Written by Leah Formosa

Updated on August 29, 2023

Poker Strategy

At its heart, poker is a dance of patience, skill, strategy and luck. It’s one of the most popular card games in the world, played at brick-and-mortar casinos and online casinos alike. Most casual players see poker as a game largely dependent on the luck of the draw. However, those who take the time to get to know the game learn that poker leans heavily on mastering various strategic aspects.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to poker. Different game types, from Texas, Hold’em to Omaha, present their unique challenges and require specific strategies. Plus, a beginner’s strategy should be radically different from that of an intermediate or advanced player. A beginner might focus more on understanding hand rankings and basic betting patterns, while a seasoned player can progress to decoding nuanced tells, exploiting positions, and manipulating pot odds. 

As you embark on, or continue your poker journey, it’s essential that you up-skill yourself at the game and align your strategies with both the specific poker game variant you’re playing and your current skill level. Whether you’re a newbie trying to avoid common pitfalls at video poker sites or a veteran looking to refine your game, there’s always room to learn more. So, join us as we take a look at some of the most important poker strategies out there.  

Basic Poker Strategies 

With the right foundational strategies, you can pave your way towards becoming a proficient player. Let’s explore some of the most fundamental poker strategies that every player should be aware of, to begin with. 

Basic Poker Strategy 1 – Starting Hand Selection 

Arguably one of the most important aspects of poker is choosing which hands to play. A tight and selective approach to your starting hands can significantly reduce the number of difficult decisions you’ll have to make post-flop. Generally, hands like Aces, Kings, and Queens or suited connectors like Jack-10 of Spades are strong starters. However, the value of other hands can be more situational and dependent on your position. 

Basic Poker Strategy 2 – Charts and Guides 

For those who are just dipping their toes into poker, charts and guides can be invaluable. These resources provide recommendations on which hands to play based on your position at the table, aiding in simplifying the decision-making process. As you gain experience, you’ll begin to develop a more nuanced understanding, but until then, hand charts serve as a reliable reference point, particularly during the fast-paced nature of live poker. 

Basic Poker Strategy 3 – Position and Table Awareness 

Your position at the poker table profoundly impacts your strategy. Being in a ‘late’ position, like the dealer button, gives you the advantage of seeing how others act before you make decisions on your hand. This allows you to make more informed decisions, both in terms of betting and the hands you choose to play. Always be aware of your position and adjust your playstyle accordingly. With so many live poker table games to choose from at any given online casino, you can often easily choose which position at the table to sit on.  

Basic Poker Strategy 4 – Bet Sizing and Value Betting 

How much you bet is as crucial as when and where you bet. Proper bet sizing can both protect your hand and extract value from opponents. Avoid consistently betting the same amount, as predictable patterns can be exploited. Value betting, on the other hand, is the art of getting the most chips when you believe you have the best hand. It requires a good read on your opponent’s hand range and an understanding of what they’re willing to call. While the theatrical side of bluffing is what often gets showcased in media, the most effective bluffs are rooted in understanding pot odds and expected value. By mastering these concepts, you can make sure that your bluffs are not just bold plays but mathematically sound decisions that contribute to long-term success at real money online casinos.  

Bluffing Basics 

Let’s take a closer look at bluffing. This is one of the most thrilling aspects of poker – often represented with intense stare-downs and theatrical card revelation in movies. But to bluff effectively, it’s crucial to have a firm grasp of some underlying mathematical concepts: Pot Odds and Expected Value. 

Understanding Pot Odds 

Pot odds refer to the relationship between the current size of the pot and the cost of a call. It’s a way to evaluate whether a particular decision is financially viable in the long run. For instance, if the pot is £100 and you need to call a bet of £20, you’re getting pot odds of 5 to 1. If you believe the odds of completing your drawing hand are better than that, a call would be justified. When bluffing, understanding pot odds can help you gauge how much to bet to make your opponent’s potential call unprofitable. If you can assess what drawing hand your opponent might be chasing, you can size your bluffs to disrupt their pot odds and discourage them from calling. 

Calculating Expected Value (EV) 

At its core, Expected Value (EV) measures the potential profitability of a decision over the long run. Every action in poker (calling, raising, folding) has an expected value based on potential outcomes. A positive EV (+EV) indicates a profitable decision, while a negative EV (-EV) suggests a losing one. When considering a bluff, think about its EV. For instance, if you believe there’s a high chance your opponent will fold to a bluff, then the bluff could have a positive expected value. But, if your read on the situation suggests they’re likely to call or re-raise, bluffing might have a negative EV. 

Intermediate Poker Strategies 

As players progress from beginner to intermediate levels in online poker, the strategies become more nuanced. It’s not just about understanding the game’s basics – it’s about diving deeper into the multifaceted strategies that can give you an edge in varying scenarios. Here are some intermediate strategies to elevate your online poker prowess. 

Intermediate Poker Strategy 1 – Multi-Table Strategy  

Playing on multiple tables simultaneously can significantly increase your hourly win rate, but it comes with challenges. The key to this strategy is having mastered the beginner strategies listed above and the ability to quickly make decisions. Software tools can be an invaluable resource here to help you keep track. Start with just two tables and gradually add more as you become comfortable. It’s important to maintain focus and not compromise the quality of your decisions. 

Intermediate Poker Strategy 2 – Tournament vs Cash Game Strategies  

These two game formats require distinct strategies. In tournaments, survival is key. As the blinds increase and player numbers decrease, adjusting your approach becomes crucial. But, in cash games, each hand is an isolated event with constant blinds, requiring a more consistent and solid strategy. Recognise the different dynamics and adjust your play accordingly. 

Intermediate Poker Strategy 3 – Player Profiling and Reads  

Online, you won’t see physical tells, but you can profile players based on their behaviours. For example, is their play aggressive or passive? Do they play many hands (loose play) or few hands (tight play)? Over time, gather as much information as you can and adjust your strategy based on the profiles you build. Software tools can also aid in tracking player tendencies. 

Intermediate Poker Strategy 4 – Bankroll Management 

A crucial strategy in online poker is proper bankroll management. Set guidelines for the maximum buy-in percentage and stick to them. For example, many players opt not to buy into a game with more than 5% of their total bankroll. This minimises the risk of significant losses and helps you stretch your bankroll for as long as possible. 

Intermediate Poker Strategy 5 – Psychological Aspects and Tilt Control  

Poker isn’t just a card game – it’s a mental game. Being patient and emotionally stable is crucial. Tilt refers to playing emotionally rather than rationally, often after a bad beat or series of losses. Recognising when you’re on tilt is crucial. When you sense tilt creeping in, take a break, reset, and return with a clear mind. Otherwise, other strategic players out there will try to take full advantage of your tilted play. 

Advanced Poker Strategies 

As players climb the ladder of poker mastery, the competition stiffens, demanding more refined, mathematical, and psychological tactics. Mastering these advanced strategies requires dedication, continual learning, and practice. But for those willing to take on this challenge, the rewards in terms of gameplay and potential profitability are great. Here’s a closer look at some advanced poker strategies. 

Advanced Poker Strategy 1 – Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Play  

GTO, or Game Theory Optimal, is a theoretical framework where, if a player plays in a GTO manner, opponents can’t make any adjustments to exploit them. At its core, GTO seeks a balanced strategy, making a player indifferent to an opponent’s actions. In online poker, utilising GTO means diversifying your actions to prevent predictability so that your moves remain unexploitable regardless of your opponents’ tactics. 

Advanced Poker Strategy 2 – Mixed Strategy and Indifference Principles  

A mixed strategy involves randomising between different actions (like betting, calling, or folding) with specific hands to make you unpredictable. This is often paired with the indifference principle, which states that a player should be indifferent between multiple strategies if they yield the same expected value. By combining these concepts, players can maintain unpredictability and make it extremely challenging for opponents to devise a counterstrategy. 

Advanced Poker Strategy 3 – Advanced Bluffing Techniques 

Beyond simple bluffs, advanced bluffing incorporates a deeper understanding of board textures, opponent tendencies, and bet sizing. Successful, advanced bluffs might include over-betting the pot on certain board textures, using blockers effectively, or executing multi-street bluffs. The key lies in understanding opponent psychology, adjusting based on their perceived range, and employing tactics like semi-bluffing more effectively. This advanced bluffing approach is particularly well-suited to online live poker play, where players are not physically visible, and you need to rely on table dynamics and features to bluff. 

Advanced Poker Strategy 4 – Exploitative Play vs Balanced Play 

Exploitative play involves adjusting your strategy based on perceived weaknesses in an opponent’s game. If you notice an opponent frequently folds to river bets, for example, you might exploit this tendency with more bluffs. Balanced play, on the other hand, is about mixing up your strategy to remain unexploitable. The best players fluidly shift between these strategies, exploiting opponents’ tendencies while ensuring they aren’t becoming too predictable. This is why you need to keep track of your playing tendencies as much as others. 

Advanced Poker Strategy 5 – Deep Stack Strategies  

Playing with deep stacks (having many big blinds in your stack) offers opportunities and risks. Advanced strategies here involve leveraging the implied odds (potential future bets) more effectively, being more aware of stack-to-pot ratios and understanding the nuances of post-flop play with deeper stacks. With more chips at play, decisions become multi-layered, requiring a profound understanding of opponent ranges, board textures, and future streets. 

Game-Specific Strategies 

Different poker game variants come with unique challenges, strategies, and opportunities. While a strong foundational understanding of poker principles is essential, game-specific nuances can significantly influence decision-making processes and optimal play. Let’s dive into the specific strategies for some of the most popular poker variants. 

Texas Hold’em Poker Strategies 

  • Tight-Aggressive Play: Often recommended for beginners, this means playing a limited set of strong starting hands and betting or raising more often than checking or calling. 
  • Positional Awareness: Being ‘in position’ (acting last) is advantageous, as it offers the benefit of seeing opponents’ actions before deciding on your move. 
  • Continuation Bets: When you’ve raised before the flop, a continuation bet post-flop can help capitalise on that perceived strength. 
  • Understanding Pot Odds: Calculate the ratio of the current pot size to the cost of a contemplated call to make mathematically sound decisions. 

Omaha Poker Strategies 

  • Play Strong Hands: Given that players receive four-hole cards in Omaha, hand values run higher. Prioritise strong hand combinations. 
  • Be Cautious with Two-Pair: In Texas Hold’em, a two-pair can be strong, but in Omaha, it often falls behind. 
  • Use Position: As with Texas Hold’em, positional play is crucial in Omaha to make informed decisions. 
  • Avoid Overcommitting: Omaha can be a volatile game. It’s essential to be cautious and avoid getting too attached to medium-strength hands. 

Seven-Card Stud Poker Strategies 

  • Starting Hand Selection: Begin with high pairs or high cards that are suited and consecutive. It sets a solid foundation for later streets. 
  • Observe Open Cards: Unlike Hold’em or Omaha, Seven-Card Stud has open cards. Paying attention to these can help you identify opponents’ potential hands. 
  • Avoid Chasing: If you don’t have a strong hand by fifth street or believe another player might have a better hand, it’s often wise to fold. 

Poker Strategies for Other Variants 

  • Educate Yourself: Before diving into a new variant, take time to learn the rules, hand rankings, and unique strategies pertinent to that game. You might even find a demo version of the poker variant you’re interested in as a table game to test out. 
  • Practice with Low Stakes: Before venturing into larger pots, familiarise yourself with the nuances of the variant by playing lower stakes. 
  • Study Expert Play: Watching experts play the variant you’re interested in can offer valuable insights and strategies. Most live casino games allow players to spectate. You’re also likely to find several videos on YouTube and social media of gameplay.  

Online Poker Strategies 

Online poker is a different beast from its brick-and-mortar counterpart. The pace is faster, players come from diverse backgrounds, and the environment is radically different. Here are some tips and tricks to help you succeed when playing poker in the digital realm. 

Use Poker Software and Tools 

These include:  

  • HUDs (Heads-Up Displays): These tools overlay statistics on each player at your table, giving insights into their playing style. By understanding stats like VPIP (Voluntarily Put £ in Pot) and PFR (Pre-Flop Raise), you can make better decisions. With that said, not all platforms will allow HUD use. Check your preferred site’s terms of service for its HUD policy. 
  • Hand Review Software: Post-session analysis is crucial. Tools like PokerTracker or Hold’em Manager allows players to review their hands, find leaks, and adjust strategies. 
  • Equity Calculators: Tools like Equilab or Flopzilla can help players understand how their hand fares against potential ranges of opponents, which is essential for decision-making. 

Try Out Online Multi-Tabling  

But if you do, keep these points in mind: 

  • Start Slowly: If you’re new to multi-tabling, start with just two tables and work your way up. Gradually increase as your comfort level grows. 
  • Use Consistent Layouts: Having a consistent table layout can help you process information faster and reduce mistakes. 
  • Prioritise Table Attention: Not all tables require equal attention. Learn to identify crucial moments or tough decisions and split your focus accordingly. 

Read Online Tells and Patterns 

Look out for: 

  • Betting Speed: Instant checks might indicate weakness, while instant bets could signal strength. However, savvy players might reverse these tells to mislead you so keep a sharp eye out for these more experienced players.  
  • Chat Box Reads: Some players might express their emotions in the chat box, which can be used to read into their mindset and approach to play. 
  • Repetitive Patterns: If a player always bets a specific way with strong hands and another way with bluffs, it’s a pattern you can take advantage of. Be vigilant and take notes. 
  • Use of Auto-Features: Automatic check/fold or check/call can give away information about a player’s hand strength.  

Choosing The Right Online Platform 

Before using your hard-earned funds to play at an online casino: 

  • Check for Licenses: Always choose platforms that are licensed and regulated to ensure fair play and secure transactions. 
  • Study Rake Policies: Rake – the commission taken by a poker site – varies. Opt for platforms with favourable rake structures. 
  • Look at Player Traffic: More traffic often means softer games, especially at lower stakes. 

Tournament Strategies 

Tournament poker, with its escalating blinds and varying dynamics, presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Unlike cash games where chip values remain constant, tournament chips have escalating value. So, understanding the different stages and adjusting your strategy accordingly can be the difference between a min-cash and a top finish. Let’s look at some of the primary tournament strategies you’ll need to excel. 

Early, Middle, And Late-Stage Tournament Poker Strategies 

  • Early Stage: Focus on playing tight and conservatively since the blinds are low compared to your stack. This helps you avoid unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, use this phase to observe your opponents, noting who plays aggressively, passively, or appears inexperienced. 
  • Middle Stage: As blinds escalate, adapt by frequently stealing blinds to sustain your stack. Emphasise positional play, especially from late positions, to capitalise on tighter opponents. Continuously gauge stack sizes, yours, and others, as it greatly impacts decisions to call, fold, or shove. 
  • Late Stage: Amp up your aggression given the table dynamic now has diminished players and sizable blinds. Choose the right moments to steal blinds and pressure those with shorter stacks. As you near the money bubble, be mindful of the changing dynamics. Shorter stacks might adopt a tighter game, while those with larger stacks might become more domineering. 

Satellite Poker Tournament Strategies  

If you’re specifically playing a satellite poker tournament, here’s what you should consider: 

  • Goal-Oriented Play: Remember, the aim isn’t to win but to secure one of the qualifying spots. Adjust your play based on this goal. 
  • Avoid Marginal Spots: Risky plays that might be correct in regular tournaments could be wrong in satellites if they jeopardise a qualifying spot. 
  • Monitor Stack Sizes: Be aware of where your stack stands relative to the qualification cutoff. Protect your stack if you’re above the line and find spots to accumulate if you’re below. 
  • Late-Stage Tightening: As qualification nears, many players tighten up. This provides opportunities to steal blinds and pots. 

Final Poker Table Tactics 

  • Recognise Payout Jumps: Each elimination at the final table often results in substantial payout increases. Factor this into your decisions when playing. 
  • Play to Win, Not Just Ladder: While securing the next pay jump is vital, playing overly cautious can limit your chances of winning the tournament. 
  • Identify Player Dynamics: Determine which players are looking to ladder up (and might fold more) and which are playing for the win. 

Live Poker Strategies 

Online live poker games bridge the gap between traditional online poker and brick-and-mortar games. They provide an interactive experience with real dealers but maintain an online environment where players don’t see each other. This unique blend brings its strategies and considerations. Let’s dive into the subtleties of playing in such an environment. 

Reading Physical Tells on Live Poker Games 

While you won’t see your opponents in online live poker, you can:  

  • Observe The Dealer: An abrupt change in the dealer’s rhythm, whether faster or slower, might indicate something about the upcoming cards or the current situation. Plus, an abrupt change in the dealer’s rhythm, whether faster or slower, might indicate something about the upcoming cards or the current situation. 
  • Analyse The Chat: The chat might show other players’ emotions and playing patterns if you look closely.   

Table Etiquette and Live Dynamics on Live Poker Games  

There are expectations for player behaviour when interacting with live dealers: 

  • Be Respectful: Always stay professional and respectful when interacting with live dealers via chat. Being rude or abrasive can ruin the experience for everyone. 
  • Do Not Berate: If you think the dealer made a mistake, or you’re frustrated with how the cards are dealt, do not vent out. Most platforms have a reporting mechanism for any issues. 

Adjusting To Different Live Poker Environments 

Various platforms and settings offer different experiences in live poker: 

  • Platform Differences: Different online casinos have different user interfaces, dealer training, and game speeds. Familiarise yourself with the platform before diving deep into games. 
  • Chat Features: Some games allow chat between players or with the dealer. This can be used strategically to get information or to mislead opponents (of course – without breaking any rules). 
  • Game Type Variations: Whether it’s a tournament structure or a cash game, each game type will have its own pace and dynamics. Always adjust your strategy accordingly. 

10 Poker Strategy Tips to Improve Your Game Instantly 

Whether transitioning from physical tables or refining your online expertise, these ten online-specific poker tips are designed to instantly enhance your gameplay.  

  • Adapt to online pacing: Online poker typically moves faster than in-person games. Make sure you’re prepared to make quicker decisions without sacrificing strategic depth. You might want to start on traditional poker table games that you can pace yourself rather than live poker table games. 
  • Use software tools: Make use of permitted software tools to track statistics and player tendencies. 
  • Start with single tables: Before diving into multi-tabling, hone your skills on a single table. Only progress when you feel confident in managing multiple games. 
  • Manage online tells: While physical tells aren’t present, online tells, such as speed of play or betting patterns, can be revealing for yourself and other players. Learn to read others tells and mask your own. 
  • Regularly review your hands: Many online platforms allow for hand history reviews. Regularly analyse your play to identify mistakes. Math might not be on your mind while enjoying a game of poker – but it is key to becoming a more effective and successful player! 
  • Practice tilt control: The anonymity of online play can sometimes intensify emotions. Recognise the signs of tilt and take breaks to maintain composure. 
  • Establish a solid pre-flop strategy: Having a consistent pre-flop game in online poker can prevent making rash decisions under time pressure. 
  • Learn – continuously: The online poker scene is continuously evolving. Join forums, watch webinars, and participate in online communities to stay updated and refine your strategies. 
  • Adjust to player pool tendencies: Online platforms often have distinct player pools. Some might be more aggressive, others more passive. Identify and adjust your strategies to these tendencies. 
  • Use shortcuts and hotkeys wisely: Most platforms offer shortcuts and hotkeys for faster play. Learn and practice using them to enhance efficiency without compromising decision quality. 

Things You Should Never Do in Poker 

Online poker offers the thrill of the game right from the comfort of your home, but it also presents unique challenges. To maximise your potential, here are ten things you should NOT do: 

  • Play without a secure connection: Make sure your internet connection is secure and stable to prevent disconnections or potential hacks. 
  • Use the same strategy for all poker variants: Different online games and table dynamics require varied strategies. 
  • Ignore bankroll management: It’s important to set limits to avoid big losses. Don’t play tables that are too expensive for your bankroll. 
  • Play distracted: Playing while watching TV or multitasking can reduce your focus and lead to poor decisions. 
  • Rely solely on luck: Online poker is a game of skill. Continuously learn and adapt rather than just hoping for good cards. 
  • Chase losses: If you’ve had a bad run, avoid the urge to keep playing to recover your losses quickly. Remember, it’s better to take a break and come back with a clear mind. 

Conclusion: Why Even the Best Poker Strategy Won’t Guarantee a Win 

Poker, in its essence, is a game of skill, strategy, and sheer luck. While having an impeccable strategy can significantly tilt the odds in your favour, the unpredictability of the cards and the dynamics of human decision-making make it impossible to guarantee a win every time. 

Understanding and accepting the unpredictable nature of poker makes it even more intriguing. It’s a game where continuous learning, adapting, and, most importantly, enjoying the journey matters as much as the destination. Even if the best strategies can’t promise a win every time, they do promise growth, understanding, and a better game every time you sit at the table. 

Poker Strategy FAQ

A good online poker strategy means playing strong cards, watching how others play, and adjusting your moves based on that. Since you can’t see players face-to-face, pay attention to their bets and timing.

The secret to winning at poker is a mix of skill and luck. You should understand the game rules well, pick the right hands to play, and read what others might have. Watching and learning from other players can give clues about their strategies. Also, controlling your emotions is important. Remember, every game is a chance to learn, even if you don’t win.

The easiest poker game for many beginners is the Texas Hold’em poker variant. It has simple rules and is popular worldwide. However, winning also depends on who you play against. Playing with friends or beginners might be easier than playing online with experienced players.

In poker, especially Texas Hold’em, the best-starting hand is a pair of aces, often called ‘pocket aces’ or ‘bullets.’ This hand has the highest chance to win against any other starting hands. But, even with the best hand, it’s important to play wisely. Sometimes, the game’s outcome depends on how you play the cards, not just the cards themselves.

In poker, limping means entering the pot by just calling the big blind instead of raising. Limping is often seen as weak because it doesn’t put pressure on opponents. This allows them to see the flop cheaply and possibly beat you with weaker hands. By not raising, you miss the chance to build the pot or push out weaker hands. So, playing too passively by frequently limping can lead to missed opportunities.

The 7-2 rule in poker refers to the hand with a seven and a two, which is the worst starting hand in Texas Hold’em. These cards don’t make a straight or a flush and are low, so they have a low chance of winning.

Yes, some people make a living off online poker, but it’s not easy. To do so, you need strong skills, patience, and good bankroll management. Plus, online poker can be very competitive, with many skilled players. Not everyone profits consistently.

The most important skill in online poker is understanding betting patterns. Since you can’t see players’ faces like in real-life games, you must pay attention to how they bet and how often. This gives clues about their hands and strategies. Being able to read these patterns helps you decide when to bet, raise, or fold.