This article is not meant to be an exhaustive article on poker strategy or even to provide insight into poker strategy for Texas Holdem played in other venues. Instead, this article will specifically address particular poker strategy mistakes made by Texas Holdem home game players that you will likely see if you are playing in a Texas Holdem at home where you have players with differing skill levels.
If you are reasonably skilled at playing Texas Holdem and play in or conduct a home game, these observations about poker strategy may help you fine-tune your game since the home game of Texas Holdem can frequently present unique challenges to the skilled player who is used to applying poker strategy in a casino or tournament poker setting.
Here are the main things losing players consistently do consistently during a game.
1. Not Raising Good Hands Pre-Flop
This is the most common mistake most new players make in most poker games, but it's also a common mistake among home game players who never quite understand Texas Holdem. During the course of a night of poker, it's often the difference between winning and losing. Bad players simply don't know how to play their good cards and allow too many people into the pot pre-flop, thereby decreasing the value of their good hands. They make this mistake over and over again, even with their high pairs.
2. Overplaying/Underplaying Top Pair
I see this problem in players with mediocre skills. They simply don't recognize when they're beaten and cannot get away from top pair. Sometimes they combine that with the previous problem after the flop and allow players who are drawing to continue on in the hand because they don't bet enough. Bottom line is that if you hit top pair, make a bet, and somebody reraises you, you can't push all-in. Particularly in home game poker where more players are in the hand than normal, most of the time somebody has hit something.
3. Chasing Draws
Players at the home game almost always play suited cards or connected cards and simply cannot get away from open-ended straight draws and flush draws. The worst approach to this style of play is calling large bets that diminish your chips. The right way to approach draws is to see cards for cheap, if possible, or use your draw to make a large bet that forces everyone else out of the pot. Players who draw need to have control of the pot. If they do not, they end up losing a lot of chips.
4. Assuming Other Players Have the Best Possible Hand
This is otherwise known as "monsters under the bed." This usually comes from low-skilled players not bothering to think about reading other players because most of the time the other player does not have the best possible hand. In fact, in the home game, it's a frequent occurrence that players have no idea about the strength of the hand they are holding or are bluffing or are just making a mistake.
5. Small Bet-Sizing When They Are Ahead
Because mediocre players by definition have a hard time reading the board and their opponents, they often don't realize when they're ahead. The worst example of this offense is when the offender is last to bet after the flop and everybody checks and the offender puts in a non-threatening amount even though he's hit top pair with a good kicker or two pair or whatever. Then everybody calls and inevitably somebody hits something or ends up on a draw that hits leaving the offender saying things like, "I was winning that hand until the river."
6. Overbetting the Nuts
This drives me nuts when I watch somebody who loses a lot hit the nuts on the flop or very damn near it, then go all-in, thus driving everyone else out of the pot and winning nothing. Bad players get so excited about having good cards that they just can't help themselves, but when you hit a hand that other players have extremely long odds to beat, you don't drive them out of the hand, you want them to hit something so they hang around and build the pot. I watched my friend hit the nut flush on the flop recently only to force everyone to fold when he bet way too much because he got overly excited. If you don't do well with your great hands, you're not going to do well overall.
7. Not Reading the Board
All players are in a hand (known as a "family pot") and the flop comes down JJ6. If you don't have a J in this situation, you fold unless you're drawing to a flush and nobody bets. It's amazing though, how many players will bet their 6 in this situation because nobody bets. Um, do you think somebody with a J is really going to bet much, if at all, in this situation? Probably not. Then there are the vast array of other things like not seeing straight and flush draws or missing the fact that there are four cards to a straight on the board.
8. Ignoring Position on a Bad Board
I like to use the paired board for this example because it's illustrative for others. The flop comes up A99 and the bad player is first to bet. Because he has an ace, he leads out with a significant bet, not even thinking about the fact that five other players have yet to bet and the odds of one of them having a 9 are great. The player with the 9 either just calls or raises and the player with the ace is either forced to fold or gets sucked out for a few other bets before finally realizing his initial bet was stupid.
These are the main problems I see in bad players in our Texas Holdem home game. Hopefully, these observations will allow you to improve your poker strategy.
In my games, we have players who have played a decent amount of tournament poker, casino poker, and various other types of poker. We have players who have played home game poker all their lives but are new to Texas Holdem. Usually each week, a new player will show up and have absolutely no experience. Then we have players who play every week and still don't understand the basics of Texas Holdem and make the same mistakes over and over again.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am horrible at pre-flop betting, what can I do to improve?
Answer: Pre-flop betting in the home game is very difficult, so don't feel like you're alone. If you feel like you're horrible, you obviously need to change your strategy. If you're in a casino, pre-flop betting is pretty straight-forward and requires knowledge of the position and general strategy. In general, good hands will go 3x the big blind, right? In a home game, that doesn't tend to work. It really depends on your home game. Home games really come down to a calculation about how many people you want in any given hand and why. Is your home game aggressive or passive? If it's mostly passive, then aggression is going to pay off. If it's mostly aggressive, then waiting in the weeds is going to pay off. My general observation in the home game is that most people do not bet enough pre-flop with good hands and they end up destroying their odds of winning.
Kenneth Claude from Ohio on April 13, 2015:
Very good hub. I agree with all of your information that you shared.
Alyson Modlin from Burlington, North Carolina on September 20, 2011:
Nice hub! I have also written a poker hub, named a Short Guide to Texas Hold 'Em. I love playing poker at home and often find that I start strong and finish badly because I don't stay aggressive while I am up. Thanks for the tips! :)