Yo! Do you want to gain an edge over the other players at your table? If so, read on. We’ll dive into 8 effective poker strategy tips that can help you stand out from the competition and crush your opponents on the felt.
1. Don’t Limp, Fast-Play Your Strong Hands
If you’re first into the pot, they call this RFI (raise first in) then don’t limp. You want to raise pre-flop with your strong hands. There are situations with stack sizes that you may choose to limp, but only if there are limpers ahead of you and you aren’t deep enough stack size to isolate the limper.
The basic premise is that you want to increase the pot size when you hold good cards since those are the cards that have the most equity and expected value in the long run. Instead of trying to get too tricky or trappy, just raise.
In tournaments, you want to steal the blinds and the antes as much as possible without getting to the showdown. If you limp, you may allow the Big Blind to see a free flop and let him out flop you, costing you your whole stack.
2. Defend Your Big Blind
Defending your big blind is important. It’s more important in tournament poker when stack sizes get shorter, antes are involved, and you get deeper in the tournament. It’s less important in cash games, but still important nonetheless.
The Big Blind position in poker will always be a losing position. You will usually lose the most amount of money from this position because you always start at a negative denomination. It’s just math. Also, you are at one of the worst positions of the table post-flop and will usually act first unless against the small blind.
However, preserving the amount you lose from the Big Blind can separate the break-even players from winners.
Also if you let the player in the Button position steal your blind over and over again, you will become a target. You need to defend your blind so that they know you are not going to give up easily, and they might think twice about opening up their hand range to steal your blind.
Not only that, but when it folds around to the dealer button position, they are likely opening with more than 50% of possible hands. There are some really bad hands in there.
You can also leverage the fact that people tend to overfold to check-raises on the flop to your advantage, especially on a board that favors your range. A board like 4-5-6 would hit your cards in the BB more often than a button opener’s cards.
3. Play Fewer Hands Aggressively
This was often referred to as Tight-Aggressive (TAG) back in the day, but I don’t see that much anymore. This is especially true for live $1/$3 cash games where you will be playing a lot of multiway pots against many different types of hands.
Every table is different and it’s important to deviate how you play based on your opponents to maximize your earnings, but I believe you should start from TAG as a foundation and then deviate from there based on what your opponents are doing.
If they are folding everything pre-flop then you can start to open up your range a bit and play more hands.
But keep in mind, aggression gives you two ways to win the pot. You can win with your equity and by making a hand by the river, or your opponent can fold and you can win that way. That increases your chances of winning the chips in the middle.
Be mindful of your aggression though, it’s important to understand when to be selectively aggressive and when to shut it down. Sometimes it’s okay to wave the white flag when Dave the calling station will never throw away his 3rd pair. That’s when you value-bet the heck outta Dave and just bet your made hands aggressively. That’s how you exploit in poker.
4. Use Position to Win at Poker
Position is one of the most important concepts to understand in poker. It’s likely one of the first things you learn and the first thing you forget to implement consistently. You have to be disciplined with your positions. The best position at the table is the dealer button, it means you get to act last after the flop (unless everyone folds to the small blind and you are in the big blind).
There are also tons of data to support the fact that the button is the most profitable position in poker in the long run. Meaning that is where you should play the majority of your hands. Just look at your own poker database if you have one, if you don’t then go download Poker Tracker 4 or Hold’em, Manager, right now.
Position is important because you get to see what your opponent does before you have to make a decision, you can control the size of the pot, you are last to act and close the action before the next street or the end of the hand, and you can realize your equity more often with marginal hands.
5. Understand Pot Odds & Outs
Understanding how to calculate outs and pot odds is a must for any successful poker player. Learn the basic and most simple way to do this and repeat it over and over until it becomes second nature in the correct way.
Knowing what kind of odds you are getting laid on a bet compared to what your odds are for winning the hand is imperative to winning at poker. This is the most basic level of odds. Knowing this will allow you to say something along the lines of, “I only need to be right 30% of the time in order for this call to be profitable” because of the pot odds you are getting.
There is also implied odds. For example, if you make your hand on the turn, how much money will you likely get paid after you make your hand? This can sway your decision to make a call that is against the odds, but you might make up for that if you stack the opponent when you hit.
This is all going through your mind at the same time while trying to make a correct mathematical decision, but you don’t actually know for sure if you are making the right choice. However, this is the best way to give yourself an edge over your opponents at the table, and imperative for basic poker strategy in all formats.
6. Learn about hand ranges
This is probably the second most important poker strategy tip that changed the way I think about poker and how it works. The idea is that your opponent doesn’t know what your cards are, they have to assume it’s a range of possible cards based on actions you have performed.
And you don’t know what your opponents are holding, you have to assume a range of cards based on actions that they have made. You SHOULD do this anyways.
Many casual poker players will often say at the table, “ahhh I put you on Ace-King”.
Don’t be that fish. Understand that you should be building and constructing a possible range of hands for your opponent and deciding whether or not to call or raise or fold based on the amount of possible hands in those ranges.
7. Utilize Software for Basic Strategy
Using GTO Solvers like GTO Wizard to understand poker strategy is pretty important these days. It’s not the most important, but it definitely helps you gain an extra edge after you understand the basic theory and math behind poker.
Other software and tools like Poker Tracker can help you analyze your own play and analyze the collected data to find any leaks or massive holes in your game you might not have realized.
Using equity calculators can really help you understand and learn how to form ranges for yourself and for your opponents.
You can also use push/fold calculators to understand how to get better at tournaments and learn what is a profitable shove all-in from a specific position with a certain amount of big blinds left.
8. Review Hands to Identify Mistakes
I have trouble with this one for sure. This is probably one of my weakest areas in poker. Although recently, GTO Wizard has come out with a tool that allows you to upload your hand history into the tool and analyze any GTO (Game Theory Optimal) mistakes you might have made. You can then analyze why this was a mistake and learn from it. Sometimes you might implement it against an opponent as an exploit and it will be incorrect by GTO standards, but understanding why you deviate from GTO is vital in mastering the game.
In conclusion, honing one’s poker strategy is essential to achieving success in the game. Utilizing the eight poker strategies outlined above, you can quickly upgrade your play and become more profitable. Don’t forget to protect your big blinds, leverage position to gain an edge at poker, fast-play strong hands to accrue a larger pot and thus make more money, learn about pot odds and hand ranges. Taking these pointers into consideration will enable you to be a better player and ultimately boost your odds of winning.