Smart poker strategy
Thinking of playing poker, online or live? Good call. It's a lot of fun. But before you put in your blinds, well, blindly, make sure you read these poker strategy tips. They're designed to help you be smarter with your money, play better, boost your bankroll, and win more often.
Some games take strategy and that is why this section is designed just for you. Check out:
- How to get the most out of each opportunity
- Give yourself an advantage over the competition with these tips
- Don’t miss out on the bonuses and promotions
Don't go on tilt
If you've ever watched poker on TV or paid any attention to live chat at online poker sites, you've probably heard the term "tilt" thrown around a lot. In a nutshell, tilt is something you definitely want to avoid.
Going on tilt means losing control of your emotions and playing without thinking. It usually happens because you just lost a bunch of money on a hand that you clearly should have won. Unless you're a robot, it's perfectly natural to go on tilt. Everyone does it - especially amateurs. Your natural instinct is to do anything in your power to avenge that loss and get your money back, even if it means compromising your playing style.
So is there a way to beat tilt? Yes. Keep remembering that poker is a game of skill, but there's some luck involved. Rather than treating each hand like a guaranteed win, treat it like an investment. Some stocks are successful on some days. Others, not so much. Like any investment, you'll have ups and downs. But if you play calmly, you'll come out on top.
Don't jump into every hand
If you're new to online poker, it can be tempting to jump into every possible hand. But here's the thing. Talk to any of the best pros, online poker or live, and they'll tell you that they probably throw away 99% of the hands they're dealt.
Remember, you only lose money for hand that you don't play if you're the small or big blind, and even then the amount of money you'd give away by not playing isn't that much. It's ok to toss away a hand, even if you've got a bit of cash committed.
Don't play every hand
Here's a quick quiz for you. James has been playing poker for 10 years. He has a $100 bankroll and he decides to sit down at a $1/$2 cash tables. Kevin just started playing poker yesterday. He has no idea what he's doing. With his $200 bankroll, he sits down at the $0.01/$0.02 tables.
Who is the smarter poker player?
If you said James, it's time to go back to poker school. Kevin is actually the one playing smart. He knows how to manage his bankroll, so he's choosing smaller stakes. James might be good at poker, but sitting down at a $1/$2 cash table with just $100 is the worst move he could make.
As a rule of thumb, always have a bankroll of at least 20 times the buy-in for cash games. Remember, one buy-in at a cash table is considered about 100x the big blind. So at a $0.01/$0.02 table, the buy-in would be $2. For this example, a $40 bankroll is plenty and Kevin has $200, so he's good to go.
James, on the other hand? The buy-in would be $200 at a $1/$2 table, so James should really have a $4,000 bankroll. For Sit 'n Go tourneys, make sure you've got at least 40 times the buy-in.
Pay attention to tells
Human beings don't just communicate with their mouths. Body language plays a huge deal in how we interact with one another. When people lie, they exhibit certain behaviours that you can pick up on if you pay close attention. It could be twiddling thumbs. It could be turning red in the face. It could be a little throat clearing. And when people get excited about something, they also communicate with their body language.
If you're playing poker live, it's a good idea to sit back and watch everyone at the table while they play. Watch their body language and their behaviour, and look for patterns.
Most inexperienced players have tells. Basically, you can "tell" when a player has a good hand or a bad hand by watching their behaviour and reactions. And you can adjust your bets accordingly and hopefully win some cash.
Playing online exclusively? Tells exist in the virtual world, too. Look for how players chat with one another and how fast they fold, raise, or call certain hands.
Study your opponent
Online poker brings you an unbelievably huge opportunity to study your opponents like a hawk. If you found that a certain player has been beating you out of a ridiculous number of hands, take a breather from the tables. But don't necessarily log off.
Instead, follow the player to whatever table he's playing at. Watch closely how he plays his hands and study everything he does. If you can figure out his betting style, you can outsmart him the next time you face him.
Understand the importance of position
You might have a pretty great hand, but the chair you're sitting in could affect how you play that hand. In Texas Hold'em, for example, there's the small blind, the big blind, under the gun (the guy after the big blind), early position (the next two players), middle position (the two players after early position), late position (two after middle), and the button (the player with the dealer button).
In most situations, early position is at a disadvantage because every player who comes after has a chance to raise - and you literally have no idea what they'll do. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play your hand.
It just means you need to think about how you'll play your hand. Late position, on the other hand, lets you gather more information about other players, helping you piece together what they might be holding.
Become a multi-tabling machine
Who says you can't be in two places at once? No, we haven't perfected cloning, but when you play online poker, you're free to play at more than one table. Many online poker sites let you play several tables at a time. So if there are a couple of tournaments you want to play simultaneously, go right ahead.
To multi-table like a champion, you'll want to have a decent size monitor. If you're on an 11" MacBook Air, for example, you might have a bit of trouble playing at more than one table at a time. But if you've got a good size monitor, it should be a piece of cake. You should also try to play without too many distractions from the outside world, and we recommend playing with sound on so you can get the audio cues for when it's your turn to make a decision.
Take advantage of promotions to boost your bankroll
We already talked about bankroll management, and if you think you don't have enough funds to play big stakes, don't jump over to the micro-stakes tables quite yet. Most of the big online poker sites in Canada will actually give you free money to play with in the form of sign up bonuses.
Just make a deposit and the poker website will match it by a certain percentage. Sometimes it's by 100%. Sometimes it'll be 200%. It depends on the site. Most of the time, you actually need to wager a certain amount of money before the bonus money is converted into real money, but it's free cash so if you're going to play poker, you might as well take advantage of it.
Review your play
Ever wonder how some online poker players keep winning while others seem to just struggle at the tables? Well, the really talented ones aren't lucky. They're smart. They use the information the poker site provides them with to better their play. Most online poker sites actually let you review your previous hands. In fact, you can see every player's action in that hand. By reviewing things like when you folded and when you called, you can get a better picture of what you're doing right and wrong at the tables.
Our favourite thing about online poker? You can play for free. Most sites let you hit the tables without actually spending anything. They'll even hand you a pretend bankroll to play with so you don't have to shell out one cent to play (which is good news since the penny has been discontinued in Canada).
If you've got a solid bankroll, don't be afraid to play for free. Even some of the world's best online poker players hit the free tables to hone their game.