Poker Player Strategy

Its important right from the beginning get to know how to play good. As a beginner poker player you need a strategy that is simple to learn and understand but still gives you an edge. Here we discuss starting hands, position and other topics that is important. We also give you a checklist that can be used for every poker hand at any level. That should cover what you need to know to be able to start playing profitable online poker. We cant guarantee it, but it worked for us.

Choosing the right Poker You

There are a lot of different variations in poker. You need to find out which form will fit you and your personality. The most popular form of poker today is Texas hold’em. Texas hold’em is played with different types of betting. The game that most people start of with is limit. In limit hold’em you can only bet a specific amount. Then there is Pot limit. Every player can bet any amount at any time, but never more than the size of the pot. And the last one, the one called “the Cadillac of poker”, no limit hold’em. In this game its no limitations, and every player can bet any amount at any time, which means that all your money are at stake in every hand. 

When you are new to the game we suggest you start of playing limit hold’em, because your mistakes will not cost you your hole stack. Start at low limits and work your way up! But do not be in a hurry to move up, its better to be late than sorry! 

Starting hands

To be able to make money from your play you need to be selective about what hands you play. This is one of the basic facts in poker, but still hard to follow when you play. You need to be able to lay down your pocket cards most of the time, even before seeing a flop. If everyone played good starting hands a normal poker hand would be 2 or 3 handed. But in online poker it is not unusual that a lot of players see the flop. This is important to know. A lot of online players like to play suited cards. And that means that when you see 3 cards of the same suit among the community cards you might need to be a little careful. Note that being suited just ad a little extra value to them and therefore you should try to stick to the high ranked suited cards.

What starting hands to play is something you need to figure out. I think that every player has a personality and a risk profile that determines what kind of hands that player should play. If you are a tight player you need to play good starting hands, and that’s the way that you will normally make a nice long run profit. There is also great players that are aggressive or even super aggressive that lives by the concept that any two hands can win. To play lots of hands you need to be able to really understand position and reading both your opponents and the board.

Try to learn a basic set up of different hands and how you can play them in different positions. You need good hands in early position and in later positions you can loosen up and play more hands.

Here is an example of starting hands that could be used in No limit play. “S” stands for suited (two cards of the same suit).

If you are new to the game i suggest you only play the two first groups of starting hands. That will give you less problems and an easier game, when you feel more secure about reading the board, you can ad more hands. Especially from late position. 

First group (premium)

AA

KK

QQ

AKs

Second group (good)

JJ

AK

TT

AQs

99

88

AJs

Third group (speculative)

77

KQs

66

ATs

55

AJ

KQ

44

KJs

33

22

AT

QJs

Hand worse than these hands is usually not worth playing. But also the hands above need to be laid down sometimes. You wont play AT if someone in an early position raised and somebody else have reraised. Position is a key to poker and you need to understand position to be able to become a master poker player. But studying this you are on you way to become a new poker star!

Position

Hold’em is usually described as a game of position. And what that is al about is that you need to use your position to be able to profit in the long run. Card games as Texas Hold’em are a game of imperfect information. You need to guess what your opponents pocket cards and the community cards could ad up to. Depending on your position you have you can get more or less information, and thereby make better decisions. Poker is like a stockmarket. You want to put your money in where you get the best return and the more information you have the better investment you can do! Position can give you that little extra edge. Maybe you are sitting at a table with week players and they al check to you. Then your position gives you an opportunity to buy the pot.

It is important that you know in what position you are and make adjustment to your game due to position. This means both picking what starting hands you play, but also how to react after the flop, the turn and so on. In early position with a lot of players behind you to act a check-raise could work, but it is less likely that if you are in 9th position and checks that the 10th position bets. All this put together make a big difference in the long run. The table can be described like this.

10 is the dealer (the button) last to act in every round except preflop. The best position there is!
1 Small blind. The worst position because you always act first after the flop.
2 Big blind. Sometimes allows you to see free cards on the flop, but you are in early position.
3,4 are in early position.
5,6,7 are in middle position.
8,9 are in late position.

The value of position can be put into two main categories. Its simple but very important! 

A) In late position you can see what your opponents do before you have to act! 

B) In late position your opponents do not know what you will do before they have to act!

In tournaments, where the poker stars shine as brightest, I think that position is the most important knowledge you can have. If you know your opponents at the table it might allow you to pick the right spots to steal some blinds. A lot of players expect you to steal from the button but maybe not from position 7-9.

Another thing about position is to know where you have the blinds. The blinds can make miracles. A hand like 7,4 can see the flop free sometimes and hit a nice 5,6,8 on the flop. Not many players would have entered a pot with 7,4 off suited but the Blinds couldn’t fold it. And I you miss who had the blinds it can cost you a lot of money when those miracles happen. Of course you can’t be afraid of this happen al the time. And you can prevent it from happen by put in a raise with your better hands the blinds don’t get the free flop and thereby loosing money by trying to see flop (read about EV).

Reading the board

Its not enough just playing the starting hands above and know what position you are in. Reading hands is what the game is all about. You need to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em. This comes with experience.

To read the board means to be able to calculate the strongest possible hand based on the community cards on the board. But just because a hand is possible doesn’t mean that anyone is holding it. Betting pattern could give you lot of information about what kind of hand people have. But be careful, because sometimes a tricky player slow plays his hand to not give you that information! Board reading also means to be able to tell what hands are not possible, so you can exclude them when making your decisions. Remember to deduce your own cards from the opponent possible hands.

Some examples:

1. If there is a pair on the board, someone could have hit a 4-of-a-kind or a full-house. If you do not have at least a set or a good draw when the board pairs, be very careful.

2. 3 suited cards on board make a flush possible. Be careful if you, for example, have a set or a straight when a flush could be out there. Maybe you should play defense and try to get to the showdown as cheap as possible. Be extra careful after the flop if, at least, 2 of the community cards are suited, since people seem to chase flushes way to often. The chance of hitting a flush after the flop with 4 suited cards are about 19% each on the turn and river, giving you a total of 35% chance to hit on the turn or the river. Knowing your statistics help you to make your opponents make mistakes, i.e. if you have the straight after the flop or turn, and there is a 4-card flush possible, raise enough to not give your opponent the odds for a call or even a free-shot at the flush. Make them pay big-time for their chance, because then they are making a mistake and that what you want.

3. If there are sequence cards on board, those make a straight possible. For example, if the flop comes 7,8,9 someone might have the two missing cards like 6,J, 5,6 or more likely a JT. Do not forget that A counts as the highest and the lowest card in the deck!

Bluffing and deception

Everyone is talking about bluffing when they start playing poker and of course bluffing is a great part of the game. But that part is smaller than you think and you should be very careful about trying to bluff people in online poker. In online poker I wouldn’t recommend you try to bluff too much. Instead play tight and aggressive. But sometimes you should consider a bluff. I believe the best time to bluff is when you have a hand that is a drawing hand. The name for this is “semi-bluffing”. Your hand have some strength or you have some outs to improve. You can then raise and hope that your opponents lay there hands down. And if they don’t you have a second chance of winning the hand. One example of this is when you hold A,10 of hearts and on the turn there is two more hearts. Maybe you believe your opponent have something like a middle pair, which is the best hand. But if you raise he can get scared and fold and if he call you have a lot of outs two end up as a winner (hearts, over-cards).

Deception is important. While you should try to be aggressive, there is some hands that you just can’t bet to hard into. Maybe you flop the nut-flush (again holding the A,10 of hearts). If you come out betting maybe al the players will fold. If you try to trap them by checking you can get more money in the pot on later betting-rounds and end up winning a nice pot.

When to do what depends on the table you are at. At a table with calling-stations you cant keep bluffing, because they will always call you down. On the other hand slow playing will get less money in the pot. If your opponents are cowards that will lay down to many hands, well then you should try to bluff more and slowplay more. Again all this comes with experience, but for a start; don’t bluff to much and don’t slow play medium hands!

Post flop play

Post flop play is al the way from the flop to the showdown. This is what it’s all about. Who is the best poker player? The one that can combine al the pieces and analyze it as correctly as possible. This comes with experience. But already from the start of your poker career you can help yourself by playing the right starting hands. If you play a low suited connector and don’t hit the flop, its usually not much to think about; get rid of it. If you are holding AA and the board comes rainbow (different suites) and widely spread like 3,7,J it’s a really good chance that you have the best hand. But what If you decided to play your 3,4s? You might be in trouble.

Sometimes you will find yourself holding the best possible hand, “the nuts”. When you do you need to think about the possibilities to be outdrawn. And when you think that you are behind in a game but you think you can hit a card that makes you a winner, you need to start thinking and calculating to make the right decision. Here is some guidelines how you evaluate your hand.

“Checklist” for every poker hand

A) Identify the best possible hand (the Nuts).

B) Compare your own hand and if you not holding the Nuts, how likely are you to hold the best hand?

C) If you have the Nuts or think you have the best hand:

C.1) Decide whether or not you want to gamble, slow play and maybe trap you opponent. This could be dangerous.

C.2) Decide how much you want to bet – make sure your opponent makes some kind of mistake by folding, calling or raising. (Because it’s your opponent’s mistakes that win you money in the long run!)

D) If you don’t think you have the best hand:

D.1) Identify every card that could give you the best hand. Be Thorough.

D.2) Decide how likely every card is to make a winner, taking partial odds into consideration.

D.3) Look for backdoor draws – could give the edge to make a hand profitable.

D.4) Decide how likely re-draws are if the hand are made on the turn. Devalue the odds for that.

D.5) Evaluate position. Many players behind you increase the chances that you have to call a raise.

D.6) If it’s a close call also investigate hidden outs. Some make a hand and some gives a tie.

Practice

In online poker it can be hard to be able to make all this calculation while playing. Therefore I suggest that you do to things. First of all try to analyse your hands after it´s over. Try to understand what went wrong and what you would have done differently if you could play the same hand over again. There is poker program for this, but you can also just print out the information or save it in excel or word. An other way to become better at the game is, when you folded your cards, continue watching the other players betting and try to guess what the are holding.

Poker odds

To make the right play in a mathematical way you need to know your odds. But that’s not enough of course. There is also bluffing and sometimes if you hit your long shot to a straight you get a lot of money in the pot in later rounds. But that is over the top for this basic instruction and you better read a book or two that handling pot odds, implied odds and other things you need to know. You can study our odds page here.

But for know you need to know the basic of odds and outs (an out is hitting a card that gives you the best hand, if you think that your card only gives you the best hand 50% of the times you can only count it as partial, in this case of course as a 0,5 out. This table will help you to figure out what to do: 

Number of outs Break even pot oddsIn percent
145-12.2%
222-14.3%
314.3-16.5%
410.5-18.7%
58.2-110.9%
66.7-113.0%
75.6-1 15.2%
84.75-117.4%
94.1-119.6%
103.6-121.7%
113.2-123.8%
122.8-126.3%
132.5-128.6%
142.2-131.3%
152.1-132.3%
161.9-134.5%
171.7-137.0%
181.6-138.5%

If you have more than 18 outs that you think will win you should almost always draw! Why? Well your odds is so good that you will most of the time have an positive expected value by calling or even raising.

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