Introducing Texas Hold’em

Chris Moneymaker may have started the modern poker boom, but would there even have been a World Series of Poker without Doyle Brunson? Would Texas Hold’em have become the game of choice at the WSOP Main Event? Maybe not. Brunson is one of the true pioneers of this mind sport; he started playing underground games in his native Texas, then helped introduce Hold’em to Las Vegas in 1967. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now just about everyone who plays poker is playing Texas Hold’em. It’s easy to see why; this is a highly enjoyable game, the “Cadillac of Poker,” as Brunson famously said in his influential 1979 book Super/System. It’s also the simplest of the three flop games available at Bovada Poker. Every player starts with two hole cards, then tries to make the best 5-card hand at the table, using at least three of the five community cards available to everyone. With four betting rounds and so many different ways to win, the action gets hot and heavy – especially when you play No-Limit Hold’em, as most people do.

Learn Hand Openings and Play Aggressive

Today’s strategies for conquering Hold’em aren’t all that different from what Brunson was doing back in the day. What Brunson arrived at organically, modern computers have largely proven: Aggression pays. If there’s money in the pot, the most direct way of winning that money is to bet – or raise. Playing passively by calling your opponents is sometimes the right choice, but do it too often, and you’ll be handing over your money.

This is where many beginners get stuck. Call it Fear of Missing Out: If an opponent takes a stab at the pot by betting, the temptation is always there to call when you’re holding at least a marginal hand or a draw. What if she’s bluffing? Worse yet, what if you fold and she shows everyone the bluff? Some people end up calling just to see what cards the opponent has. This is a great way to light money on fire.

There is no one optimal strategy for playing Hold’em – computers are still working on it. But if you start by learning a set of opening ranges for which cards to use pre-flop, and play those cards aggressively post-flop by betting, raising and judiciously folding, you’ll already be well ahead of most opponents you’ll meet at the table. Recommended ranges are widely available on the internet; print them off and put them on your wall if you like. Consider them training wheels that you can take off later once you get your balance. Otherwise, stick with the smallest stakes while you’re trying Hold’em for the first time, focus on enjoying the game, and be willing to make mistakes. Fortune favors the bold.