Poker Strategy: Handy Tips and Advice to Play Like a Pro
Poker can be a long and complicated game. It is easy enough to learn but very difficult to master. This is why poker strategy is often regarded with the utmost importance. It could, after all, mean the difference between a massive win and a complete loss. It’s a lot more than just luck, after all.
But many casual poker players, as expert as they claim to be, do not know nearly as much poker strategy as they should. In fact, many either just wing it or think they know the rules but as a matter of fact, know next to nothing. This becomes evident when your poker strategy shows no coherence and you make an amateurish mistake which results in a spectacular loss.
Whether you’re new to poker or you wish to refresh your memory on some poker strategy, we have a guide that has been made just for your needs. Read on to find out how you could better build yours.
Basic Poker Strategy
For new players, it’s important not to go too advanced too quickly, hence why basic poker strategy is best to study before progressing into anything more sophisticated. With that in mind, here are some basic poker strategy considerations before you get too deeply involved with the game.
Ask Why You Want to Play Poker
Firstly, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself why you want to play poker in the first place. Be honest with yourself. Is it just to win money or do you genuinely enjoy the game? Asking this question is very important because playing at a consistently high level depends on it.
Deciding what kind of poker player you’re going to be will doubtless make your decisions much clearer and more precise concerning the game. Here are the kinds of player you could be if you ask the right questions:
- Casual – Playing just for fun
- Semi-casual – Playing mostly for fun but sometimes with money
- Semi-professional – Playing for money but mostly as supplementary income
- Professional – Playing as your sole means of income
If you want our opinion, a balanced and healthy reason to want to play poker is a mixture of the above. You want to win money from a game that you enjoy. You can even turn it into a career if you dedicate enough time to it!
Make the Right Decisions
Even the most professional poker players lose from time to time, so please do not expect to win every single game you partake in. Your aim has to be set on playing to the best of your ability by making sensible decisions from the get-go.
The key to this is to not judge your progress from the result of each game you play. Your goal should always be to just do the best you can every time. Endeavour to do this and your success rate will certainly increase.
Admit it, you probably hated studying maths at school. All those equations and sums probably felt incredibly tedious and pointless. Poker, most, unfortunately, is a game based largely on numbers and therefore maths is important.
From the start, poker is a game with the following processes:
- Deal of a hand
- Placing of bets
- Calling bets
- Collect winnings
Calling your bets more than your opponents will doubtlessly result in you winning more than them. Always enter the pot with the best hand you have.
Getting Over Your Starting Hand
Many players tend to overthink their starting hand. This is only one piece of the poker strategy jigsaw, however, so doing this too often will be a mistake. That being said, it is important to get a solid start so that the rest of your game doesn’t end in disaster.
Should you always put money in the pot based on your first hand? That really depends. We would say that professionals tend to play better when all other players have put their wagers in the pot rather than folding straight away. Here’s why:
- You can judge whether you have a better hand than everyone else depending on the decision to raise or fold from the other players
- The end of a hand is literally the “last chance” players have to raise or fold, which is more telling then when they do it at the start of the hand.
- Calling at the end of the first hand wisely could change the course of the rest of the game.
Again, we’d like to reiterate that concentrating too much on the opening hand can be destructive so we advise that you proceed with caution. You should put an equal if not more amount of effort with your subsequent hands.
Always Avoid Tilting
Another integral skill to a basic poker strategy is by avoiding tilt. Your opponents will try and use emotional manipulation to get the upper hand. Do not let this happen! Emotional playing results in poor decision-making and lots more money lost.
Some examples of “tilting” are:
- Getting increasingly frustrated when your opponent is on a winning streak.
- Getting too confident when you are on a winning streak.
- Misjudging emotions from other players and miscalculating a move.
It can happen to anyone if they’re not paying attention. So when you’re playing poker, always remain stony-faced and let logic dictate your actions. You may slip up now and again, but it’s better to have it happen occasionally rather than in every game you play in.
Advanced Poker Strategy
So, now you’ve mastered the basics, you can progress onto some more advanced poker strategies. These will further assist you in your gameplay and employing them will immediately demonstrate a higher success rate than previously shown.
The most important thing to consider in poker strategy after the basics are the different play styles. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to employ them whenever it is appropriate.
Most of the play styles in poker strategy can be broken down thusly:
- Tight: This approach encourages caution over everything else and playing as few hands as possible. The lowest amount of risk involved but also fewer returns.
- Loose: Complete opposite of tight, a loose poker strategy involves a player throwing caution to the wind and playing with a high amount of risk.
- Aggressive: Similar to the above, aggressive play involves putting in a large number of bets into the pot. It puts other players under pressure but involves a lot of payments to execute perfectly.
- Passive: The opposite of aggressive, passive player involves taking little action other than calling a lot as opposed to betting.
Think for a moment. Do any of these sound like you?
If they all sound familiar, then you’re probably closest to the real answer. Any decent poker player does not strictly adhere to a single approach. It is common to “switch gears” to accommodate the direction in which a game of poker takes.
It would be foolish to simply be passive or tight throughout an entire game so you’re more than likely to be all four at the same time at one point or another. Maybe some more than others, depending on your nature, but overall you’ll tap into each one for every game you play.
Our recommendation: try and stick to a tight-aggressive strategy. It’s the perfect mix of being cautious enough to not be foolish and active enough not to make opportunistic moves.
Understanding Your Position
Positioning at the poker table is important as well, though that may not be apparent at first. The dealer (or ‘button’) is normally the last player to act in the betting round. Acting last offers an enormous tactical advantage as you know how your opponents have acted. The dealer position, however, changes after every hand so this isn’t a permanent advantage but sharing this among the other players also keeps the game fair.
To make use of this advantage, be sure to play more hands when in ‘late’ position than in the ‘early’position. All decent players will relax their starting hand in the late position as the benefit the position affords greater flexibility and plenty of other choices as the hand continues.
Make Good Bluffs
This should go without saying, but being able to bluff is essential in winning poker. If you let your emotions cloud your face, you could end up losing a game as other players can detect you have good or bad cards and adjust their gameplay accordingly. They could even manipulate you to their advantage.
The aim of every bluff is to get opponents to surrender their best hand. This could work, technically speaking, with even a completely rubbish hand. Be warned, though: bluffing is a very risky course of action and it could result in a spectacular loss if your opponents call your bluff.
In short, know when it’s appropriate to bluff and when you should refrain from it and just fold. You can ascertain this by doing the following:
- Analysing your opponents’ gameplay and strategies and seeing what they reveal.
- You have a fairly decent hand but you can get away convincing others that it’s your best hand.
- If you have a fair amount of money in your wallet or you have enough in the pot that you can afford to lose it.
Bluffing, as we’ve said, can be dangerous but if you employ it effectively it could prove extremely beneficial in the long run.
Become Familiar with Odds
Finally, the most advantageous thing you can do when considering your poker strategy is to consider your odds. You don’t have to be familiar with every single detailed odd that comes with poker (although that would help) but recognising when you’re clearly at a disadvantage would be enough for you to understand your decisions.
If you want a more specific example of how odds in a typical poker game work, however, here we have an example for you to examine:
You have four clubs and you’re waiting for another club to appear, which will complete your flush and win you all the money in the pot. There are 13 clubs in the entire 52 card pack and you have two in your hand and the other two on the board, leaving nine of them elsewhere. They could be in the hands of your opponents or they could be dealt by the dealer. Depending on how much you want to risk it, you could either admit defeat and fold or raise the stakes and call.
So, you see? Not every action has to be acted upon, especially if you know that you’re at a disadvantage. This will naturally occur to you when you incorporate all the above advice into your poker strategy.
However, it is still important to point out because even professional players tend to forget this from time to time, especially when they feel confident in their hands.