Poker Essays

Learn to Play Holdem Like the Pros.

By Pokerlistings. August 2006.

Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, T.J. Cloutier. If you follow Texas Hold'em, you've heard the names of these legends of the game. Thanks to the recent popularity of televised Texas Hold'em tournaments, these and other Texas Hold'em stars are instantly recognizable. But how did they get so talented? And how can you play like a Texas Hold'em pro?

One thing is for sure. If you are like most people, you can't play like a pro the first time you sit down at a Texas Hold'em table. Due to the recent influx of big tournaments and satellites allowing amateurs to win a seat at a major event, many amateurs and first time players can be observed winning millions at Texas Hold'em. For most of these players, their first big tournament win will be their last. Texas Hold'em tournaments involve a good deal of short term luck, and an average or even below average player can get lucky enough to win one tournament. Not having the discipline generated through years of play at lower levels, however, many of these players squander this money by playing in cash games way over their head, or continuing to play high stakes tournaments when they are really not prepared to do so.

To play like a pro requires years of practice. A good number of pros certainly started playing well right away, but very few jumped into $10,000 events or high limit cash games within a few weeks of learning the game. Those that did had the advantage of a public that was largely ignorant of poker principles, a situation that is no longer the case. Famous poker pro Howard "The Professor" Lederer got his start cleaning up after a back room poker game, then playing for small stakes until he lost all of his earnings, then starting over again the next day. He did this for many, many sessions. Lederer has now won millions playing poker and is considered one of the foremost authorities in the game today.

So how do you play Texas Hold'em like a pro? You don't require dark sunglasses, or a special hat, or a fancy nickname. What you need is practice. What you need is discipline. Play at a low stakes game or low buy in tournament until you are beating it consistently. Then move up to a higher game or tournament level. If after an extended period of time the game is still beating you, analyze your mistakes and move back down until you are sure you are ready for the new level. If you have stronger players who are able and willing to help you examine and improve your game, take advantage of this by getting their advice whenever possible.

Playing in the way recommended above won't make you a star on ESPN overnight. What it will make you is a consistently winning Texas Hold'em player, and one day, with a little luck, a tournament or cash game poker superstar.

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