6 Poker Strategy Golden Rules

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Golden Rule Number 1

Maximize the size of the pots you win, Minimize the size of the pots you lose.

The winner at poker is not the player who wins the most hands. It is the player who wins the most money.
Sound pretty simplistic I know, but you’ll be amazed how many players do not take account of this simple rule. For example, it’s no good winning a pot of $20 with a starting hand of AA which turned into a set after the flop, if on the next hand you lose $22 calling all the way to the river with AK which has not improved.

One of the biggest mistakes made by beginners at Hold’em is getting too attached to a good starting hand. If your non-paired hand has not improved after the flop, fold it. Again if your starting hand was QQ and the flop came up AK7 then you would normally want to fold.

The only time you should stay in the hand is if you are drawing to a 4 card flush or an outside straight and the pot odds make it worthwhile. Which brings us onto rule number 2.

Golden Rule Number 2

Consider the size of the pot before you decide whether to call.

Winning at hold’em is as much about playing the odds as it is about playing cards. The odds of drawing the last card to a flush on the river is 4.5 to 1. So if the pot is more than five time the size of what it would cost to call it would be often correct to do so. For example if the pot is $15 and it would cost $2 to see the river you may want to call. If the pot is $7 and the call is $2 you definitely don’t want to.

You also have to factor in your chance of winning the hand even if you do hit the flush. If your hole cards are both part of the flush and one of them is a high card you are in a strong position. But if you hold only one low card which is part of the flush, and the other parts are community cards, then the chances are another player will have a better flush so you should fold anyway.

This has been over simplified to get the main point across. You actually need to consider your total number of outs (cards that can improve your hand). More details can be found on the pages Pot Odds and Outs.

Golden Rule Number 3

Pay attention.

Always pay attention to every hand whether you remain in it or not. Just because you have folded does not mean the hand is of no more importance. If you play correctly you’ll be folding many more hands than you play. By not taking any more interest you will be missing out on valuable infomation on your oponents that you need for Rules 4 and 5.

You’ll read stories about online players who play on four or more tables at a time across multiple monitors. Leave that to the experts as you need to stay focused on one game, not keep swapping back and forth between them.

Golden Rule Number 4

Don’t play in the same way all the time. Take note of players who do.

After learning rules one and two you have to learn how and when to break them sometimes! If you always play certain hands in the same way players – especially good ones – will get to know what you are holding by the way you are playing a hand. Getting caught bluffing from time to time can be a good thing because if the players at the table know you only ever call with a good hand you are far less likely to see much betting action when you have one.

The trick to this is to make sure you do it cheaply. If there are raises coming in left, right and center then fold and wait for another chance. Also you need your cards to be seen after the showdown. So a good time to do this is in the Small Blind position, as in this position you will be first to show your cards at the showdown. In any other position you would have to choose not to muck them and a good player will probably notice your attempt to convince them of your lack of ability. If the Bluff should come and everyone folds then you have won a small pot and you can try again in a few hands.

If you always raise and re-raise with a monster hand then this will also be noticed and you won’t get the potential, in pot size, out of these hands as you should. Slowplay some of your real monsters and you will hopefully keep the other players guessing in future hands.

You should also keep a close eye on the betting habits of the other players as if they are being consistent in there play you will have chance of reading their hands.

Golden Rule Number 5

Adjust your play according to the opponents you are facing.

Following on from rule 4. Once you have observed your opponents you should start to adjust you game generally, and for each hand if necessary. If after the flop you are left heads-up against a player who you have seen will call every hand to the river, once they’ve seen the flop, then it would be a waste of time to bluff. But if you were similarly facing a player who had been very tight then a bluff might be worth it if the pot was large.

Golden Rule Number 6

Bluff only when the bluff has a chance of succeeding.

There are some strategy guides on the net that advise beginners not to bluff. I think that is bad advice as bluffing is a major part of poker. As explained in rule 4 getting caught bluffing, from time to time, can do no end of good to the size of the pots you can win. The important thing to remember, especially in Limit games is not to try and win big pots by bluffing. If the bet has been raised three or four big bets after the Turn then a small bet is hardly going to have them folding their cards in fear after the river. But if the betting has been a procession of checks then a small bet against tight players can often take the pot, especially if the last card dealt was a high overcard or has the potential to complete a flush or straight.

In No-Limit and Pot-Limit games it also becomes feasible to steal huge pots with a bluff but I would not advise beginners to try this, except perhaps in tournament games where you can practice without exposing yourself to large losses.

In short its easier to bluff when the pot is small. In Limit games it’s almost impossible to bluff when the pot is large.

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