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by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is the author of 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets available at, and Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em available at He is an instructor for Golden Touch Craps:

Texas Hold’em is a positional game. Your position is determined by where you are sitting in relationship to the dealer button. Unlike games like stud where the betting order changes with each betting round, the order is fixed in Texas Hold'em. Before the flop, the person to the left of the big blind bets first. This position is known as being "Under the Gun," and it is the worst position to be in at a full-table limit game. It is the position where you will fold the majority of your hands.

I can't stress enough the fact that Hold'em is a positional game. When you are in early position, you need a strong hand to enter the pot. You have no idea what the players who follow you will do. It is extremely costly to enter the pot with marginal cards only to be raised or re-raised. This is where the category of "Big Cards" definitely comes into play, and not all big cards can be played in early position. When you are in early position, you want to play a hand that can hopefully stand up to a raise. This is especially true if you are "under the gun," namely, the first player to act.

When I am under the gun, I will limit my play to big pairs or an Ace with a Jack or higher. In a very passive game, I may loosen up just a bit but it is usually better to play tight when you are under the gun. I seldom limp in when I am under the gun, preferring to use a raise or fold strategy. The main goal of raising when you are under the gun is to narrow the field of players seeing the flop. Big pocket pairs play best against a narrow field.

If you play a weak or marginal hand before the flop, you are at risk of being raised by those acting after you. There is also a possibility of multiple raises. If you decide to fold, you have cost yourself a bet without ever seeing any other cards. Before you make a bet in early position, you have to ask yourself if the hand is strong enough to call a raise from a player in a later position. If you would not call a raise with your starting hand, you should throw it away. Some hands are drawing hands that play better with many opponents calling the pot. If you have to act first, you have no idea how many players will call or fold.

You might think that if you always raise when you are under the gun, it will be easier for the other players to read you, but that will hardly be the case. If you are playing at a full table, you will only be under the gun once every ten hands and the majority of the time you will fold. You might only be dealt a hand to raise with once or twice in a session

Live Straddle

As I noted, being under the gun can be the worst position to be in especially with a full table and nine people to act after you. Some players find a way to make the situation worse than it already is by playing a live straddle. You will encounter a situation from time-to-time where the player next to the big blind raises the pot before the cards are dealt. This is known as a "live straddle." Players who put up a live straddle are there to gamble. Most of the time they have just won a few pots and they feel invincible, or they are trying to intimidate the other players. Sometime the player may be on tilt or intoxicated. No matter what the reason, it is a bad bet that smart players don't make. When you encounter this situation, you should play tighter than you normally would because it will cost you more money to enter the pot. However, if you have pocket aces or kings, you can confidently raise and know that the Straddler will call your raise. Since most players will fold a weak hand to a straddle, the field will be limited and there is a good chance that you will have the Straddler heads up.

Tight is Right

What makes poker a game of skill and separates it from most other casino games is that your decisions matter. In poker, your decision to bet, call, raise or fold will have an affect on the outcome. Although your objective is to make money, your main concern when you play poker is to always make the correct decisions. You won't win every time you make the correct decision and you won't lose every time you make a bad decision. That's just part of the game but the player who makes the best decisions will win the most money in the long run. In order to make the correct decision, you need information. The more information you have, the better your chances of making the right decision. When you are under the gun, you are virtually playing blind because you do not have information. That is why it is best to play only the strongest hands. Remember, it costs you nothing to fold, but it can be very expensive if you play.

Until next time, remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

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