Online Poker Strategy: Tips to Put You on the Path to Success
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Since experiencing a massive boom in the early 2000s, online poker has been a mainstay in the gambling industry. Despite a long hiatus known as Black Friday that began in 2011, the U.S. government and individual state governments have shown a willingness in recent years to at least explore implementing online poker into their respective online gambling entities at a higher rate.
Live poker remains one of the most popular forms of gambling in any casino and online poker simply provides an easy-to-use alternative to the game’s traditional form. We will take you through our best tips to crush online poker and maintain a solid win rate on the virtual felt.
Online Poker Tips
Many of you reading this who have experience with the game of poker will have a pre-existing knowledge on the following topics, but they are important to reiterate.
Power of Position
In poker, both online and live, the power of position remains one of the most important aspects of the game. There is a principle in the game that states that chips routinely flow to the left in a clockwise direction due to the button moving this way and thus, position moving along with it.
Being last to act in any given situation comes with advantages as you get to see what other players choose to do first. This allows you to play in a reactionary type of way as opposed to playing as a lead.
Odds and Outs of Online Poker
All players should understand the odds and outs in the game of poker before truly diving in. A large part of the game is understanding the percentages of hitting your hand. This is extended out to straight draws and flush draws, but sometimes even to full house outs. For example, if you have a flush draw with two hearts in your hand and two on the flop, there are nine more hearts left in a standard 52-card deck. This means you have nine outs to hit your draw.
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Bet sizing is a very important aspect of the game as players basically are conveying a lot of information based on whether or not they bet and how much they are betting when they do. Many recreational players will bet half of the pot almost always, but pros and those who are more in tune with the game will mix up their strategies to include 33%, 67%, 100%, and even 120% sizings.
A ‘c-bet’ is one of the best tools in the belt of professional poker players. The term is short for continuation betting which means maintaining the betting lead after raising preflop. By raising preflop, players are automatically exhibiting a certain level of strength and announcing to the table that their hand is good enough to put more money in the pot. By continuing to bet on the flop, even without a made hand or strong draw, players are able to take down more pots. This is because opponents will often miss their hands anyways and will be forced to fold to your c-bet.
Poker is one of the most emotionally draining games in existence and mental fortitude comes in handy. Knowing the odds might be an important use of brain power, but being able to manage emotional state and something poker players refer to as ‘tilt’ is arguably the key to unlocking a winning poker strategy.
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Proper Bankroll Management
As with any form of online gambling, exhibiting proper bankroll management is extremely important to finding success. This is especially true in poker as the variance can be soul-crushing at times. To be able to win at a rate that you desire, you must be able to withstand the extended downswings and maximize the upswings. After all, poker is a lifelong war, not a short-term battle.
Cash Game Poker Strategy
While tournaments are extremely popular ways for people to get into online poker, cash games still remain the most common game played around the world. As opposed to tournaments, which we will discuss shortly, cash games have a predetermined range of buy-ins that players can enter the game for.
For example, if a player wanted to hop into a $200 no-limit cash game online, the buy-in structure would typically be anywhere from $100 to $200. In a tournament, there is a standard buy-in amount that players are not given as a choice.
Cash games require precision and an intense amount of skill to fully master, but this is one of the most rewarding forms of poker to play giving the essentially uncapped earnings potential.
Limit Calling Preflop Raises
Calling an opponent’s preflop raise is one of the weakest moves you can make in poker. By just calling and not raising, you are practically giving yourself no way to win the pot preflop due to the lack of aggression you are exhibiting. If someone else raises, you should only be entering the pot in the form of a 3-bet, also referred to as a re-raise. This can be done with a variety of different holdings from different positions including suited broadway cards like KQ and QJ, but also can be done with suited connectors like 98 and 87 in very specific spots.
Think in Terms of Ranges
Thinking in terms of ranges at the poker table is one of the smartest things you can do. Simply thinking about the cards in your hand and guessing at your opponent’s holdings is closing yourself to key points of information that can be utilized to make proper decisions. By putting opponents on a range of hands that they could have in a given spot instead of putting them on an exact hand, we can actually eliminate a lot of the biases we exhibit that are a part of human nature.
Don’t Try to Bluff ‘Fish’
For those that are unaware, a ‘fish’ is your friend. This person is the worst player at the table and is bleeding chips to you and all of your opponents. However, even a fish can get lucky at the poker table and because their understanding of the game is so minimalistic, you should never bluff them. This is the type of player that can sneakily eat away at your bankroll if you let your ego get in the way and refuse to acknowledge that even this player type can get lucky once in a while.
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Overfold to River Raises
In online poker, especially at the microstakes, players tend to under-bluff rivers. Human nature dictates that we do not want to put money in a pot where we perceive ourselves to have little to no equity. This leads to us bluffing less on rivers when the pot has gotten to its peak size. Because of this, over-folding to raises on the river will save you a lot of money in the long run. These raises are almost always strong and you can safely let go of second-best hands as an exploit.
Value Bet Relentlessly
While playing poker, you will be surprised just how often your opponents will call you with second-best hands. This leads to the exploit of thinly value betting your marginal hands. Hands that fit into a premium category are practically sets and above, but these marginal hands are more of your second pair or top pair with a weak kicker type of hands.
For example, on a board that runs out A-J-8-5-2, you are incentivized to value bet your hands like A-10 and K-J on the river as plenty of worse hands may call a bet depending on your sizing.
Have a Reason for Betting
There are only two reasons to bet that exist in poker. The first purpose is betting for value, which occurs most often. Simply put, if you make a good hand, you bet it for value as you expect to win a large portion of the time and would like to extract that value out of it. The second reason for betting is as a bluff, or in other words, to get a better hand to fold. This becomes a useful strategy as overbetting the pot and using similar sizings for both your strongest hands and your bluffs could prove effective.
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Tournament Poker Strategy
Tournament poker is almost an entirely different set-up of the game than a cash game. In tournaments, players are given a starting stack of a predetermined amount of chips that can only be decreased by winning pots in most cases. In cash games, players are free to add on chips at any time. This fact makes tournaments play differently as players are far more passive and overprotective of their stack as they do not want to bust out of a tournament early.
However, many of the principles applied to cash games as far as the dynamics of the game go, remain constant in tournaments. All of the tips above apply here directly. While other concepts like push-fold situations must be learned to play sound poker tournament strategy.
One of the most important concepts of the game is to think about the game in terms of big blinds as opposed to chip count. At the start of a tournament, when the blinds are 100/200 for example, a 25,000 chip stack (125 big blinds) is pretty solid. However, when the blinds are 1,000/2,000, a 25,000 chip stack is just 12.5 big blinds. Keeping in mind that the blinds steadily increase is important.
Poker Strategies Against Different Player Types
In poker, you will encounter many different types of players and there are specific ways to play against each player. We will discuss some of these strategies that can help you increase your win rate.
One of the rarest types of players you can find at online poker tables are those that are extremely tight. They typically only play the top 10% of starting hands and do not mind waiting around for pocket aces, kings, and queens. The best way to play against this player type is to typically over-fold to any sign of aggression. Because this player type is so tight with their stack, they are only putting it at risk with extreme strength.
Tight aggressive players, also called TAGs, are easily the most common player type in online poker. These players also happen to be the best players, on average. They play a wider range of hands than the extremely tight players do, but are not quite as loose as some of the player types we will describe shortly. They are tight when they do not have a hand, but they are ultra-aggressive when they do have a strong hand. There are no practical exploits for this type of player outside of realizing when they are betting for value and betting as a bluff.
Tight passive players are arguably the worst players overall. They are the easiest to exploit as they hardly ever raise. They also allow their opponents to see a cheap turn and river often, giving them the opportunity to realize their equity much easier. The key to beating this player type is by playing more aggressively than you otherwise would with your bluffs. However, with your value hands, you need to try and milk as much money out of them as possible given the low chance they call you down with a worse hand.
Loose aggressive players, also called LAGs, have some of the widest variance involved with how good each individual player is. Some LAGs are actually quite excellent, but others basically give their chips to opposing players with regularity. The best way to play against a loose aggressive player is to allow them to continue betting into you when you have a premium hand. They will likely continue to bet with whatever they have and keeping their bluffs in is usually a good idea. When the time comes, spring the trap with a big raise to try and maximize value.
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If you’d like to learn more about poker, specifically the top online poker websites to play at, check out The Best Real Money Online Casinos in the U.S.