Texas Holdem Examples
You can read about how to play a game like Texas holdem and go over strategy advice until you can't read another word, but sometimes a good example is more valuable than thousands of words of instruction.
We've put together a list of examples to help you quickly learn more about Texas holdem and have included the reasoning behind each one. The examples are broken into six sections covering limit and no limit play, cash games, multi table tournaments, and single table tournaments.
The best way to absorb everything on this page is read it all the way through, then go back and read each section again, and finally, come back and frequently go over the sections that pertain to you the most. Keep using this list until you've got every hand down and completely understand the reasoning behind each decision.
Once you absorb every situation and have the chance to use what you learn at the tables, start looking for situations where you might consider playing a hand in a different manner than what you find here. While each poker hand has a correct and incorrect way to play it in hindsight, the truth is there's rarely a 100% correct way to play a hand.
Use the examples below to learn more about playing winning Texas holdem, but also use them to train yourself how to think about the game and how you can use your brain to improve your overall profitability at the tables.
Limit Cash Games
Limit Texas holdem isn't as popular as no limit, but many poker rooms run low limit cash games for players who are afraid of the big swings possible in a no limit game and / or for the players who simply enjoy limit play over no limit.
If you're a new player and are trying to improve your game without risking too much money a limit cash game may be your best bet. You can still win or lose quite a bit of money over the course of a long playing session, but you don't risk as much on a hand for hand basis as you do playing no limit.
The biggest differences between limit and no limit play are the importance of stack sizes, both yours and your opponent's and how you have to play certain hands. The first example shows these differences.
You're playing a $5 / $10 limit Texas holdem game and are seated in middle position. An early position player raises and you have a pair of fours. Depending on what you know about the player who raised you might be able to call in a no limit game and take your opponent's entire stack when you hit a set on the flop.
You need to know your opponent's stack size and the size of your stack to determine if you both have enough to make this profitable. The rule of thumb is you have to be able to win over eight times your original call when you hit a set to show a profit. This is based on you hitting a set on the flop roughly one out of nine times.
While you can often win enough in a no limit game to make a profit, in a limit game it can be difficult to win enough when you hit a set. You also will have a difficult time controlling the action of the players behind you in a limit game. In a no limit game, the threat of a large raise from the original bettor after the flop makes many players fold speculative hands in a no limit game. But in a limit game, it's just an extra small bet so they're more likely to call the original raise before the flop.
As a matter of fact, if you call it makes a call from a later position player with a speculative hand more correct because they're getting better pot odds and have the superior position.
The bottom line is in a no limit game it's probably profitable to call with this hand if the original bettor is willing to commit a large portion or all of his stack after the flop, but rarely will you be able to turn a profit in a limit game in the same situation.
You're playing in the same $5 / $10 limit game and have a pair of aces from early position. The last two times you've had a good starting hand from early position you raised and everyone folded. You consider limping into the pot this time because you want to make sure you get some action.
While it's important to alter your play from time to time at some levels of Texas holdem, this isn't one of them. The competition at a $5 / $10 table isn't usually that good so you don't need to worry about making fancy plays to throw them off. You also need to raise from early position with pocket aces in a limit game every single time you get them. Continue raising with pocket aces in limit games until you're such a consistent winner that you don't need to learn anything else about Texas holdem.
The reason we made the last statement the way it's written is because in certain limited situations you may be correct in limping with pocket aces, but you aren't good enough to make this play until you're a borderline professional player. Unless you know for 100% certainty that limping is correct, the safe play is raising.
A raise is correct in this example because you always want to build the pot when you're the favorite to win and you want to force drawing hands to either fold or make the incorrect calling decision when you have a strong hand.
The best way to play a large pocket pair like aces is heads up or against two opponents. When you get three or more opponents your chances of winning the hand start going down quite a bit. You'll still make a profit in the long run with pocket aces even if you have eight opponents, but it's because you win a big pot when you win. The more opponents you have the fewer number of pots you win, but you win enough on the ones you do win so it more than makes up for the losses.
If you limp in this situation you have no way of knowing how many players will limp in behind you. So you have to raise with pocket aces in this situation. The same is true with other strong hands like pocket kings, pocket queens, and ace king.
The key to winning on a long term basis at the Texas holdem tables is getting as much money as possible into the pot when you're a favorite and reducing your commitment to the pot when you're drawing and not a favorite. Raising with pocket aces is the most profitable long term play, so you have to raise.
You raise from early position with pocket queens and only one player calls. The flop is an ace, jack, seven in three different suits. You bet after the flop and your opponent raises. What do you do?
This represents a challenging situation for any Texas holdem player. You have a strong starting hand but the flop creates a situation where it's difficult to determine where you stand in the hand. It's easy to assume your opponent has an ace, but how can you be sure? Let's look at every possible way you can play the rest of the hand and try to determine the best way to play it.
The first thing you can do is call the raise and then check and call the rest of the hand. If you don't have additional information about your opponent this is probably the safest and smartest play. You may be behind in the hand but you have a strong enough hand to call a single bet on the turn and river.
The next way you can play this hand is to fold. If you don't know anything about your opponent folding is playing too tight. Your opponent could have a wide range of hands including king queen, king jack, queen jack, king 10, queen 10, or jack 10. Don't give up on a strong starting hand unless you have a strong indication you're beat.
This is another example of playing a hand differently in a limit game than in a no limit game. You risk facing a larger bet later in the hand in a no limit game so you might be forced to fold. In a limit game, the bets are set and limited so you risk a smaller amount.
You can use a simple mathematical calculation to determine how often you need to win this hand if you call and check and call on the next two streets to show a profit.
To keep the numbers simple the pot has $25 in it before the flop. You bet $5 on the flop and your opponent raises, creating a pot size of $40. You have to call $5 to see the turn and if you check and call on the turn and river you have to commit $20 more. This creates a total pot size of $85. You have to commit $25 of this at the time you're forced to make a decision, so you risk $25 to get back your $25 $60 more.
This can be confusing until you get used to it, but you've already committed the money into the pot before you have to make this decision, so you can't treat your original $10 bet and your $5 bet on the flop as yours at this point. Those two bets are part of the pot and the only way you can get them back is by winning the pot.
Before we move forward with this example how often do you think you have to win the hand to make committing the last $25 profitable? If you win half the time will it show a profit? What about 25% of the time? How often do you think you'll win the hand in this situation?
The basic math of the situation is you risk $25 to get back your $25 a $60 profit. A simple trick to help see the percentage number of time you need to win is basing it on being in the same situation 100 times. If you're in this situation 100 times it costs $2,500 to make the calls. You get back $85 when you win, so you divide the $2,500 investment by the $85 you get back and you get 29.41. This means you have to win 29.41% of the time to break even. In other words, if you win 30% of the time in this situation you turn a long term profit.
If you don't know anything about your opponent it's likely you'll win at least 30% of the time in this situation, so the best way to play is to call.
The final way to play the hand is raise. A raise is dangerous because if your opponent has a better hand than you it's going to cost you more money. Of course, if they don't have a better hand they'll fold to your re-raise, but the problem is the only time they call or raise again is when you're beat. The only way to get more money from them if you still have a better hand is calling and checking on the turn in hopes they bet again.
If you call, check on the turn and they check behind you, you should bet on the river.
This hand is a perfect example of why it's so important to always be paying attention at the poker table and trying to learn as much as possible about your opponents. If you know your opponent plays a wide range of hands and plays aggressively her raise doesn't tell you much of anything. But if you know she tends to play most hands with an ace and she only raises when she thinks she has the best hand you can probably fold most of the time.
You still need to call or re-raise occasionally to keep her honest, but if you have a true read on her play it's best to just fold most of the time. In this situation if you want to keep your opponent honest it's actually cheaper to re-raise on the flop and fold if she plays back. It costs an extra $5 to re-raise but if you call and then check and call on the turn and river it's an extra $20. So for $15 less you can keep her honest and it fulfills the same purpose as a call.
This is only true in this specific situation against this particular player. We still stand by the statement above that normally against an unknown opponent a re-raise is incorrect.
The pot has $90 in it and you have to call a $10 bet to see the river against two opponents. You have an open end straight draw and at this time, you're sure the only way you can win the hand is if you hit your straight. But when you hit your straight you're fairly sure you can get at least a call of $10 and possibly as much as a call of a raise from one opponent after they bet on the river. Should you fold, call, or raise?
This is a fairly controlled situation and requires the correct use of pot odds to determine the correct play. You have eight outs out of 46 unseen cards. This means 38 cards don't help you and eight cards do. This is a 38 to 8 ratio or 4.75 to 1. The minimum you'll win if you call $10 is the $100 pot, so your return is much higher than 4.75 to 1 so a call shows a long term profit even if you don't get any additional bets on the river. The fact you'll probably get one to three extra bets on the river when you hit your hand just makes it more profitable.
Recognize that you're only going to hit your straight a little less than one out of every six times, but when you do hit your profit more than makes up for the times you miss. This is the basic foundation of why pot odds are so important in limit Texas holdem. The game is a mathematical formula when you reduce it to its simplest form. Master the math behind the game and you'll start winning more.
You don't want to raise in this situation because remember that winning players put more money in the pot when they're the favorite and less money when they're drawing to a winning hand. You're still drawing before the river so you just call. If you hit your straight you bet and raise on the river and if you miss your draw you check and fold.
You practice strict bankroll management and never play in a game without at least 200 big blinds in your bankroll and usually keep closer to 300 big blinds. You're able to win around one big blind per hour at your current game so you're a good player but not a professional yet. You usually play $10 / $20 limit Texas holdem and currently have a bankroll of $5,500.
You walk into the poker room where you usually play and see a $15 / $30 game with eight players and six of them are players you know aren't very good. One of the other seats is filled with a pro that's a better player than you but isn't so much better that you try to avoid him. The last seat is a female player who's as good as you but not better.
You need a bankroll of $6,000 to play in a $15 / $30 game normally, but this one looks pretty juicy with so many poor players. Are you going to play?
The answer to this question is based on personal preference so it doesn't have a correct answer. Since you know who the players are that you need to be careful with and it isn't too far outside your normal bankroll requirements it looks like a good opportunity to join a profitable situation. It looks like a long term profitable situation so you should probably play.
If you're not comfortable playing outside your bankroll at $15 / $30 here's a quick tip that you can use to take a shot in a situation like this without worrying too much about your bankroll. The minimum bankroll you like to play your normal limit of $10 / $20 with is $4,000. This is 200 times the big blind. You have a total bankroll of $5,500, so take your $4,000 out of play and join the $15 / $30 game and risk no more than $1,500 in the game. If you hit a terrible streak you can walk away with plenty of bankroll to move back to your normal limits, but you also have the chance to go on a nice winning streak in a beatable game.
If you have a hot streak and win three big bets per hour for a five hour session you'll win $450 and all of a sudden your bankroll is almost to the minimum amount for play at the next level.
It's a good practice for every limit Texas holdem player to take a shot at the next higher level from time to time. While the level of competition gradually improves as you move up in limits you may be surprised how little difference there is from one level to the next.
Consider using the bankroll trick mentioned above and take a portion of your bankroll to the table. This protects your long term ability to play at your normal level and gives you an idea if you're ready to move up. Just don't put too much stock in any single playing session, good or bad. A single losing or winning session can be short term variance.
Concentrate on the decisions you make while playing. Did you make the right decisions for long term profit or did you make more mistakes than normal?
No Limit Cash Games
No limit cash games, or ring games as some players call them, are played much like limit Texas holdem games but some situations require different decisions than at the limit tables.
You can afford to play a few more speculative hands in some no limit games than in limit games because of something called implied odds. If you have a pocket pair and a player raises you may be able to profitably call if you can get their entire stack when you hit a set. As you saw above, this rarely works out in limit play.
Sometimes you can play suited connectors profitably in no limit play for the same reason, even if they aren't profitable in limit Texas holdem play. Hands like jack 10 suited are profitable in some games.
Here are a few examples to help you think through how to play certain hands at the no limit Texas holdem cash game tables.
You raise from early position with ace king in a no limit Texas holdem game, get raised by a middle position player, and one of the blinds pushes all in. You just sat down at the table so you don't know anything about the two other players in the pot. What do you do?
Ace king is a drawing hand, which means it almost always needs to improve in order to win. With a re-raise and then a push all in the odds of you being ahead in this situation are almost zero. You're likely facing at the very least a pair of kings and more likely a pair of aces. Even if you're facing a pair of queens and a pair of jacks you're still drawing and hoping. You shouldn't be willing to play for all of your chips in this situation. Wait for a situation that offers a better chance to have the best hand before risking your entire stack.
A wild player who always bets aggressively and plays a wide range of hands with a deep stack raises from early position and it's folded around to you in late position. You have pocket eights and also have a deep stack. How do you handle this situation?
This is a perfect spot for a call. If you raise it's likely the wild player will re-raise, putting you in a bad position. You don't want to fold because when you hit a set the odds are high that you can win a big pot, more than making up for the times you call and don't hit a set. Just make sure you're disciplined enough to fold after the flop when you don't hit a set.
An early position player raises and you call from middle position with ace jack suited. A late position player raises and the early position player calls. All three of you have fairly deep stacks and the late position player is one of the best players in your normal game. The early position player is solid but not as good as you or your other opponent. Is a call the correct play here?
Ace jack suited is a decent hand but it's on the weaker side in this situation. The danger of calling is if you pair your ace on the flop will you be able to get away from the hand if an opponent shows aggression?
The value in this hand is flopping a straight or combination draw with a straight and flush draw or a pair and a flush draw. You're still going to be forced to play a big pot with a draw most of the time, but the math can work out in some situations.
A straight is slightly more camouflaged than a flush but most players recognize the danger of flops with high cards. If you flop two pair it might give an opponent a strong straight draw.
This hand shows the difficulty of playing a hand against two other players who both showed aggression before the flop. You're in a drawing situation from the beginning and when you hit your draw it often results in the other players recognizing the power of your hand and not paying you off.
You should probably call to see the flop in this situation but get away from the hand if the flop doesn't help you quite a bit. If you were in the same situation but had a player to act behind you it's probably best to fold the hand. If the player behind you makes a big raise you'll be forced to fold with a weak hand like this in comparison to your opponent's likely hands.
However, if you decide to fold in this situation it isn't necessarily the wrong play. Playing out of position against a strong player is always dangerous so if you fold and wait for a better position to risk your money it may turn out to be more profitable in the long run.
You're in the same no limit Texas holdem situation as the last example and you call and the flop comes king, queen, three, with three different suits. The early position player makes a bet, you call, and the late position player moves all in. What do you do in this situation when the early position player folds?
You have a gut shot straight draw which means you only have four outs. The pot odds won't be anywhere near high enough to make the call, and there's little doubt that you're currently far behind in the current hand.
You're in the same no limit Texas holdem situation as example 8 and you call and the flop comes king, queen, and three, with two cards in your suit. The early position player bets, you call, the late position player moves all in and the early position player calls.
In this situation, you have to determine if the pot odds are high enough to make a call correct in the long run. You're behind in the hand but if you hit a flush or the straight you're likely to win a big pot. You have 12 outs out of 47 unseen cards, so 12 cards help you and 35 don't. But if you don't hit on the turn you can still hit one of 12 out of 34 unseen cards on the river. This makes this situation a clear call.
You'll win the pot less than half the time but you'll roughly triple your money when you do win, creating a positive expectation situation.
Limit Multi Table Tournaments
Limit Texas holdem multi table tournaments are the least popular form of poker listed on this page. While many players would wonder why we'd even include examples covering it based on its lack of popularity, smart players recognize that often the best opportunities for profit come from unpopular games.
While the pros are concentrating on no limit cash games and tournaments, the smart player knows that this leaves a softer level of competition where the professional players aren't playing. Limit multi table tournaments fit the bill.
In a limit Texas holdem multi table tournament you have pocket queens under the gun. The last three times you've had queens and raised a player with an ace called and the flop had an ace. How should you play queens in this situation and does the fact that the last three times you lost the hand to an ace on the flop have anything to do with the answer?
In a limit Texas holdem tournament, you always raise with pocket queens in an un-raised pot. The only way to be a long term tournament winner is by getting as much money as possible in the pot when you're a favorite. With pocket queens, you're clearly a favorite against almost every other hand. The only hands you hate are AA and KK, and AK isn't great but you still have basically a 50 / 50 shot against it.
What happened the last three times has nothing to do with making the correct play. The only thing you can base your play on in this situation is what makes the most money in the long run. It's been mathematically proven that in the situation described in this example you have to raise.
Is there ever a time when you should fold pocket aces in a limit Texas holdem multi table tournament? What about pocket kings?
You can easily create a situation where you should fold pocket aces in a limit Texas holdem tournament, but the truth is you'll probably never be in the situation. Just like the answer to the last question, the most profitable play is playing, and raising, with pocket aces in limit play.
Here's a situation where folding pocket aces is the correct play. You're playing in a tournament where the top 25 players get paid and have the second largest chip stack and there are 27 players left. You need to finish in the money to pay for a medical procedure for your child. The person with the largest stack has just completed the third raise before the flop against two other players and the blinds still have to act after you.
You can fold in this situation and continue folding to guarantee a spot in the money. But the truth is even if you play you probably have enough chips to get into the money even if you lose the hand. And if you win the hand you'll move into the chip lead with a good chance of advancing to the final table. It's not incorrect to fold here because of the 100% need for the money, but as you can see the best play is still playing the hand.
It's easier to construct a situation where folding kings is correct. It rarely happens and the truth is if you never fold kings before the flop it'll probably never cost you.
Imagine a similar situation to the pocket aces above but the first player who raised is ultra-tight and almost certainly has pocket aces. If you have a good read on an opponent and one of the largest possibilities for their starting hand is the one hand that's better than your pocket kings you should fold.
In order to give yourself the best chance to win a tournament you need to learn when it's best to live to fight another day. It always sucks when a strong hand like KK doesn't win because you don't get it often, but the name of the game is winning money, not hands.
What this means is it doesn't matter how many hands you win if you don't win any money in the long run. Focus on profitability instead of individual hands. If it's clear you have a losing hand, no matter how good it is, you need to cut your losses and find a more profitable situation.
You have ace king in late position against an early position player who raised in a limit multi table Texas holdem tournament. It's early in the tournament so you both have plenty of chips. Should you fold, call, or raise?
You have a strong hand and, more importantly, position against your opponent for the entire hand. At the very least you want to call, but in most situations you want to raise. While it's true your opponent may have pocket aces or kings, they may also have quite a few hands that don't scare you. The only hand that truly dominates you is AA. A pair of kings isn't great but you can still catch an ace.
If you don't improve on the flop you can get away from the hand, but unless your opponent has a very strong hand the odds are she'll call your bet before the flop and then check to you after the flop. At this point, you can check and see a free card or make a semi bluff to see if you can get her to fold.
In a limit Texas holdem tournament you have a pair of jacks in late position. You're getting close to the money, an early position player raises, and a middle position player re-raises. The two blinds still have to act behind you and if you get involved in a big pot it could cripple your chances to finish in the money. But if you won a big pot it'll put you in a chip position that gives you a real chance to reach the final table and possibly win the entire tournament.
A pair of jacks isn't very strong when facing a raise and a re-raise and is rarely good unless you hit a set. The only positive news is if you play you have the positional advantage for the rest of the hand.
But even with that advantage, you need to fold in this situation. If you could make a call to close the betting round and see the flop you could consider seeing if you can catch a set, but there's too much danger of facing another raise or two if you call so it's better to fold and wait for a better situation.
You've reached the final eight players in a big limit Texas holdem tournament. The payouts are as follows:
- First place - $20,000
- Second place - $10,000
- Third place - $5,000
- Fourth place - $2,000
- Fifth place - $2,000
- Sixth place - $2,000
- Seventh place - $2,000
- Eighth place - $2,000
You have the second lowest chip stack at the table and need to improve your position considerably to continue playing much longer. How do you play ace king from early position with a late position player who's willing to jam the pot before the flop, on the flop, and on the turn? What about with pocket eights?
You need to pick a hand and try to get as much money in the pot as possible so if you win the hand it improves your chip stack enough to give you the ammunition you need to move up the ladder. At the present time, there's no difference between finishing fourth and eighth so you need to make a move soon.
With ace king, you should play it aggressively as possible against a single opponent, even if you don't improve on the flop, turn, or river. If you were in better shape you wouldn't play it so recklessly, but in this situation, it offers a real chance to double your stack, or come close, even in a limit tournament.
You need to play pocket eights the same way as you play ace king in this situation. But you need to be the aggressor instead of the player who calls. If you can make the first raise with pocket eights then you should play them hard, but if another player raises you're better off folding them unless you're dangerously short stacked.
No Limit Multi Table Tournaments
No limit Texas holdem tournaments are what you're most likely to see when you watch televised poker. It's one of the most exciting formats because a single mistake can knock you out of a tournament but a good hand or two can take you from being in danger of being busted out to one of the chip leaders.
Most professional poker players concentrate on no limit games so you can find some of the top competition at the no limit tournament tables. But because it's the most televised format you'll also find most new players joining tournaments as well. So if you can learn to avoid tangling with the professional player too much and learn how to beat the new players you can quickly start winning at the Texas holdem tournament tables.
You're roughly half way through a no limit Texas holdem tournament and the average chip stack is $20,000 chips with 100 players left. The top 40 players get into the money and the top nine make the final table. It always gives you a good idea of where you stand in a tournament if you can compare your current chip count to the average needed to get into the money and to the final table. What will the average chip stack be when you reach the money and when you get to the final table?
The total number of tournament chips can be determined by multiplying the average stack by the number of players remaining. $20,000 times 100 gives a total amount of $2,000,000 in chips. If 40 players make the money you divide $2,000,000 by 40 to get the average chip stack size of $50,000 when you reach the money. You divide $2,000,000 by 9 to get the average amount at the final table of $222,222.
If you currently have $10,000 in chips you know you need to double up a couple times to be close to the average chip stack to get into the money. You also know that you have a long way to go before you have enough to battle at the final table. While you can get into the money or to the final table with a small stack, if you want a chance to win you need a much larger stack.
You sit down for the first hand of the main event at the World Series of Poker and are in the big blind. The first player to act moves all in and gets called by four other players. You look down at ace king. What do you do?
Against five opponents ace king doesn't do well so you should fold. At this early stage of the tournament it would be great to take such a big chip lead if you win, but it's such a small amount in comparison to what you need to reach the money or the final table that it's not worth the gamble. $50,000 doesn't even represent one tenth of one percent of the total chips in play. Look for a better place to risk your tournament life.
If you're in the same situation as example 17 and you have pocket aces what do you do? What about pocket kings or queens?
With pocket aces you have to decide if it's more important to find an opportunity where you're a big favorite to win or if you want to stick with the great pot odds you're receiving. The pot odds are overwhelmingly in your favor, but you'll get knocked out of the tournament around half the time in this situation. We can't recommend folding pocket aces before the flop in any situation because they're such a strong hand so the recommendation is to call.
Pocket kings and queens are an easier decision and should be folded. You're likely up against a hand that's better than yours and you'll be drawn out on more often than not even if you have the best hand pre flop.
In a no limit Texas holdem multi table tournament an early position player raises and you have pocket nines in late position. You both have stacks of roughly 12 times the raise. How do you play this hand?
In a no limit cash game you make the call because when you hit the set you have a good chance of winning enough to be profitable in the long term. But in this situation you have to consider the limited number of chips and if you should risk them in this situation. The only time you should do so is if you have much deeper stacks and don't have to worry about investing such a large percentage of your stack on a draw that you only hit around one out of every nine times.
In any no limit multi table tournament you have to weigh the chances of winning the current hand against your chances of winning the entire tournament. This is a continuation of the last example, but it's such an important point that you'll have a hard time being a long term tournament winner without understanding it.
Most no limit Texas holdem players routinely commit money to the pot when they have a 60% chance to win. As a matter of fact, if you play cash games the more times you can get your money in with a 60% chance to win the more money you'll make.
But as a tournament player, you need to consider how many times you can put your tournament life on the line as a 60% favorite and hope to stay alive.
If you risk your tournament life one time as a 60% favorite you win 60 out of 100 times and lose 40 out of 100 times. If you survive the first time and do it again you only have a 36% chance of surviving both times. The third time your overall chances are reduced to 21.6% and the fourth time they go down to 12.96%. A fifth time gives you only a 7.78% chance of surviving all five times.
So you can see that even as a strong 60% favorite if you consistently get in these situations in a no limit Texas holdem tournament you'll eventually run out of luck. So should you avoid risking your tournament life as a 60% favorite?
The basic truth is you have to take calculated risks in order to win tournaments and you're going to have to win some hands where you're a 60% favorite. But what the best players do is try to avoid risking their entire stack as much as possible. If they have to get in a situation where they're a 60% favorite they try to do it without risking their entire stack.
So if you win the first all in where you have a 60% edge it hopefully gives you enough money over your opponents that you can stay alive even if the second or third time you have a big edge goes against you.
Limit Sit and Go Tournaments
Most limit Texas holdem sit and go tournaments are a race between the blinds that seem to always be accelerating and receiving enough good starting hands to stay ahead of the blinds. Often you reach a point where you have to pick a hand and jam the pot and hope an opponent doesn't have a better hand or hit a better one.
Much like limit cash games, sit and go Texas holdem tournaments boil down to math. If you put yourself in favorable situations enough times you'll eventually receive favorable results.
You're playing in a limit Texas holdem sit and go tournament and one player has been betting and raising like a maniac and has been lucky enough to build a large chip lead. Seven players remain and the wild opponent has twice as many chips as you and re-raises your raise before the flop. You have a pair of queens. How do you play the hand?
Because your opponent has been playing many hands and has been playing them recklessly you need to play this hand just like you would if you had pocket aces. The odds are you have the best hand so you need to take advantage of your opponent's maniac play and try to get as much money in the pot as possible.
You may lose occasionally in this situation, but most of the time you'll be able to increase your chip stack quite a bit. Even if an ace or king hits the board you can't shy away from your opponent's aggression because they've proven they'll play a wide range of hands in an aggressive manner.
In the same situation as the last example, you and the wild opponent have capped the betting before the flop and a king high flop lands. How do you play the rest of the hand?
As we mentioned in the last example, a king on the flop shouldn't scare you. If you want you can check and call for the rest of the hand but you should never consider folding in this situation. It's probably profitable in the long run to continue betting and raising on the flop and not back off until the turn if your opponent continues playing aggressively.
Once again you're in the same situation as example 21, the flop lands jack high, you bet, and your opponent raises.
You should bet and raise and be willing to cap every betting round with a jack high flop. You'll find occasionally that your opponent hit a set or two pair, but most of the time you still have a dominant hand and need to maximize the amount of money in the pot. You'll find that many times your opponent will turn over a hand like ace jack or jack ten when they've been playing in the manner described.
When you're playing in a limit sit and go Texas holdem tournament you have to take advantage of the few situations you have of dominating an opponent and building your chip stack. This is one of those times when you play aggressively because most of the time you're a big favorite.
If you happen to be unlucky and the maniac draws out on you don't let it change the way you play these types of situations in the future. You still need to be aggressive against a wild opponent when you have a strong hand.
Four players remain in a limit Texas holdem sit and go with the top three finishing in the money. You have a comfortable chip lead and should be able to fold until you reach the money with no problem. The first player folds, the second player raises, and the third player re-raises. You have a pair of kings. How do you play the hand?
Pocket kings are a powerful hand four handed and unlike in a cash game, in a sit and go tournament this situation doesn't mean a player probably has pocket aces. Of course, it's possible, but more than likely both players have strong hands that aren't as good as your kings.
You can play aggressively or call and see what happens on the flop. If an ace hits the flop you can back off or get out of the hand, but you're going to have the best hand most of the time here, especially when an ace doesn't hit the flop. In most game re-raising before the flop will be profitable in the long run.
In the same situation as example 24 if you have pocket aces do you make a different decision? What about with pocket queens or ace king?
With pocket aces you should re-raise before the flop and play aggressively until it's obvious someone has outdrawn you. Raising is the most profitable long term way to play this hand.
With pocket queens or ace king, it depends on how large your stack is in comparison to the betting limit. With ace king, in particular, you should lean toward folding. With queens, you can go either way, but there's no reason to commit too much to the pot at this point. With a comfortable chip lead, you don't have to play hands that may be dominated. With queens, you could be facing pocket aces, pocket kings, or hands with an ace or king. Lean toward folding queens.
No Limit Sit and Go Tournaments
While no limit cash games and multi table tournaments are popular, many players are playing online no limit sit and go tournaments. These tournaments pay out to the top three finishers, usually, only take around an hour to complete, and offer a chance for good players to turn a consistent profit.
You have to play them slightly different than cash games and multi table tournaments because the blinds tend to go up fairly quickly and you have a limited number of chips. You have to find opportunities to double up and when the blinds go up you may need to find an opportunity to play a hand that may not be the best in a way that lets you steal the blinds or have at least a chance to double up.
You're playing in a no limit sit and go Texas holdem tournament and you're one of four players left. The top three players finish in the money and the fourth player gets nothing. All four of you have the same number of chips; the first player moves all in and is called by both of your other opponents. Do you call or fold with pocket aces?
It's helpful to understand how the poker room where you're playing handles a three way tie for second place, but let's assume second and third place prize money is split evenly among the three players who tied. This means you get back roughly $167 on a $100 $10 investment if you lose the hand and $500 if you win.
If you fold you're guaranteed to finish either first or second unless the unlikely outcome of a tie happens on the current hand. A second place finish wins $300, so on the surface, it looks like you're ahead financially to fold because you get at least $300 and still have a chance to win. But if you win you have to overcome a 3 to 1 chip advantage that your remaining opponent has over you.
The long term profitability comes out almost even in this situation, so you can play either way you desire. We usually lean toward playing aggressively and getting all in with pocket aces is the aggressive play so that's what we recommend.
Does your decision change if you have three more chips than your opponents if you're in the same situation as the last hand? In this case, even if you call and lose you'll still get second place.
This means instead of winning $167 if you lose you win at least $300. This makes the situation a clear call because you'll still win the tournament over half the time and win $300 the rest of the time. This is an expected value of over $400 for calling.
The blinds are escalating quickly and if you don't make a move in the next three rounds you'll be eliminated. You're first to act and have a pair of sevens. What do you do?
The best play is to move all in. Any time you move all in you can win the hand if you end up with the best hand or you can win if your opponents all fold. It's important to be the aggressor because just winning the blinds helps a great deal.
Even if you get called by a hand with two over cards you stand a good chance to double up. If you get called by an over pair your chances are bleak, but you still have a roughly one in nine chance to double up.
You're in the same no limit Texas holdem sit and go as example 28 with the same hand but an early position player has raised enough to cover you. Do you commit the rest of your chips to the pot in this situation?
In this situation, you can only win if you end up with the best hand. This changes your chances enough that you should fold and hope for a better hand on one of the next three rounds. If you're on the last round before you're going to be blinded out you should go ahead and play the pair of sevens. You can't wait forever to make a move.
Just don't forget that you're always better off to be the aggressor in this situation instead of the passive player calling a bet. This is basically good advice in any Texas holdem situation, but it's particularly important here.
You've been having some recent success playing no limit Texas holdem sit and go tournaments. The buy in at the level you've been playing is $110, first place wins $500, second place gets $300, third place wins $200, and each tournament has 10 players. How often do you have to finish in the money at an average position of second place to break even? If you play 50 of these tournaments a week and want to make $1,000 a week, how well do you have to perform?
The first thing you need to do is determine the average amount you win. Second place pays $300 but if you finish in first, second, and third an equal number of times your average win is actually $333. To determine what percentage of the time you need to finish in the money with an average win rate of $333 you can look at what happens if you enter 100 tournaments.
It costs $11,000 including the entry fees to enter 100 tournaments. If you divide this by $333 you find out you need to finish in the money 33% of the time to break even. If you can move the percentage of times you finish first higher than when you finish second and third you reduce the number of times you need to finish in the money.
If you want to make $1,000 a week playing in 50 no limit Texas holdem sit and go tournaments, it means you need to win an average of $20 per tournament you enter.
This means instead of $11,000 needed to break even you need to win $12,000. If you divide $12,000 by $333 you have to finish in the money with an average finishing position of second 36% of the time.
If you can increase your average win when you reach the money to $350 you only need to win a little over 34% of the time. The actual percentage is 34.29%. You raise your average by finishing first more often.
Here's an example:
The normal distribution out of 100 finishes in the money is as follows.
- First place – 33.33 times
- Second place – 33.33 times
- Third place – 33.33 times
This creates an average win of $333 per finish in the money. If you can finish first 36 times instead of 33.33 it changes the numbers to the following.
- First place – 36 times
- Second place – 32 times
- Third place – 32 times
This changes the average win per in the money finish to $340. If you can reach this number you have to finish in the money 35.29% of the time to make $1,000 a week playing 50 tournaments.
In order to get to an average win of $350 like mentioned above you have to win 40 tournaments when you finish in the money and finish second 30 times and third 30 times.
Any time you try to absorb such a wide range of examples it's easy to miss a few important points. Go back over the examples on this page from time to time, especially the ones covering your normal game.
But don't make the mistake of ignoring the examples in the other sections. You can learn how to improve your overall Texas holdem game by reading examples for every situation you can find. Plus, you never know when a profitable limit situation may present itself even if you usually play no limit. You don't want to miss out because you haven't studied the limit examples listed above.
Winning Texas holdem players focus on improving the game they play the most as much as possible, but once they master one area they start trying to improve other aspects of their game. Once you become a winning no limit player you should start trying to improve your limit game.
If you're a tournament player consider learning how to be a winning cash game player too. The basic skills needed to be a winning Texas holdem player are the same across formats and limits so once you master one format and limit you can quickly add other formats and limits to your skill set.