If you are a poker enthusiast, but you spend more than win and your progress can not be called really successful, it is time to think of how you can improve your poker skills. You will hardly become one of the best poker gamblers at the very beginning of your career, but if you want to play better and better with every tournament, then try to apply some tips that will help. Nothing is better than the experience and constant training, but doing the same things from game to game will also scarcely increase your win rate.
Poker is the game of strategy and bluff. However, these two components will no make sense and help you to scoop the pool. In other words, there should be a strategy of the bluff, especially when you are playing live poker in a brick-and-mortar casino.
No one can read your poker face
While you can look whatever you want playing an online version of poker, the offline poker game when you are sitting face to face with your opponents will include control of your facial expression and body language. You have definitely heard of the ‘poker face’ term: now it’s time to translate it into action. Before the start, think of how you are going to look like in order not to give the other players a hint about if you have a winning hand or pretend your current position to be much better than it is. You need to look relaxed and work on your gestures and mimic. Many poker players even advise the to record yourself on the video to rewatch and see how you can improve your performance.
Another good piece of advice to play poker on a better level is to learn how do the other players behave themselves during the game. There are a lot of tutorials on how to read the gestures, mimics, and actions of your poker opponents; this is more concerning the physiology. Here are the most typical ways of how to read the mind of another poker player:
- when a poker player who seemed to be very joyful and communicative suddenly becomes looking gloomy and silent, there is a big chance that he has taken a very strong hand. Such a behavior can be regarded as some kind of a bluff but is more a natural reaction and a desire to keep the real state of things in secret;
- when someone raises a lot and never drops can show a so-called ‘fish’ — this term means an inexperienced but very self-confident player, who tends to opt for bad decisions, bluffs without any reason. One of the main indicators of a fish poker player is a constant reluctance to fold the hand and trials to get profit from every hand without dropping at all;
- when poker players suddenly see that they have strong holding, they usually become very restless and eager for making the next step; they can urging the dealer to play quicker or become annoyed by the other players who, in their opinion, take too much time to think over their next step. If you see signs of impatience, note that this opponent is going to play hard and aggressively and is probably having an advantage over you and the other players;
- shifty restless eyes can indicate a strong position of players, too.
Train at the demo table
If you are a beginner, it is better to start with free poker tutorials; it would be nothing but foolishness to make your first steps in poker in a cash game with professional poker players. Most popular online casinos offer free tutorials and trial versions where you can learn the basics to the tips of your fingers, and sharpen your skills using the theory in a free-of-charge online poker game without losing your bankroll. There are also free apps for online poker where you can also train and get involved in a real money game only after you make sure you are ready and equipped enough for that.
Don’t put too much hope on your starting hand
Most of the action in all poker games starts at the end of the final round, so you have to learn the weakest hands and be based on this knowledge to make decisions. Don’t be too aggressive in the very beginning if you are not sure about your skills yet.
Don’t start playing poker if you do not want to play
This tip might sound a bit strange and seem obvious. However, it is very important to be in a good mood before playing poker or actually getting involved in any kind of gambling activity. You will be a much better player and will follow the poker tips you know accurately when you stay in a cheerful mind. One of the best players said once that he imagines him going all-in and losing everything; if this thought does not seem unbearable for him at the moment, then it is a good moment to play.
It is okay to drop the cards
It is a big mistake of all the beginners in poker: to play each hand whatever the situation is. It can not be named a good bluff and shows your incompetence to the others who play with you. The golden rule for the novices and even the experienced players is to drop when you are not sure if calling or raising would bring you a profit.
Analyze the pot odds
Pot odds is a term that we have to use every time we decide on what to do during the round: call or not. Let’s consider the possible ways of analyzing the pot odds using the following example. Here is a typical situation in Texas Hold’em: you have two one-colored cards on your hands (let’s say, spades), and there are two cards of the same color on the flop. Such a situation is called a flush draw. Thus, you need to evaluate the situation and make a decision, and you have to choose one way of the possible two: ratio technique, or percentage technique. Generally, both methods give the same result, so you just have to choose the one which will allow you to think quicker and will be more convenient and clear for you.
In our example we suppose, that there are only two people left in the pot: you and your opponent, there are 800 USD in the bank, and the second player bets 200 USD, so what shall we do?
It is evident that the first thing we have to do is to find out the probability of appearing the third card of spades on the poker table. We know for sure what cards we have on hand and three cards on the flop. Thus, there are 47 cards left in the deck and we do not know what they are. Let’s do some simple calculations: the deck has nine cards that will be helpful for us to have a flush combination and thirty-eight cards that are useless for us. A formula of a ratio that you need to decide on how to bet next will look like 38:9 which is approximately 4:1. This is our chance for having the best hand in the end. We remember that the pot is 1 000 USD after our opponent made his bet of 2 000 USD, so to win the pot, we have to call this bet. The pot chances are counted with the same ratio: 1 000 USD: 200 USD, or ipse 5:1.
What is the final result of our calculations: we have 4:1 winning odds and 5:1 pot odds. As the pot odds are better than the winning odds, we have more chance to win on distance, so we can call the bet. To sum up, the tip is simple: we call if we see that the pot gives us more opportunities than the winning odds and we fold if the situation is backhanded.
If you decide to count your possibilities for the best hand, you have to remember that you can call the best only if the percentage equity of your hand is better than the percent-size of the bank that you have to call. Even if you feel like calling or raising, remember that poker is a game of maths and analytics, and the best poker players don’t rely on their intuition whatever the temptation is. If you want to play poker at least better than many other enthusiasts, not saying of professionals, you have to count on a chosen poker strategy (or several of them if you find it a good option).
Now it is time to get acquainted with some simple strategies for each round of betting: pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. It is essential to apply maths skills on each round to analyze your poker hand and try to predict the situation for every hand of each opponent player.
How to act before the flop
The pre-flop round is often considered the most difficult in terms of the best strategy as you have many options and many factors that can affect the further games. All you have is starting hands: yours and your opponents. Here are some tips to read that may help in different poker games in the very first round.
Your position is the key moment when the game starts. Evaluate your hand from the point of view of your position behind the poker table; it is as important, as your starting hand. It can be a good hand if you are holding a late position but can be a disastrous mishap on early position, so here is a quick guide of how to estimate the opportunities of your hand depending on the position.
Early positions are the three first places on the left side of the blinds. Most poker tips say that when you start playing from such positions, you should play only strong hands: top pair hands and the other similar ones. Many players limp with too weak hands at the beginning, but this most likely brings you to a loss of money in the end.
The middle ground or three positions on the left from the early ones have more or less the same strategy, but here you at least have a bigger room for maneuvring and can limp with more hands.
Finally, the late positions are the ones that can allow you to earn money; many players who are regarded as good poker strategists make the most of their winnings from the late positions. This position gives you an opportunity to take control of the dealing as many hands are already played at the moment your turn to play comes. The best possible strategy here is to raise with a possibly winning hand, which gives you a significant advantage over the early limpers. At the moment you start playing poker you can already make sure how your opponents play their hands and note what their possible strategy is.
The best valuable hands for the pre-flop round are the top pocket pairs like QQ, JJ, AA, TT, KK.
Playing the flop tips
A flop can be called the most aggressive round of any poker game: on this stage, the chances of all poker players become more evident and the potential of the hands becomes more or less clear. You have to consider this round as the key moment of the whole poker game, so it is essential to make the right decisions and estimate your chances correctly. The outcome depends not only on the combination you have on your hands but also on the actions of the other players.
There are different strategies that depend on your preferable style of game, your hand, your position, and the other players’ strategy; to behave right on the flop round you can use bluff, continuation bet, slowplay. A couple of words about bluffing: it is essential to know how to do it when you play poker, as it is also a separate division of any poker strategy and it has its rules. You have to apply this method only when it is really well-timed. There are some tips you have to remember every time you decide to use bluffing as a poker strategy:
- Don’t raise the pot too much by bluffing;
- Bluff only when you see that your hand has chances to become better;
- Don’t overload your poker strategy with bluffing; the main purpose is to make your opponent poker player believe in your bluff; when you do this recklessly having weak hands, you will most likely be found the length of the foot by the more experienced gamblers.
Briefly: either you have to bluff when it is an appropriate moment, or do not bluff at all.
Post flop strategies: turn and river tips
Post flop rounds bring two more cards to the table; each of the rounds, turn and river, imply the possibility of placing a bet — or fold. Before you make a decision on the post-flop stage, make sure you really need to see the turn and river cards. In most cases, the best poker strategy here is the following: you have to continue playing if you suppose that you have the best of all hands in the game or you lack only one card to become the strongest of the other players. If you are not experienced enough, it will not be a good idea to bluff, but you can try it if you feel like it is the best time for this technique. Again, bluff against one or two players, or just drop your hand.
Let’s suppose you get straight, flush, set, or a pair; here are the best ways of how to act further depending on your positions.
If you are in the early position, and you suppose that your opponent player is going to call or raise a bet, drop the cards, and then raise the bet. If you think that the player is going to raise, the wisest way is to raise. The late position strategy is like that: you need to call if none of the other players calls, but if they do, you have to raise your bet, unless there is a good reason why you do not want to take this risk.
If your game on the turn was unsuccessful, you have to estimate the pot odds and your chances to get the card you need on the river (just like we described in the flop strategies). If you see that you are not in the very vantage place, it is time to fold.
In addition, you need to guess what is the situation like in the other players’ hands. Take your time and think of their actions from the analytics point of view. At this stage of the game, a player usually raises a bet after a raise of the previous player in case they have set or straight on hands; in this case, you need to fold.
If you have to place your bet first, and another gambler raises your bet, remember that he might have a pair; if you have a stronger pair, you can take advantage of him, so you need to think twice before dropping the cards. When everything you have is a pair, even if this pair is very strong, but someone raises your bet, you can be pretty much sure that their cards are better than yours. It is better to fold in this case than to be deceived by the bluff.
When all the cards are on the table, it means that you know all your cards. Now it is time to get as much profit as possible from everything you have.
If you have all cards for your combination, you can place your bets or opt for a drop to see if your opponent raises the bet. However, if you did not manage to get the card you needed (this is the more typical situation so you must be ready for it in most games), your tactics become much more complicated. Thus, you have quite a mediocre hand or a strong pair with a weak kicker (the card from the table), and one of your opponents is placing a bet. If you call a bet, you might lose a lot of money, but if you drop the cards and leave the table, there is also a possibility that your rival smoked the competition with the use of bluff.
Thus, you have to follow a very standard practical tip that will help you to make a decision: if you have at least a slight, one percent suspicion that your opponent is bluffing, you have to respond to his bet. Dropping the hand will be a good solution only in one case: when you are 100 percent sure that it was a bluff and you know that you do not want to take the risk. However, this method will help only when you have one opponent; if there are more of them at the table, such tactics will not work and will not help you, because if one player places a bet, and the second one responds to it, the chances of any of them having a winning hand are way too high, so the best option here is to fold.
Poker strategies difference: for poker tournaments and for cash games
Cash games differ from the tournament game of Texas Hold’em or other varieties. Playing cash poker, players strive to win as many chips with a certain money equivalent as possible. Bets do not change within the whole course of the game, while during tournaments blinds raise after some time.
It is obvious that the poker strategy for such a game time will be different. The tactics may differ according to the moment of the game. Another peculiarity is there is no time limit so players can decide on how long they are going to play.
Again, the main aim is to win as much money as possible; before a player does any action, they count a possible income that it can bring and make a decision according to his analysis. During a tournament, a player is focused on staying in the game for as long time as possible, because the prize amount of money directly depends on his place in the finals of the series.