If you find yourself in a situation where you are overloaded with all the strategies and tips you take in but you do not know what to do at the poker table, today’s article might be exactly what you need, no matter you are in a home game or playing tournaments.
Tight and aggressive wins the game
Even the best players in the world will only choose a limited number of starting hands to enter a game. If you are playing too many hands (unless you are always lucky) you will inevitably lose your chips.
The first step of winning your Texas Hold'em poker game is to establish a solid pre-flop strategy, and the development of your starting hand range is the ultimate foundation of it. The range of starting hands recommended is often similar, but more often than not, the difficultly lies in sticking to it.
So, the best way is to tighten your range, but play aggressively. Playing all the hands that fall into your range aggressively, even if they are 76s or 55, will help you confuse your opponents and hide your true hand strength. When you raise, it could be AA or 76, and your opponents would not know, which adds up to the difficulties to play against you.
Playing tight and aggressively might be one of the most mentioned winning strategies, but there is a reason it has been so popular for so long!
If you want to learn more about starting hand ranges, take a look at our previous post: What Hands to Fold in Poker.
Do not be the first one to limp
When the first player enters a pot by calling the big blind preflop instead of folding or raising, we call it open limp, which is definitely not a clever move. Why? When you do this, you don’t have the chance to win the pot before the flop like you could if you raised.
In the meantime, you have created more attractive pot odds for the players after you, and their expected values for winning with weaker hands have gone higher. You put yourself in a situation where you might face multiple players and have less chance of winning.
Only under the circumstances where one or more players have already limped, it is acceptable that you limp too since the pot odds are now more appropriate for you.
When and How to Bluff with Your Draws
To be a real winner, you need to bluff more effectively, and this is what most beginners fail to achieve. How do you know when to bluff and how frequently should you bluff? The answer lies within your poker hands. Bluff when there is outs to improve with your hand. Simply let your cards decide if you are to bluff or not. Don't use the cards which have no outs to improve to bluff. Do not bluff when the river card has been dealt either.
Slow-play or Fast-play? Don’t waste your strong hands
It’s absolutely sad when you hit the nuts on the flop and choose to check later on, but in the end no one wants to play, or they simply check back the river. This is also one of the biggest mistakes made by beginners, which is slow playing too often.
What you should do is to bet directly when you hit a super strong hand in order to build the pots and protect your own equity. But of course, it is not always that easy. You may also check if there are simply no hands that can be stronger than yours or if it is unlikely that some scare cards might show up later to mess up your advantage. If you find that there is hardly any showdown value for your opponent’s range, you might also choose to check.
Nevertheless, if you are not sure, just bet or check-raise if you are playing aggressively on the pre-flop. We get that it is frustrating when your opponent folds, but it's still better than giving away your opportunity for free or losing potential value.
When and how you should defend your big blind
Sitting in the big blind, you have already made your investment into the pot. Therefore, when the other players choose to raise, the pot odds are on your side to call, which is almost like having a discount. But you can’t go on a wild shopping spree just because of discounts, right?
Since you are actually the last person to act preflop and you have this special discount, you can actually play more starting hands than you would play in other positions. Many players have a misunderstanding about protecting the blinds. If someone limps and then someone else raises, even if you choose to call in the big blind, you are still not protecting your blinds, because you are not blocking the action, and the person who limps may raise again.
Still, even if you have a position advantage, don't let go of yourself completely by playing a weak hand such as 95 (not even in the same suit). You’d better at least choose some hands with showdown equity, such as K9 and Q6.
In terms of what kind of hands are worth of defending, it depends all various perspectives.
- If the player who raises sits in the early position, you might want to play tight. If he sits in the later positions, you have wider range to play with.
- Pay attention to how many players call the raise. When there are multiple players that are still in hand, you need to play tight and only defend a hand that has some outs to win in a multiway pot.
- When someone raises, the larger the bet sizing is, the tighter you should play your hand.
- If you are now short-stacked, you should definitely play tight and only defend the hands that have enough hand strength.
Of course, as you get more experienced in your games, there are more factors you should consider, such as the c-bet frequency of the player who raises. If you are a beginner, it might be difficult for you to collect certain data, so just review the main points we covered above.
Not sure your hand is worth playing? Then it’s time to fold
If you want to become an experienced and winning player, it is important for you to have the ability to collect information about your opponents and to make the decision to lay down good hands even top pairs if needed.
It might sound simple, but it's actually not. Folding a good hand goes against our nature. We are born to be curious and we all want to win. When we fold, we choose to give up the possibility of winning and may never know the opponent's hole cards.
But calling in the wrong timing may be the second biggest mistake that hinders us from winning. When you face a bet or raise, and don't know whether to call or fold, just do yourself a favor and choose to fold.
Every time you make such an uncertain fold, quickly jot down some details so that you can recall the game in the future. Discussing with friends or players who are more experienced than you about these hands can no doubt help you improve your poker skills.
Attack the ones who show weakness
For most players, they do not realize that they could have used the check-call trick more often. They always choose to bet, or they would fold too early for hand types with the same hand strength. Therefore, most players have a very tight range to play consecutive check-call.
In fact, when you are in a heads-up and you are playing against an opponent who continues to check and shows his weakness, you should increase your firepower and initiate an offense. In addition to the aforementioned aggressive semi-bluffing tip you could use, you can also take advantage of some blockers if you do have to complete a pure bluff.
Survival-oriented? Not for the early stage in tournaments.
The biggest difference between a tournament and a regular poker game is whether you need to consider the stack preservation. But this does not apply at all in the early stages of the tournament.
If fact, in order to win double or triple your initial chip stack so that you have enough to enter the later phase of the tournament, you must play solid and aggressive poker like you would in a regular cash game instead of playing defensively.
Only when you find yourself near the money bubble or short-stacked, you may focus on survival and consider how it would deviate from your poker strategy.
Make sure you are ready for the game
Poker is a game, originally intended for entertainment. Even if you go professional, you will find that your performance is often the best when you are in a good mood. Simply quit the session if you feel frustration or anger. This would probably save you a bunch of money as well.
Before you sit down at the table, imagine that you are going all-in for your first hand and then losing it all. If the picture in your head does not bother you too much, then you are ready for the game. But if you find it unacceptable, maybe take a rain check.
"If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker." You’ve probably heard this line. This is a famous line from the classic movie "Rounders". It's also a great insight if your goal is to win. Be careful of the opponents you choose for yourself. Are they weaker than you or the opposite?
There is nothing complicated about choosing a table. The bottom line is that at least half of the players on the table are weaker than you.
Try to put yourself in a situation where you are more likely to win. Your self-esteem or arrogance has nothing to do with the game. But how would you know whether you are in the right poker game? If you find that at least one player on the table is always limping and there are multi-way pots often, these are good signs. In addition, re-raising happens either too rarely or too frequently.
If you find at least two points we mentioned above in the game you are in, you are more likely going to win some money. If it does not meet any of those signs, you’d better switch your table or simply call it a day, unless you are there to test a new trick or strategy you learn.
Review these 10 tips from time to time. Put them into use along with what we covered in our previous posts. We hope that they will help you build up your own strategy. Enjoy your game and win big!