Holdem X Primer: The Strategies I’ve Used to Go 20-1 Playing Holdem X

Steve Ruddock : February 3rd, 2016

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On Tuesday, Holdem X was unveiled, and so far I’m not only 20-1 in my matches, but I’ve never had to sweat a river card – my one loss was against a player who shoved every hand, which, as you’ll see in this column, is the only opponent you have to gamble with.

What I’ve learned

Your goals in Holdem X are to play fast (if you run out of time you automatically lose, so always play faster than your opponent), and/or wait for one big hand where you’re a massive favorite post-flop and can use your xCards to make multiple nut-hands.

Manipulating your hole cards is far more powerful than manipulating the board

In my opinion, the ability to change your hole cards is the most powerful special ability in the game – not surprisingly, they’re also among the most expensive xCards to acquire, but worth it, especially since the most complimentary xCards you can pair them with are extremely cheap.

For instance, if you have the Pair Top Hole Card and the Pair Bottom Hole Card you’re essentially playing Omaha while your opponent is playing Texas Holdem. If you’re dealt 89 you have a 88 and 99 going into the flop, if you have A4, you have AA and 44, so if you run into a maniac like I did, any Ax hand is all-in worthy, as are some other hands I’ll detail in moment.

Furthermore, in Holdem X, if you’re holding the dual-threat “Pair Top” and “Pair Bottom” xCard combo, KQ is a better starting hand than KK, because as I said in the opening, you want to play big pots POST-FLOP, when your hand strength already has a very high floor.

What makes these two cards even more powerful is you don’t have to use them until the river, well past the point your opponent can manipulate the flop cards. And more importantly, you don’t have to use them until the money is in the pot, so they’re never wasted, since xCards are played after betting action.

Basically, if you hit top pair on the flop (and your opponent doesn’t manipulate the board on the flop, which is why you need to sandbag in this game) you always have your set on the turn and river, and if all the money starts going in, you’re in great shape, especially if you have redraws.

Being suited is even more powerful

Continuing on this point, if you’re dealt AK you have the super strong AA and KK, but, if you’re dealt KQs you have KKs and QQs. Yes, in Holdem X you can have suited pairs!

As you’ll now see, every suited starting hand is playable (assuming your opponent isn’t raising 4x+) if you possess the pair top and pair bottom cards And any suited Ace or suited connector JT+ is essentially the nuts.

But it gets better.

Manipulating the board and your hand is the stone cold nuts

Here’s another little trick I’ve discovered playing Holdem X that increases the value of being suited exponentially.

the cheaply priced switch Heart to Diamond (Diamond to Heart) and Switch Club to Spade (Spade to Club) cards make the Pair Top and Pair Bottom cards an unstoppable force, they complement one another perfectly if you’re using the suited strategy.

Here’s the scenario a number of my matches have ended on:

I’m dealt something innocuous like Ac3c flop an Ace and two clubs and check. My opponent bets and I call, and no xCards are played. Basically I just won the game.

Looking forward:

  • If the board pairs I can change my hand to AA and have a full house.
  • If a club comes on the turn I have a flush with full house redraw.
  • If a club comes on the river I have a flush.
  • If a spade comes on either the turn or the river I can use my suit change xCard to change it, and have a flush.
  • Furthermore, if you have a Redeal River or a 6th Street Card (more on these cards in a moment), you could make a flush on the river with a club OR spade, and take TWO cracks at it. If the board pairs all the better, since you have the ability to change your hole cards to Top Set if need be.

As you can probably see, A2-AKs; strong suited connectors like KJs and JQs; and even traditionally marginal hands like 67s, T8s, and KTs are powerhouses in Holdem X. For the reasons mentioned above, PLUS their connectedness likely gives you potential straights.

If you flop a pair you have a set, if you flop a pair and flush draw you have a set AND a 19-20 out flush draw that you can take several cracks at hitting (up to four depending on your xCard selection), and you could have potential straight draws to boot. Good luck to your opponent playing third hole card and Board +1 cards.

The perfect ban selections (imo)

Your first action is to select three xCards to ban (these are cards you prevent your opponent from selecting) with a total point value not exceeding 45 points. Here’s the three cards I pick.

  • Pair Top Card (33 points)
  • Switch Club to Spade (5 points)
  • Switch Diamond to Heart (5 points)

Essentially, this allows you to prevent your opponent from employing your own strategy against you.

The perfect xCard selections (imo)

In a standard game of Holdem X you choose six xCards and you’re allotted 90 points. Here’s the lineup I like to take into a game.

  • Pair Top Card (33 points)
  • Pair Bottom Card (27 points)
  • Switch Heart to Diamond (5 points)
  • Switch Club to Spade (5 points)
  • Redeal Turn (8 points)
  • Redeal River or 6th Street (12 points)

Occasionally your opponent will ban one of the switch suit cards, not because they understand their value but because they have a few points left over and it’s the only option. If they do, you’ll have to realize that either red or black suited cards are exponentially stronger depending on which one was banned.

All that said, you’ll still need to play some other cards so you understand their potential uses in conjunction with your normal lineup of xCards, in case your opponent bans the pair top or bottom card.

If this happens I tend to go with the redeal cards (including flop) and 6th street.

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