Texas Hold’em poker is the most popular poker variant played by Aussies. In fact, it’s comfortably the most popular poker game played worldwide. Despite its global appeal, there is a well-known saying about Texas Hold’em poker:
It takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master.
Never a truer word was spoken. That’s right, Texas Hold’em poker may not be that difficult to pick up and play. However, novices will struggle to win even at a modest cash game and tournament levels without mastering this immersive card game’s rules, gameplay, strategies and common pitfalls.
What Are the Origins of Texas Hold’em Poker?
Although some disagree on the true origin of Texas Hold’em poker, many believe it was founded in its namesake state of Texas in the early 20th century. Robstown, a modest town in Nueces County, Texas, is said to be its birthplace. In fact, the state legislature in the Lone Star State also acknowledges Robstown as the launchpad for Texas Hold’em.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Texas Hold’em’s origins is that the game didn’t make it outside the state’s border for half a century. In fact, it was 1967 when the first Texas Hold’em poker tables were launched in Las Vegas, which was comfortably the gambling capital of the world at the time.
Texas Hold’em poker had one major advocate in Vegas, who went by the name of Crandell Addington. This Texan had a major say on the arrival of Texas Hold’em to “Sin City”, describing it to friends and associates as the new “thinking man’s game”. Addington was most impressed that Texas Hold’em was a skill-based game that didn’t rely solely on good fortune. It was viewed as a game of strategy and manipulation, one which players could take the time to master by consistently winning.
In its infancy, the iconic Golden Nugget casino in downtown Las Vegas was the only place that offered Texas Hold’em poker games. However, this was somewhere high-rollers rarely frequented, which stunted the game’s exposure to the Strip-based resorts.
The birth of Texas Hold’em poker events
It wasn’t until The Dunes Casino, demolished in 1993, staged its own Texas Hold’em poker tournament that the game would catch fire. Given The Dunes’ prominent Strip location, high rollers flocked to enter this event. Its success meant that Texas Hold’em would soon become a staple offering in the biggest and best live poker rooms.
12 months after the success of The Dunes’ poker tournament, Benny and Jack Binion opted to establish the World Series of Poker (WSOP). The father-and-son duo rebranded the original Gambling Fraternity Convention. The 1971 WSOP was used to showcase Texas Hold’em to the world. It was the game format of choice for the Main Event – and the rest is history.
The WSOP was staged at Binion’s Horseshoe from 1970 onwards through to 2005 when the WSOP moved to the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, located a block or two off the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip. More recently, the WSOP has moved back to a Strip location, with the events shared between Paris and Horseshoe, formerly known as Bally’s.
The biggest Texas Hold’em poker tournaments in Australia
In 2012, a popular Australian casino, Crown Melbourne, formerly announced the launch of the WSOP Asia-Pacific (WSOP APAC). The inaugural event was staged in Melbourne in April 2013, with five bracelet events hosted during the 11-day series. It’s the third expansion of the WSOP after its successful moves into Europe and Africa.
Aside from the WSOP APAC, there are more huge Texas Hold’em poker tournaments on the Australian poker calendar:
- The Aussie Millions
The Aussie Millions, also known as the Australian Poker Championship, is the pinnacle for Texas Hold’em poker players down under. Melbourne’s Crown Casino has long been the home for the Aussie Millions, which originated in 1998.
Its inaugural event saw players able to buy into the event for AU$1,000, with a total prize pool of AU$74,000. It’s fair to say the prize money has soared exponentially ever since. In fact, at the event’s peak, players were competing for a chunk of a AU$7 million prize purse. The last Aussie Millions was held in January 2020, two months before the world effectively shut down due to COVID-19. The event hasn’t yet returned post-pandemic, with Australians eagerly awaiting news of its return.
- The Sydney Championships
The Sydney Champs is comfortably the biggest Texas Hold’em poker event in the city. Hosted by Star Poker, the Sydney Champs returned following a pandemic-enforced hiatus in 2022 with no less than ten huge events. The total prize pool across the series was an estimated AU$4.5 million.
The $2,000-entry Main Event is a five-day affair, with satellite events staged in the days running up to it. Satellites are effectively qualifying tournaments, with players finishing in the top places and earning a place in the Main Event.
Texas Hold’em Rules and Gameplay
If you’re keen to learn the ropes of Texas Hold’em poker and tackle some of Australia’s biggest poker tournaments or just wipe the floor with your pals, we’ve put together a simple guide to the game that you can digest at your pace.
Let’s start with the goal of Texas Hold’em poker. The aim of the game is to use the two cards dealt to you – known as hole cards – in tandem with the community three-to-five community cards to create a better five-card poker hand than your opponents.
Texas Hold’em poker works a little differently to other popular poker games, including Five-Card Draw. Below, we’ll explain how to construct a winning poker hand:
- The dealer dishes out two cards face down to each player at the table. These two cards are known as hole cards.
- You can then bet or call an opponent’s bet to see the flop. The flop is the first three community cards laid out face-up by the dealer. All remaining players can use these cards to make their five-card poker hands.
After the first three community cards, a fourth and fifth card can be dealt to the table. These are known as the turn and river cards.
There is a round of betting before each stage. You’ll have a round of betting after receiving your hole cards before the flop is dealt. It’s possible to take down the pot pre-flop if you have a very strong starting hand in your hole cards.
There are additional rounds of betting after the flop, turn and river cards if it gets that far. If there are two or more players still in the hand after the post-river betting round, it goes to a showdown. All remaining players must show their hands, and the highest-value poker hand wins the pot outright.
You can make the best five-card hand with one or both of your hole cards. Sometimes, you may only need a hole card to act as your kicker – more on these shortly.
An example of a Texas Hold’em poker hand
Below, we’ll dissect the nuts and bolts of a poker hand in Texas Hold’em:
There is a dealer button on a Texas Hold’em poker table. The dealer button moves clockwise around the table after each hand. The dealer is the last player to act pre-flop as the betting action moves clockwise around the table.
To the left of the dealer button, there is the small blind. The small blind pays half a minimum bet into the pot before any cards are dealt. To their left is the big blind. The big blind puts in one minimum bet into the pot before any cards are dealt. This means there are effectively one-and-a-half units in the pot before the betting begins.
In Texas Hold’em cash games, the size of small and big blinds remains the same. However, in tournaments, the blinds rise after each level. These levels will often last an hour, sometimes two hours, so there’s an incentive to grow your chip stack or risk the small and big blinds chipping away at your stack over time.
The player to the immediate left of the big blind is first to act. They must either call (match the size of the big blind’s bet), raise (place a bet bigger than the big blind’s bet) or fold (withdraw from this hand and give your hole cards back to the dealer).
If bets or raises are called by one or more opponents, the game advances to the flop. The dealer deals three community cards face up. The second round of betting involves only those who still have active hands. The player closest to the dealer button will act first.
During the pre-flop, flop, and turn betting rounds, it’s also possible to check. Players can check if they want to try and see the next community card without having to commit more money to the pot. This is only possible if all active players are happy to check to the next betting round.
You can take down the pot during any of the betting rounds. Each hand of Texas Hold’em poker doesn’t have to go all the way to showdown. In fact, hands going to showdown are rarer than you may think. Many people with strong hands pre-flop or post-flop can take control of hands by betting aggressively and deterring others from continuing with their hands.
Speaking of betting aggressively, we haven’t discussed how to bet. A minimum bet is the same as the big blind. Any player wishing to raise a player’s bet must raise it by the same or greater than the size of the previous raise. If a player bets $10, you’ll need to raise to $20.
It’s also possible to make an ultra-aggressive move by going all in. When you go all in, you’re committing all your remaining chips into the pot, putting your entire chip stack on the line. If a player calls your all-in and you win, you’ll effectively double up, receiving your initial chip stack back along with the same amount in winnings from the losing player(s).
The key to knowing when to bet big (or small) in Texas Hold’em poker is knowing the hand rankings like the back of your hand.
Poker Hand Rankings
Mastering the ranking order of Texas Hold’em poker hands is one of your first ports of call as a beginner. If you don’t know whether your hand is strong or weak, how can you confidently bet your hand?
The best hand in Texas Hold’em poker is a Royal Flush. The worst hand in poker is what’s known as a high card. I’ll explain the meaning of each hand in our rankings below:
- Royal Flush
Royal Flush is the pinnacle of all poker hands in Texas Hold’em. You need to make a straight of 10, Jack, Queen King and Ace, but, crucially, they all need to be in the same suit, too.
- Straight Flush
This, too, is a five-card run with the same suit. It’s just not using the highest-value cards in the deck.
- Four of a Kind
A four-of-a-kind is four cards of the same value – one of each suit. E.g. eight of hearts, eight of diamonds, eight of spades and eight of clubs.
- Full House
A Full House is a five-card hand involving one pair and one three-of-a-kind.
A Flush is a five-card hand involving cards of the same suit but not in numerical sequence.
A Straight is a five-card hand involving cards in numerical sequence but not of the same suit.
This is a three-card hand involving three cards of the same numerical value. E.g. three Kings or three Aces.
- Two Pair
This is a four-card hand involving two pairs of cards. E.g. a pair of eights and a pair of Queens.
- One Pair
This is a bog-standard two-card hand involving just one pair of cards. E.g. a pair of eights or a pair of Aces.
- High Card
If your hand doesn’t even make a pair, you’ll have what’s known as a high-card hand. The highest possible high-card hand is, unsurprisingly, an Ace as it’s the most valuable card in the deck.
What is a Kicker?
A kicker can be the difference between a winning hand and a losing hand in Texas Hold’em poker. If two players have the same type of hand, the player with the best kicker wins the hand. The kicker card is the highest-value card within your hand that’s not directly involved.
Let’s say your hole cards are Ace-10 (A-10). The five community cards are A-2-5-3-7. You reveal your pair of Aces, and so too does your opponent. They show A-J. Unfortunately, your hand loses because your 10 kicker is of lesser value than your opponent’s Jack kicker.
Think of it like a tiebreaker when multiple players are involved with similar hands at showdown. A good kicker can be invaluable in tight spots.
Starting Hands and Position
Your table position during any hand of Texas Hold’em poker is hugely important. In fact, it can often determine the types of hands you play, both pre- and post-flop.
Texas Hold’em poker is a game of limited information. The onus is on using the nuggets of info you do have to full advantage.
The best players of Texas Hold’em poker will look to play most of their hands in position. What do I mean by in position? Being in position means to be the last – or one of the last – players to act in a round of betting. If you’re the last player to act, you’ll have a clear picture of which players are prepared to bet big with their hands. At the other end of the spectrum, you can see if players are passive and less prepared to commit the big bucks to the pot.
If you’re up against players betting aggressively, you’ll know your starting hand needs to be equally strong to compete. If your opponents are betting weak or, better still, attempting to check and see the next card for free, you’ll have the green light to bet bigger and put your opponents to the test.
What are the other practical benefits of playing hands in late position in Texas Hold’em?
- If all other active players check their hand and it moves around to you, you’ll have the chance to take a free card yourself. This is a good idea if you don’t yet have a made hand or it’s of low value in the hand rankings.
- Being the last to act in a poker hand gives you a sense of control over the size of the pot in a hand. If you’re happy to keep the pot small and commit very little to this hand, you can do so. Alternatively, you can bet and raise when the action is on you.
- As the last player to act, you can also get creative and bluff your opponents where possible. A bluff is when you bet aggressively, even if your actual hand is weak. If you can successfully represent strength, it could be enough to force your opponents to fold and take down an unexpected pot.
- Acting in late position also gives you ample opportunity to study your opponents. You can take the time to watch for poker tells and make mental notes on how each player acts when they have strong (and weak) hands.
The Best Starting Hands Pre-Flop
- Pairs of Aces, Kings and Queens are comfortably the best pre-flop starting hands. They are already made hands and are the highest-value pairs.
- Suited connectors are also highly recommended to play, especially in late position. Hands like Ace-King or Jack-10 are useful as they give you a chance to make a flush or straight.
TIP: Avoid playing weak hands in early position. You’ll be highly exposed, and if an opponent in late position decides to raise you, you’ll have no option but to fold and surrender your initial bet. This is one of the main ‘leaks’ of a beginner’s poker game – but one of the easiest to fix.
Betting Strategies and Tactics
There are five types of bets you can make in a Texas Hold’em poker hand:
- Three-bet (Re-Raise)
When to Check in Texas Hold’em
Checking is often perceived as a sign of weakness in this game. However, when used sparingly, it can also be used to disguise the strength of your hand. Checking is a good play if you intend to trap unsuspecting opponents. You might want to appear weak and induce them into a big bet. You can then come over the top and re-raise, giving them a big decision to make.
Checking is also an option if you think your hand is beat and you’re not prepared to commit more chips to the pot to bluff.
When to Bet in Texas Hold’em
Knowing when to bet into your opponents is key to long-term success at the Texas Hold’em poker tables. There are three reasons to make a bet during a hand of Texas Hold’em:
- When you know an opponent has a stronger hand and you’re trying to push them into folding.
- If your current hand has very little value but the drawing hand has the potential to become a strong hand on the turn or river.
- If you already have a strong, made hand and you’re betting for value, encouraging opponents to call with worse hands.
When to Raise in Texas Hold’em
There are several reasons why you should look to raise an opponent’s bet at the Texas Hold’em tables:
- One of the best reasons to raise an opponent is to protect your hand. If you believe your hand already has showdown value, a raise says to opponents that you’re serious about taking down the pot.
- If you’re in a hand that’s got three, four or even five players still in, a raise can separate the wheat from the chaff. You can reduce the field and force those on drawing hands to fold.
- If you already hold the nuts, raising is one way of winning more from your unbeatable hand. This is only an effective option if you’re convinced an opponent will call your raise.
- You may also look to raise to try and get information on the strength of your opponent’s hands. Sometimes a small raise can be enough to force an opponent to break ranks and re-raise strongly, giving you enough of a signal to fold and wait for better opportunities.
When to Fold in Texas Hold’em
Knowing when to fold is another important skill, preserving your chip stack to live to fight another hand.
Pre-flop, you should typically fold anything between 75%-80% of all starting hands. Even the most loose-aggressive poker players will fold at least 70% of starting hands. Folding is also recommended when you’re weak in early-to-middle position, with several players to act in front of you.
Post-flop, you should consider folding when your pre-flop hand feels weaker post-flop. If a super-tight player is betting big, you should also steer clear unless you have the nuts. If you have a pocket pair and at least two overcards appear on the flop, a fold may be the safe option here too. Even if you have a solid drawing hand but don’t have the right pot odds to call, it’s better to fold than take unnecessary risks.
When to Three-Bet in Texas Hold’em
Three-betting – or re-raising – an opponent is best served when you hold a premium starting hand and you’re hoping for an opponent to call and build the pot.
Similarly, if you have a strong drawing hand with plenty of outs and you’re heads-up with a weaker opponent, a three-bet can be enough to induce a fold to take down the pot there and then.
If you’re already short on chips, sometimes it makes more sense to three-bet all in rather than call and leave yourself with no chips to work with. It’s still possible you win the all-in, or your opponent opts against calling your three-bet.
Bluffing and Reading Opponents
The beauty of Texas Hold’em poker is that the best hand doesn’t always win. Thanks to the ability to bluff your opponents, you can force players to fold stronger hands by making your own hand appear to be strong, even when it’s not.
A Beginner’s Guide to Bluffing Opponents
Before you consider a bluff, it’s important to assess the opponents at your table. Are they tight or loose-aggressive players? Do they respect raises? If you’re up against players who adopt ABC poker strategy, it’s likely you’ll have the opportunity to bluff at the right moments. If you’re playing loose and inexperienced players, bluffing just won’t work. Novices don’t think about the strength of your hand, only their own.
Another great benefit of playing live Texas Hold’em poker is that you can see physical tells from your opponents. If you get a subconscious read of weakness from an opponent, you may decide to bluff them and put them under more pressure to take down a pot with minimal fuss.
If you’re playing live poker, you’ll also need to perfect your poker face. When you’re bluffing, you need to have confident body language. The last thing you want to do is give your opponents tells that you’re bluffing light, i.e. bluffing with a weak hand.
TIP: Don’t overdo your bluffs. The more you bluff in a session, the less respect your raises will receive from opponents. Ideally, you want to bluff when your opponents think your hand range is ultra tight, i.e. you’re only prepared to bet with premium hands.
How to Spot an Opponent’s Poker Bluff
Spotting when an opponent is bluffing you is just as tough. Let’s run through some physical tells that may indicate a bluff bet, as well as online betting patterns to help you pinpoint bluffs when playing Texas Hold’em online:
- If a player is trying to goad or intimidate you verbally into calling their bet, it’s highly likely they’re bluffing. In most cases, physical displays of strength indicate weakness, and those wanting to appear weak or nervous have strong hands.
- Opponents who are tense and sitting forward on the edge of the chair are more likely to be bluffing. Those who appear relaxed and at ease with the situation are more than likely value betting rather than bluffing.
- If a player’s hand is shaking, this is often a sign of strength rather than weakness. Shaking hands is normally a release of nervous energy from those trying to disguise strong made hands.
- In terms of online betting patterns, if a player bets very quickly, it’s often a sign they’re keen to rush you into a call. Some novices think betting fast is a display of strength, but many now see through this. Think about bet sizing, too. Does the bet size feel like a bluff or a value bet? If it feels like a credible percentage of the spot rather than an outlandish overbet, the chances are they’re not bluffing.
Common Mistakes and Pitfalls
What are the most common rookie errors made by Texas Hold’em newbies? Below, we list the mistakes beginners regularly make at the Texas Hold’em poker tables so you can avoid them from day one:
Advanced Strategies and Concepts
If you’re growing in confidence with your decision-making and player reading at the Texas Hold’em poker tables, you can start to incorporate more advanced poker theory into your gameplay. Below, we’ll explore some of the advanced Texas Hold’em concepts you can incorporate into your strategy over time.
In layman’s terms, pot odds are the cost of calling an opponent’s bet relative to the size of the overall pot. If the current pot stands at $50 and your opponent bets $50, you’ll be betting $50 to try and win a $100 – the pot + your opponent’s bet. This gives you pot odds of 2/1.
Knowing the pot odds is especially important if you have one of those Texas Hold’em hands where you’re waiting on a card to make a straight or flush. If you’re getting pot odds above the probability of landing the card you need, it’s a bet that offers positive expected value (EV) over the long term.
If you need one card on the turn to complete your straight or flush, the probability of it appearing is around 23.68% – giving you odds of around 4.22/1. So long as you’re getting pot odds of 4.22/1 or better, it’s the sensible play to call your opponent’s bet and see the next card.
Going one further than pot odds, implied odds consider the amount you could potentially win on future streets – the turn or river – if your drawing hand hits.
Let’s say an opponent bets $50 into a pot of $100 on the turn card. They still have $100 behind in their chip stack. Although the pot odds are 2/1, the implied odds factor in the possibility of taking their remaining $100 on the river. This means you’d need to call $50 to win $250 in total, giving you implied odds of 5/1.
If you’re confident of winning the hand on the river or at showdown, this is how you need to be thinking. To call $50 on the turn card at this stage, you only need 16.67% equity in the hand to profitably make the play. Equity means your hand win at least 16.67% of the time if you and your opponent were to go immediately to showdown.
Another important skill to master is putting your opponents’ Texas Hold’em hands-on ranges. Instead of thinking about the specific hand an opponent could have, experienced players consider the range of Texas Hold’em hands their opponents may be playing.
With every action an opponent takes, you can use information to build a range of hands they could have.
If a player has been timid or passive in the early stages of a hand, it’s possible the flop or turn has improved or even made their hand if they’re betting strong on the river. Look at the community cards to try and piece together the puzzle. It gets easier with more experience.
There are card matrixes out there online that you can use to begin to understand the types of hands a player may be betting with. These matrixes recommend hand ranges based on a player’s table position and how many hands they play pre-flop.
As a Texas Hold’em novice, managing your poker bankroll may not feel like a number-one priority. But, without proper bankroll management, you’ll never be able to work your way up the stakes. In fact, inadequate bankroll management is one of the most common reasons why poker beginners blow their bankroll. They risk too much of their bank or play at levels their bankroll can’t afford.
Even beginners to Texas Hold’em with a $50 bankroll need to preserve every cent. Too often, novices will dive in with their $50 bankroll and play at a $0.25/$0.50 cash game with just one buy-in. Before they know it, they’ve lost a couple of all-ins, and it’s back to the cashier for them.
I’m going to level with you – it’s impossible to grow a poker bankroll organically if you don’t have enough buy-ins for the level you play at. We’ve already touched on the concept of variance in Texas Hold’em poker. Even if you win regularly, losses are guaranteed. The key is to have enough buy-ins to absorb bad beats and live to fight another day.
In fact, proper bankroll management can mitigate the negative effects of variance. If you take too many risks with your bankroll, one bad beat could deal your bank a devastating blow or, worse still, blow it entirely. It goes the other way, too. If your bankroll is too large for the stakes you play at, you’re not maximising its true potential.
On the subject of variance, it’s important to consider more deeply how variance influences your bankroll management. If your win rate at the poker tables is very low, you’re more likely to have regular losing runs. If your win rate is higher than average, the fewer losing sessions you’re likely to have.
What does a good win rate look like? If you’re playing micro stakes Texas Hold’em at NL2 or NL5, anything between 10-15 big blinds per 100 hands is considered good, especially if you play multiple tables simultaneously.
Recommended Buy-Ins for Cash Games
If you’re a beginner Texas Hold’em poker player, it’s best to have 50 buy-ins for every cash game level you play. At NL2 ($0.01/$0.02) – the lowest level of cash games offered by most online poker rooms – this would equate to $100. One maximum buy-in at NL2 is $2 – $2 x 50 = $100.
With this as a guide, you shouldn’t look to move up in stakes at the cash game tables until you have 50 buy-ins to play and handle the variance at the next level up.
Recommended Buy-Ins for Tournaments
If you prefer playing multi-table tournaments to cash games, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to your bankroll management. As the likelihood of winning a tournament is much slimmer than turning a profit on the cash game tables, you’ll need more buy-ins for every tournament level you play.
In fact, most recommend that you double the number of buy-ins needed at cash game levels for tournament play. This means having 200 buy-ins to deal with the variance of multi-table tournaments. Let’s say you have a starting bankroll of $100. You should only enter micro-stakes tournaments with buy-ins of $0.50 apiece.
If your bankroll falls from $100 to $50, you should take evasive action, too. In this scenario, you’d drop down to play tournaments with even smaller buy-ins of $0.25 apiece. Think of it as a sliding scale used to keep you “in the game” for as long as possible.
This recommendation covers sit ‘n’ go’s as well as multi-table tournaments – especially if you play SNGs with large fields. You’re going to be on the losing side for 80%-90% of the time in tournaments. That’s just the reality. Bankroll management is crucial to preserve your bankroll so that it can make the most of the big wins when they do arrive.
Online Vs Live Texas Hold’em
Your next big decision to make as a Texas Hold’em novice in Australia is where to play. Ultimately, you’ve got two main options – at a land-based poker room or a licensed and regulated online poker room.
It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the nuances between live and online poker down under.
Pros of Online Texas Hold’em Poker
- The accessibility of online poker rooms means Aussies can enjoy Texas Hold’em poker sessions day or night. You don’t have to worry about opening times of a land-based poker room. Without exception, Aussie-friendly online poker rooms are active 24/7, with lively cash games and multi-table tournaments scheduled from dawn ‘til dusk.
When we’re talking about accessibility, we don’t just mean poker games are available 24/7. We’re also talking about how you choose to play Texas Hold’em online down under. Most online poker rooms now offer native iOS and Android mobile apps that can be downloaded and installed onto smartphones and tablets for the ultimate convenience.
- With online poker rooms, the number of hands you choose to play is only limited by your capability and the technology at your disposal. If you decide to have a multi-screen setup for your online poker gaming, it’s possible to “multi-table” i.e. play multiple cash games, sit ‘n’ go or tournament tables simultaneously.
This is a huge benefit to online play as it allows you to scale up your hand volume, potentially increasing your profitability.
- Online poker players have access to way more information at their fingertips on opponents. The emergence of heads-up displays (HUDs), which track the playing styles of each opponent at your tables, makes it easier to get reads on players. For instance, if your HUD said Player A was a very tight player pre-flop, any sizeable pre-flop raise from Player A should be a red flag that they’ve got a great starting hand.
Cons of Online Texas Hold’em Poker
- It’s harder to build a table image in online poker games. Since you cannot physically see your opponents, it’s not so easy to determine whether someone is nervous and inexperienced or a seasoned pro. Some online poker players will rely too heavily on their HUDs to provide them with real-time information on their opponents instead of keeping watch and making notes themselves.
- One of the biggest challenges for anyone learning how to play Texas Hold’em online is the level of competition. Even at micro-stakes cash game and tournament levels, you’ll usually find players with intermediate levels of poker know-how. In fact, some intermediate poker players feel more comfortable playing at micro stakes than stepping out of their comfort zone into small stakes poker games.
- The speed of online poker gameplay can be a turn-off for some Texas Hold’em newbies. While some see the speed of online poker games as a benefit – to get a decent sample size of hands played for potential profitability – it’s also harder for novices to get to grips with the dynamics. There’s less time to think about the hands you play, especially with timers kicking in faster online than the “shot clocks” used in live poker games.
Pros of Live Texas Hold’em Poker
- There is a widely held view that live poker games are softer than online poker games at comparable stakes. What do we mean by this? Anyone who’s turned a profit grinding online poker games at NL10 ($0.05/$0.10) cash games would be considered a strong contender to win regularly at live poker tables running NL200 ($1/$2) cash games.
Why is this the case? Primarily, live poker rooms don’t tend to offer Texas Hold’em cash games at anything lower than NL200, simply because it’s not profitable for them. Consequently, anyone keen to play live poker has to start at NL200, the lowest level in terms of small and big blinds used.
- Live poker games will usually suit those who prefer to be more methodical and less instinctive with their Texas Hold’em gameplay. If you play poker in person, you can only physically play one table at a time. The speed of the gameplay will be much slower than online. Players have more time to act in person, and then you must factor in the dealer shuffling and dealing the cards and even calculating and distributing winning pots to players. All of which is handled automatically by the software of online poker rooms.
- In many cases, bet sizes tend to get more respect in live poker games than those online. Bigger open raises in live poker games will be taken seriously, with fewer loose players likely to go over the top and try to bluff.
Cons of Live Texas Hold’em Poker
- As a novice to Texas Hold’em poker, sitting down and playing face-to-face with other experienced players can be a daunting experience. In an online game, even if you feel out of your depth, your opponents don’t know it. When you’re sat at the same table, it’s easier for your opponents to feel your nerves and tension. Body language becomes very important, and this is one of the more advanced strategies and concepts we discussed earlier in this article.
- If you choose to play Texas Hold’em poker at a live poker venue, you’ll typically pay more rake than you would at an online poker room. Rake is the amount of money the poker room takes from each pot played. Think of rake as covering the running costs of the poker room – and then some, in most cases!
As online poker rooms offer more game types and a much higher volume of tables, the rake charged by online poker operators is much lower than live poker rooms, most of whom operate dozens of tables at the most.
- If you’re in the process of building a bankroll for your Texas Hold’em poker, playing at live poker rooms will be detrimental to your hourly rate.
Although it’s true that many NL200 cash games in a live poker room are softer than NL10 cash games online, you can still earn more money per hour online, even if your win rate is likely to be greater offline. Let’s say your win rate is two big blinds per 100 hands online, and you’re able to play 500 hands per hour across multiple tables. You’d need to generate a win rate of at least ten big blinds an hour at a live poker room just to earn the same amount.
Resources for Further Learning and Practice
The beauty of Texas Hold’em poker is that you’ll never stop learning about the game. The moment you think you know it all, Texas Hold’em will come back and bite you on the backside.
If you’re an Aussie poker novice who’s keen to delve deeper into Texas Hold’em poker theories and strategies across a host of game types, we’ve put together a killer shortlist of resources to turbocharge your self-development:
Exceptional Texas Hold’em Poker Books
- Harrington on Hold’em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Dan Harrington
This is one of the first books any Texas Hold’em poker pro will recommend that you read. Authored by fellow poker pro Dan Harrington, Harrington on Hold’em is a three-part series of books focusing on the core elements of Texas Hold’em.
Volume 1 looks at “Strategic Play”, covering playing styles, pot odds, bet sizing and much more. Volume 2 looks at “The Endgame”, discussing suitable strategies to help you go through the gears when you accrue chips. Volume 3 provides “The Workbook”, a host of case studies you can read and apply to your own poker games.
- Sit ‘n’ Go Strategy, Colin Moshman
Sit ‘n’ Go poker games are a very popular option for casual poker players. They fill up and start once every seat at the table is allocated. Colin Moshman penned a book specialising solely on these single-table tournaments.
Moshman is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology. He graduated around the time of the online poker boom in 2003 and opted to give online poker a shot. Having studied theoretical mathematics at college, Moshman was well-placed to use his math attributes to develop an approach to crack Texas Hold’em Sit ‘n’ Go games. If Sit ‘n’ Go’s are your bread and butter, Moshman is the man for you.
- The Theory of Poker, David Sklansky
Sklansky’s Theory of Poker is one of those all-time poker classics. First published in 1999, it has well and truly stood the test of time in the last two decades. The book covers a host of concepts and theories you can apply to Texas Hold’em games, as well as other popular poker variants like Seven-Card Stud, Five-Card Draw and Razz.
Put simply, it’s an essential book to help fuel your Hold’em poker fundamentals. From slow-playing and position to bluffing and semi-bluffing, The Theory of Poker is like the Swiss knife of poker books to improve your game.
- Essential Poker Math, Alton Hardin
There’s no doubt that poker is as much about the psychology of the game as its mathematics. However, if you can get the math right, you’ll be onto a winner. Alton Hardin’s Essential Poker Math gives Texas Hold’em novices and intermediate players an excellent grounding in poker probability, odds, hand equity, expected value (EV), and so much more.
What’s great about Hardin’s book is the way he demonstrates poker math in practice. By looking at scenarios of hands and looking at each concept step-by-step, the basics of math and its implications for your decision-making at the tables don’t seem so scary after all!
Engaging Texas Hold’em Poker Vlogs and Podcasts
- Brad Owen
Brad Owen is one of the most popular YouTubers for poker enthusiasts. The 35-year-old is a professional poker player from the US who also happens to vlog most of his cash games and tournaments.
After moving to Las Vegas from San Francisco to try and make a living from cash games on the Strip, Owen has been vlogging his poker career since 2016. Today, Owen has developed a cult following of almost 700,000 YouTube subscribers, with his most-watched videos getting over three million views apiece. Owen’s biggest tournament payout came in May 2023, landing $125,000 with a fourth-place finish in the World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championship.
Owen’s vlog is an inspiration to many budding poker players looking to make a living from the game.
- Daniel Negreanu
Canadian poker pro Daniel Negreanu is one of the most decorated players in poker history. “Kid Poker”, as he’s affectionately known in the poker scene, has six WSOP bracelets to his name, as well as two World Poker Tour championship titles. In fact, the Global Poker Index named Negreanu as the finest poker player of the 2010s.
Negreanu’s vlog is even more popular than Brad Owen’s, with 782,000+ subscribers on YouTube. Thousands of people tune in to Negreanu’s vlogs throughout the WSOP. Negreanu documents his performance in every WSOP event he plays. It’s an eye-opening account of life as a poker pro. There’s also plenty to learn from Negreanu, who is self-critical and provides excellent analysis of key hands.
- The Fives
The Fives is one of the most popular poker podcasts out there. Hosted by Lance Bradley and Donnie Peters, this duo have years of experience within the poker industry. Bradley is now the director of media and player communications at the World Poker Tour, while Peters is the director of brand marketing and communications at PokerGO.
The pair’s show doesn’t just cover industry updates, but it also has thought-provoking discussion points. They’re regularly joined by fellow executives within the poker industry, chewing the fat over the most recent wins and upcoming events.
- Poker in the Ears
Poker personalities Joe Stapleton and James Hartigan are the hosts of the Poker in the Ears podcast, in association with online poker room PokerStars. Dubbed an “uncensored take” on the poker scene, there are few better podcasts showing you what it’s like behind the scenes in the industry.
The podcast often previews upcoming live poker events, including those on the European Poker Tour circuit. The duo also secure slots with poker personalities and poker-playing celebrities to bring a bit of glitz and glamour to their episodes.
- The Rake
With more female poker players coming into the scene, The Rake is well worth listing as a go-to podcast for women poker enthusiasts. Hosted by Jamie Kerstetter, in tandem with Canadian Ben Wilinofsky, The Rake is also sponsored by Run It Once – a popular poker training site; more on this shortly!
Run It Once founder, Phil Galfond is also a regular feature on the show, providing his own pearls of wisdom, as well as those from the other coaches on the Run It Once platform. The Rake can usually be streamed as a podcast or watched as a video on YouTube.
Go-to Texas Hold’em Poker Training Sites
- Poker Coaching
If you’re looking for a poker coaching platform that offers a blend of free and paid-for training content, Poker Coaching should be your first port of call. It’s founded by a guy named Jonathan Little, a professional poker player himself who has gone into coaching the next generation of players.
At the time of writing, the Poker Coaching website says it has over 120,000 active students using the Poker Coaching portal. This site specialises in active learning rather than passive learning. Students get real-time feedback on their games, allowing players to embrace and fix the leaks in their games, fast.
Why listen to Little and his team? Little himself has enjoyed significant success in the world of poker. He’s raked in millions in live poker tournament wins and has two World Poker Tour titles to his name.
The Poker Coaching platform offers three membership tiers. The free membership tier provides some valuable insights, including access to a limited number of “advanced coaching classes”.
Standard and Premium memberships start from $39 to $118 a month. The former gives players access to a string of GTO pre-flop charting as well as interactive hand quizzes and content on mastering the fundamentals of the game. The Premium course gives students access to over 700 coaching classes, with live weekly coaching sessions offered across cash game and tournament variations.
- Run It Once
We’ve already mentioned that Phil Galfond and Run It Once feature on The Rake podcast, and with good reason. Run It Once has cemented itself as one of the most popular online communities for poker strategy.
Free memberships are available to all. Free users get access to the active message board, where players regularly publish hand histories and look for angles to improve from their peers. Free members also get access to three “Elite” videos.
There are two paid-for membership plans. The Essential membership is geared towards low-stakes players, while the Elite membership is best suited to high-stakes players looking to take their game to even greater heights.
Essential members receive five new “Essential” poker video classes weekly. They also get access to almost 3,000 “Essential” videos accessible on-demand within a media library. Elite memberships get all of this, plus nine new “Elite” poker video classes weekly, almost 5,000 “Elite” videos on-demand and the chance to jump in on a monthly Q&A discussion call with elite-level Run It Once coaches.
- Upswing Poker
Upswing Poker is one of the newest kids on the block when it comes to online poker coaching. Co-founded by poker personality Doug Polk in collaboration with Ryan Fee, Upswing Poker has a string of products geared towards Texas Hold’em poker newbies.
First and foremost, there’s free access for beginners to Upswing’s “Pre-Flop Charts”. This gives you eight digestible charts showcasing the right scenarios to show aggression pre-flop. If you play Texas Hold’em poker online with an Aussie-friendly site, you can even have the charts by your side while you play.
If your poker coaching budget is tight, try and spare $7 to pay for a “Post-Flop Playbook” crash course from Upswing. The course, designed by Polk himself, is said to take no more than a couple of hours to complete. It reinforces the main factors to think about when calling, betting, raising and folding in Hold’em poker. By the end of the course, the site claims you’ll be able to make the right decision for every type of hand.
You can also pay $99 a month to enter the Upswing Lab Training Course, aimed at cash and tournament players of Texas Hold’em. The course is updated weekly with fresh content, with modules aimed at players of all skill levels.
If money’s no object, there are heaps of advanced courses that come with a premium $999 price tag. A 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee is offered, so you’ve got peace of mind if you don’t like their methods.
Conclusion and Next Steps
In summary, learning how to play Texas Hold’em poker is by no means an overnight mission. It takes many sessions and thousands of hands to gain confidence in reading opponents and applying strategies that put the math and probability in your favour.
Even the most experienced poker players would concede they’re always learning about the game. Take some time to read our recommended resources to broaden your horizons and apply your newfound knowledge with Australia’s best online poker rooms today.