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The biggest mistake that new Texas Holdem players make is reacting to the excitement and playing too many hands. The biggest decision you have to make is the starting hand choice and whether or not to act on a starting hand, and this decision should be based on where you are seated at the table.

Your position at the table

Before acting on any hand, always consider your position to the dealer. Your starting hand choice should be based on where you sit. If you are in early position, you’ll need a very strong hand if you are going to act. Early position seats include the player sitting to the left of the big blind and the next two players to the left. Because there will be so many players to act after you, who have the opportunity to raise or re-raise, your starting hand choice will make a difference on how far you will make it. Make sure your hand will hold up through the initial betting round. Be patient as you wait for a powerful starting hand that comes when you are in the best position. Novice players must discipline themselves and learn to play tight early on and get a feel for the appropriate starting hand choices to make. Once you have a strong understanding of player position and how weak hands can be affected by your position, then you can loosen up a bit. 

Starting hands – When and when not to play

Here are some hands that are strong enough to hold up for a player in early position and can support another player’s raise: AA, KK, and AK suited. The following starting hands should prompt you to call in early position, but not raise: AK, AQ suited, KQ suited, and pairs of Queens, Jacks, or tens. For all other hands, your starting hand choice should be to fold.

If you are sitting in middle position, the three seats to the left of those players in early position, you should make your starting hand choice to call with the following hands: a pair of nines, pair of eights, AJ suited, A10 suited, QJ suited, AQ suited, AQ, and KQ.

If you are sitting in any of the remaining seats, you are considered to be in late position betting. Players in late position should only call on the following starting hands: Ace with any card suited, K10 suited, Q10 suited, J10 suited, AJ, A10, and any small pair. To call a raise, you will need a strong starting hand. If another player raises before the action gets to you, you should strongly consider folding in order to avoid putting two bets into the pot on a marginal starting hand.

In any position, you should always think twice about playing starting hands that include any two suited cards or an Ace with a small kicker. Starting hands like these are traps and will inevitably cause you to lose more money. Train yourself early on to not play these types of starting hands.

Defending the Blinds

Finally, another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t be attached to your blinds. Defending your blinds by calling every raise, even though you have a weak starting hand, is not smart. After you have posted a blind, mentally disconnect yourself from it; do not consider it as part of your bankroll. If you try to save your blinds, you will ultimately be wasting even more money. Also, if you are in the small blind, don’t call on any starting hand just because you are in the small blind. That half bet will come in handy the next time you are in the small blind.

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