Once I am involved in a hand, many of the actions I take after the flop are
automatic, or nearly automatic. Therefore, the most important decision I
have to make in No Limit Hold 'em takes place before the flop:
Should I play the two cards I've been dealt?
When I first started learning how to play, I reviewed the standard charts
that suggest which two cards to play from each position. But while they
provided useful guidelines, the charts don't tell the whole story. Poker is
not a game that is best played by the numbers. Poker is a game of
In blackjack, there is always a correct decision to be made - a "perfect
strategy." Once you have compared the strength of your hand against the
dealer's "up" card, the odds will -- or at least should -- dictate whether
you should hit, stand, split, etc.
Poker, however, is a game of incomplete information. There are many factors
to consider that go above and beyond what "the book" tells you to do. Some
of them include:
* My opponents' tendencies
* My state of mind
* My opponent's state of mind
* Our respective stack sizes
* My image at the table
Computer programs can look up hands in a chart. Real poker players analyze
situations and make their own decisions after processing all of the
available information. I might raise with A-J from early position in one
game, and fold the same hand from the same position in another.
A good chart can help give a very specific set of circumstances, namely:
* You are the first person to voluntarily put money into the pot and are
going to come in for a raise of about three times the big blind
* You don't know much about your opponents
* All the players at the table have an average-size stack
* The blinds are relatively small in relation to the size of the stacks
When the above things aren't true, you'll want to look beyond the charts.
If you're a new player, these tables are a great place to start. The more
poker you play, however, the more comfortable you will feel letting your
experience and your instincts serve as your guide.