The Game and the Strength of the Hand

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Most experienced poker players will be familiar with the concept that your position determines the strength of your hand, and also that the betting nature or chip status of players behind you in the betting may influence what betting actions you may make. One factor commonly overlooked by new players to Texas Hold´em poker is that there is a distinction between ring games and tournaments which also determines the strength of the hand.

Take AK for example. In tournament play, AK is a very powerful hand. Irrespective of whether you are at the beginning of a game or at a point when the blinds have risen, a large bet when holding AK will usually clear the table except one or two players. Against anybody holding Ax you are a 70% favorite to take the pot, and even against a strong pair (outside of AA and KK) you still hold the best hand. The odds are also in your favor for stealing blinds and forcing decisions against short-stacked or tight players.

However, in a ring game, the strategy of playing AK can often fail. Fewer players are willing to take chances against a big opening bets – effectively meaning that the only benefit to you will be picking up the less valuable blinds – and the ones that do call your large opening bets will be holding AA or KK, leaving you with a very limited opportunity to win anything at all.

The transition from tournament play to ring games (or ring games to tournament play) can often catch players out. In the reverse scenario – where a regular ring game player has entered a tournament – you may find that their bets are much more modest when holding strong opening hands or connecting with the board on the flop. This creates the possible scenario where a player, not making sufficiently large bets, will allow other players to take cards economically, which ultimately may allow them to create better hands.

Another example of where the type of game you are playing will determine the strength of your hand is when you alternate between No Limit Texas Hold´em and fixed Limit – where there are a lot of players who will aim to get to the flop economically and reduce the odds of your top pair being the predominant hand post-flop. Still using AK as an illustration, it is much more likely to get busted in Flop Limit as it is in No Limit. This does not mean that you should fold the cards – just be aware that the game you are playing will determine the strength of the hand.

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