outside of poker. When you are ready to play poker, you begin at low stakes. When that is successful for a while, you can move up in stakes, but make sure you do it slowly.
How often should you raise in Texas Hold'em?
There is no set % of the time. If it's a soft table, you want to raise more often. If it's a loose table, you want to play tighter. So, like most things in poker, it depends.
How do you bluff in Texas Hold'em?
You bluff by betting chips and hoping your opponent will fold. You only want to bluff when you can represent something on the board. If it's a strong player and your story doesn't make sense, they will likely call your bluff.
What Texas Hold'em tournaments should I play?
If you are a beginner, then I would recommend playing daily or nightly tournaments at your local poker room. If you want exposure to a tournament series for almost the same price, I would recommend playing at the RunGood Poker Series. You might see me there. Please say hello.
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