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Playing Online Hold 'em Poker for the First Time

By: Michael Vall

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You've finally decided on which online poker room to play at, funded your account and found a table that suits you. The blinds are posted and your hole cards are dealt to you. When the action comes around to you, two other players have already raised the pot. What do you do now? Do you raise? Call? Fold?

As a beginner there are many things that you will want to consider when deciding to play a hand. First off, as a beginner, do you have one of the best hands? In the scenario above where the pot has already been raised twice before you even get a chance to act you should figure that someone has one of the best starting hands. If you don't have a pair of Aces or Kings, I would seriously think about folding.

"Laying down" or folding your hand is very often the best strategy when playing Texas Hold em. If you are new to Texas Hold em poker, online or in a brick and mortar casino, you want to stick to playing the best starting hands. These include AA, KK, QQ, AK, JJ, and 10-10. If you have played before but just not in an online casino I would still recommend playing only those starting hands until you begin to get comfortable transitioning to the online game.

As a beginner you will be tempted to play many more hands. Don't. Discipline is one of the main keys to becoming a winning poker player.

As you get comfortable playing the absolute best starting hands, then and only then should you begin incorporating additional starting hands. The starting hands that I would recommend playing are AQ, KQ, AJ, 99. I would only introduce these hands into your game one at a time.

Pay attention to what others in the game are doing, does a player always call? Always seem to raise? Or does a player fold a lot but when they play they seem to win a large percentage of the time? Chances are they are playing a "tight" game and playing only the best hands.

Of course there are many other considerations in addition to your hole cards. Where are you seated at the table? Your position at the table is very important. If you are one of the first to act after the hole cards are dealt, you are in "early position". If you are in the fourth to six positions at the table then you are in "middle position", after that you are in "late position". Late position is the best because you get to see what all the others do. You can act with information and judge what cards your opponents may have based on if they raise or call.

If you are in early position only the very best of the best starting hands will do - AA and KK. As you go from middle to late you can introduce the other recommended starting hands.

Once play moves to the flop you are still assessing the players actions based on what they are doing, where you are sitting, and of course, did you improve your hand on the flop? If the answer is no and you think you may be beat, fold.

If you think you may still have the best hand you should raise.

On the turn and river, I would recommend the same strategy. Think you are beaten? Fold. Think you have the best hand? Raise.

These basic strategies are more than enough to get you playing online poker and winning. The best way to improve your game is to practice and play. Fortunately the major online poker rooms have very low blinds so that you risk very little money when you are starting out. This is especially true when you fold your bad hands instead of just calling and giving away your money.

Play, practice and most of all, have fun!

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Michael Vall is the webmaster of Texas Holdem Poker | Tips | Strategy | How to calculate outs | odds - A Complete Strategy Guide and Tips for Texas Holdem Poker, Online Casino and Poker Room Reviews.

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