Poker is a simple enough game. After all, it only involves betting, calling, checking, folding, or raising. But somehow, the game is almost impossible to master. Maybe it’s because both newcomers and grizzled rounders overcomplicate the game.
If you understand the basic rules and the hand rankings, you’re ahead of a lot of recreational players. But, even though it’s a prerequisite, knowing the rules and hand rankings alone won’t help you win your first World Series of Poker bracelet.
In fact, it’s not enough to get past the first day. Here are some tips to supercharge your poker strategy, maybe these will help you get to the final table.
Bet and Raise – A Lot
You aren’t going to win poker games by folding. You must get chips into the middle of the table.
Obviously, the more money you’re putting in play, the larger your potential return. Your level of aggression can be as important as your timing.
So, if you are a recreational poker player looking to move up in the stakes, start by being more aggressive in your playing style. This means betting and raising more often.
Lots of novice poker players play on their heels. They’re scared of betting more than they should or too often. They are overly cautious when protecting their bankroll.
They often resort to checking when they should be raising. If you’re holding a strong opening hand, such as a pair of queens, kings, or aces, you should be attacking the table with aggressive betting most of the time.
These are great starting hands, and they’re typically a huge favorite heading to the flop. Regardless of the size of the table and how many competitors, you must come out swinging and let your opponents fear you.
This is in stark contrast to playing fearfully. Your goal is to rid the table of the weaker players by bullying them and taking their chips.
When expert poker players see you playing too conservatively, it’s like having a giant dollar sign above your head. They know your money will soon be their money.
If you refuse to bet or raise, you’re going to be picked on. This is poker. Nobody feels bad about bullying you off the table and into the parking lot. But if you can effectively implement a “go big” mentality, you’ll garner respect and instill fear in weaker players.
Expert poker players understand the golden rule of aggressive poker; betting strong increases the amount of the pot. Bigger pots equal bigger paydays.
Be Willing to Wait
Be careful not to cross the line between reckless betting and proper skilled play.
Before I move to the next key to supercharge your poker strategy, it’s paramount to clear up some vital points about betting assertively.
For starters, an aggressive approach doesn’t mean making nonsensical large bets on every hand. Patience is key.
You shouldn’t freely throw money into the pot with subpar hands. Skilled players understand it’s a losing proposition to bet big in hopes of catching a break on the river.
Realistically, you need to fold more hands than you play. Yes, it sounds like I’m stepping back a bit, but read on.
Most of the cards you’re dealt aren’t worth a lick. So, rather than wasting money chasing a small straight draw or bottom pair, fold them. Sure, it’s a lot more fun to play every hand, but in the end, you’ll have much better results folding garbage.
The top poker players know this and on average play only between 20% and 25% of the hands they’re dealt. Why put money on a losing proposition? If the cards are weak, let them go.
Take the break to examine the other players. Sitting back and using this time to observe your competitors is a great way to gain an advantage. By picking up on others’ tendencies and gameplay, you will become a better and more rounded player.
Pay Attention to What the Other Players Are Doing
Lots of catchy one-liners exist around the poker community.
One that I hear often is: “Play the player, not your cards.” This nugget emphasizes that poker is all about the now. You may think you have a great hand, but that’s subjective.
Your pocket jacks look sexy, but what if the player to your left has pocket aces? By understanding how a good or bad hand is all relative to the situation, you will see the game much more clearly.
Granted, you can’t ever be completely sure what your opponent has. Your opponent’s behavior will tell you plenty. If you simply key in on how others are betting, you can gain an advantage.
Is a player across the table slow playing big hands?
You may be best served to approach with caution.
On the other hand, if a player is regularly bluffing when playing poker with weak hands to steal pots, you should call or even raise with a solid hand. This is a great way to put these players on tilt and grab some huge pots.
Sometimes, you’ll see a player that regularly makes calls and goes all-in out of nowhere. They are likely holding a huge hand. It may serve you well to get out of the way.
Your goal here is to learn how to guess with some accuracy what your competitors are holding in relation to a strong or weak hand.
Focus on Long Term Results Not Short-Term Results
Many new players don’t grasp one important aspect of poker: Losing is just how it goes.
At some point, going all in with AA is going to bite you. There will eventually be a player holding pocket sevens that calls and catches a third seven to knock you out. Bad beats happen to everyone occasionally.
Bad Beats Even Happen to the Pros
You can’t let these extinguish your fire. Many would-be poker hopefuls have lost their nerve before they ever really get started. You will have to gather your wits and your resolve to push forward and succeed.
Over the long haul, the odds will eventually catch up and negate the losses from the bad beats. Pocket kings will eventually outperform a weaker pair of eights; the math doesn’t change.
You need to understand that profitable poker play is a time-consuming process. You spend the time honing your skills to be a better player, read the cards more accurately, and ultimately play your competitors more strongly.
This takes months or years of time spent at the tables. On your journey to becoming a legend of the game, experience will be your greatest ally.
Practice Your Poker Skills
One of my favorite ways to learn about anything is by reading. Poker is no different.
You can get right into the mind of a pro by checking out their poker blogs or reading one of the many books on the game. After all, there is no greater teacher than experience.
Don’t just rely on what you’ve read, though. Your own victories and defeats at the tables will provide you a wealth of knowledge and insight. You don’t have to stop your education there.
To supercharge your poker strategy, you need to gather as much information as possible from reliable resources. Many top poker stars have written books on poker strategy.
Pick your favorite player and start there. Harrington on Hold’em is an excellent starting point, too. Playing poker online for real money can be a great avenue for improving your poker skill.
Be careful in choosing the correct table. Oftentimes free play games are filled with newbies and those prone to push all in on a whim.
You’ll be better off at a low stakes cash game to begin. Consider keeping a journal to log your progress. This can be a great resource in measuring your results.
Poker can be tough. You’re going to go through low points where it seems you can’t catch a card. You’ll have bad beats that feel like your stomach has been ripped out. You may even lose your bankroll a few times as you get started.
These experiences don’t mean you should cash in and walk away. Every player of even minimal success has been through the same trials. Keep your head level and push on.
Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anyone else.
Use these ways to supercharge your poker strategy and work your way into greatness or, at the very least, win your weekly home game.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …