Poker Strategy Basics

Some of the key terms used to describe poker strategy are explained below:

Bluffing:

Bluffing in poker is when you bet strongly on a weak hand in order to try to make your opponent think you have a better hand than them.

It is often extremely important to follow through on your bluffs. Often you will find that another player will initially call your bluff, and if you do not make a follow up bluff bet in the next stage of the game (after the next community card has been shown) you will often be bet out of the hand. However, it is equally important to know when you are beaten.

A Semi-bluff is slightly different to the bluff. With the semi-bluff the player does not initially have a good hand, but the community cards (dealt into the centre of the table) provide the player will an opportunity to hit strong hands when more community cards are dealt. The ideas of the semi-bluff is to force players with weak hands to fold.

Slow Playing:

Slow playing involves playing a good hand (e.g. pocket pairs) in a slow manner. For example, you may “check” a pair of aces in the pre-flop stage of the game in the hope another player will bet.

Timing:

Most online poker sites do not allow the option to visually see/ watch the players that they are playing against. As such, the only information that they can ‘read’ about other players are from how the player has played historically or the amount of time the player takes to play his hand.

Timing is an important reading because it can indicate to you whether a player has a good or bad hand. For example, it is common for players to make quick decisions when they have a good hand (as they are eager to win the pot) and common for players to make slow decisions when they are trying to bluff (as they are thinking what to do). As such it is strongly recommend trying to play all hands in the same amount of time.

Table position:

Table position is the position in which you are seated around the table. This has implications on strategies. If you are in an early position to play on the table, it is generally accepted that you need a good hand in order to make a bet because there is a high chance of someone after you having a better hand than you. Where as if you are in a later position on the table, and you are the first player to make a bet, there is theoretically a lesser chance of someone who plays after you having a better hand than you. In addition, being in a later position on the table gives you have the advantage of reading how the players before you have played. For example, you might think that a player is slow playing their hand, as ‘described above’.

Poker probabilities:

There are two fundamental probabilities that are important when playing any type of poker:

  1. Pot odds
  2. The odds of winning

Pot odds is the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet needed to stay in the pot. For example, if you had to call a bet of £5 for a chance to win £50, the pot odds (excluding your call of £5) is 10 to 1.

The odds of winning are the odds of community cards being drawn that would mean that you would win the hand. For example, if you had two Club cards, and two Club cards had been dealt on the flop, you would approximately have a 2 to 1 chance of winning with a flush on the river card.

To have a favorable probability, your odds of winning the hand must exceed the pot odds. If we combine the two above examples, from the second example we would have a flop that has just been dealt which consists of two Clubs, therefore after combining this with our two clubs from our pocket cards, we would have four clubs in total. We would therefore only need one more Club card to hit the flush. Our odds of doing this are approximately 2 to 1 (the odds of winning). From the second example, imagine that a player then bets £5 on his turn, and there is already £50 in the pot, our pot odds are therefore 10 to 1. Our odds of winning (2 to 1) are therefore greater than the pot odds (10 to 1) therefore we would play this hand.

Loose play:

Playing loosely means that you play more hands than the average poker player. Hence you will tend to play poker with weaker hands than average. This further implies that you will not like to fold and will end up betting more than the average player. Loose players tend to bluff a lot and often ‘fish’ for hands. Fishing for hands is when the player has a small chance of winning the round and hitting his hand, but continues to play and bet in the regardless of this.

On the contrary, tight play refers to players who play relatively less hands than the average poker player. Tighter players generally play with stronger hands than your average poker player and are often prone to being bluffed out of hands.

Aggressive play:

Playing aggressively involves betting and raising. Aggressive play is often considered a good strategy because (1) it may force people to fold and (2) it provides the other players with more chances to make the wrong decision.

Playing passively is the opposite of aggressive play. Passive play would consist of checking and calling hands. Passive play may be considered a good slow playing strategy. However, for the reasons mentioned above, aggressive play is often considered the superior strategy.

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