Phil Hellmuth’s Advice on How to Win at Poker

Tips from the World Series of Poker legend

Getting together with your buddies (or strangers) for a night of poker can be a lot of fun. But it’s considerably more enjoyable when you’re staring down at a huge stack of chips at the end of the night. To elevate your game, we asked World Series of Poker (WSOP) Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth — winner of 13 WSOP bracelets — to teach us how to dominate at his favorite parlor game, Texas Hold ’em.

 

Poker great Phil Hellmuth offers tips on winning at pokerFollow the Cardinal Rule

“Texas Hold ’em is patience, patience, patience. If you have to play every hand, don’t play Hold ’em, because you won’t win. The extreme example is to only play my top ten hands, which I introduce in my book Play Poker Like the Pros: sevens, eights, nines, tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces, Ace/King and Ace/Queen. It’s not the optimal strategy, but you can get into the swing of the game, and that’s great for beginners.”

 

Big Hands Don’t Guarantee Large Payouts

“I’ve seen a lot of money lost with a hand like a King/Queen because, once the big money starts going in, the opponent usually has a hand that dominates it. When I say, ‘dominate,’ I mean that someone might have an Ace/King or Ace/Queen; therefore, they have one of your cards and a card over your other one.”  

 

Get the Right Value From Your Hand

“There is no specific hand to go ‘all in’ on because, even if you have the most powerful hand possible, you may be more concerned about getting paid off. If you bet too much, you’ll make your opponents fold.” 


Review Game Tape

“Reading other people at the table is not easy, but every person out there can improve their reading abilities. I would advise someone to watch videos of players without the sound and try to guess what they have based on the way they are acting. To practice, pull up a YouTube video and do this for 10 minutes at your house.”

 

Employ Smoke and Mirrors

“If you bet 10 times over five hours of play and nobody calls you, then you have to start adding some bluffs. If you get called, they will see you bluffing, which will get you future action. And, if you can get away with a bluff, you’re winning money.”

 

Ditch the Hats, Shades and Headphones

“I don’t think that all that stuff helps. People want to go and have a nice social experience. But if people know when you are weak and when you are strong, then go ahead and put sunglasses on.”

 

Know When to Fold ’em

“Going for broke on every hand is a horrible strategy.  A lot of times you’ll have the second- or third-best hand and you’re going to get called by the best hand.” 

 

Skill Trumps Luck

“A bad player will never beat a good player if they play 10 hours, no matter how much luck is involved. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that poker players can pay taxes as a business because the game is a game of skill.”

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

“The more experience you have, the better. Some of the online poker players have played more hands in six months than I have in my lifetime. … You can pick up a lot of experience quickly if you’re playing online poker.”

 

—By Matt McCue

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