Great Poker Players are Like Great Athletes
Poker remains one of the most popular online casino games. It’s important to understand that online poker comes in three basic forms. You can play video poker in which the dealer has no role at all; you play against the pay table. This variation of poker has its own strategies. Then there are the many table poker variations in which you ply against the house but not against real opponents. These games also have their own set of strategies.
Finally, you can play against real opponents. The strategies in this type of poker are as simple as folding a poor hand to reading tells toward bluffing or reading an opponent’s bluff.
Here we’ll talk about some strategies when you play against other people.
Let’s say you think an opponent has you beat but you want to stay in the hand. You need to know how many cards will give you the better hand, based on the hand you think your opponent has. These potentially winning cards are called “outs”. It’s extremely important to know how many outs you have and to convert those outs into odds.
In baseball, they say that a batter needs thousands of at bats before he really knows “how” to hit. In poker, you might need to see hundreds if not thousands of hands before you instinctively know not only what possible hands you could get but what possible hands your opponents might already have or are hoping to get.
There are so many permutations in poker that it takes a long time to become familiar enough with them to play with confidence.
Outs are not cards that will just improve your hand; they are the cards that will win the hand. As nothing is guaranteed, we can’t say that an out will definitely win the hand but, based on what your opponent has, a card that makes your hand a lot stronger but still loses is not an out.
Let’s say that you have two cards of one suit in the hole and two cards of the same suit come up on the flop. You now have 9 cards that can give you a flush and unless none of the other players appears to have a full house or better your flush is likely to win the hand.
But you don’t have the flush yet; you only have potential flush with 9 outs. You calculate the odds by subtracting only the cards you can see (excluding) cards opponents have or discarded. So, the odds of hitting the flush are 19%.
At this point, we are always told to calculate pot odds in order to see if continuing the hand is a sound strategic play or not. In short, pot odds are the percentage of risk and we are told never to call if the pot odds are higher than the odds of getting an out.
Knowing Your Opponent
The strategy mentioned above assumes that all opponents are the same. This is demonstrably false. Even if the pot odds warrant folding, if you know your opponent and he likely doesn’t have his hand yet either, he might be bluffing or he might be playing the hand poorly.
The notion that pot odds always determiner the course of action actually occurs in other forms in real life. In politics, we are told that if we lower taxes, the deficit will grow and the wealthy will not pay their fair share of taxes. In reality, lowering taxes usually raises revenue and causes the wealthy to increase their incomes thus increasing their nominal tax payment.
All opponents are not the same.
New players often fail to understand the importance of the blinds. For instance, poker books will tell you to fold most hands which is true but don’t tell you in the early chapters that it’s a lot more complicated than that.
If you’re the small blind and it costs a little to call and no one has raised and you have a poor to mediocre hand, it usually pays to call. First, if you hit the hand on the flop, no one will guess the formerly bad hole cards you had. So you’ll have the advantage of their not knowing what you might have.
If you’re the big blind, a raise might seem high to a player with no money in the pot but might seem small to you since you already have money in the pot.
The basic rule of thumb is to play more conservatively when you play early and take more risks when you play late. This is generally true. However, many inexperienced players are intimidated by a raise in early position simply because of this rule; they expect the raiser in early position to have a strong hand.
It’s possible to get the blinds to fold early simply by betting. Even if they don’t fold, you might be able to fool them into overestimating your hand.
An early bet against a player with a short stack often intimidates him and gets him to fold a better hand. Inexperienced players who have just lost on a bad beat are often mentally out of sync and are easy to intimidate into folding. Finally, many players continue on even though they are really too tired to do the mental calculations they need to make on every hand.
Quit When You’re Tired
This might be the most important strategy advice of all. Many players who are losing stay on in hopes of winning back some of their losses. These players are ripe for the taking.
Playing poker involves accepting the basic fact that you’ll lose some days. You might even lose most days. Depending on who you’re playing against, you might be able to come out ahead altogether even if you lose three out of four times you play.
Poker is a Great Game
Poker tests every faculty you have: patience, observation, risk taking and risk aversion, and simple mathematical calculation. If math in itself is beyond your ken, there are many other excellent games you can play in lieu of poker.
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