Hold’em really got my wheels turning

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By Matthew Gregoire

During the first five years of my poker career, I was happily crushing low-limit stud games. Playing a game that allowed me to win more money than my friends earned at work was a dream come true. As I was walking out of the casino one day, I noticed people playing a different poker variation called Texas Hold’em. I stood around and watched for about 15 minutes and noticed how much larger the pots were. In stud, you were lucky to have one or two people in the pot with you, but in hold’em it seemed multiway pots were common. I decided the next time I would gamble and give this new game a try.

In my first session, I realized there were subtle adjustments to make. In this variation of poker, it was almost impossible to get people out of hands because of the large pots. You
couldn’t just have big cards showing and bluff with hold’em while in stud it was easy to represent big pairs through multiple bets.

It took some time to control aggressive urges to always represent a hand and adjust to a more selective approach. In hold’em, it wasn’t about continual aggression, but the process of controlling pot size and maximizing your equity depending on number of players in the pot and relative hand strength. This game really got the wheels turning again and it led me to believe there was a lot more money to be earned playing hold’em. With larger pots and more action it was an easy decision for me, time to transition into limit hold’em.

In about a year, I had taught myself to beat limit hold’em. During this time I learned some important lessons that still apply to my career today. Lesson 1 was that tournament variance can be stressful and disheartening. I still remember the first limit hold’em tourney I played where I had flopped a straight with A-Q on a K-J-10 board in a six-way pot. There were only a couple tables left and if I won this pot would be substantial chipleader. Three of us put in as many bets as we could on the flop and got all-in. I was ecstatic to see someone with just one queen in their hand and the other K-J. The turn, of course, brought the full house and just like that I was eliminated. The other thing I learned was bankroll management.

During my first couple of years in hold’em it was easy to spend without worries of my bankroll becoming depleted. As time and experience led me in yet another direction, I would have to learn to live a more frugal lifestyle.

In the next installment, I will dive into my no-limit hold’em transition. For the first time, money did not flow like water.

— Matthew Gregoire is a pro poker player living in Miami. You can email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.