Playing poker has been a favorite pastime for ages, and although it started out as a men’s only habit, nowadays, when everyone and their grandma can play poker online, there’s no reason for anyone not to enjoy poker. Of course, even though this game of chance is now largely available, this does not mean that it’s easier to play and win—or that winning has lost its importance for that matter. Contemporary online poker is no less a game of strategy in this day and age, than it used to be some 200 years ago when it was first attested, in the first half of the 19th century. As such, we’ve compiled a list of ten basic pointers, tips, and tricks that you will want to follow, should you want to stand a better chance of winning at poker. And, then again, who doesn’t?
1. Fold More
If you’ve just started out playing poker, the excitement the game naturally induces, as well as a couple of well-placed lucky streaks, typical for beginners, will make you feel on top of the world. As such, you will feel impelled to play every single hand. After all, that’s what playing poker is all about, right? Actually playing and going in for every hand, even those which are obviously not that good for you… That’s where most beginners go wrong. Playing poker sometimes means folding, roughly about 50% of the time. Count your folds and make sure you’re not staying in for more than half of them. If you are, you need to rethink your strategy.
2. Watch the Other Players
As someone very wise once said, poker is a people game played with cards, rather than a card game played with people. The most important element of the game, and your subsequent strategy, is what the other players are doing. You need to watch what they are doing: for instance, if a player who rarely ever raises does so at a certain point, then you can surmise he is either bluffing his way through, or, more probably, he’s got a good hand—much more plausible in this scenario, then for a player who raises every other two hands. Your strategy needs to be articulated around the players playing with you.
3. Be Aggressive
Poker is a game that has a lot to do with psychology. If you call down every other average hand you get dealt and then act hesitant when you receive a stronger hand, you are basically inviting the other players to dominate you. This is not what poker is all about—it’s the simplest and quickest way to allow the other players to suck all the pleasure out of the game for you. Enjoying the game, on the other hand, is just as simple: all you need to do is fold when your odds are low and raise when they’re in your favor, because a tight and aggressive game strategy is what will bring you the money in the long run.
4. Stay on the Wagon
This is one very commonsensical piece of advice, yet almost every professional or otherwise passionate poker player can tell you they’ve been there: they have drunk alcohol while playing poker. We’ve come across this advice and lots of poignant personal stories on the Poker Blog, which turned out to be an priceless information resource while preparing this piece. As any of the seasoned players on the website will tell you, drinking disinhibits you and, while also making you generally more outgoing and gregarious, it will also cause you to pointlessly throw away countless stacks of chips. Stick to one drink tops—from two onward, you might feel more relaxed, but your game is sure to be less sharp and precise.
5. Consider Efficiency Software for Online Poker
If online poker is your thing, then you might find it worth your while to invest in efficiency software, which essentially enables you to improve your skill level at a faster pace. These programs can customize the appearance of your deck of cards and table to suit your preference and thus aid you in transitioning from playing live poker to the online world. One of the top challenges in this respect is adjusting to the multi-table mode, then moving up across the skill level range.
6. Don’t Play on a Bad Day
Since poker is gambling, you should be advised against playing when in a bad mood. On days when you’re feeling angry, depressed or otherwise low, steer clear of the poker table, since you will be playing with your emotions, not your reason, or ‘on tilt,’ as the poker lingo goes. The same applies to situations in which you play a couple of bad hands or lose one big hand. Don’t allow yourself to go on tilt, or the other players will sense your bad mood and turn it to their advantage. Playing on tilt always prohibits you from playing your best.
7. Know When to Move to a Higher Limit
If you’re relatively new to the world of playing poker, then you might feel compelled to move to a higher skill level relatively quickly. There is an entire host of reasons in doing so, and while some are justified and understandable, others are less appropriate. It’s alright to move up to $5/10 games if you’ve been constantly and consistently winning hands in $2/4. However, if you simply want to cut to a shorter line for higher limits or impress someone else, then you might want to reconsider your strategy. Poker is a game, after all, and you shouldn’t be risking money you can’t afford to lose in real life.
8. Bluff Judiciously
If you’ve just started out playing, you will definitely know that bluffing is a big part of the game, but, most likely, you will be unclear as to how, when, and how much you need to bluff. First off, forget what you’ve seen in the movies. While bluffing is an important part of the game, there is no rule, either written or unwritten, which says you need to bluff for bluffing’s sake. For instance, in a scenario where one of the players constantly and coherently calls to the showdown, you should know that you stand little to no chances at bluffing against that player.
9. Chasing against the Odds Is Not Recommended
Have you missed the flop? Are you holding pocket queens in an aggressive game situation, where the flop is an Ace and everyone else is playing like they’re holding pairs of Aces (at the very least)? In such a situation, the odds to improve will make the situation prohibitive for you to pay in order to see more cards. In simpler terms, it’s pointless to go after the third queen, since you were hoping for a good flop, obviously didn’t get one and stand little to very slim odds at improving your standing. It will cost you through the nose and most likely get you nowhere.
10. Know Your Skill Level
Winning a series of $2/4 games is not that difficult, new players will learn, as they also realize that they have just raked in quite an impressive sum of money. However, there is a good reason, for which one should not immediately jump into $5/10 games: in poker, you always want to be the best player at your table, not the one of the little fish that gets eaten up by the bigger sharks. That’s why it’s advisable to stick with your skill level table until you’re absolutely sure that you are ready to move on up. At higher odds, the swings of the game are also more intense and the other players more skilled. Don’t dive in head-first until you’re sure you can take them on.