It is very important to realize the difference between the way an average player sees a hand of poker, and the way top-flight pro sees that same hand. Since you are (let's face it) probably not a top-flight, pro, let's focus on how you should approach a hand as an average player.
The first mistake you must avoid is merely making the hand about your holdings. There are numerous other considerations to take into account as well, each of which holds its own intricacies and variations, and each of which impacts upon every individual hand. It should be stated at the outset that poker is a situational game. Some of these factors will be the most important element of one hand, and inconsequential in another, based on the specific situation you find yourself in.
Whenever you are about to make a decision, you must consider the following factors:
1) What are your cards? This isn't the only consideration you must make, but it is a crucially important one. Your cards are after all what will have to win the hand for you if you can't make anybody fold. So ask yourself? Is this a good hand? Is it a pair? Is it your lucky hand? Do you really like it (like for example, Ten Seven I just love)? Did your cards just won a monster pot the last hand? Are they really connecting hard with the flop on another table you have open? These are all strong indications that you should go forward with your hand.
2) Did you REALLY want to play your cards? Nothing sucks more than getting a juicy hand like JT suited and then there's an all in or something.
3) What is the action to you? Does it matter? How? If you find out, please tell me.
4) Do you have any reads on the players already in the pot? They're bluffing, aren't they. Yeah, they're totally bluffing. Donks.
5) Are you due? This is extremely important. If you haven't hit the flop in like seventeen hands, you must play this one aggressively. It's your moment. I once folded 57 to a big raise and it came 757. Don't let that be you, bro. For reals.
6) What do you hope the other player has? This is an extremely important question to ask yourself when you are trying to make sure that you are ahead. Did you know that deuces are ahead of AK? You should usually hope that your opponant has AK.
7) Are you priced in? Yes.
8) Are you drunk? This question is rhetorical.
All these factors must be considered together before you make your decision. Failure to do so could result in your folding the best hand.
Situation: First hand of a large-field multiple-table tournament. Your opponents are all clearly total donkeys.
Your hand: [Ad Tc]
Action to you: Player A calls for 30. Player B calls. Player C calls. Player D calls. Player E calls. The pot is now 195.
Question: Do you go all-in?
Answer: OK, settle down. You have a monster and are already getting a lot of action. Your goal now should be to raise enough to keep one or two people in the pot, but not so much that you're up against the whole table (though with two face cards including big A, that would be OK too). I'd recommend a good-sized bet of around 65.
Action: You actually raise to 35, and the software informs you that 60 is the minimum bet. You raise to 60. Player G calls. The small blind calls. The button calls. Player A calls. Player B calls. Player C calls. Player D calls. Player E calls. Idiots. The pot is now 540.
Action: Players A and B check. Player C bets 400. Players D and E fold. What do you do?
Answer: There's no question you are going to play this hand. The only question is if you are going to call or go all-in. The flop missed you, but here's a little stat for you: Only one in seven flops hits any hand. The fact that there is a King and a Jack in the flop means there are only three of each to still be in your hand. Your opponent is obviously scared with this 400 bet and hoping like crazy to just take it down here. I think the call is the optimal play here, for a few reasons. First, we've already determined that you're ahead, so you can afford to give a free card with your lead. But on top of that, did you know that a Queen (of which there are still FOUR) would make you a straight?? It's true. You may have missed it, but go back and check. I find it's always helpful to use your fingers to count to five. Also, two clubs in a row make you a straight, and the Queen of clubs with the nine of clubs would make you a straight flush. You don't have the nuts, but it's close. Just call.
Action: In fact you go all in. Your opponent calls with a pair of eights for bottom set, which unbelievably hold up. What a crock.
Note that you were destined to lose a lot of chips in that pot. This site is frickin' rigged anyway.
[Excerpted from Stupid/System: Poker Strategy For Huge Donkeys, (c) Julius_Goat 2008, All Rights Reserved]