One of the first and most important things to learn when playing Texas Hold'em is which starting hands are worth staying in with -- and which you should fold. Deciding whether or not those two down cards you're first dealt are playable is the most important decision in every hand because while you have to be in it to win it, you also can't lose money you haven't bet.
Since the two hole or pocket cards are the only things that will make your hand better or worse than any other players, it's important that they are good strong cards.
If you're new to Hold'em, begin by learning these two lists:
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And play only the cards in the 10 best list and always fold the hands in the worst hands list. Doing this alone will improve your results.
But to really succeed as a good Hold'em player, you need to vary your starting hand selection standards depending on your poker position. Read more about understanding poker position if it's a new concept to you. It's important because you need to tighten up your standards in early position (such as the blinds) and can loosen up your standards in late postion (such as sitting on the button).
Here's a quick guide to what Hold'em starting hands to play in different positions:
In early position, only play:
- High Pairs: Ace-Ace, King-King, Queen-Queen, Jack-Jack
- High Suited Cards: Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen, Ace-Jack, King-Jack, Queen-Jack, Jack-10
- High Unsuited Cards: Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen
In middle position, you can also play:
- High Suited Cards: Ace-10, King-10, Queen-10
- High Unsuited Cards: Ace-Jack, Ace-10, King-Jack, etc.
- Middle Pairs: 10-10, 9-9, 8-8
In late position you can add:
- Suited connectors, such as 9-10, 7-8, etc.
- Small pairs all the way down to 2s
- Ace-littles: A-8, A-6
Now, this is not an absolute guide. Just because I say you can play ace-little in late position, that doesn't mean you always should. Almost none of the hands that I added for a middle or late position should be played if there is a large raise before you get to act, and definitely should be tossed if there are two raises in front of you. The reason the hands are more playable in later positions is precise because you'll have more information about what the other players are going to do, and if everyone's just calling or folding, there's a better chance that one of the second-best hands above is the best hand at the table.
All that said, this is a rough guide, and it also helps to be able to read the most basic of poker tells and pay attention to the other players playing styles (are they tight? loose? etc.) so you can guess what hands you might be up against. Still, if you stick to this what-to-hold and what-to-fold guide, your poker profits should grow.
Poker superstar Daniel Negreanu joined the No Laying Up podcast and shared a few ridiculous stories about golf wagers he’s made over the years, and his on-course battles with fellow poker legend Phil Ivey.
Negreanu said he picked up golf in his early thirties, and eventually began gambling on the course for very high stakes. One of Negreanu’s bets required him to play 12 hours of golf a day just for a chance at a major payout. Negreanu said he bet $550,000 that he could shoot a score of 80 from the back tees at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, a PGA Tour-level course that hosts the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Negreanu only had one year to transform his game, and he won the bet with just a few days to spare.
Via the No Laying Up podcast:
“My golf game was not very good. The back tees at TPC Summerlin is about 7,000 yards. I can’t hit a driver more than 230, so I don’t hit any of the greens from back there. I bet them that if they gave me a year, I could shoot 80 from the back tees there.
So I’m drunk and we’re all drinking and I bet 550 thousand dollars on this. But I get as many rounds as I need.
So with about a month to spare, I go out there and 110… 108… 106. OK, that’s my first three rounds, and I have a month. So we woke up at 7 a.m. every day, we practiced for an hour, played 18, practiced for another hour, played 18, played 9 more and then practiced again. So I would go from 7 a.m. to about 8 p.m. every day.
Within about a week, I was shooting low 90s. Maybe a week later, mid to high 80s. And with about a week and a half to spare, actually, I was 2-under after nine. So then all the carts started coming out, because they were like ‘oh boy, here he comes.’ There was probably 60 golf carts on the last three holes, sweating me. And so, in the last three holes, I needed to go bogey-bogey-bogey to win the bet. They were the three toughest holes, also. The first one is the easiest of the three, so I of course double-bogey that.
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Now I need to par one of the last two, and I make par on . And then I have a six-footer for all of the money to win. I’m actually a good putter, but this putt – I hit the putt, and as I hit the putt, my knees sort of fell to the ground, in a way, but somehow the ball went in and I made it.”
Negreanu said he used to play against Phil Ivey frequently, and once lost a total of $1.2 million to Ivey in a single day on the course.
“We used to golf a lot back in those days, and I remember one time at Shadow Creek, I guess my grip was a mess. And I didn’t have anyone who was there to help me at the time, and he did and everyone else did. I just didn’t have a chance. Like, I couldn’t get the ball in the air. I lost like $1.2 million to him in one round.”
Negreanu said he eventually lost around $3 million total in bets on the golf course, but made all the money back after getting help from a caddie and coach, Christian Sanchez.
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You can listen to the entire podcast here.