Poker Tips - Play Winning Poker
Poker tips are important for anyone learning the game, not only because they often provide some good pointers - they are usually given from people who have made the mistakes already. They give insight into known pitfalls and common mistakes that others will have experienced already. There's little sense in you learning the hard way. My father used to make this very point and although it took me a long time to start listening to him, i have to admit, i perhaps gave him less credit for his experiences than i should have done. He had been in my shoes and much of what he was telling me at the time was actually pretty sound advice. The same goes for poker, or anything else for that matter. When you delve in to the game of poker, there is no shortage on tips to help you play winning poker. Many of these tips will come as a surprise to you, some won't. Just about everything has been experienced before and you can bet that you're not the first person to go through it. Good news for you.
Let's get an obvious tip out of the way. You need to take time off from every now and again. Every players needs life away from the tables to get a break from the game and reflect. Professionals from all other sports take time away and poker is no different. The tips outlined here are particularly important when playing online poker but are also relevant in live games. The difference between those that win and lose can often be small margins. The players that dedicated enough attention to their game and learn are normally the ones who succeed. They recognize when something isn't working. They make the necessary adjustments and keep improving.
On the Flop
Tip #1 - Abandon Bad Flops
If the flop doesn't provide potential, abandon it. It is very expensive to hope that you make something on the turn or river. Don't feel obliged to play every hand - you're shouldn't be playing to cure boredom - you're playing to win so you need to be selective about the spots you get involved in. You must be patient and understand that if you continually force chips in the pot when you have no real potential on the flop, it is highly probable that you will lose your chips, at least in the long run. Get your chips in the pot when you hit something on the flop; if you miss, fold unless there are sufficient outs to warrant a call or raise.
Tip #2 - Inside Straight Draws
Don't waste chips betting inside straight draws. They are not ideal to commit chips to unless the pot is of a substantial amount or you feel you're opponent is weak. You should play these in similar fashion to small or medium pairs. Get in cheap and fold if you miss. This isn't the spot to be chasing cards as it is expensive to do so and you are likely an underdog.
Tip #3 - Flush & Straight Draws
A flush or outside straight draw on the flop provides plenty of potential. If there are others in the pot, try to raise it up (but not too much). If your betting doesn't scare people off don't be scared to get your money in the pot, as you will win your fair share of these hands (the odds are very often on your side). On the flop, if you have a flush and straight draw you are likely the favorite so be aggressive as you have a lot of outs.
Tip #4 - Don't Overplay Straight Draws
With the exception of the later stages in tournament play (see our guide on the structure of poker tournaments) where you have to be more aggressive to protect your blinds, players often overplay straight draws. Why? Simply because they see dollar signs if they hit. There are two ways to look at it. Either you can raise and try to scare players out of the pot in the hope that you will win the pot uncontested OR you can try to make your straight or flush as cheaply as possible and then raise when you have the best hand. Both ways work well as they result in you taking the pot down. The first method should only be used where you think your opponent is weak. Don't keep firing barrels off if you're getting called down. Again, it's far more profitable getting in cheap and raising it up when you have the hand.
Top #5 - Playing Pocket Pairs
Pocket pairs with over cards that haven't made trips on the flop are not good hands to get involved with. Ideally, you won't want to be committing any more - a cheap showdown would suit well. Unfortunately, you don't often get players checking it down. It's important to take your foot off the gas as the chance of improving on the turn and river is very small. Additionally, with small and medium pairs, you don't want to overplay the hand. Against a loose table, there's not much value in re raising with this hand as you will likely get called down. Similarly, you need to think hard about calling a sizeable bet. Remember, unless excluding any miracle hands, you are likely down to two outs (which you will hit one in every 9 hands statistically). If you have a pair of deuces, for example, and you hit a 2 on the flop you have a very good chance of doing some damage to players who have a piece of the action. The trick here is to see the flop, if you miss, be prepared to fold to a raise (unless you have good reason to think you are ahead or can get your opponents off the hand).
Tip #6 - Scare Cards
It is important to identify scare cards. Scare cards are cards that could make your opponents a winning hand. Think of it like this: Three consecutive or close cards might very well give someone a straight draw. Two consecutive cards may give someone two pair. A two flush on the board significantly reduces the potential of a straight draw you may hold and one in four of the cards you are waiting for could possibly give someone a flush. Sounds a lot to take in but it doesn't take long for this to become second nature.
In poker, knowing your scare cards will help you know when to slow down and also when to protect your hand. Let's assume you hold 9-9 pre flop and the flop comes 4-5-9. At this stage, you're ahead. you have the nuts as no other hand can have you beat at this stage. The turn is a 6. This is a scare card as suddenly, there is a hand that has you beat - 7-8. The 6 would be referred to as a scare card. With a board of 4-5-9, i would be inclined to post a bet to i) build the pot and ii) not give away cheap cards that would overturn your hand. If the turn had been an K, i would be less concerned with protecting my hand as there were no scare cards. That's not to say someone couldn't just have made trip Kings! I would recognize that trip Kings were now possible, so i would still see it was a scare card (just less scary!). There will be many cards that fall that open up considerably more possibilities than this. Recognizing these scare cards and also recognizing what hands are possible will help you protect your bankroll.
On the Turn
On to the Turn, the stakes increase and very often this round of betting sees more action in attempts to win the pot.
Tip #1 - The Check Raise
When you have a scorcher of a hand, it can be profitable to check raise as you're often checking less good hands on the turn anyway. This way, your opponent will not be able to read your hand effectively. When you check, your opponent will often make a value bet to see if you have anything. It is a good idea to check raise, especially if the board has the potential to get dangerous (again protecting your hand). If you had bet to start with your opponent may not have put in a value bet so you have maximized your ROI. What you have done is got your opponent to part with more of their chips through good solid play. It's important to remember that a good player will not bust out to this as they will quickly slow down when they are called. Playing against weak players, this is extremely profitable as opponents will often call the raise (sometimes just to save face). This must be an essential part of your game if you are to play winning poker.
Tip #2 - Acknowledge Bets and Raises
In low limit games, the quality of players often means that bluffing is not so common (or easy), largely due to low skill
at the table. From this you can then safely assume that:
If a player raises on the turn, it is more likely than not that they have a premium hand (or enough to beat you). This is especially true when there are more 2+ players in the pot. At the same time, there is always an opportunity here if you hit trips, a straight or a flush. Your opponent will often find it difficult to lay down top pair. It's sensible not to go too crazy with raises as several small bets here could maximize your winnings and will also ensure that the pot keeps increasing (which will make it more difficult for your opponents to fold).
Tip # 3 - Don't Over bet on Draws
On the turn, the probability for making your hand is substantially lower than on the flop (less cards left in the deck and less cards to come). Don't commit too many chips here as it can be expensive to chase cards - keeping in mind you're odds of hitting are not great. Remember there is far more equity to put money to the pot after you have made your hand. Get in cheap, make your hand and then raise it up.
On the River
Tip #1 - Checking a Weak Hand
If you have a pair and every one of your bets has been called, you should probably check the river and acknowledge that you are up against a hand or good draw. If your opponent is on a draw, he will likely peel off the free card. If he's made already, you've saved yourself money. It's unlikely that your opponent would have called more than one bet with a hand worse than yours, keeping in mind you have a weak holding. The exception here is if there are possible straight of flush draws on the board and plenty of outs to justify the play. It's largely down to judgment. Another exception here is when your intention is to bluff your opponent out of the pot on the river. Don't try this in lower limit games as the players are not skilled enough to know when they are beat. Your opponent will likely try this again and again (if he tries it once). Catch him when you have a hand. Be patient, your hand will come. It's common place for players to try a successfully move again and again until they are caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Patience is what you need to catch them and hopefully take down a big pot.
Tip #2 - Seeing it Through
Here is a useful piece of advice. Frequently on the river there is enough money in the pots to make it worthwhile calling a bet, even if you are sure you are behind. Remember, if your opponent makes a small bet on the river and bet the flop and turn aggressively, this may indicate that they are trying to steal the pot with an undersized bet, which indicates weakness (although is often used as a bluff play).
Money Management Tips
Money management is key to your success and advice on this will probably the best you will get today. Get silly and you run the risk of wiping out your bankroll. You may be good and in the space of a year win lots of money BUT, poker is such that luck does play a factor and whilst you win in the long run (being better than your opponents), opponents will get lucky. It's called variance and part of the game. In fact, it's arguably what makes the game so appealing. The fact that anyone could win is a big selling point. In poker there are "swings and roundabouts" ...you will lose no matter how good you are, and that's a fact.
Sometimes you will lose to what seems the luckiest player in the world and will be cursing your luck, but face the fact that it is part of the game and make sure you have the bank balance to support your losses. If you are playing no limit poker, don't take your whole bankroll to the table as it will only be a matter of time before you're broke. Don't take more than 10% of your bankroll to the table which will allow for any bad runs. Remember your bankroll is everything. It is the only thing that will keep you in the game.
You might also be interested in our guide on how to make money playing online poker. For more guides see our all our poker guides.
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