Poker Strategy

As a game of skill, you can learn how to play poker like a pro. That’s not to say it’s easy to master. As a matter of fact, becoming a poker pro requires a lot of effort and time. If you want to get better at it, you need to learn various strategies and approaches to the card game to unlock all its secrets.

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Even then, you’ll need to learn how to bluff and keep your poker face on. It might come as a surprise to you, but knowing how to keep your game face on can help you win at poker more than anything else.

But, it’s the combination of a good strategy, position, bluffing, and other factors that will help you become a poker pro.

The Fundamentals of Poker

Legendary poker player David Sklansky proposed the principle called fundamental theorem of poker which is considered a poker Bible by many players. Sklansky based the principle on a mathematical model. According to him, poker is a decision-making game based on incomplete information. Due to this, every time a player plays his hand differently from the way he would if he could see the other players’ cards, he loses his advantage. It’s the other way around if his opponents do the same.

In simple terms, if a player was able to see the cards of other players, he could use mathematical reasoning to gain an advantage. The less the player deviates from correct decisions in a given situation, the better his long-term results will be.

When applied properly, the fundamental theorem of poker can help a player win at poker. However, it requires a lot of knowledge about the game as well as skill so it can work. The theorem might be a bit too complicated for beginners, but once you master the game of poker, you’ll understand how it works.

What are the basic Poker Strategies?

Before deciding on the approach you want to take, you first need to decide if you’re going to be a poker player for fun or a poker pro. Your objective is to win in both cases – even if you’re only playing for fun, why lose? However, if you want to become a poker legend, you’ll need more than a basic poker strategy. Mastering the game of poker will take a lot of time and requires a lot of dedication, so you need to be patient. You can’t just learn everything overnight, but you will succeed if you want it hard enough.

Winning in poker starts with the selection of a hand. You need to learn how to always get the best hand possible to beat your opponents. Since there’s no way of knowing what cards you’ll get, you will rely on forming the best hand possible in any situation.

Your odds of winning can be calculated, and this knowledge can help you win at poker. Let’s say you have four clubs – two are in your hand, while two are on the table. You’re waiting on one more club to fall on the river to complete a flush which puts you in a great position to win. There are 13 clubs in a 52-card deck and you have four, so this leaves 9 more in the deck. There are 46 cards left in the deck (two in your hand and four on the table), and nine of them will form your flush. This leaves a total of 37 cards and brings your odds to 37/9. This means that your chances of landing the 5th club and forming a flush are around 4/1.

Knowing this can help you decide what to do easier and eventually win the round.

Knowing the Pot Odds

The next thing you’ll need to learn is how to calculate the pot odds. The pot odds are essentially the number of chips you can win vs. the number of chips you need to put in the pot. We can use the aforementioned example to calculate the pot odds and make the right decision. You already know that your odds of getting the 5th club to form a flush are 4/1. Let’s say the pot already has 10 in this situation. Your opponent bets their last 10, so now there’s 20 in the pot. What should you do? Do you call or fold?

Figuring out the math can help. In this situation, you’re requested to pay 10 to get twenty or pot odds of 2/1. Your odds of hitting a flush are 4/1, so taking a risk to win the pot in this situation isn’t really worth it. In this case, you should fold.

If the situation changes a bit, your play will be different. For example, if the pot has 90 and your opponent bets his last 10, the chances of winning the pot are much better. You need to pay 10 to win 100 – translated to odds, that’s 10/1. Risking a 4/1 to get a payout of 10/1 is worth it, so in this situation, the correct decision is to call.

More Things You Should Know About Poker

The different Poker Styles

You know what makes poker so exciting? It allows players to use different styles and approaches. Although not officially recognized as poker styles, there are some approaches that can be broken down in a few groups.

First comes the so-called Tight playing style – it’s preferred by players who like to play cautiously and don’t take risks. It’s a more conservative style of play fit for patient players. Just opposite of it is the Loose style of play. Just like the name suggests, it’s a much looser type style that involves taking risks frequently.

Players can also play aggressively or passively, either taking matters in their own hands or letting their opponents dictate the play. There’s no right or wrong approach – you can just use what suits you best. However, every style of play comes with a list of advantages and disadvantages. We suggest learning them all and using each one depending on the situation you find yourself in. Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to be aggressive, but if you have a bad hand, you should take things down a notch. A good poker player will know which style to use in any situation and that’s what you should be aiming for.

The Importance of your position at the Table

You’ll hear many poker players saying the position at the table is not important, but it really is. Although it doesn’t really sound logical, where you sit at the poker table can either bring you an advantage over the other players or ruin things for you. The dealer, also known as button, is the last person to act. This means that by the time you’re up, you already know what others have played. This gives you a tactical advantage over everyone. Betting last after learning what your opponents did may be the difference that essentially makes or breaks your chances of winning.

According to experts, this tactical knowledge means you’re better off playing late than early hands. Many poker players save their bets for the late stages. Their relaxed position at the beginning of the game and aggressive play toward the end allows them much better flexibility and gives them better chances of winning.

So, if you have the option to pick your spot at the table, we suggest going last.

The Art of Deception

Deception techniques such as bluffing and learning how to keep a poker face on are just as important in a game of poker like any other factor we mentioned earlier. If you want to win at poker, you need to become better at bluffing. In some cases, bluffing is the only thing that’ll help you win when the odds are clearly not in your favor. It’s a technique which requires a lot of time to master, but trust us – it will make a world of difference in the end.

This kind of deceptive approach has one goal in mind – to force the opponent to change their style and make a mistake. With bluffing, you can successfully force an opponent to fold a hand they really shouldn’t, allowing you to win the pot. You might think that body language doesn’t really play a part in poker, but it really does. Learn how to get better at bluffing and master the mathematics of poker and you’ll be on your way to poker tournaments.

Starting Hand vs. Rest of the Hand

One of the things that separate poker amateurs from poker pros is the way they form their hands. Everyone knows what a good starting hand is. You just need to follow some guidelines and you’ll quickly realize how good or bad your starting hand is. However, how you play for the rest of the hand is equally important.

Depending on your starting hand and your poker skills, you can either make a great hand out of nothing or ruin a good starting hand. And that’s what makes the difference in the end. In order to create a winning hand, you need to calculate the pot odds, bluff, recognize bluffing when you see it and recognize the betting patterns of others. In simple terms, you need to get better at poker and that will come with a lot of exercise.

Once you’re comfortable with it all, you’ll learn how to solve the puzzle of the starting and winning hands.

Other Tips

When it comes to getting better at poker, there’s no way around it other than playing and studying it non-stop. In general, you’ll need to play it twice more often than studying it. Take your time with every decision, especially in the beginning, and don’t forget to make poker friends. Your new poker buddies will certainly share knowledge you may find of use later.

Stick to the abovementioned tips and strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master in poker.