The truth is,
most blackjack players sitting at the table are just hoping to get
lucky -- because that's the only way they can win. But many who
have achieved a winning level of proficiency at 21 end up having
a hard time finding a game. That's because many casinos won't deal
to them due to their superior playing skills.
Some of these
blackjack mavens have discovered another game of skill that bears
several resemblances to blackjack -- and that's Hold'em poker.
blackjack experts who don't even know how to play live poker have
migrated into Texas Hold'em for two reasons:
like blackjack can be beaten with top notch play.
- Its initial
structure is similar to blackjack, yet Hold'em is less complex
than most other poker games.
will insist that blackjack and poker are two entirely different
games. It's true that live poker has a psychological facet which
just doesn't exist in blackjack. But with Hold'em more so than other
forms of poker, winning absolutely demands that you adhere to certain
textbook fundamentals, just as in blackjack. Violate those and you'll
dig yourself a hole that even a mind reader couldn't claw his way
out of. The point being, if you can learn to win at blackjack, you
can probably learn to win at Texas Hold'em using many of the same
How are these
two games similar? First, in both games you're dealt two starting
cards. In blackjack, you can be dealt 330 different starting hands
-- in Hold'em there are 169. A starting 20 in blackjack is a great
hand while a 13 stinks. A pair of pocket Kings in Hold'em is a great
hand in, while an 8/5 is a piece of trash. So in both games you
can be dealt two good cards or two bad cards.
however, you must play every one of your hands, whether you've got
the 20 or the 13. In Hold'em, you simply raise with the pair of
Kings and fold the 8/5. That brings up the next similarity between
Hold'em and blackjack.
there are certain two card hands with which you must hit, double
down, stand or split correctly to have a decent chance of winning.
Likewise in Hold'em, there are certain two card hands with which
you simply must call, raise or fold to have a decent chance of winning.
It's really not an arbitrary thing -- at least not if you want to
is where your edge can begin to take shape in Hold'em poker. You
see, in blackjack when a player refuses to hit his 12 against a
3, he gives an edge to his opponent -- the dealer. When a Hold'em
player refuses to fold his J/9, he also gives an edge to his opponent
-- you! And believe me, plenty of Hold'em players can't bring themselves
to throw away a J/9.
To win at Hold'em
you must have stellar discipline regarding those 169 starting hands.
Raising, calling and folding with the proper two-card hands will
minimize the jam you may find yourself in once the flop comes down.
That part of the game is primarily mechanical, much like blackjack.
basic strategy dictates that there are only about 18 hands out of
those 169 that should be played if you're sitting in one of the
first two seats to act after the blinds. If your seating position
is closer to the center of the table, there are about 30 playable
hands. Only if you are in the last three seats can you play as many
as 50 of those 169 possible starting hands. The rest all need to
be folded coming right out of the gate. If you show disregard for
these basic fundamentals, it's like standing in blackjack with 12
against a 3 or with A/7 against a 9, and will come back to haunt
Now when the
three card flop is dealt in Texas Hold'em, if you didn't flop a
decent pair, a 4-flush, a 4-straight or two overcards -- you don't
have anything. The game is still mechanical like blackjack at this
point and you must live by this next rule:
flop doesn't fit -- you're done with it."
It's when you
did flop something that the psychology starts to play a part in
your game. That's what'll determine how much you win with your winning
hands and how much your losers will cost you. But that's a story
for another day.