One of the things that makes poker such an interesting game is that it takes just an hour or two to learn. When you start playing on a regular basis, though, you'll discover there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Yes, becoming a poker expert takes practice. And lots of practice at that. But getting good enough to beat your friends at poker? That's a lot easier. And just a few essential strategy tips can go a long way.
Essential Poker Strategy Articles
Getting a leg up with a few essential poker strategy techniques is really simple. Follow the tips in our easy-to-read and understand poker strategy articles below for beginner to intermediate players and you'll immediately improve your results at the poker table!
Learn how to pick your starting hands, how to understand your position at the poker table and lots more useful tips on improving your Texas Holdem poker game.
Pre-flop play in PLO is more important than it is in Hold'em due to the nature of the betting and the large number of starting hand combinations.
Poker Math Shortcuts: Use Rule of 4 & 2 for Pot Odds
It's true that a lot of math experts do very well at Texas Hold'em poker. And some of you probably think you need to be a math whiz to regularly figure out pot odds in Hold'em.
By using a simple formula developed by former poker pro Phil Gordon, you can easily estimate your pot odds every hand.
Are You a 12 Percenter? How to Set Mine Properly in Poker
In most areas of life, engaging in an activity with a 12% success rate is not a very smart move.
However, in poker there are players that daily make a conscious choice to make a 12% play.
That play is set mining.
Online Poker Game Selection - Choose the Right Game To Win in PokerGame selection is an important and often overlooked facet of successful poker. If you had a choice between sitting down at a no limit Texas Hold'em table with Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu or one with six amateurs who had never played Texas Holdem before, which one would you choose? [Read more...]
Poker Tells - Use Live and Online Poker Tells to Your AdvantageA poker tell is by definition a particular mannerism or change in a player's behavior that might "tell" other players, or at least give away clues to what type of hand the player is holding.
Poker Strategy Texas Holdem
If you've watched poker on TV over the last decade or so the game you likely know as "poker" is really Texas Holdem - and No-Limit Holde'm specifically.
That's the game the poker superstars - Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey - are seen battling it out in for the $10,000 World Series of Poker Championship on ESPN and the game the you've seen played on the World Poker Tour.
It's definitely the most popular poker variation on the planet - and likely the game you're looking to get better at. But it's not the only poker variation out there. If you grew up in any other era, in fact, what you might know as "poker" is far from Texas Holdem entirely.
7-Card Stud, Pot-Limit Omaha, 5-Card Draw, Razz... there are dozens of poker variations out there to get your feet wet in and the game you might have learned from your grandparents as a kid are a far cry from Holdem both in terms of game play and strategy.
That being said Texas Holdem is considered "the Cadillac of Poker" for good reason. It's fast, fun and packed with interesting strategic complications along with the straight up adrenalin rush of pushing all of your chips into the middle at any moment.
If you'd like to get started paying Texas Holdem online, our comprehensive How to Play Texas Holdem strategy guide will give you all the tools you need to make sure you don't get run over at the tables. To see the best Texas Holdem poker site online, check our Texas Holdem toplist here.
If you want a good primer on beginner Pot-Limit Omaha strategy, check our Pot-Limit Omaha rules & strategy guide here.
Poker Strategy for Beginners
Did you check out that Beginners Texas Holdem guide we mentioned? If not, it's a great place for any beginner looking for some simple poker strategy to start with.
It walks you though to very basics of good, solid poker play and helps you to keep things simple - an essential ingredient to good beginner strategy. The advice in there is Texas Hold'em specific but the basic fundamentals of good poker are the same across all variants.
Play Fewer Hands
if you're playing virtually every hand you're dealt you're going to get into a lot of trouble. You'll go to far with hands that are overmatched and you'll quickly lose more of your bankroll than you can likely afford.
That's not to say you have to sit around and wait for aces only, though. Similarly if you only play premium hands your opponents will figure out pretty quickly. But as a beginner you should stick to a pretty tight range of starting hands to save yourself from tough decisions on later straight.
Play in Position
Equally important as (if not more than) which cards you play is WHEN you play them.
As the dealer button goes around the table you'll notice that players are much more inclined to put some money in the pot when they have the dealer button in front of them.
That's because you are the last player to act in the hand when you're in the dealer spot (or closest player to it if the dealer folds). Being last to act means you simply have more information you can use to make a better decision.
If you're facing a bet or raise, you can assess your hand strength accordingly. If there's no action to you you can take the initiative and try to steal a pot.
The advantages are quite dramatic and you'll see poker players at the top of the game obsessed with playing as many pots in position as they can. You can learn a lot from that, even as a poker beginner.
Learn Basic Poker Odds and Outs
Poker, at it's heart, is a game of both math and psychology. It might seem daunting at first but if you can a handle on the basics of poker math - how many outs you have to a made hand, what the pot odds are giving you to stay in the hand, when to call or shove your stack in the middle if you're short - you'll be a long way ahead of the game.
There are some simple shortcuts you can use to get those estimates really close in real time and give you the right information to win more pots.
Don't Bluff So Much!
If you watch poker on TV you might think poker is a game of perpetual big bluffs and getting all of your money into the middle on a wing and a prayer - just because you have the guts to do it.
The truth is ... not so much. While the showy bluffs on TV obviously get a lot of attention and praise, as a poker beginner you're much better off playing some straightforward ABC poker.
Play good hands, put your money in the middle when you have it and hope someone has a good enough (but not better) hand to call you down.
As you advance in the game you'll obviously want to mix your play more and be less predictable but when you're just starting out, keeping it simple is best.
Don't Talk So Much
If you're an amateur player sitting at the table with player who have more experience than you, they have the advantage. They're simply more comfortable with all of the different calculations you need to make in a hand - and can do so without tipping off what they're holding either by tells or by betting.
You, as the amateur, are still working to feel calm and in control at all times. You're likely already giving off information an experienced player can use to figure out your hand, and you'll only make it worse (likely) by talking a lot.
It's always great to be social and chew the fat with your tablemates, but if you're getting deep in a big hand the chances are you're tipping off your hand strength if you both ask or respond to questions.
If you feel confident you're not giving anything away and are having a good time, then go for it of course. But for most of us, still and silent is the best way to not tip our opponents off.
Poker Strategy Advanced
Once you've got past (aka survived) your initial foray into poker (either online or live), and you've decided you want to make poker either a more serious hobby or, for some, a semi-profession, you'll need to take your poker strategy to the next level.
To put it in pretty simple terms, you'll need to both take your "A" game - where you're playing your absolute *best* poker - to the next level AND play your A-game more often.
This applies whether you want to move up in the stakes a little bit or just improve your performance at the stakes you currently play at.
Nothing quite improves your game like simply playing tons of hands - over and over and over again. The more you find yourself in similar situations the better the proper plays can become reinforced.
The odds in certain scenarios become second nature, you find yourself instinctively seeing hands play out two or three streets down the line before they happen, etc.
But you can also find yourself stuck in a bit of a loop, repeating the same mistakes over and over again and not quite figuring out where you're going wrong.
Some of it can be simply "running bad," or below expectation for awhile, but some of it can be that your poker strategy hasn't evolved enough to reach the results you want to achieve.
You can figure out how to "set mine" with the proper odds or recognize some common poker tells players give off, but as many, many poker pros will tell you the biggest factors in taking in taking your poker strategy to the next level are:
Tracking Your Records
When you're just a poker hobbyist playing a few hands here and there there might not be the incentive to break down your poker play in intricate detail. You might pick up a few tricks here and there, and intrinsically improve your game a little bit at a time, but you never really need to know exactly what your biggest flaws as a poker player are.
You win a bit, you lose a bit, you have a good time. That's enough for 95% of us. But if you really want to see where you're losing value on certain streets, or where your biggest opportunities to improve your game lie, you have to spend almost as much time breaking down your poker sessions after the fact as you do playing the,.
Look at your hand histories. Re-trace all of your steps in the pots you lost and see if there was something different you could have done to make it turn out differently.
Truly assess your win/loss rate and be honest with yourself about whether you're a losing player or your.
Until you do that with your poker play - really look at it from an outside perspective and assess your decisions in a strategy vaccuum - you don't stand much chance at getting substantially better.
Talk About Poker Strategy With Better Poker Players
In parallel with intimately assessing your hand histories, most pros will also say a critical factor in improving your game is talking with players who are better than you.
In the old days, when players like Daniel Negreanu were making their bones on the cold-hearted cash-game tables of Las Vegas, this was the ONLY way poker knowledge could be passed down - face to face with the players who paved the way before you.
Nowadays with poker coaching sites and books and magazines and poker strategy videos everywhere you turn it's much easier to find the information you need to take your game to another level - but it still needs to come from those who have put the time in, played the hundreds of thousands of hands required to build the knowledge, and then share it with you.
You'll never see your game or poker strategy expand more than breaking down a few tricky hands with a better poker player after your session. The lessons will stick in your brain in a way it just won't watching a poker strategy video.
Poker Strategy for Tournaments
Another important distinction to make on the path to poker strategy nirvana is which kind of poker "specialist" you want to become. You don't have to become a specialist, of course, but as many poker "careers" evolve there definitely tends to be a divide between "cash game" players and "tournament" players.
Sure, there are players who can bounce back and forth between both with relative ease (see Ivey, Phil). But it helps to specialize in one form of poker to really maximize your profit potential.
Given the proliferation of poker tournaments over the past 10 years and their gigantic (and growing) prize pools, many players have chosen to specialize in tournaments as they offer a specific opportunity to make a lot of money with minimal investment.
You always know the amount of the buy-in (unlike a cash game, where you can rebuy all the time) and, if you are a fairly consistent casher, can predict to some degree the amount of money you can be expected to make.
The buzz of a bustling tournament room, like at the World Series of Poker, is also something unmatched in a generic poker cash game.
Poker strategy for tournaments is also pretty specific and can be mastered in a way the more elusive nature of deep-stack cash games can't. Yes, there is definitely a lot of what they call "variance" in poker tournaments. And you will lose a lot in tournaments. But, unlike cash games, you always know how much the amount you lose will be.
There are dozens of different types of poker tournaments you can choose from these days, from bounty and progressive knockouts to hyper-turbo SnGs to the traditional MTT freezeout. Each one requires a specific skill set to know how to play optimally. Read more about the different types of poker tournaments and where you can play them online right here.
Our strategy section here at PokerRoomsOnline doesn't delve into the specific strategies best for each tournament variation so you're best looking for that help elsewhere. But if you'd like to succeed in poker tournaments a good, solid understanding of poker fundamentals (which you CAN get here at PokerRoomsOnline) will go a long way.
Poker Strategy for Cash Games
The flipside of poker tournaments is, of course, the traditional poker cash game. Rather than a set buy-in and progressive blind levels until one player has allthe chips, cash games can play out in any number of ways.
Players can come and go at any time; players can buy in anywhere from the table minimum to the maximum; players who bust can reload at any time; you can play for 10 minutes or 10 hours and play against the same opponents the whole time or any variation in between.
Unless you change tables the stakes will also stay the same the entire time but your stack can fluctuate wildly. In general cash games tend to play much more deep-stacked than tournaments and are much more of a post-flop game, meaning the strategy (and psychology) required to be a strong cash game player is entirely different from tournaments.
Some players are more suited to one or the other but there's no denying the best cash-game players are widely considered the "best" players in the world. It's up to you to decide which type of game you prefer but if you tend to have nerves of steel, like the flexibility of changing up your game and stakes as you wish and the heart-racing thrill of having a good chunk of your bankroll on the poker table at one time, cash games might be for you.