Poker is an exciting game. But how hard is it to play? Well, not that hard, actually. If you’re a new player, understanding the rules and picking up the cards is quite easy, actually. However, being good enough at poker to win money consistently requires a solid poker strategy.
Whether you’re new to the game or an expert poker player, this is. If you go to the table without a clear game plan, you’re going to rack up losses that will take the fun out of the game. This article will explain some useful poker strategies for beginners and others for more advanced poker players that should hopefully make you a more profitable player.
Poker Tips for Beginners
If you’re just starting to learn poker, it’s going to take a lot of time and games before you start winning games and making money consistently. Here are eight tips and ways to improve your game as a poker player.
Exercising caution is good. However, too much of it holds back a player. It makes them weak and leaves them at the mercy of stronger, more confident players. So, if you want to become a force at the table, you need to tune up the aggression. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re fully aware of the rules.
Generally, the more aggressive you are, the more you win. So you want to;
- Push players with weaker holdings out when you can. The less people there are in the pot, the higher your odds of winning.
- If you can’t do this, force them to pay to see your cards.
- Bet big. This will give you bigger winnings. It will also send out a message to the rest of the table that you’re a strong player.
While being aggressive helps, it should be balanced by patience (not fear). You don’t want to throw your money away by going all-in all more often than you should. Instead, bide your time and only make the right moves at the right time. Here are some useful tips for that;
- Fold immediately if you don’t have a strong hand
- When you do that, use that time to watch other players and how they play
- Apply aggression only when you think the odds are in your favor.
Watch your opponents
An important fact to know is that your hand is good or bad relative to other hands around the table. For instance, if you’re holding an A-10, you have a fair shot at winning. However, if someone else on the table has a J-J, then your chances aren’t so good after all. So how do you know where you stand?
Observe your opponents. Watch out for tells. These include things like someone’s mood and how they’re playing. It will take a lot of practice, of course. But once you master the art of reading your opponents, you have an excellent chance at winning more games than you lose.
Don’t be the first to limp
Limping refers to entering the pot by calling instead of by raising. This is usually a bad idea as the first player to enter a pot because it gives the players behind you enticing pot odds. Thus, you’re more likely to face multiple players, reducing your chances of winning the pot. You also can’t win pre-flop like you could if you raised.
If you’re kin on limping, only do so if at least one other player has already limped. This gives you better pot odds.
Understand the different positions
Position refers to the order in which players at a table are allowed to act. It is crucial to your poker strategy. Therefore, it’s important to know the different positions in poker and their advantages/disadvantages. The table is usually divided into four different positions, which can be further broken down with the names of each seat.
1. Early position
Players in early position are usually the first to act. Overall, it isn’t considered a great position to be because of how difficult making a profit with marginal hands is. Both seats in the early position are referred to as “Under the Gun” (UTG & UTG+1), a phrase that refers to the fact that the player is under pressure to act.
2. Middle position
Next up is the middle position. It’s fairly better than early position since it allows you a couple more combos of hands. However, you’ll still need to play conservatively as there are at least four more seats left to act preflop. There are two seat positions here; MP and MP+1.
3. Late position
Late position is the best place to be on the poker table. Here, there are three seats; hijack, cutoff, and button, with the latter being the best seat at the table and the middle the second-best position.
4. The blinds
The blinds consist of two seats, Big Blind (BB), and Small Blind (SB). Overall, they are quite unique as the player must pay compulsory bets at the start of each hand. This happens before they see their cards, hence the name. It serves to incentivise players to battle from the start of every hand.
Play for the long term
Losing is part of the game. And as a new player, it’s going to happen a lot. And sometimes, it will happen even when you seem to be the player with the stronger hand. These types of losses are known as bad beats. They can be quite frustrating and demoralizing.
However, you should keep your head. You don’t want to go ‘on tilt,’ that is, try to make up for your losses with foolish bets. Play for the long term, especially if you’re just beginning. This is because it’s going to take a lot of time and thousands of plays before you can become an expert.
Game Theory Optimal (GTO)
Game Theory Optimal is a poker strategy where the player tries to play a perfect style that is rooted in balanced ranges and math-based models. According to the theory, playing a perfect GTO game eliminates all mistakes. Your opponent, on the other hand, will make mistakes, which will hand you the win. If both of you properly execute your GTO styles, winning the game becomes a matter of luck.
However, it is very hard to have a perfect GTO game, even for pro poker players. But it’s important to familiarize yourself with GTO since a lot of players try to use this strategy. It also has certain elements that will help your game a lot, especially as a novice.
Understand Common Poker Terms
Lastly, you want to understand the lingo used in poker. We have already mentioned and/or explained some important terms in the other points mentioned in this article. Other common terms that you need to be aware of include;
- Three Bet: A 3-bet is the first re-raise before the flop. The term originated from fixed-limit games where an initial raise is equal to two bets and the reraise is worth three bets, etc.
- Four Bet: This refers to the fourth bet (or third raise) in a sequence of bets.
Poker Bankroll Management
Game winning strategies aren’t the only things you need to become a good poker player. You also need good bankroll and money management skills.
What is Poker Bankroll Management?
Your bankroll is the amount of money you set aside for playing poker. Bankroll management involves controlling your bankroll so you don’t lose more money than is necessary. That way, you avoid going broke.
Generally, bankroll management demands that you control the amount of money you put into a poker game. It tests your restraint and ability to take on losses as they come.
Why is Poker Bankroll Management So Important?
Bankroll management serves to stop you from losing all your funds within a short period. And in poker, once you lose all your money, you stop making any money since you can no longer play.
Therefore, if you want to keep playing poker and making money, it’s crucial to have a bankroll management strategy, especially if you’re a beginner. That doesn’t mean that you won’t need it once you become an expert player.
Even pro poker players go broke. This is because variance (luck) is a big part of poker. There is no way to avoid it, even at the highest levels. In fact, many poker games are determined by luck alone. So it’s important that your bankroll can handle the swings inherent of such a game.
What are the Basic Rules for Poker Bankroll Management?
There are certain things you want to do to ensure proper bankroll management. These are;
Only risk money you can afford to lose
The money you set aside for your bankroll should be money that you can afford to lose. This money shouldn’t be needed outside of anything other than poker, i.e., not a single cent is required to pay bills or buy food.
For instance, if you set aside $1,000 for your bankroll, but you’ll need $750 to pay a bill, you don’t have a $1000 bankroll. Instead, you have a $250 one. Using the entire $1000 to fund your poker games will only be setting yourself up for trouble. Your bankroll money should be separate from your living expenses budget.
Play at stakes within your poker skill level
Don’t play at stakes that are at a more advanced skill level than you currently are. If you sit with the pros and you’re a novice, you’ll never win anything. Therefore, your bankroll will constantly reduce until you have nothing.
Playing with people at your skill level gives you a much better chance of maintaining and even growing your bankroll. It’s also the best way to gain experience as a poker player.
Be patient when it comes to bankroll growth
We all want our bankroll to grow as fast as possible. However, that shouldn’t drive you into staking more than you should. The best thing to do is to be patient and exercise discipline. Overall, a consistent +$10 bankroll growth is good enough. Don’t give that up and risk your entire bankroll for a $100 growth.
How Do I Start a Poker Bankroll?
You can start your bankroll by setting aside a certain amount of money for poker purposes. As stated above, this money should be completely separated from your everyday living expenses. It should also be money you can afford losing.
There is also another way to start a poker bankroll which involves doing everything from scratch. You start with zero money and build from there.
Starting A Poker Bankroll With No Money
This method involves signing up to an online poker site and playing in freeroll tournaments. The player then accumulates the winnings and uses them to enter low stakes cash games. Whatever money they win from these goes into their bankroll.
It sounds easy on paper, but it’s actually hard, and takes a lot of time. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, a professional American poker player, once built a $10,000 bankroll from scratch. This took him a whole 18 months of playing. When Ferguson tried to work out how much he was making an hour, it translated to $0.14.
This is roughly what you’ll be making when you decide to start a poker bankroll with no money. Don’t focus too much on the amount though. The most important thing here is that you’re consistently making money and adding to your bankroll.
How Can I Build a Poker Bankroll Faster?
Starting a bankroll from scratch takes a lot of time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to build your poker bankroll faster. These include;
- Take advantage of welcome bonuses: Many online poker sites have welcome bonuses for new players.
- Look for special promotions: Once you’re in a poker site, watch out for special promotions. These sites typically hold promotions to reward regular users.
- Loyalty program: Don’t forget to enroll in a loyalty program if your poker site has one. This will qualify you for special bonuses and promotions that will go a long way in helping your bankroll grow.
How Many Buy-ins Should My Poker Bankroll Be?
A buy-in refers to the fee paid in order to join a poker game. It also serves as a good reference while determining how big of a bankroll you need for poker. Generally, the number of buy-ins depends on a couple of factors;
- Format of the game you play
- Your playing style
- Your tolerance for swings
For cash games, 50-100 buy-ins does the job. So if you’re playing $50 NL, your poker bankroll should be between $2,500 and $5,000.
In tournaments, you should have 100-200 buyins. Thus, if you enjoy $10 MTTs, your bankroll should be worth between $1,000 and $2,000.
There are many different ways to play poker. This section downwards will go through some of the most popular poker types- cash game, all in, blackjack, calling station, heads-up poker and three-card poker.
Poker cash game strategy
Cash games are poker games with chips whose value is worth what the chips represent. If there is a $10 chip, it is worth $10 USD. The player can cash it out in exchange for real money. The overall goal is to leave with more money than they came with.
Cash games are also known as ring games/live action games. Success in this type of poker goal is measured by the win rate, that is, the difference in skill between the player and their opponents, minus the rake. The win rate is measured in big blinds per 100 hands (BB/100).
Players can also be ranked on skilled level based on how many big blinds they win per hour (BB/hour). For instance, a good player has a win rate above the break even point, i.e., 1BB/hour. A very good player’s win rate is above 3BB/hour while a great/pro player has above 5BB/hour. An excellent player, on the other hand, achieves a win rate of more than 100BB/hour while a world class player has a rate of more than 15BB/hour.
It’s also important to note that cash games typically have no end time. This allows players to come and go as they please; you can cash out your chips for real money whenever you want.
Here are tips for cash game poker depending on the skill level. These assume that you’re playing with people at or below your skill level.
Beginner Cash Game Poker Strategy
As a beginner, you don’t want to focus too much on outplaying your opponents. This is because you most probably don’t have the skills to do that all the time. You’ll need another approach to ensure that you leave with more money than you sat with. These include;
- Quitting while ahead
- Playing in games with inferior competition
- Playing only when you feeling at your absolute best
Intermediate and Expert Poker Cash Game Strategy
Playing as an intermediate will demand that you start making the right moves at the right time. It requires a good understanding of cash game tokens and also an awareness of what’s happening around you. For instance, you need to know when to trap/slow play or flat call.
The former involves deceiving your opponents by playing passively despite having a strong holding. This allows the opponent to remain in the pot, giving you the chance to win more money from them at a later time.
On the other hand, flatting/calling involves matching the bet on the current round instead of raising or folding. Players typically flat call when they have a weak hand and thus, are hesitant to raise. It can serve the same goal as trapping/slow playing, i.e, to fool the opponent(s) into believing that you have a weak hand.
This is also the level where you’ll start using advanced strategies like game theory and balance. They’re useful when you’re playing against excellent players, players who are better than you, and players about whom you have no information, which are pretty common scenarios in the intermediate to expert levels.
Advanced Poker Cash Game Strategy
This section contains cash game tips for all kinds of players. This should help you make a profit regardless of whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or expert player. Generally, you want to;
- Hand reading your opponents: This involves trying to determine your opponents’ hands based on their plays.
- Know your break even point: For this, you need to calculate the pot odds, given by (pot + bet)/bet.
- Use information gathered above to make the right decision.
All in Poker
Going ‘all-in’ is a pretty bold move in no-limit Hold’em poker. You’re essentially risking everything. And by doing so, you’re changing the game. Therefore, you need to know when and why to do it so that this change works in your favor.
Let’s start with the when. Generally, going all-in makes sense if;
- You don’t have many ships left. In this case, going all in will help you stay in the game.
- You’re sure that you have the best hand and you expect to be called.
- You’re confident that your opponent is one card short of a winning hand. Going all-in will stop them from getting the card they need.
- You can also use going all in as a strategy. For instance, players typically go all-in to bluff and force their opponents to fold.
- Other times, going all-in makes your opponents believe that you’re bluffing, when you’re really not. Therefore, when they call you, you win the whole thing.
On the flip side, you don’t want to go all in if;
- You have a great starting hand but other players have folded and the pot is low. Doing this will scare everyone off and win you little money.
- You’re not sure that you have the best hand on the table. How do you know for sure? If another player(s) is betting and raising, there is a good possibility they have a better hand.
Blackjack betting strategy
Blackjack is one of the most popular poker variants. It’s quite complicated too, due to the number of variables that come into play. This is perhaps why many poker players believe that blackjack is a game of chance. However, that doesn’t mean that strategies are completely useless. They will come in handy in reducing your overall losses, and then you can rely on luck to win.
One of the most important things to know is the blackjack basic strategy. This refers to the overall set of blackjack rules on how to play your cards. Having a solid understanding of is rules helps you know what move you should make depending on the situation. It opens the door to other blackjack betting strategies like;
- Steady Betting Strategy: This is the simplest of blackjack betting strategies. You start a session with a certain number of betting units. Throughout the game, you’re expected to never deviate from the betting unit size regardless of the results.
- The Martingale Betting Strategy: In this strategy, you double up on losing bets and reduce the size of winning bets by half. It’s quite popular in other forms of gambling. The goal is to increase the odds of breaking even. However, it also increases the risk of severe and quick losses.
- Oscar’s Betting Strategy: This strategy aims to make a profit after each betting cycle. In case of a loss, the size of the next bet remains the same. But after a win, the next bet increased by one unit.
- Positive-Progression Betting Strategy: This refers to a strategy where you increase your stakes after a win. Oscar’s betting strategy is a type of positive-progression strategy.
- Negative-Progression Betting Strategy: This is the opposite of positive-progression betting strategy. In this case, you increase the stakes when you’re losing. The martingale betting strategy is a type of negative-progression strategy.
You’re going to encounter many different types of poker players during your ‘career.’ One of the most frustrating types of players is the “calling station.” This refers to a fold-averse player who calls often regardless of their hand strength. They can be a problem, especially if you catch a cold run of cards.
To deal with them effectively;
- Size up your bets: Calling stations are usually found in low stake games and tend to be pretty inelastic calling ranges. So, if you size up on your bets, you stand a good chance at frustrating them and winning.
- Don’t bluff too much: If your opponent is making a whole lot of calls, bluffing them is not going to work. Therefore, tone down your bluffing frequency the moment you realize you’re dealing with a calling station.
- Go for razor-thin value: When facing a calling station, you should be willing to bet for values that would be too marginal against most players.
Heads up poker strategy
A heads up poker game is as exciting as it gets. To win in in such a game, you’ll need to;
- Stay aggressive: Heads up poker demands aggression from early on. Some aggressive heads up plays include open raising and betting three times the big blind with any face or ace.
- Assess your opponent: You also need to know the mindset of your opponent. Are they also playing aggressively, or are they conservative? This helps you tailor your approach.
- Bluff catching: If your opponent is too aggressive, you should resort to bluff catching. This means allowing them to run the show. You, on the other hand, bet to stay in the hand.
Three card poker strategy
Three card poker is relatively simple to understand and play. However, strategies will still help you become a player. Generally, you want to;
- Bet whenever you have Queen-6-4 or better and anytime your hand is Q-7 or better regardless of your third card.
- If your high card is a jack or lower, fold regardless of how high your other two cards are.
- Take advantage of optional bonus wagers; the pair plus bonus and the 6 card bonus.
- For the pair plus bonus, you win if you’re dealt a pair or better in your three cards.
- You win the 6 card bonus if you can make a poker hand of three of a kind or better after combining the three cards in your hands and the three cards in the dealer’s hands.
Advanced poker strategy
Here are some really important poker tips that should help you as an advanced player.
Use non-made hands with backdoor flush draws to bluff
When you have position on your opponent and an unpaired hand with a backdoor flush draw, you should consider betting. Backdoor flush draws are are effective bluffs on the turn when;
- The turn gives you a flush draw
- The turn completes a lot of draws
Check-raise more frequently from the big blind
Check-raising more frequently pressures your opponent, which stops them from raising more equity. There are several ways to go about this;
- Check-raising with your strong hands
- Check-raising as bluff using hands that have decent equity.
- Don’t be afraid to check-raise with draws after calling a 3-Bet
About Multiway pots
A multiway pot is any pot with three or more players. In this situation, pocket pairs and suited and connected hands have the highest probability of hitting really strong hands. Thus, they are your money makers.
Consider over betting when you have the “nut advantage”
Having a ‘nut advantage’ means you have more combinations of su[per strong hands (two-pair or better) than your opponent. In this case, you want to overbet in order to win more.
Poker Strategy FAQ’s
Pot odds refer to the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet. A simpler way to define them would be the amount you might win for every dollar you’re required to commit. When compared to winning odds, they form a solid basis for optimal decision making.
This is a poker tournament without a scheduled start time. It begins once a set number of players have entered the tournament. This number is up to the organizers to decide. The typical sit n go poker tournament has three phases; the early phase, middle phase, and late phase.
The best starting hands are Ace-Ace, King-King, Queen-Queen, Ace-King, Ace-Queen, Jack-Jack, King-Queen, Ace-Jack, Ace-King, and 10-10.
The top-5 worst starting hands in poker are 2-7 (offsuit), 2-8 (off-suit), 3-8 (offsuit), 2-9 (offsuit), and 2-6 (offsuit).
A straddle refers to an optional bet a player makes after the posting of the big blinds. It occurs before cards are dealt. It’s typically used only in cash games with fixed blind structures.
A straight is a hand with five cards of sequential rank. For instance, 4,5,6,7,8, would be considered a straight.
This is the third highest-ranking of poker hands. It beats one pair and high card ranks but can be beaten by a three-of-a-kind and every hand above it.
There are several situations that will force a player to fold. This includes when you have a trash preflop hand, you have a tight image, you’re priced out of a draw, you have a strong hand but worse is unlikely to raise, and you hold less than the nuts and your opponents are ultra tight.