Talk to any poker player and they will be more than happy to share a poker strategy tip or two. Interpreting and implementing those same poker tips can be challenging. They are much less likely to give you the bigger framework or all the secrets of their success for fear of giving away their advantage. Poker Curious has put together ten highly recommended general poker strategy tips for you to try to incorporate in your game.
1. Learn to be selective in your starting hand selection. If your general range of starting hands is, on average, ahead of your opponents, you stand a better chance of finishing the hand ahead. Many top players will play 20-30% of their starting hands, even less in full ring situations, with a lot more experience than you have. Concentrating on higher value starting hands will help remove the luck element of the game.
2. There is no shame in folding. Either before the flop, or chasing hands after the flop, it is often better to let go of marginal hands. Many top players will say that it is the hands you can lay down that are often the key to profitable play. You can't lose money on a hand you don't play. Play the hands that give you the best chance to win and learn to fold when you are behind, unless your opponents give you great odds to call.
3. Be observant, especially when you aren't in a hand and you aren't emotionally invested in the outcome. Concentrate on patterns in your opponents' actions. How do they play their strong hands and weak hands? How much do they bet, and in what positions do they typically bet. Understanding your individual opponents' habits is key to making the proper adjustments to take advantage and profit.
4. Take your time. The more you play, the faster you will process the variables in a particular hand, but that still doesn't mean you shouldn't take your time in making a decision. The faster you decide, the more likely you are to make a mistake. That mistake may not be in what you decide to do, but in the information it gives your opponent about your hand. Taking a consistent time to make all your decisions, whether to raise, call, or fold is key to not giving away any unnecessary information to your opponents.
5. Understand and utilize the advantage of position at the table. Poker is a game of incomplete information. Those in position have more information to process before acting always giving them an advantage. Notice that good players open and play more hands from late position because they know that they can make better decisions. The button (the dealer) is the last to play, and as such is the best position to have because you are able to watch all the betting action before you need to make a decision.
6. Learn how to bluff or better yet semi-bluff. If you only bet and win hands you are actually ahead in, you will never be a successful player. On the converse, if you bluff too much, you can lose quite quickly. The key is to use bluffing sparingly. If your image at the table is of being a tight player, it is much more likely that the other players will respect your occasional bluff. Semi-bluffs are often more successful because you have a drawing hand that is likely to improve (e.g. straight and flush draw) even if your bluff is called. You want to weave a consistent and believable story that you have a strong hand.
7. Don't be predictable. If you always play the same, bigger bets when you have strong hands, smaller bets when you don't, you become predictable. One way to avoid this is to have a consistent betting size either way. Another key way of keeping your opponents off guard is to change gears. If you have played tight for a while, suddenly open a few more hands. If you have been playing loose, tighten up and look to trap your opponents. You want your opponent to be unsure of your style. Are you capably of playing low cards or bluffing? If they are unsure about your play, you are likely to have better results.
8. Betting is better than calling. The best players always want to control the action. When you bet or raise, you put pressure on your opponent. You can then win the hand two ways, by either having the best hand or them fearing that you have the best hand and folding. You also get to control the size of the pot by the amounts you bet. Furthermore, you can gain knowledge when you see the reactions of your opponents to your bets.
9. Put your opponent on a hand or a range of hands. Try it in hands you aren't involved in first, but then employ it when you are playing against them. Ask lots of questions about why they take certain actions (e.g. calling you instead of raising you? or why did they bet that amount?). Put yourself in your opponent's head. Why are they acting as they are? Then re-evaluate your assumptions when you see what actual hand they had and adjust accordingly for the future.
10. Keep notes and review. You encounter so many players playing online. Most poker rooms offer a notes feature that allows you to jot down some details about the players you encounter. Players are creatures of habit, so writing down details about their patterns of play will help you tremendously the next time you see them at the table to type them and determine how to adjust accordingly. Those that invest in poker tracking software can go back and review the hands you play against certain players. This can be invaluable information to adjust to regulars and profit.