FALCON POINTS

5 tips for beginning poker players

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Since we are all on lockdown, many people have rediscovered online poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em. While pay money sites are not legal, there are a lot of free card rooms and player-money exchange rooms where you can hone your game. We started a free poker club on Pokerstars.net with tournaments every night at 8 p.m. for no real money. We also do noon tournaments.

On Saturday, we will be doing an online charity tournament.

Maybe you are stuck with your family and want to get a game going to stay busy. This will work for you as well. This is just a basic introduction to get you started. There are a lot of good resources out there once you master the basics.

So if you are looking for something to do and have only a passing knowledge of the game, here are five tips that will get you on your way.

1) Learn the basic rules

It sounds silly, but knowing which hand beats what is important. This will give you a detailed look at the basics. If nothing else, learn the ranking of each hand. You can also observe tables once you join our poker club. Pay attention to what is happening with the other players and familiarize yourself with the software and how the game is played. Pay particular attention to the players who are winning the most chips.

2) Start with the free games

This is an excellent chance to get involved, learn and see what the game is like with no risk. Most of the people in the poker club are pretty good players, so you will get a chance to test your skills without losing any money. The game will change when you play for dollars, but when you are learning, this is a good way to start.

3) Limit your hands at the beginning

When first getting started, playing tight is the best way to learn. Unless you are in the blinds, stick to top starting 10 hands:

1. AA

2. KK

3. QQ

4. AK (same suit)

5. JJ

6. 10-10

7. AK (different suits)

8. AQ (suited)

9. 9-9

10. AJ (suited)

Or you can use this table, which ranks all the hands, although slightly different.

As you become more familiar with the game, you can begin to expand which hands you play.

4) Understand the importance of position

If you have the button, you will be last to act after the flop. This is a big advantage; the later position you are in, the more advantage you will have. Think of it as being the dealer in blackjack. You don't have to act until everyone else does. Again, knowing how to take advantage of this will come with more practice.

5) Find your personality

Eventually, your game will match your life. If you are a wild risk-taker, you will likely develop an aggressive game. If you are a passive person, you will likely be a tight player. But there are many ways to win. Early on, avoid too much bluffing. You will figure out the right times to do it as you learn more and become more accustomed to the game. But let your personality dictate how you play as your skills develop.

The bottom line

This is just a starting point if you have been interested and want to mess around a little and see if you can learn. Use losses as learning experiences; go back and evaluate what you did right and wrong. Sometimes you will just make a bad play. Sometimes you will get outplayed. Sometimes you are just unlucky. As Matt Dean used to say, "decisions, not outcomes." The more right decisions you make, the better off you will be in the long run.

Questions? Hit me up at faour975@gmail.com

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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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