Some people, usually people who know next to nothing about poker, think that all you need is a deck of cards and a set of chips and voilá, you are a poker player. Most of the time, though, knowing the rules of the game is far from enough to succeed. If you don’t care much about winning over the long term, then you can stop reading this basic poker strategy article right now. If, however, you want to become a better poker player – eventually branching on from Hold’em to other poker games like Omaha – keep on reading.
While you may never become a professional poker player, even recreational players have the desire to improve their game. To play poker on a higher-than-basic level, you need to learn 4 basic skills that can help you be successful at the table: mathematics, psychology, understanding of risk vs. reward and discipline. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these.
The ability to quickly calculate the probabilities of what other players might have in their hands is a very useful skill. Understanding the general probabilities of each hand will help you make the best possible decision based on what cards are on the table and what cards the player has. Understanding outs – the cards that can improve one’s hand – is also important, and requires some quick calculations to be made in one’s mind.
Math is a basic skill required for those who wish to become a better poker player. Of course, the better you are at mathematics, the quicker you can make calculations that’ll help you understand when it’s best to call, fold, or raise, as well as how much you ought to be betting or raising at any given point in time during a poker hand.
The outcome of a poker hand can sometimes be decided not by the value of the hands, but by the ability of the players to read and influence their opponents. In other words, the player who is in possession of the best cards is not always the one who will be scooping the pot at the end of a hand.
There are at least three basic questions that arise at every poker hand: what does your opponent have, what does your opponent think you have, and what does your opponent think you think he/she has? Players need to know the answer to these questions and be able to manipulate them in order to maximize potential winnings and minimize potential losses.
Reading the other players at the table and being able to make your opponents misread your reactions to the hand can be the key to winning. Master poker psychology – as well as it’s “subtopics” like resiliency in poker – and you’ll definitely be on your way to becoming a better poker player.
3. Understanding Risk vs. Reward
Translated into layman’s terms, “risk vs. reward” means that a player needs to decide if it’s worth taking risks in order to win or not. Whenever players start their sessions, there is a chance they’ll get felted (i.e., lose all their money) or increase their starting stack. Good poker players are usually excellent at risk assessment and understanding whether it’s worth calling in tough situations as well as understand when the reward the pot is offering is too low to be worth playing for. The best professional poker players run through risk assessments as a matter of second nature.
Discipline often makes all the difference as to whether you’ll end up winning or losing in a particulat poker session. Beginners tend to be less disciplined than experienced poker players. It’s hard to make a beginner fold, as they’ll usually be a “calling station” and stay in the hand until the end “just to see” if they’ve got the best hand. This lack of discipline often proves very costly, as they’ll be holding an inferior hand at the showdown. A disciplined poker player, on the other hand, will know when to play and when to quit. Naturally, the more disciplined you are, the more money you’ll likely save yourself as well as make yourself over your time at the poker tables.
Remember, having the above-named skills doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be the best player at the poker table, or even a good poker player at all. However, if you possess those 4 basic skills, they’ll surely help you become a better one. If you lack them, poker might not be for you, in which case you’re probably better off sticking to luck-based games like slots.