Poker strategies are the plans we use to make the most of our cards, and the weaknesses in other players to get the highest return on our investments into a poker game.Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well let’s get busy right away breaking it down. We’re going to cover basic poker strategies for the new strategist. That means you already know how to play poker. You might have even won an event or two, but now you’re ready to get serious, and start truly thinking through the decisions that you make, and why you make them.
We’re going to be looking at:
- Preflop Poker Strategy
- Flop Play Strategies
- Strategies for Playing the Turn
- River Strategies
Preflop Texas Holdem Strategies
By paying close attention to a pre-flop poker strategy, you will avoid tough spots on the flop and then later on the turn and river.Keep in mind that cash game poker strategies and tournament strategies are not the same thing. When you’re playing tournament poker the key to your strategy is cashing. Plain and simple, as long as you’re finishing in the money playing poker tournaments, you’re a winning poker player. So patience is the thing in a poker tournament.Food for thought – A PokerStars 180 man Sit n Go can literally be won by playing no more than 4 hands.
Cash games are a lot different. You get a feel for the table, and then you figure out where the weak money is, and you attack it.You’ll read tons of strategy that says play nothing but AK or better, wait for premium hands, etc. That might work for a while, and it’s a GREAT poker tournament strategy, the thing is, your opponents are watching you, they’re seeing that you only pay big aces and they know that one doesn’t flop; you’re going to have to fold.
I’m not saying ten-jack suited is a great hand, I am saying though that once you’ve picked out the guy that raises with every ace, Ten-Jack suited is a playable hand. If an ace flops, you know to drop it like it’s hot. If no ace comes, you know to take control of the action, by betting or reraising.
Preflop – Pot Odds
We’re not going to get carried away with pot odds, but let’s just say if there are four guys in the pot ahead of you, and you’ve got playable cards, you’ve got all the excuse you need to get into the pot. If you’ve got winning cards here, like a wired pair of jacks or better, you have what’s required to shove your chips right into the pot.Never, I mean Ever, Never Limp Into a pot … unless…It is common knowledge that aggressive players are the players who make money at the game, smart aggressive and observant players. With that said, there are a couple very isolated instances in which it is okay to limp into a pot.
If there are 4 callers before you, or you have reason to believe there will be 4 other players in a hand, and you have two live playable cards (i.e. suited connectors, small pair, etc.) it’s fine to limp in and see a flop, especially if you’re in late position. Ask yourself this before you try it though. Could I buy this pot right here? Before you limp, is the pot for sale? If you raised say 5x the blind would the other weak players let it go?Furthermore, if you’re heads up, or near heads up, and you have a monster wired pair, as in aces, or kings. It’s fine to limp into the pot. If there’s a possibility that there are going to be 4 players to the flop, your odds of winning suck, so bet it down to heads up whenever necessary and possible.
Poker Strategies – Playing the Flop
The first part of your new flop-play strategy, and often the most important and hardest part of playing poker is this. Don’t watch the dealer deal the cards, no matter how pretty her hands are. Whether you watch the cards actually make their way to the felt or not, they’re still going to be the same cards. It takes discipline believe me, it sounds so easy, yet it’s just so darn hard!Watch the other players as THEY watch the dealer deal the flop. Do this even when you’re not in the hand. For the first few hundred hands, you might not even figure out what you’re watching for, but keep watching, you’ll see.Some of the things you’ll see if you keep an eye on the players, instead of the cards as they’re dealt include:
- Players actually rolling their eyes when they miss a flop
- Players getting excited and racing their way to their chips to make a bet out of turn when they hit the nuts.
- Shaking Heads
- People Staring Right Back at You!
Now these are the easy tells, you’ll notice a lot more later on as you learn to really just pay attention to people, not just the cards they play, but how they look and act when they’re playing them. Ever feel the heat radiating off the guy next to you all of a sudden? Maybe you didn’t notice, but you will next time. He’s got a monster, fold, fold, fold.Now looking at the list above, the last of these flop-actions is the one you really want to pay attention to. The guy staring back at you, who also isn’t watching the cards flop, he’s either been playing a long time, or he just read this very poker strategy article over breakfast this morning.
In most cases, he’ll show you instant respect, just like you’re going to do him. You know he’s watching, so you know something more than the rest of the table already. He’s also probably giving you a lot of credit, so you can probably steal a pot or two out from under him should the opportunity arise, just remember, poker face, he’s watching.
Flop Strategy – Actually playing the cards
The flop is one of the most important parts of poker strategies because the pot is usually still small and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot to take down the pot without a hand. The best time to be aggressive on the flop is when you are heads–up with your opponent and you know they are capable of folding when you miss the flop.
If they have two live cards, then there is a 2/3 chance they won’t hit a pair, so you can win the pot on the flop with a continuation bet if you were the pre–flop raiser. By ensuring that you raise your hands instead of limping in, you take this initiative on the flop and represent that you have a strong hand when you continue to bet the flop.
Watching your opponents again, are they watching the other players, waiting for the action? Are they interested in the hand, or have they moved on, seemingly lost interest in this hand? Watch for that loss of interest, that’s your chance to buy.Do not however mistake loss of interest with sudden conversation. Players that suddenly have a lot to talk about to someone else at the table are often disguising nerves and intentionally appearing uninterested in a pot right after having flopped the joint.
What does he usually play?
Remember above I mentioned the rocks? The guys that ALWAYS play AK or better? If you’re in a hand with one of these guys, and the flop is 2/9/J, opportunity might be staring you in the face.It’s important to really know your opponents. What are your opponents playing styles (are they loose, passive, tight, or aggressive) and what is your position at the table? The answers of these questions will help you to decide whether to raise, call or fold. For example, if you know your opponent is a loose player that is a calling station, you would never try to bluff this type of player, and you would primarily bet for value against them.
Poker Strategies – Playing the Turn
Once you get to the turn it’s critical that you reevaluate the hand and the action thus far. Talk it out silently… (Before the flop I raised, and then seat 3 called, seat 4 reraised, I called. The flop came… I bet out, seat 4 flat called, seat 3 who had only called thus far shoved all in when a second 6 hit the board on the turn…)
You’re still watching everyone for reaction as cards fall, and the now you’re watching for change, you’re trying to put everyone on a range of hands. Greg Raymer once said during a World Series Event that the turn always brings more outs. The turn changes the possible hands which can win the pot. In the case that the turn card is not scary for your hand and you still like your hand, if you bet the flop then you should usually continue with a bet on the turn, because if your opponent is on a drawing hand you want them to pay to see the river.
However, looking at the scenario outlined above, Seat 3 very possibly called with a small pair preflop, and then hit trips on the turn, it’s also possible that seat 4 was either overplaying a small pair, or is now slow-playing something bigger. If the turn makes a 4flush on the board, that’s something to be aware of, watch for straight cards, etc.In order to play the turn successfully you need to hand read very well and bet a lot of turns when you don’t have a hand, which can be difficult for amateur players.
Checking the turn for the initial better is considered a major weakness. That being the case, the only times you really want to do it are when you’re very strong, or when you’re weak, you’re aware, and you know you cannot bet your opponent off of a hand.It’s possible that in position, a turn card check can buy you a free card, which may in turn win you the hand, but… remember that once you check the turn, you minimize your opportunity to buy a pot on the river.
Furthermore, the knowledge of poker odds & probabilities will help you to calculate your chances to take down the pot, and these calculations often occur on the turn, when you really decide if you like your hand enough to play a big pot.
Poker Strategies for playing the River
The river is where you want to be bringing home the bacon. If you’ve got the winning hand, you want to get as many chips in as you think that you can. If you’re holding a loser, and your opponent checks, be Leary of betting. By all means buy the pot if you think he missed his hand too and will fold, but be careful, if he’s waiting for you to bet so he can raise, you have a chance to do some damage control here and minimize your losses.Another important consideration is your position at the table, which is applicable on all betting rounds. If you have position when betting pre–flop, then you will have position in the hand on the River, which is immensely powerful. It will be more beneficial for you to be in a late position because you will have enough time to take account of the actions of the rest of the players. Their actions can influence your decision so you can hopefully make the optimal play.
When it comes to learning poker strategies, there are a lot of things which can be done to improve your poker game, which includes getting the volume in and studying away from the table. This article briefly touches on some beginner poker strategies; however, poker strategies take a lifetime to master, and an encyclopedia to cover.