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"Never give a sucker an even break."
       -W.C. Fields

On our home page we stated that many online Hold'em poker players simply do no know how to play. How bad are they? Let's take a look at some common mistakes.

Wouldn't it be great if we could get a hold of the play records from an on-line casino? We could study the play of thousands of players and see just how good our competition is. Well now we can! The first chart on this page was generated with data from over 120 million starting hands that were played for actual money stakes at one of the leading online card rooms. The games all had ten players and the betting limits ranged from $2 to $50.

The table shows the gain or loss on each of the 169 possible two-card starting hands. The number in each cell represents the percentage of the largest bet in the game. For example, when players in our sample where dealt A-A, they managed, on average, to turn it into a win of $23.20 (in a game with a bet limit of $10), while players dealt 3-2 averaged a loss of $1.60.

If you calculated the average of all the numbers on the chart, you would find that the average win or loss was exactly zero. This makes sense because Hold'em is what is known as a "zero sum" game. Every dollar won by one person must be matched by a dollar lost by another person.
 

  SUITED HANDS  
U
N
S
U
I
T
E
D

H
A
N
D
S
  A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2   S
U
I
T
E
D

H
A
N
D
S
A 2.32 .77 .59 .43 .33 .18 .10 .08 .03 .08 .06 .02 .00 A
K .51 1.67 .39 .29 .20 .09 .00 .00 -.04 -.05 -.05 -.08 -.08 K
Q .31 .16 1.22 .23 .17 .06 -.02 -.06 -.08 -.09 -.10 -.11 -.12 Q
J .19 .07 .03 .86 .15 .04 -.03 -.07 -.11 -.11 -.11 -.13 -.14 J
T .08 .01 -.02 -.03 .58 .05 .00 -.05 -.11 -.12 -.13 -.13 -.14 T
9 -.03 -.07 -.08 -.08 -.08 .38 .00 -.05 -.11 -.12 -.15 -.14 -.14 9
8 -.07 -.11 -.11 -.11 -.09 -.10 .25 -.02 -.07 -.11 -.13 -.15 -.14 8
7 -.10 -.11 -.12 -.12 -.11 -.10 -.10 .16 -.03 -.09 -.11 -.14 -.15 7
6 -.12 -.12 -.13 -.12 -.11 -.12 -.11 -.11 .07 -.07 -.09 -.11 -.14 6
5 -.12 -.13 -.13 -.13 -.12 -.12 -.11 -.11 -.12 .02 -.08 -.11 -.14 5
4 -.12 -.13 -.13 -.13 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.13 -.03 -.13 -.14 4
3 -.13 -.14 -.13 -.13 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.13 -.07 -.16 3
2 -.15 -.14 -.13 -.13 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.12 -.16 -.09 2
  A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2  
  UNSUITED HANDS  

 


So what can we learn from this chart? Notice that most of the hands are losers. If a player was to discard a loosing hand before placing a bet on it, his loss would be limited to his share of the blind bets. In most of the games in our sample, the big and small blinds total 3/4 of the maximum bet. A player makes these bets once every ten hands, so the cost for seeing the first two cards of each hand averages .075 of the largest bet. The dark blue cells have an average loss of about .13. If a player simply discarded those cards rather than playing them, he would save himself nearly half of the money lost on all those hands! Of coarse the player who posted the big blind would play his hand if no one raised the pot, and the small blind can also play some of those hands profitably. Our system identifies those situations for you.

Online players tend to play far too many hands. You can profit from that mistake by playing only the hands indicated by our system.

If we compare that chart to the expert players' general consensus of which hands are profitable if played correctly, we can identify other possible mistakes. To make that comparison we will need to consider a playing strategy that can be shown on a single chart. Our Shortcut strategy can not be depicted on a single chart because of the many powerful variations it recommends based on seating position and previous actions by other players. So, for this comparison, let's use a fairly good ten-player generic strategy that can be shown on one chart.

 

  SUITED HANDS  
U
N
S
U
I
T
E
D

H
A
N
D
S
  A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2   S
U
I
T
E
D

H
A
N
D
S
A                           A
K                           K
Q                           Q
J                           J
T                           T
9                           9
8                           8
7                           7
6                           6
5                           5
4                           4
3                           3
2                           2
  A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2  
  UNSUITED HANDS  
 
The red cells represent hands that tend to win in all situations; pink cells represent hands that are either borderline earners or hands that should only be played if the player is one of the last few to act on a hand.

It matches up quite well with the first chart on this page. The red cells are the same and so are many of the pink cells. But we can see a few areas where the two don't coincide.

Our online players failed to make money on some suited Kings and suited eights and nine hands that contained suited "connectors", (cards that differ in face value by just one pip), and suited "one-gappers", (cards that differ in value by two pips), also failed to bring in the money.

All the mismatches between our two charts are in cells that are pink in the second chart. Remember, these hands are either borderline earners or hands that should only be played if the player is one of the last few to act on a hand. Because of the borderline nature of these hands we cannot say for certain what (if any), mistakes were made. But below are some common mistakes made by unskilled and semi-skilled players and ways you can use our free Hold'em Shortcut system to profit from those mistakes.

 
1) Your biggest money maker is going to be taking advantage of people who play too many hands. Use our system to select your starting hands and avoid this mistake.

2) The second biggest mistake is sitting at tables that have too many skilled players. See our Profitable Games section for some tips on finding the weak players.

3) Mistake number three is actually a group of mistakes that fall into the category of not playing your cards correctly. This includes:
Checking when you should bet.
Betting when you should check.
Calling when you should fold.
Calling when you should raise.
Folding when you should call.
Folding when you should raise.
Raising when you should call.
Raising when you should fold.

Our Shortcut system not only tells you which two-card starting hands to fold and which to play, it also tells you which to raise and even which to reraise.

4) Another big mistake is not adjusting your play based on your seating position for each hand. Many hands that are good bets when you are one of the last few to act should be folded when you are one of the first to act. That's one of the reasons it's not possible to depict an ideal playing strategy using a single chart as we tried to do above. Our Hold'em Shortcut system enables you to easily adjust your strategy based on your seating position.

5) Not reacting properly to the actions of the players seated before you can also cripple your earning potential. Some borderline hands become very worthwhile if enough people have called the bet before you play. And some normally good hands should be folded if the pot has been raised. The Shortcut system does this for you without the tremendous burden of memorizing the proper play for the thousands of possible combinations of seating position and previous players' moves for each of the 169 two-card starting hands.

6) Many people play their hands improperly when making one of the two "blind" bets. Once again the Hold'em Shortcut system comes to the rescue with its simple strategy adjustments for blinds play.

7) Getting "tricky". Tricky play involves the use of deceptive tactics to minimize the knowledge you transmit to your opponents about which cards you may be holding. This is useful in live games where you may be sitting at the table with the same players for hours. They have time to study you and your play and they can start to get a read on you. When playing on-line you should usually try to stick to the play recommended by the system. There are thousands of tables in play right now in cyberspace. If your opponents start to pick up on your style of play, just move on to another table.

8) While not really a mistake, another way to boost your earning potential and give yourself some financial cushion while playing your first few hours on-line is to take advantage of one of the sign-up bonuses offered by some of the on-line card rooms. See our Profitable Games section for details. But your first step should be to give our free Hold'em Shortcut system a good look. It will bring your strategy to a level that is far above that of the average player.

 

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