Poker Strategy

Are you ready to have the ultimate upper hand?

Poker is one of the most complex casino games out there. While the basics seem easy, mastering the game is a difficult task. Poker is a game of skill with elements of chance and psychology, and that's why learning the best strategies can help you gain the upper hand. Come find out more!

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What will you learn from our Poker strategy guide?

Poker is a skill-based game, which means strategies can make a difference. By learning how to use all different strategies, players can increase the odds in their favour. Some of these even eliminate or reduce the element of chance in poker, allowing for consistent wins. Our poker strategy guide will help you decipher this all-time casino classic.

On top of that, there are several lessons you can learn from poker. By learning the game, you can improve your life skills, even if you’re not a gambler. Poker improves your decision-making, negotiation skills, and your rationale. This is why it’s one of the best casino games to learn.

6 important tips before you start

Before getting started, there are six important poker strategy tips players should be aware of. Mastering poker requires knowing the following:

  1. Get to know all the rules, odds, bets and payouts

Knowing the rules is the most important aspect of the game. In addition, players must also know the odds, the best they can place, and how the game pays. 

  1. Choose a Poker variant smartly

Since it’s such a popular game, there are a ton of poker variants available. Whether you prefer the classic Texas Hold’Em or Caribbean Stud, you should opt for the variant you’re most comfortable with.

  1. Plan your budget – how much are you prepared to win or lose

Budgeting is a huge part of poker. Players should never bet more than what they can afford to lose. Always plan how much you’re willing to spend and stick to it. Don’t try to recover losses.

  1. Don’t forget about the time you’re willing to spend on a game

Planning your time is also very crucial. Establish how long you want to play and don’t exceed it. Exceeding it may result in unrecoverable losses.

  1. Take your position into account

Your position in the poker table matters. The best players usually prefer late positions, while early positions are often frowned upon. If you’re in an early position, then take the blinds into account when placing your bets.

  1. Learn the lingo

Learning all poker terms can be helpful. So, we compiled a glossary with the most important terms:

  • Blind – A forced bet placed by the first two players after the dealer.
  • Call – When a player matches a bet.
  • Pot – The sum of all bets currently in place.
  • Check – When a player bets nothing.
  • Flop – The first three community cards that are placed face-up on the table.
  • Turn – The fourth community card placed on the table.
  • River – The fifth and final community card. It’s followed by a final round of bets.

Basic Poker Strategy

The basic poker strategy is a set of tips that beginners should follow in order to improve their game. This includes waiting for the best hands, playing aggressively, folding when necessary and paying attention to the opponents. 

Read below the most important aspects to consider when talking about the basic poker strategy.

Poker hands probability infographic india poker strategy online

Which playing styles are there?

In poker, there are four main basic playing styles. Players can mix and match styles to shape their way of playing. Take a look at how each style works:

  1. Tight

Many consider playing tight the best way to get started. Basically, the tight style means playing fewer hands. Many fans of this playing style prefer to wait for strong hands like aces, kings, or queens.

  1. Loose 

Loose players tend to play more hands than tight players. This means they’ll enter more pots with strong or weak hands. You should play loose only if you know what you’re doing.

  1. Aggressive

Playing aggressively regularly pays off. This style means making strong bets and raising frequently as an attempt to throw other players off the game.

  1. Passive

Passive players usually check and call bets. With this playing style, raising bets is uncommon. 

When to raise?

There are a few rules of thumb when considering a raise. Generally,  you should raise if one of the following situations happen:

  • If you have a strong hand that you think it’s guaranteed to win
  • You can steal blinds from early positions if they don’t seem confident
  • After the flop if players start checking, folding or calling

Remember, aggression is key in poker. You should always take advantage of a strong hand or unconfident opponents by playing aggressively.

When to call?

According to most professionals, players should only call when they’re certain their hand is good. As a general rule, low-value hands such as 7/2 or J/3 aren’t worth chasing. 

If you get a good hand you think is worth the risk, then you should call. This usually includes face cards or high pairs like A/K or Q/Q. Calling can also help you to spot a bluff, especially from late position players. Many players abide by the rule – if you wouldn’t raise, don’t call.

Understanding the Pot odds

Pot odds are an important aspect of poker that is often overlooked. In order to fully understand the math behind the game, players should be aware of the pot odds at all times.

Pot odds are the probability of winning or losing. Calculating pot odds is the best way to evaluate the current state of the game. They’re calculated by comparing the pot to the bet amount. Consider the example below:

Let’s start with a ₹50 bet on a ₹150 pot, meaning there’s ₹200 at stake. Players should then divide the odds between the pot and their bet, resulting in 200:50.

From here, simplify the ratio until the right side is one. In this case, you should divide by 50, resulting in 4:1. Now, convert to percentages and you should obtain 80%:20%

This means that you should expect to have a better hand 20% of the time, assuming the opponent bets half the pot. Therefore, you can assess if your call will be profitable or not.

The psychological aspect – Playing the player

To play poker well, you should understand the psychological side of the game. Understanding other players are often the key to success. 

No math will save you if you have no idea what’s going on inside your opponents’ heads. At the same time, you also need to consider your own thoughts in order to play at your best. This is why you should take into account the following psychological aspects:

  1. Confidence and ego

No one likes to have their ego hurt, and poker players are no exception. The average player will go to great lengths to avoid admitting their opponent is stronger or smarter. On the other hand, you need the confidence to play poker efficiently. 

  1. Tilting 

Poker is a game of emotion. However, players start to make bad decisions when emotions start to affect their judgment – this is called tilting. Learn to recognize you’re tilting and you’re in the right way to avoid it. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to leave the game. If other players are tilting, then use this to your advantage.

  1. Read your opponent

Top-rated players should be able to read their opponents, no matter what. Understand what their current state of mind is and use it to your benefit. 

  1. Adjust the way you play

After reading your opponent, you should adjust your play style if necessary. For example, if playing against a loose-aggressive player, you should tighten and don’t let him tilt you. If your opponent is too passive, aggressive. Any playstyle can be countered.

Advanced Poker Strategy

Moving towards higher stakes requires upping your play style and strategies. By knowing more about advanced strategies, players are upgrading not only their knowledge but also how to counter players efficiently. An advanced poker strategy relies on bluffing, showing cards, check-raising, or others.

What is bluffing?

Essentially, bluffing is lying. It’s making your opponents think you have a better hand when in reality you don’t. It involves raising or re-raising your bet to make other players fold.

An additional layer to this is choosing to show your buffs. Many professional players show their bluffs to tilt their opponents or to make them take wrong conclusions in later rounds.

How to become good at deception?

One of the best ways to improve your bluff is to look at something called “optimal bluffing frequency”. As mentioned by David Sklansky, the goal is “to bluff in such a way that the chances against your bluffing are identical to the pot odds your opponent is getting”. 

To do this, players should bluff in an unpredictable way so opponents won’t be able to create a pattern. Some recommend using random events as bluffing triggers. 

Take a look at other tips on how to become an expert at bluffing:

  • Avoid bluffing against beginners – Novice players usually play very loosely, which makes it hard to bluff
  • Pay attention to the opponents’ play style – Bluffing loose-aggressive players, for instance, is often considered pointless
  • Consider your position – Generally, playing at a late position allows you to be more aggressive with your bluffs

What is GTO?

Game Theory Optimal, or GTO, is what’s described as the best possible strategy. It’s a playing strategy that makes players unexploitable, potentially increasing their win rate. 

Contrary to other high-level strategies, it’s a defensive strategy, which means that its goal isn’t to maximize profit. Many professional players use GTO as their baseline strategy but introduce exploitation elements, resulting in a mixed strategy.

How to master GTO

Getting started in GTO isn’t an easy task. Ultimately, GTO in No Limits Hold’Em is unsolved, meaning there isn’t a 100% foolproof strategy. However, there are a few tips to become a better player with this strategy:

  • Use a GTO trainer – There are several AI-based programs that allow you to compared you strategy to the perfect poker strategy
  • Use a GTO-based mixed strategy – While GTO is great, it’s not the best strategy to maximise profits. Consider using a mixed strategy to exploit your opponents
  • Adapt your strategy – Take your opponents’ mistakes into account and build your strategy around it

Hand reading

Hand reading in poker is identifying the range of hands an opponent could have. In fact, it’s something most of us do at all times. Yet, figuring out how to do it efficiently is easier said than done. 

The goal of hand reading is to accurately predict your opponent’s hand. While this prediction isn’t 100% accurate, players can use this concept to create a range of hands their opponent might have. With enough time and experience, players will be able to rule out certain hands, narrowing out their opponent’s hand.

Tells

Tells are actions performed by other players that may offer information about their hands’ strength. The goal of poker is to be able to identify other players’ tells while minimizing yours. 

Check out some examples of common tells in poker:

  • Acting too quickly or too slowly – A player that calls bet quickly usually has a weak hand, while players that take their time often have a strong hand or are bluffing;
  • Pay attention to chip or card handling – Players reaching for their chips may reveal a desire to bet, indicating  a strong hand. If a player is holding their cards, then they may want to fold.
  • Attention span – If a player seems distracted, they probably have a weak hand.
  • Eye contact – Players with a better hand are more likely to make eye contact. On the other hand, looking away could mean they’re bluffing.

Leveling

This concept is all about looking past your hand, focusing on the game situation as a whole. It requires an extra degree of consciousness about the opponent’s game. Generally, it involves asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s my hand?
  2. What’s my opponent’s hand?
  3. What does the opponent think about my hand?
  4. How does my opponent think I see his hand?

The higher level your questions are, the higher your analyzing skill is, making you a better player.

Which Poker Strategy should you choose? 

Choosing your strategy isn’t as easy as it seems. At the end of the day, your strategy should depend on your skill level. 

If you’re a beginner, consider opting for the basic poker strategy. Focus on a particular play style and don’t deviate too much. Understand the pot odds and adapt your strategy if necessary.

If you’re at a higher level, perhaps researching GTO is your best bet. Learn how bluffing can affect your game and use a mixed strategy to exploit your opponents.

The best strategies to try when you’re new to casino

As we’ve mentioned, you’re better off using the basic poker strategy if you’re new to the game. Choose a playstyle, know when to raise or call and you’ll play better than 90% of poker players

Also, look at how the pot odds to check your profitable bets are. Start getting into the psychological side of poker; tilt your opponents and don’t let emotions influence you.

Poker strategies to play if you’re a pro

If you’re a professional player, you should have a deep understanding of GTO. Use AI software to train your skills and develop the perfect strategy. 

Consider implementing exploitation strategies to maximize your profits. Learn how to pick up tells and use them to your advantage.

Video poker strategy

Video poker strategy is very different from online poker strategy. Therefore, poker strategies usually don’t apply to video poker games. 

In video poker, players are dealt five cards. Their goal is to create the best hand possible by selecting which cards are discarded. Take a look at the best tips to increase your winning chance:

  • Choose variants with the best RTP – Some video poker games, such as Deuces Wild, have very high return rates.
  • Pay attention to your bankroll – Despite having an RTP over average, video poker can be a volatile game. Therefore, make sure you have a healthy bankroll when betting.
  • Look at the paytable – The good thing about video poker is that it has a very complete paytable. Pay attention to it and see how fair the payouts are.
  • Use bonuses to your advantage – Online casinos usually offer generous bonuses. Find a casino that features a video poker bonus and place some bets.

Poker tournament strategy

Poker tournaments are all about survival. Therefore, your strategy should rely on making your money last longer than your opponents’. Check out some of our tips for your poker tournament strategy:

  • Patience is key – Don’t rush things. Take your time to slowly grow your stack and don’t blow it off unnecessarily.
  • Protect your chips – At the middle stage, focus on protecting your stack rather than taking your opponents down. Don’t be a bully and don’t let your ego influence your decisions.
  • Watch out for the bubble stage – This stage is seen when the remaining players are eligible for prizes. Therefore, they’ll play more aggressively. Stay tight and manage your stack wisely.
  • Avoid playing loose – At later states, small stacks will only all in if they have an amazing hand. Only call or raise if you’re confident in your hand strength.

Poker strategies that got the most wins

Winning big in poker is all about having the right strategy for any situation. See for yourself the strategies of some of the best players in the business.

Antonio Esfandiari

Esfandiari finished the 2012 WSOP tournament with an $18.35 million win, equivalent to ₹1,368,225,545. This player is known for their great hand reading skills and tight betting. 

Daniel Negreanu

Probably the most famous poker player of all time, Negreanu is often considered a poker mastermind. With his GTO-based mixed strategy approach, Daniel was able to amass huge wins, including an $8.28 million win, or around ₹617,000,000 at WSOP 2014.

Justin Bonomo

After his $10 million wins, or ₹745,627,000, Bonomo took Daniel Negreanu off the top of the all-time winner’s list. He’s a very strategic player with a deep understanding of board textures, who isn’t afraid to all-in when necessary.

General beginner mistakes that are easy to avoid 

While learning about poker is easy, mastering it requires a deep understanding of the game. The best players should be familiar with game theory, psychology and other aspects in order to master the game. This is why many consider GTO mixed strategy to be the ultimate technique. 

If you’re getting started, here are some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Playing without confidence – Beginners will often be scared of making mistakes and will fold frequently. They think anyone betting aggressively has strong hands, which simply isn’t true. Take your time to increase your game hours.
  • Getting affected by emotions – As you know by now, emotions may affect your decision-making skills. If you’re getting tilted, you’re more likely to make mistakes, which may result in severe losses. Sometimes it’s better to step back from the game.
  • Bluffing too frequently – Bluffing should be unpredictable, otherwise you run into the risk of being called out. Consider randomising your bluffs and reduce its frequency.
  • Playing too loose – Beginners usually think they must play every round. Try not to be involved in many pots and take advantage of your best hands.

Frequently asked questions

There isn’t a foolproof strategy used by the pros. However, most professional players rely on the GTO strategy. On top of GTO, they also employ other strategies to better exploit other players.
Even though it’s a matter of preference, some playing styles are better than others. Usually, opting for a tight-aggressive playing style is one of the best ways to ensure frequent wins.
In No Limits Hold’ Em, the perfect strategy is still unsolved. Still, many poker teachers consider GTO to be the best poker strategy. But keep in mind it’s a more defensive strategy that won’t result in huge wins.