Card poker is a game that requires a combination of mathematical calculations, acting skills, and strategisation – plus a little bit of luck. Although there are many different variations of table poker out there, all of them require this combination of skills for a player to be successful. On this page, you’ll find 10 of the best tips on how you can improve your poker game already in the next session, whether you’re a new player who’s just starting to play the game or someone who already has a lot of experience.
1. Don’t think in terms of specific hands, but in ranges instead
An average poker player will try to place their opponents with a specific hand. However, the chances of getting that right are much lower than if you think of your opponents’ hands in terms of ranges.
A range is basically the entire spectrum of possible hands that your opponent can hold given the current condition. What you should do is to figure out the range of hands that your opponent could possibly have, with various hands coming up in different frequencies. Then use that information to make the best play.
2. No preferential treatment for your favourite hand
Almost everyone has a favourite hand, especially newer players. Usually, you develop a favourite hand if it seems like you win more frequently when you have this hand. Therefore, when you get your hole cards and see your favourite combination, it’s only expected that you’ll want to play it, even when you know that it’s not a very good hand.
The key to winning in poker is to be completely calculative, mathematical, and never let your emotions get the best of you. If your favourite hand shows, don’t get super excited over it. Take a moment to look at the situation and decide, in a logical manner, if it is, indeed, a hand you should play.
3. Choose a strategy and stick to it
If you have found a winning strategy, make sure that you adhere to it and apply it to your game over and over again. Don’t fall into the trap of changing things up for no reason, like just because you feel bored or your gut feeling is telling you otherwise.
If your winning strategy doesn’t work for one hand, you shouldn’t immediately ditch the strategy. Remember, you’re in for the long haul. As long as it works for the long-term, even if it didn’t help you win a couple of rounds, you should still apply it consistently.
4. Be a tight aggressive player in no-limit hold’em
This is a tip especially for players playing no-limit Texas Hold’em. You shouldn’t play too many starting hands pre-flop, especially if you’re in an early position. This is because you’ll likely drain your chip stack, unless you’re super lucky. When you have a tight range of strong hands, you should play all of those aggressively, even the weaker ones. This way, when you raise, it will be very difficult for your opponents to figure out the range of hands you hold.
5. Choose reason over gut feeling or superstition
You might be surprised to learn that despite knowing better, many poker players tend to give in to their gut feelings or have a specific superstition, whether they are from South Africa or other parts of the world. You can observe these superstitions even in major professional poker tournaments. Poker superstitions vary from wearing a certain shirt to having a lucky number or, as we have mentioned earlier, having a favourite hand.
However, superstitions are simply unscientific and unfounded. Your best bet to win on poker still relies on your analytical skills, logic, reasoning, and mathematical calculations. So, ditch that superstition and start using reasons to decide your play!
6. Know when to fold
Have you ever had a good hand but noticed signals from an opponent that they perhaps have an even better hand? Like when that tight player who has been calling all night suddenly goes all-in? Well, the right thing to do here is to fold – and you know that. However, you’re emotionally attached to your pretty-looking hand and decided to go ahead with it anyway. And sure enough, you didn’t win.
One of the hardest skills to master in poker is to know when to fold, even when you have that overpair. The ability to recognise clear signals in your opponents and using that to decide your play might seem entirely logical, but it’s easier said than done.
7. Refrain from tilting and learn to stay calm
Tilting in poker is when someone is in a mental state of frustration so bad that it blinds them from using the optimal strategy, often resulting in over-aggressiveness in their play. One of the hardest skills to master in poker, which is also one of the most important, is to be able to keep yourself calm and logical, despite having a series of bad runs.
Remember that tilting will hurt no one else but you. Even after having bad hands after bad hands, assess the situation calmly and don’t throw your winning strategy out the window. A good hand could be just around the corner. Calm and collected wins the game.
8. Look for tells in other players
Whether your hand is good or bad, is entirely relative to your opponents’ hands. So, how can you tell what kind of hand your opponents have? By watching them like a hawk and learning how they play. We are not just talking about a physical tic but more about the way they play. Therefore, this tip is relevant even for online poker players, but not so much for video poker players.
Does a player like to bluff when there are “scary” cards on the board? Then it’s likely that they will do this throughout the session. Or has that tight player who’s been playing loose suddenly makes a huge raise? Then they probably have a hard-to-beat hand. And if you can find out what your opponents’ superstitions are, that will be your strongest weapon to win the game.
9. Use your position as an advantage
If you’re the button (dealer), you’re usually the last one to act in a betting round. This means that you’d have seen how other players have acted and you could – and should – certainly use this to your advantage. As a general rule of thumb, you should play more hands when you’re in a late position because this gives you more options and better flexibility as your hands play out later in the game. The button position changes after every hand, giving every player this advantage to keep the game fair.
10. Think through your bluffs
One of the most intriguing things about poker is that you can bluff your way to winning a pot even with a horrible hand. However, to be successful at this, you must tell a convincing story.
When you bluff, all you want is to “scare” your opponents into thinking you have a hand that they can’t beat, so the wise option for them is to fold, leaving the pot for you. Your actions need to be consistent with the story you’re telling. If you just decide to bluff, perhaps in a desperate attempt to grab the pot, without playing like you have a fantastic hand, then it’s very likely that an experienced opponent will see through your bluff.