You're no longer a rank beginner. You've finally discarded the notion that, because you began playing poker behind the school when you were 13, you know "how" to play poker.
You've played thousands of hands at low stakes to win a bit and gain much-needed experience. You have some stories to tell, both good and sad, involving things you've done or seen at poker.
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Every variation of poker has its own strategy. No one can expect to master every game. After playing so many hands at a number of games you have a good idea which game or games you want to get really good at. Here's a list of aspects of poker that will immediately affect your strategy:
- The stakes
- The number of players.
- Whether there are blinds or not.
- Whether there are community cards or not.
- How many cards you will see by the end of the game.
- Pot odds.
- Real odds.
- The style of your opponents.
- The personal style you are most comfortable with.
Of course, this is not an inclusive list! But, are there any points of strategy that can be applied to all these categories and more?
As a beginner you played too many hands. Now you know better. Nevertheless, it's hard to implement this most basic rule of thumb when you're actually playing. All poker winners fold most of their hands.
If you've reached this level you already study, so what do you have to add to maintain and advance further. Most online casinos have software that enables you to save your hands for analysis later. Even if you don't have time to study more than a few hands, you can learn a lot. Winners maximize their wins and minimize their losses. By studying your past hands you can learn more about calculating odds, outs, and pot equity.
This doesn't mean to never play online. Some players play almost exclusively online; but if you can play with live opponents you will learn much faster. You will learn how to read your opponents, how to control yourself during the play of a hand, how to concentrate despite distractions, how to remember your hole cards without peeking and how to think quickly without giving anything away.
This is also obvious but very hard to do. You have to vary your play between playing tight or loose, bluffing or not, raising or check raising, talking or not talking. The list of play styles is long and you should try to play all styles. Your opponents' reactions to your play will also teach you a lot.
Acting is a popular strategy but it's also a losing one. There's one good reason why there are so many actors but only a few are well-known: acting is really hard; only the very best can do it; and in poker if you act badly you lose a lot of money.
There are only two ways to win a pot: if everyone folds or if you win the showdown. When you call, you eliminate the winning strategy of getting your opponents to fold.
Don't Raise Just to Raise
This is a corollary of the above advice. You don't want to call too often and you don't want to raise hands that don't warrant a raise.
Learn the Value of Position
In every poker game you play, if you can evaluate your opponents' actions before you act, you will not only win more but you will avoid making losing bets. Most winning players win the most when they act from a favorable position.
In a game with more than one betting round, an out is any unseen card that, if drawn, will improve a player's hand to one that is likely to win. Knowing the number of outs a player has is an important part of strategy. Again, all beginners are told to count outs but it's hard to do. Practice here is essential. If you don't know how many outs you have, you can't calculate the pot odds, the winning odds, or the implied odds.
Nothing is harder than calculating. But all the wining players do it. Find a good teacher or online tutorial but, however you do it, you absolutely must learn to do the math.
All advanced players began as beginners and moved up, through the ranks of the intermediate players, before arriving at the height of their game. Remember everything you learned on the way up. Continue to study the games. Train yourself to have ever more powers of concentration.
Posted by CCJ Team