If you’re looking for easy to remember and quick poker tips that will help you win at No-Limit Hold’em, you’re in luck!
Today we’ve compiled 10 tactics and strategies that will make you a more confident and profitable poker player.
Now, this list won’t teach you how to win every time – not even the greatest poker players do that – but it will help you improve, whether you play cash games, tournaments, in live poker rooms, or online.
Let’s dive in!
1: Play Fewer Hands And Play Them Aggressively
There is a limit on how many starting hands you can play before the flop in No-Limit Texas Hold’em, even for the world’s best players. If you try to play too many hands, you’ll bleed away your chip stack (unless lady luck is on your side).
Developing a solid preflop poker strategy is, by far, the easiest and fastest way to improve your bottom line. However, while developing solid preflop ranges is relatively easy to do, having the discipline to stick to them is difficult. Don’t allow yourself to get impatient and play a hand, not worth playing.
The best approach is to play a tight range of strong and/or playable hands, and you need to play those hands aggressively. Playing all of your hands aggressively, including the more speculative ones like 7♠ 6♠ or 5♥ 5♣, allows you to disguise the strength of your actual hand.
When you raise, your opponents won’t know whether you have A-A, A-K, or 7-6, which makes you super tough to play against. Tight and aggressive wins the game!
2: Don’t Be The First Player To Limp
Limping (just calling the big blind preflop) is an absolute no-no as the first player to enter a pot. There are two main reasons why this play should be avoided:
- You can’t win the pot before the flop like you could if you raised.
- You give the players behind very enticing pot odds, making it more likely you face multiple players and thus less likely you win the pot.
The only acceptable situation in which to limp is when at least one other player has already limped. This is called over-limping, and it can be a good play because you are getting great pot odds to join the action to hit something good on the flop, hopefully.
3: Semi-Bluff Aggressively with Your Draws
If you want to truly crush poker, you need to bluff effectively. But bluffing ineffectively is one of the fastest ways to lose your money at the table. So, how do you keep your bluffing frequency under control?
The most effective way to bluff is to let the cards you have dictate if you will bluff or not. This means bluffing with hands that have outs to improve to the best hand on a later street, such as straight draws, flush draws, or even just an overcard or two to the board.
Think of these draws as your backup plan in case your bluff gets called.
Poker players call these hands “semi-bluffs” because of their potential beyond the bluff itself.
When you’re just starting out, bluffing with total nothing hands prior to the river is not advisable (except in one situation that I’ll tell you about shortly).
4: Fast-Play Your Strong Hands to Build the Pot and Make More Money
It’s a sad sight when a player checks their flopped nut flush three times and then has to awkwardly table their monster of a poker hand when their opponent checks back the river. Slow-playing too often is a mistake common among players who are afraid of chasing their opponents out of the pot when they have strong poker hands.
It’s best to bet your strong hands to build the pot and protect your equity in most cases. That’s not to say you should always bet/raise your strong hands post-flop. You can check your strong hands if:
- It’s unlikely that you will be outdrawn.
- There aren’t many scare cards to prevent you from getting paid on later streets.
- Your opponent’s range is heavily weighted toward hands with no showdown value.
However, when you feel uncertain, just bet (or check-raise if you weren’t the preflop aggressor). Yes, it’s disappointing when your opponent folds, but that’s not nearly as disappointing as getting outdrawn or missing out on potential value.
5: Defend Your Big Blind (with the Right Hands)
The big blind is a special position because you already have 1 big blind invested in the pot. For this reason, whenever you are faced with a raise while sitting in the big blind, you will have better pot odds to call than the other positions – think of it as a discount.
Because of your discount and the fact that you are the last person to act preflop, you can profitably call with many more hands than if you were sitting in another position. That’s not to say you should call raises with trash hands like 9♠ 5♦, but the more borderline hands like K♣ 9♦ and Q♥ 6♥ become playable in most situations.
Exactly how wide you should defend depends on a multitude of factors – here are the four primary ones:
- Position of the raiser (play tighter against the early positions and looser against the late positions).
- The number of players in hand (when 1 or more players has already called the raise, play tighter and only call with hands that do well in multiway pots).
- The size of the raise (the larger the bet sizing, the tighter you should play and vice versa).
- Stack sizes (when short-stacked, play fewer speculative hands and prioritize high card strength).
Other important factors, like how your opponent will often continue to bet post-flop, but the three above are the main ones you should consider.
6: Fold When You’re Unsure
Want to know the biggest difference between a bad player and a professional player? It’s the good player’s ability to lay down a good hand like top pair when they think they are beaten.
This sounds very simple, but it is tough to do in practice, partly because of how our brains are built. We are naturally curious, and we naturally want to win. When we fold, we surrender our chance to win the pot, and we don’t get to satisfy our curiosity by finding out what our opponent has.
Calling too often and in the wrong situations is the second fastest way to lose at poker (after ineffective bluffs). Whenever you’re unsure whether to call or fold versus a bet or raise, do yourself a service and fold.
Pro Tip: When you fold in one of these situations, make sure you note down the hand’s details so you can try to figure out if you made the right fold after your session. Studying and/or discussing these sorts of hands is a great way to consistently improve your skills and fill in your poker knowledge gaps.
7: Attack When Your Opponent Shows Weakness
Players don’t check with hands that can call multiple bets as often as they should. This means that, when they do check, they usually have a relatively weak hand that will often fold if faced with multiple bets. This is the “bluffing with nothing” situation I alluded to earlier.
When your opponent shows a lot of weakness in a heads-up pot (like if they check on the flop and the turn), you can take advantage of them with an aggressive bluffing strategy. Not only should you bet with your usual semi-bluffs, but you should also bet as a pure bluff with some nothing hands, ideally ones with good blocker effects.
8: Play Solid Poker Early in Tournaments and Don’t Worry About Survival
There are a time and a place for stack preservation and the beginning of poker tournaments, isn’t it. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of tournament poker strategy.
Consider that to finish in the money; you’re going to have to double at least or triple your starting stack (usually more). Instead of playing defensively, you should be playing solid and aggressive poker early on to build up a stack for a deep run.
If you find yourself short-stacked and near the money bubble or a pay jump, only then should you start using a more survival-oriented playing style.
9: Only Play If You Feel Like It
Poker should be a fun experience, regardless of whether you are playing as a hobby or a professional player. You’re going to perform best when you are happy, so it makes sense that you should only play this mentally intensive game when you feel that way.
If you feel frustration, fatigue, or anger building up, you should just quit the session right then and there. You are very likely saving yourself a bunch of money by doing so. Poker will still be there tomorrow.
Pro Tip: Before I play a session, I imagine going all-in and losing my full stack on the very first hand. If the thought of that possibility doesn’t bother me, I know I’m ready to play my A-game for a long session. But if going all-in and losing one of my buy-ins on the first-hand sounds unbearable, I reconsider playing.
10: Only Play In Good Games
This is as true now as when Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) said it in Rounders (1998). If you want to play poker and win, you need to play against weaker players than yourself.
Think about it like this: If you are the 9th best poker player in the world, you will be the best player at almost any table. But if you join a table with those 8 players that are better than you, you become the sucker.
You should always put yourself in positions where your chance to win is largest. This is why it’s important to leave your ego at the door when playing poker.
The bottom line is that you generally need to be better than half the players at the table if you want to have a positive win-rate. And if you want to make a sick-good profit, you want to play against the worst players you can find.
Here is a checklist for a good poker game:
- At least one player is regularly limping.
- There are many multiway pots.
- Re-raises are either very rare or very frequent.
If you’re in a game with 2+ of these boxes checked, you’re in a great position to make money. If none of these boxes are checked, get up and find a more profitable table (unless you feel like putting your poker strategy to the test).
If you play online poker, make sure you take advantage of the table statistics provided by most poker sites. Choose an online poker table with a high average pot size and a high percentage of players seeing a flop. This is a key online poker strategy new players usually miss.
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