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Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Some Top-Notch Blackjack Players Take up Texas Hold'em Poker

23 Mar 2003

By Fred Renzey

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.

Accomplished blackjack experts who don't even know how to play live poker have migrated into Texas Hold'em for two reasons:

  1. Hold'em, like blackjack can be beaten with top notch play.
  2. Its initial structure is similar to blackjack, yet Hold'em is less complex than most other poker games.

Some purists 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 skills.

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.

In blackjack 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.

In 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 win.

Right there 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.

Proper Hold'em 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 you.

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:

"If the 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.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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