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Stop Losing Money And Start Playing Wining Poker - Rule 1

Jan 19, 2008
If you're like me you love playing poker. But it's not much fun when you lose money. Surprise, surprise, it's more fun when you win. But most people who play poker online lose money. Since the poker site rake a small amount of money out of every pot, the net result of playing is that on the whole the players are going to lose money.

But how can you be the one to win, and leave the losing to the others?

There are 5 basic rules that if followed should turn your game around and make you a consistent winner. If you follow these ideas you will be able to win at almost any online small to medium stakes poker game. If you've been struggling with your game, read on and see if these ideas can help your game.

The game I will be addressing is Hold'em since it is by far the most popular game played online.

Don't take it that I'm saying that this is the only way to play, or necessarily even the best way to play. But if you have been losing at poker this is a good starting place to turn you're losing into winning poker. After you are consistently winning you will naturally branch out from here and play other hands, and other strategies when the situation calls for it. This is simply a starting point.

The 5 basic rules are:

1. Play Only Good Starting Hands
2. Respect Table Positioning
3. Control How Many Players Are In The Hand
4. Don't Chase Hands
5. Never Lose Your Cool

Each one of these rules by itself may be enough to turn losing into winning. But putting all 5 together is almost a guarantee that you'll win money consistently.

This article will cover Rule # 1, Play Good Starting Hands.

It only makes sense that if you start with better cards than the other players in a given hand, you are more likely to win the hand than if you are starting behind in the hand with weaker cards. When you watch poker on TV notice how they show the percent chance that each hand will win the pot.

Of course any cards can win a hand, as long as there is a 1% chance sometimes the 1% will happen. But if we're trying to stop losing money, or to win more money, then limiting our play to stronger starting hands where we have a better chance of beginning the hand in the lead, is a very good place to start to improve your game.

Of course if we have AA we know that this is the best hand, so we are going to play the hand. If instead we have 72 we know this is the weakest hand and so we don't play it. But somewhere in between these two hands we need to draw the line of what cards we'll play and what we won't.

Situations matters a whole lot - are we first to act, or on the button? (covered in Rule #2) How many players are at the table? (Rule #3) How big is our stack as opposed to the other players? Is this a tournament or a ring game? And more, these things we'll get to in another article.

Start laying a foundation for winning poker by limiting your play to the top 24 starting hands. Are these the only hands I play? Or the only hands I think you should ever play? Of course not. For some it may be all they'll ever play, but for most this will be just a starting point. In another article I'll talk about adding hands to the top 24 starting hands.

There are two problems that you get into when you play weak starting hands. First you are putting money into the pot when you make the call that you are highly likely to lose. You'll likely have the weakest or one of the weaker starting hands and be disadvantaged from the start.

Second, if a player to your left raises, your most likely to fold, and not even have a chance at the pot. So you've given away money, not much of course, but giving away a little here and a little there over the course of a session adds up over time, and can be the difference of winning or losing money.

So to start turning your game around only play the top 24 starting hands. They are in this order:

1 AA 9 AK 17 88
2 KK 10 KQs 18 QTs
3 QQ 11 ATs 19 A9s
4 JJ 12 KJs 20 AJ
5 AKs (suited) 13 AQ 21 JTs
6 TT 14 99 22 KQ
7 AQs 15 QJs 23 A8s
8 AJs 16 KTs 24 AT

Surprised by the hand rankings?

If you consistently have good starting hands, probably better than your opponents, you are consistently putting yourself in positions, with a good chance to win. Your decision making is also much easier.

Now if there are nine players at the table, when you are in the first 2 positions to act (first two positions left of the big blind) I suggest that you only play the top fourteen hands.

The main objection I hear to this approach is "If all I play is the top 24 hands I'm folding so often that the game is boring". Well I think winning is exciting, and losing is worse than boring, it Stinks!

It's true that if you only play top hands the game can be rather slow. But take advantage of that time to watch other players and see what they are doing. What kind of cards are they playing, what cards are they raising with, what they are calling with, etc. Most online players make very little effort to truly pay attention to what the other players are doing, and it's costing them money.

Once you have the strategies down that are making you money, if you want more action, play more than one table at a time. Try playing two tables, that makes things a lot livelier. I often play as many as 6 tables at a time (you need a big monitor). But I do find that 2-4 tables at a time is where I make the most money. Any more and I think good decision-making slips, and it's hard to watch the other players to see how they play.

The second objection I hear is "conservative players don't get any action". Now that's mostly BS. Players come and go too frequently at the tables to notice. Half the players are gone from the table by the time they've seen enough to know your playing tight. Most of the others either won't notice, or won't know what to do about it. So maybe one player sees what you're doing and knows when to avoid you, but there is a whole table full of players that are blind to what you're doing.

Now this is not an article about how to bet, but it would be a mistake to suggest what hands to play without talking about pre flop betting.

Big hands can get run down, and the more people in a hand the more likely it is to happen. Remember a lot of players are playing any kind of garbage they get their hands on. Someone wants to play that 34s(suited), someone likes their JT, another has 55, and Daniel Negreanu want to play his T7 because it's his favorite hand. If your sitting on KK and all these players are in the hand there is a good chance one of them will hit something and beat you. But lets say your only up against the guy with 55, your 80% chance to win!

We usually want only one or two other players in the hand so our hand has a better chance of holding up. With some hands such as 88, I really only want one other player in the hand. With more players it's far to easy for someone to hit a better pair. With some hands I may not mind 2 or even three players in the hand, particularly hands with flush potential.

First we need to think about how many players we want in the hand, and then bet accordingly. How much you should bet depends on how people at the table are betting, and your position at the table.

With any of these hands I'm not going to just call the big blind. If I'm the first to bet I'm going to raise, except for an occasional call just for a change up. Remember that we know how many players we want in the hand. If there is very little pre flop raising at the table, you may only want to bet 2 to 4 times the big blind to get the right amount of players, and not scare everyone off. At a more aggressive table you may need to bet 3 to 5 times the big blind or more.

In general in early position it's best to bet a little more to make sure you don't get too many players in the hand. In later position if no one has bet in front of you, you don't want to bet too much that you won't get called by anyone, but enough to discourage more action than you want.

If you're in later position and two players have limped in to the pot with a call, and you still have a player or two and the blinds yet to act, again think about what bet it's going to take to get the number of players in the pot your looking for.

So Rule #1 is Play Good Starting Hands. And learn to play them well. The whole idea is to put money in the pot only when you have a good chance of winning the hand.
About the Author
Hunter Reed has played winning poker for over 20 years. He's helped many learn to play winning poker, and can help you too. For the other 4 rules of the 5 Simple Rules To Stop Losing Money, And Start Playing Winning Poker . You will find other articles and resources to help you win at poker at http://www.PokerResourceCenter.com
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