Poker may be quick to understand, but it can take a long time to master this highly strategic card game. Many new players — as well as long-time casual players —struggle with improving their win rate. If just breaking even marks a good night at the poker table for you, don’t worry. Most poker players have a difficult time nailing the right strategy to go from breaking even to winning hand after hand. The following six poker tips and tricks can help you elevate your game and be more than just an idiot in a pair of dark glasses.
In this article:
- Understand the Odds
- Don’t Be Afraid to Fold Before the Flop
- Know How to Bluff—and When to Follow Through
- Don’t Change Your Habits Just Because You Start Winning or Losing
- Calculate the Pot Odds
- Don’t Get Attached to a Favorite Hand
6 Poker Tips to Win Your Next Game
1. Understand the Odds
Poker is a game of probabilities. Being aware of the odds of getting the cards you need is key to all playing styles, whether you are a beginner or are delving into advanced poker theory. Let’s assume you have two hearts in your hand with another two hearts on the board, and you are waiting for the river. What are your odds of making a flush? It’s simple math. There are 13 hearts in a standard deck, and you can see four of them: the two in your hand and the two on the table. That leaves nine hearts that could come up on the river out of the 46 cards left unknown to you. In other words, the odds that a heart will come up are 37 to 9, or approximately four to one. Based on your strategy and risk tolerance, you can now make an educated decision as to whether you want to stay in or fold.
For all possible poker hands, you can calculate the odds that you’ll get the card (or cards) that you need. It takes a little practice, but honing this skill is important for determining when to play and when to fold.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Fold Before the Flop
Understanding the odds of each hand isn’t just important when you get to the river. Even before the flop, you should have some idea of the probability that you will get the cards that you need. When dealt a hand with low odds of winning, commit yourself to fold.
This requires discipline. It can be tempting to play a mediocre hand on the chance that you might get the cards that you need, particularly if you’re excited for action. Don’t fall into the trap of playing hands that aren’t worth it and losing money.
3. Know How to Bluff—and When to Follow Through
When you watch movies, bluffing is one of the most exciting parts of any poker game. It can be tempting to bluff weaker hands, particularly if you’re a newer player still learning how to play poker without advanced poker training. This can get you into trouble! You shouldn’t be afraid to bluff; you just need to know how to do it before you commit.
Think about the goal in bluffing. You want to convince your opponent that you have better cards than they (and you) do. In order to do so convincingly, you need to think about how your playing looks to them. You can’t play like you’re bluffing; you need to play like you actually have the cards you want your opponents to think you have. That means calling and raising as you would when you actually have a good hand.
That also means that you need to follow through on your big bluffs in order to be convincing. Savvy players will start seeing through your strategy if you don’t commit to your larger bluffs. Keep up your bluff and you can put pressure on your opponents, even when you have nothing in your hand.
4. Don’t Change Your Habits Just Because You Start Winning or Losing
Many players are tempted to change their style when they hit a winning streak, or if they’ve been losing hand after hand. When you’re doing well, it can seem like a good idea to enter higher stakes tournaments to take advantage of your momentum. Likewise, if you’ve been losing, you may feel like you should try a new approach to break the dry spell.
Whatever the case, don’t change your poker strategy for emotional reasons. Applying the same strategy consistently lets you build a body of knowledge about the odds of the table. Changing how you play based on a feeling rather than for a rational reason undermines all of your hard work.
5. Calculate the Pot Odds
Much like figuring out your probability of getting the card you need, you should be figuring out your pot odds before calling each time. What does that mean? It means calculating what the return on your bet is likely to be, given the cards in your hand. Let’s assume there’s $20 in the pot and your opponent bets $20. You’ve got four to one odds of hitting a flush on the final card. Should you call?
In this case, no. You would need to pay $20 to win $40, making the pot odds two to one. Taking a four to one risk to win a payout of two to one is a poor strategy. Of course, if there were more in the pot, the equation would change. Always compare your pot odds to your hand odds.
6. Don’t Get Attached to a Favorite Hand
As we said above, you shouldn’t make emotional choices at the poker table. Many players get attached to certain poker hands and are tempted to play it no matter what. It can be exciting to try and make some hands work. However, you have to know when to play and when to fold. No matter how much fun a suited 7 and 9 may be to play, this is a mediocre hand at best and should be folded if you’re in an early position at the table—no exceptions. Always remember that poker is about math and logic, not gut feelings.
Learn poker tips from the professionals in this video from ViewOnPoker:
Of course, no poker strategy guide can cover all advanced poker concepts. It takes practice and discipline to hone your poker game. However, by following the above poker tips for beginners and experienced players alike, you can help refine your poker game and win more of the hands you’re dealt. Additionally, understand poker rules when you’re learning how to learn poker. Later on, you’ll be able to look for more poker tips and strategies to hone your skills.
Did these poker tips help you with your game? Share the difference in your game in the comments section below.