A Simple Strategy for Advanced Play



Common Mistakes
The Shortcut System
Playing the Hand
Find Profitable Games



"It's never just a game when you're winning"
     -George Carlin

The numerical point count strategy of the Hold'em Shortcut system helps you make the best decision with your first two starting cards. That's enough of an edge to get the money at low-limit games if you combine it with some common-sense play of the rest of the hand.

We are working on a numerical system for playing the rest of the hand. Sign up for our Hold'em newsletter and we'll let you know as soon as it's available. Until then, here are some of the ways the professionals and the experts play their hands:

As we've said elsewhere on this site, your biggest money maker is taking advantage of people who play too many hands. You now have the power to identify the loosing two-card hands and toss them out. What we need for the next stage of the hand, the "flop", is a way to once again identify the hands that we should probably get rid of.

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If you follow our system, your two hole cards are likely to be suited, connected, or paired. What you are looking for in the flop (the next three shared cards), is a set of cards that improves your hand in some way. If you were holding suited cards you would like to see at least two of the same suit come up in the flop. If you were holding connected cards, you would like to see a flop that would complete your straight or get you to within one card of making the straight. Pairing each of your hole cards is another way to improve your hand and if you were already holding a pair, a third card of the same denomination would make your day.

So far, if the pot has not been raised, you have seen five of your seven cards and only bet an amount equal to the big blind. A lot more money will probably be required for you to see the remaining two cards. This is a great time to bail out if you don't have a hand or if you can't make a flush or a straight with one more card.

The flop is going to improve your hand only about one-third of the time. You will stay in the game a little more than one-third of the time because sometimes an unimproved pair or even a couple of nice high cards will make it worthwhile depending on what the flop looks like.



The next thing you should think about is what the winning hand is likely to be in this game. The average winning hand in ten-player Hold'em is two pair. The nature of the flop gives us some good clues to what hand will win this particular game. Study the flop cards and try to get a feel for what it will take to win this pot.

If all three of the cards in the flop are suited, a flush becomes more likely. If the flop is connected or tightly clustered within a range, then a straight may be coming.

The key card in the flop is the highest one. You need to think twice about calling a bet to see another card if the key card is higher than either of the two cards in your hand.

If the flop makes your flush it stands a good chance of also having made someone else's flush. If you are holding the Ace of the flush suit you are by far the favorite to win the pot. If you are holding less than an Ace but still higher than the key card, you are looking pretty good. But if your highest hole card is lower than the key card your hand is vulnerable to a higher flush.

If the flop contains a pair, the winning hand will almost certainly be at least two pair and there's a chance that three of a kind will take this pot. The likelihood of this depends to some extent on the denomination of the pair. The fact that players tend not to discard their high cards means that a high pair on the flop is more likely to give a player three of a kind than a low pair.

If you hold a pocket pair (your hole cards are paired), and the flop gives you three of a kind (known as a "set"), it's a much stronger hand than if the pair is part of the flop (known as "trips"). If your set includes the key card and a pocket pair, then play the hand as if you have won the pot. If the three of a kind includes one of the other two cards or a pair on the board, you have probably won, but play with a little more caution.

If you pair the key card on the flop it is known as "top pair" and it's a much stronger hand than if you had paired the middle card, (middle pair) or the lowest card, (bottom pair.) An even stronger hand is an "over pair", (you hold a pair with a higher denomination than the key card). And of course, two pair is even better, especially if one of your pairs includes the key card. If you find yourself with a middle or bottom pair, or even a top pair but with a weak "kicker" (your unpaired hole card), and the pot has been raised, you should probably fold.

If the flop comes up "ragged", (it contains unconnected middle and low cards of different suits), then holding a couple of nice high cards might be enough to stay in the game.

Sometimes the flop gives you more than one way to win. You might have four cards to a straight plus three cards to a flush plus a pair. The value of this hand is the sum of its possibilities. It's a good hand with good earning potential.

When you need one more card to complete your flush or straight it's worth a bet but only if there is enough money in the pot to justify the risk you're taking. The chances of getting your flush or open-ended straight with the next card are about four and five to one against respectively. There should be four times your bet in the pot before it becomes worthwhile to draw to a flush - five times for a straight. This is what is known as "pot odds". The numbers change a little when you consider "implied pot odds". The pot will likely grow in subsequent betting rounds so you can profitably pursue flushes and straights even if you don't quite have the pot odds. The odds against making an inside straight on your next card are about eleven to one against, so the pot needs to be quite large before this kind of gamble pays off.

  The next card revealed after the flop is called the "Turn" card. It is the sixth of the seven cards dealt in Hold'em. Much of the above strategy also applies to playing the turn.

If you are sure you hold the best hand, then try to get more money into the pot. If you are still looking for one more card to complete your flush or straight, try to get past this betting round as cheaply as possible.

Next comes the "River" card - the fifth and final card of the round. If you've made it this far you likely have a sizable investment in the pot. Some players get to this point with an uncompleted flush or straight. They sometimes try to steal the pot by bluffing. A good strategy is to call that bet if you have even a small chance of winning this pot. You may often lose an additional bet by making this play but if the pot is large enough, the times that you win the pot will more than make up for those losses.

If you have what you believe to be the winning hand, then you should certainly raise the pot. "Raising for value" is solid money-maker in Hold'em.

These tips, when combined with our Hold'em Shortcut system for starting hands selection, will get you well on your way to perfecting your game. Post-flop play can be tricky. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll let you know as soon as we finish work on our numerical post-flop system.

Until then the best way to polish your game is to practice. For the quickest possible start, print out our five strategy charts and use them to get comfortable with our system. See our Finding Profitable Games section for the charts along with our recommendations for online card rooms.