There is beauty in simplicity, and poker players understand that all too well. Poker may be an easy game to learn, but it's a challenging game to master. Fortunately, every game is predicated on a set of rules – learn the rules and you'll be okay. Too many poker players fall by the wayside because they fail to heed the advice of poker professionals.
This card game is part luck and part skill. Sometimes both of these elements merge to deliver a purple patch of play. Poker aficionados routinely state that the better they play, the luckier they get. Indeed, there is merit in this assumption since poker is a thinking player's game. It is a multi-faceted ‘organism’ with in-game dynamics, intricate rules, hand rankings, and betting behavior that needs to be understood in its entirety.
It's no mean feat rustling up an article that details every aspect of the strategy for online poker. This game boasts a veritable library of guides, analyses, expert insights, and assessments to determine the best ways to play. Strategy for online poker differs considerably from live poker gaming. But as more players turn to online poker every year, it’s time for a consummate guide.
An influx of players invariably leads to more intense competition. Without an effective poker strategy, you cannot possibly hope to compete against the creme de la creme.
Why Strategy Matters: Fixed Limit, No Limit & Pot Limit
There are many online poker games available to players, including Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Omaha Hi, and 7 Card Stud. What's more, these poker variants are available in Fixed Limit (FL), Pot Limit (PL), and No Limit (NL) games. Each one requires a unique strategy – complicating the already muddied waters. Whether it's MTTs (Multi-Table Tournaments), SNGs (Sit & Go’s), Cash Games, Bounty Tournaments, Guaranteed Tournaments, Freerolls, Rebuys, or Freezeouts, there is a best-practice strategy for online poker games.
No doubt, NLH (No Limit Hold'em) is the world's favorite poker game. It is enjoyed at the highest levels of play, at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's also enjoyed on the prestigious World Poker Tour (WPT) circuit played all over the world. With NLH, players routinely go all-in, bringing an entirely different set of strategies to the fore. To advance in online poker, it is imperative that you understand the rules of play including bet sizing (bankroll management), poker psychology, and game-specific rules.
Many other forms of poker also exist, including Limit Hold'em (Fixed Limit), although hardly an online form of poker play nowadays. With fixed bet sizes, players must conform to strict betting requirements which necessitate adaptations to your online poker strategy. Pot Limit Hold'em is yet another form of poker where your maximum bet is limited to the size of the pot. Here, players regularly check-raise with strong hands to gain maximum value from their game.
Now that you understand a little bit more about the different types of poker games, poker tournaments, and poker betting formats, it's time to proceed with the most effective strategy for online poker play.
What Happens If You Don't Follow Online Poker Strategy?
You lose. That's the short answer. Sure, anything can happen in the short-term with lady luck smiling upon you – but ultimately poker is a game of tactics, strategies, skill, wit, and good fortune. The better you play the game, the more successful you become.
There are many tips you can implement to improve your game. For example, you are not going to progress much in poker if you don't bet. Sure, you can watch other players competing while you're sitting on the sidelines.
You may even learn a trick or two about how they bet, and their actions during the game. Like so many things in life, the most effective way to learn is by immersing yourself in the action. That means you've got to register, login, and play poker online.
Start small, and slowly build your way up. Once you have a basic understanding of the rules, you will find that your confidence will slowly start to grow. This is a good thing. A little aggression is an integral part of the game, and it's one of the things you will have to learn early on when playing online poker.
As a poker newbie – a greenhorn – you will invariably fall into one of two traps: either you play every hand, or you sit out too many hands. What you need is an aggressive approach to online poker play that is based on informed decision-making.
If you find yourself checking when you should be betting, take heed. If you find yourself calling when you should be raising, go back to the drawing board. It comes as no surprise that poker pros advise new players to play strong opening hands.
For example, you may be holding an Ace-Queen combination, or even an Ace-King combination. If so, put your fears on the backburner and make your play. During the action at the table, you will want to intimidate players with weaker hands.
You can do so by making them raise the stakes to stay in the contest, or force them out of the action. The more people you can push out of the pot early on in the game, the better for you. Consider the stats: with 5 people in a game, you odds of winning are roughly 20%. With just 2 people in the game, your odds of scooping up the pot spike to 50%. It's clear what you should be doing!
Should You Play Every Hand?
Absolutely not. We have already established that poker is a numbers game. The better the cards you are holding, the better your chances of winning. Way too many greenhorns get a rush of blood to the head and try to bully their way to the pot by betting heavily on every opening hand they are dealt.
Remember the old saying – ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’ – it's 100% true in poker as well. As a rule of thumb, you will do well to remember that the more hands you play, the more hands you will lose. It's not about playing more hands per se, it's about playing more of the right opening hands.
Use poker odds calculators, poker hand ranking charts, and poker probability analysis to determine when you should play your opening hand, and when you should fold it. Remember: it's not only the cards you're holding that matter; it's the other cards on the table that matter too. Look for things like open-ended straights.
Pay close attention to what other players at your table are doing. If you notice that your opponents are playing too loose, too tight, too aggressive, or too passive, make it work in your favor. Before we close out this section, it's worth mentioning that sometimes it's better to cut your losses than to potentially lose big. Let's assume that you're holding a premium opening hand with an Ace-King combination pre-flop, and The Flop turns out to be 3, 7, 7. If your opponent places a monster bet, you may need to walk away.
Understand Poker Outs and Odds
Want another curveball? Poker outs and poker odds are important terms to understand. As soon as you are familiar with these terms, you will have a much better understanding of why you should avoid runner-runner flushes and gut-shot straight draws. Poker outs are the number of cards available to improve your hand.
Given that there are 52 cards in every deck, and 4 suits, you know that there are 13 cards from 2-Ace for diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs. The number of outs you need to improve your hand can easily be calculated based on the type of hand you're looking to form. Poker odds are an entirely different ballgame. You need to understand pot odds by determining how much you stand to win, and how much you need to risk in order to make the win. Poker odds are represented in a percentage format.
In order to calculate odds, we first need to know how many winning cards are needed a.k.a. outs. Let's assume you are holding a King of Diamonds and an 8 of Diamonds and the dealer lays out a Queen of Diamonds, an Ace of Diamonds, a 3 of Spades, and a 6 of Hearts. We don't know what your opponent is holding, but to win, you need a Diamond. Since there are 9 diamonds still in the deck, you know that you have 9 outs.
Your poker odds can be calculated by determining how many cards from the deck you cannot see. Given that there are 52 cards less 2 cards you're holding, and the 4 cards on the Flop and Turn, there are 46 unknown cards in the deck. Of those 46 cards, 37 cards will cause you to lose your hand and only 9 will allow you to win. Your odds of getting a Flush are 37:9, or approximately 4:1. In percentage terms that's about 20%.
Now, how much money is in the poker pot?
If your odds of winning are 20% and you place a $100 bet and the prize-money is $350, your odds are effectively 3.5:1. This is the less than your odds of getting a Flush, making it less than attractive for you to bet. However, if the prize money up for grabs is $1000, that means your odds are 10 to 1 for a 4 to 1 probability of hitting a Flush draw – definitely make the bet. Sure, it's possible that you can still lose the bet, but ultimately if you stay on this track, rules state that this strategy for online poker will result in success over the long term.
Should You Bluff in Online Poker?
The bluff is overused and grossly overrated in the literature. If you bluff consistently, chances are your opponents will catch on to your ruse. Bluffing is not merely making other people think that you are holding a stronger hand or a weaker hand than you actually are; it's about confusing other players into acting contrary to what they should be doing so that you can walk away a winner.
The only way you become an effective bluffer in poker is through extensive practice. You may well have heard that poker is about playing your hand and other players at the table. If you fail to do either, you will lose. You have to get inside your opponent's head and understand what makes him or her tick.
It's worth checking out a few articles on poker psychology, bet dynamics, and the art of the bluff before you simply try and bulldoze your opponents out of the game. Bluffing for the sake of it is foolhardy. It's better to use the bluff sparingly, if at all. Bluffs are closely associated with tells. A tell is a giveaway; it's something that someone does which reveals the truth.
For example, a player with a premium hand may get excited and gently scratch the side of their face – that's a tell. A player who is bluffing may not make eye contact with other players at the table. A tell can also be an action that a player takes such as check-raising when they've been calling all day!
Learn to Bide Your Time and Play on an Even Keel
We have already established that you should never play a weak opening hand. It's important to wait for premium hands – that's where you stand the best chance of winning. Too many new players hope to catch great cards on the Turn and River, but that line of thinking will end up bankrupting you. If you’re folding more hands than you're playing, you're already learning the art of the game. It's about patience.
Granted, nobody likes to sit out hands and watch other players getting in on the action. By the same token, you don't want to be dumping your bankroll down the toilet by consistently playing weak starting hands. The quicker you fold a bad hand, the better. You won't be wasting time in between hands; you'll be learning how other players bet and act. Since poker is a game of odds, it makes sense to wait until the odds are in your favor.
In poker, there is a term known as ‘on tilt’, and it's a dangerous way to play the game. If you are on tilt, you're not balanced and it could be for any number of reasons. For players, it's usually a mix of fatigue, alcohol, stimulants, drugs and so forth. It's never a good idea to play poker drunk. If you find yourself in a high-stakes online poker game, the last thing you want is diminished faculties.
Never play under the influence; it will definitely result in your losing many more hands. Equally important is your mood. If you're angry, you're likely to play aggressively which will end up costing you. Avoid all of this gobbledygook and play online poker when you’re awake, sharp, and ready for the challenge.
How Important is Strategy for Online Poker Play?
There are two things that will help you win poker games online: luck and strategy. Each of them is important, but you can only control one of them. Learn the art of poker play and you will put yourself in a position where you are much more likely to win consistently.
Remember good old Louis Pasteur? He said that chance favors the prepared mind, and he was right. In poker, you simply have to know the rules of the game, the odds and probabilities, and the psychology driving other players’ actions. Once you do, you will be able to put that knowledge to good use at the tables and win more games of poker online.
Golden Tips for Online Poker
• Practice strict bankroll management at all times
• Adopt a tight-aggressive style of play with premium starting hands
• Use many reliable resources to get the most well-rounded online poker strategy
• Your position at the poker table can give you lots of valuable info (EP, MP and LP), with Late Position being your best bet
• Focus on your hand, other players, and the cards on the table when determining the optimal strategy for online poker
That’s a wrap, folks. This guide on the best strategy for online poker will serve you well as you prepare to take down some monster pots. Put it to good use by practising online at low-stakes contests and gradually build your way up to bigger buy-ins!