When you’re playing poker for real money, it’s important to use every tool at your disposal to win as consistently as you possibly can. Although random chance is definitely a component of winning in poker, strategy and skill are more reliable ways to ensure that you play the game successfully. Having good poker strategies and implementing them properly will help you go from relying on pure luck to actually being able to win on a more consistent basis. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind in order to play the game of poker in a strategic way.
Know the Game You’re Playing Inside and Out
Needless to say, poker has many variants, each of which has its own unique characteristics and game play mechanisms. If you want to employ strategy to win, you need to develop and implement strategies for the dynamics of specific games. The strategies that will work best in hold’em poker won’t translate to the more traditionally popular game of seven-card stud. To become successful as a poker player, you need to have good strategies for every game you play on any kind of regular basis.
Though it’s certainly a good idea to be a versatile poker player, you should start out by focusing on one or two common variations of the game. For most players, Texas hold’em will be the preferred game, so it’s a good place to start. This variant of poker is also relatively simple, a fact which makes it an ideal place for new poker players to focus their strategy learning efforts. As your playing develops, though, you may well find that you’d like to start getting into other variations on the game for variety or because you find them more exciting to play.
Learn to Take Position into Consideration
Your position in a hand of poker is extremely important in determining how you should play the hand and how likely you are to win. As a rule, the dealer button is the strongest position on the table at any given time, and the small blind is the weakest. The relative advantage of positions is a result of the order in which the players in those positions take action, with positions becoming progressively stronger the later in the round of betting they are made to act. If you want to implement poker strategy into your playing successfully, you need to know the strategies that will work best for each position. Although you’ll win more hands in the dealer position than any other, you can definitely use good strategy to improve your odds of winning, regardless of where you find yourself in a given hand.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play a Conservative Game
Mitigating risk is an important component of successful poker playing. If you have a seemingly weak hand prior to the flop, you shouldn’t feel bad about folding so as to avoid losing money senselessly on the hand. Playing conservatively may seem to cut you out of some potential winnings, but the truth is that players who are willing to play very tight games often end up winning much more than those who play every hand to its logical conclusion. Knowing when to fold is one of the most critical skills in poker, and it is one that can help keep your losses to a minimum when the cards simply aren’t dealt in your favor.
Become an Expert in Probability
At its heart, poker is a game governed entirely by mathematical principles. Because you know the number of cards in a standard poker deck, the number of suits and the number of cards of each suit, you have all the information necessary to calculate the probability of various combinations of cards being drawn. Taking into account the cards in your own hand and the cards that have been overturned on the table, you can use quick mathematical calculations as a major component of your poker strategy to decide whether or not someone else is likely to have a better hand than your own.
Mathematics doesn’t come easily to everyone. However, it is a skill that can be practiced and refined like any other. With time, you’ll find that you’re able to quickly and easily work out the probability of any card or combination of cards appearing in another player’s hand. This skill is invaluable, since it allows you to play poker mathematically and determine when you are most likely to win compared to other players. Once you develop this skill, you’ll find it much easier to consistently win money on the poker table.
Pay Attention to What the Other Players Are Doing
In the age of online poker, the old trick of watching other players’ body language and general reactions to the state of the game is irrelevant for all but a handful of casino and tournament players who still participate in live games. However, paying attention to what other players are doing on the table is just as relevant in online poker as it is in a real-world game. Watching the bets, calls and checks of other players can help you determine how strong their hands are at any given point.
Be aware, though, that bluffing is also not limited to the real world. Online poker players can and do still raise when they have weak hands in order to convince their competitors that they are playing with very strong hands. The best way to counter this situation is to use mathematics to determine the probability that the player who is raising has a much stronger hand than your own. Though you will still have to ultimately decide whether to remain in the hand, assessing the likelihood of a player who is raising having a better hand than yours is a good way to navigate a situation in which that player might be bluffing.
Always Think Strategically and Avoid Fallacious Reasoning
In games of chance, even the most rational and reasonable individuals can become prone to irrational thinking. More than anything else, employing poker strategy successfully is about keeping your mind on what you’re doing and making every decision in a rational and logical way. If you don’t consider every move you make, you can end up missing out on winnings you could have otherwise had or losing money you didn’t need to.
The most common form irrational thinking to avoid in the game of poker is the so-called gambler’s fallacy, or the line of thinking that past hands during the same session of play have a bearing on the outcome of the current hand. Though it can often feel like luck is for or against you on a given night, the truth is that each hand of poker is its own independent set of circumstances. If you can avoid falling into such irrational ways of thinking and keep your head about you, you’ll have a much easier time becoming a strategically driven poker player.
Use Available Poker Data to Your Advantage
One of the beauties of the poker world today is the fact that there are practically endless amounts of data from millions of games readily available to players online. This kind of hand data can help you to consider how various poker strategies would work in sample hands without actually needing to risk money by implementing them in a game. Poker data from major games can also help you understand how experts play the game, which in turn will help you develop as a player. Combing through data may seem a long way from the excitement of the poker table, but it will help you win more when you actually sit down to play a game.
Understand That You Will Fail Sometimes
No matter how good a player may be, everyone loses sometimes in the game of poker. If you’re just starting out and haven’t really begun learning advanced poker strategy yet, you will likely fail many times as you learn the game and begin to implement strategy into your playing. Even though losing in poker can be costly and frustrating, don’t let it get to you. As with anything else, failing is an essential step to learning in poker. Through your initial failures and losses, you will learn what works and what doesn’t and become a better player in the process.
Learning poker strategy is a process that will take work, effort and time. In fact, the best poker players never stop learning and improving their personal skills. The good news is that any player, regardless of experience, can begin learning the basics of poker strategy in order to improve his or her playing. If you are a complete beginner, developing an understanding of poker strategy now can cut your learning curve and help you hit the ground running. If you’re an intermediate player who is looking to become more successful, strategy can be the key to increasing your winnings.