Poker Strategy

Poker Strategy

Poker is a simple, straightforward game. This may be the reason why poker has been widely popular for many centuries. Poker is recognised as a game of skill and strategy. It has a clearly stipulated list of rules which can be picked up by anyone in a jiffy.

While learning poker sounds rather simple, mastering poker is a different ball game altogether. On any given day a player with defined strategies will earn more winnings than a player who leaves their decision to luck and to fate. To help you with this, we have put together 7 strategies to take your poker game to the next level.

1. Position is Power

You can strategize your game as well as predict the other position’s move based on the position you are seated. If you are lucky enough to be the button, you get to see other players make decisions and analyse their hand value. If you are not sure of the positions, here is the position for a nine-player game.

  1. Big Blind – (BB) – Positioned two to the left of the Button.
  2. Small Blind – (SB) – Positioned one to the left of the Button.
  3. Button – (BTN) –This is the best position at the table. Positioned to the right of the blinds.
  4. Cutoff – (CO) – This is the second-best position at the table. Positioned to the right of the Button.
  5. Hijack – (HJ) – Also called ‘Middle Position’ (MP) on a 6-max table. Positioned to the right of the Cutoff.
  6. Lojack – (LJ) – or Middle Position 2 (MP2) – Also called ‘Under the Gun’ (UTG) on a 6-max table. Positioned to the right of the Hijack.
  7. Middle Position (MP1) aka UTG+2 – Positioned to the right of the Lojack, only on full ring tables.
  8. Under the Gun (UTG+1) – Positioned to the left of UTG, only on full ring tables. This is the second earliest positions.
  9. Under the Gun (UTG) – These are the three earliest positions, UTG, UTG+1 and MP1 aka UTG+2, applied just on full ring tables.

The button moves in the clockwise direction after each hand. You should know the power of your seating and leverage it to make decisions in your game.

2. Observe Your Opponents

In poker, the chances of you winning is independent of the cards you have in hand. Even the most powerful cards can at times become futile. For example, a set of aces, considered to be rare and valuable, will easily be 3 sets of nine.

When hands are this shifty, the only logical way to move ahead is by observing your opponent. You can find out how comfortable they are with the community card reveal and make your decisions accordingly. Follow these to assess your opponent’s strength and to be cautious with your moves.

  1. Are they slow playing big hands till now?
  2. Be cautious with your high-value cards.
  3. Are they making big lies for grabbing the deal if dangerous cards are revealed?

Most players have a tell. If you observe them enough you would know their various reactions to the different cards they have been dealt with. Leverage this to your advantage and make wise decisions.

3. Learn the Lingo

Poker has a unique set of vocabulary. It might even come off as intimidating to the beginners. To illustrate how bizarre the lingo could be, here are a few poker terms.

  1. Three-bet (3bet)
  2. Cutoff
  3. Double gutshot straight draw
  4. Open-ended-straight-draw (OESD)
  5. Double gutshot

Don’t be perplexed if these terms are thrown around during the game. The internet can be your best friend here. You can also choose to ask your fellow players for help understanding the jargon.

Most players are quite willing to help a peer out. You will get a hang of this as you keep playing. The terms will become natural language and you will understand the drift of the game much faster.

4. Play for the Long Term

Have a vision for your distant future in poker. You cannot win every single game. You have to make your peace with that. As you keep playing you will lose a few games. This is natural, don't let this be a deterrent to your game.

Sometimes you might be dealt with a pair of high-value cards. You might have placed bets thinking the odds are in your favour. But, sometimes, unfortunately, a fellow player with a low-value card can end up catching a 3 set in the last lapse of the game and win the game.

These are highly unlikely events. If this happens to you, be wise enough to recognise this as an anomaly and not make future decisions based on this random occurrence.

Play your games for the long term. Devise wise strategies. Sometimes sound strategies will fail before luck. Accept this fact but do not give up on sticking to your strategy. It might fail you in a game but it will pay off in the long term.

5. Develop Your Skills

There is a lot to be learnt in poker. You can learn through observation. You can learn from your fellow players at a table. Every game is an experience in itself and will teach you something new every time.

But your table is not the only place you should learn from. Exploit the online resources. Read a lot. There are many articles that can help sharpen your skills. Watch videos of games that can teach you something new.

Also, while you can learn a lot from strong competitors there are also many valuable lessons from peers of your calibre. Enter games with low entry fees and play with players of similar skill levels. You will be able to identify many rookie mistakes and avoid them in the future. Keeping notes of everything you learn can also come in handy!

6. Understand the Concept of GTO

This may be a little complicated but you can perfect your gameplay based on mathematical models in balanced ranges. This is known as ‘Game Theory Optimal’ play.

GTO is simply a set of possible outcomes for every different poker hand that can be dealt with for every gameplay style. If you can perfect your GTO you can make no mistakes but your opponent will. This will give you the upper hand to make your winning.

If all players are playing a GTO perfect game then only luck can seal the fate of that game. While this sounds direct, mastering GTO is rather difficult. The sheer volume of the gameplay steps you should remember by itself complicates everything.

But that does not mean you should not attempt to master GTO. Make every effort to remember as many GTO plays as possible. Even if you don’t know everything, you would still have a headstart on the winnings when compared to your contemporaries.

7. Don’t Neglect Your Mental Game

As sufficiently established, poker is a game of skill and strategy. While it may not look physically tiring, it can be extremely strenuous and straining on your mind.

You are constantly analysing and predicting the next step. You must always step one step ahead in the game. You have to free yourself from distractions and emotions to keep your head in the game. These are easier said than done.

That is why it is imperative that you take care of yourself and the health of your mind. Give yourself adequate rest to recover from each game. Don’t beat yourself up if your strategy fails. The ulterior goal of poker is fun and entertainment. If you are not enjoying it but are stressed, reassess your position and free your mind.

Do not forget to have fun, this also helps in making better decisions.