Top 10 Poker Strategy Tips From the Pros – A Complete Guide
Studies have shown that roughly 95% of people who play poker are losers in the long run. Learning the right poker strategies is incredibly important with such large amounts of players losing. Poker strategy can vary widely based on who you speak with. Some players will tell you to play incredibly tight, only taking aggressive actions with a few hands. Others will say bluffing often and bullying your opponents is the way to go. With such variety in poker strategy, it may seem impossible to learn a winning basic poker strategy.
Luckily, that is not the case. There are countless poker books and training sites that can teach you how to win at poker. With this poker guide comprised of professional tips and tricks, you are well on your way to a winning poker strategy.
How to Win at Poker – Top 10 Poker Tips
Poker Tip #1: Be Selective in Starting Hands
The number one mistake beginning poker players make is playing too many hands. While folding may seem boring, you should only be playing about 20% of the hands you are dealt in Texas Hold’em. This means most of the time you should be folding preflop. Professional poker players have used game theory solvers to create starting hand charts to use in your winning poker strategy. You can find many of these charts for free online, and they will detail which hands you should raise from different positions. You don’t need to memorize each hand from every position, but rather look for patterns in the types of hands you can play.
Keep in mind, these hand charts are for opening the pot, meaning no other player has raised and it is your turn to act. When an opponent raises, your hand range should be even more narrow, as you should look to re-raise (or 3-bet) rather than call. Narrowing your range of starting hands is the most valuable poker tip for a winning poker strategy.
Poker Tip #2: Be Aggressive
Aggression is the key to success in poker, especially in no-limit games. Any professional poker player will tell you an aggressive poker strategy is a winning poker strategy, especially in no-limit games. Being aggressive is beneficial in two ways: your opponents will fold more, and you will player larger pots. By generating more folds, you will win the pot more often. You don’t need to be constantly making a strong hand if you can bet your opponents off theirs.
When you do make a strong hand, being aggressive will allow the pot to grow larger and you will be winning more money. While aggression is vital to basic poker strategy, being overly aggressive can be costly. So, make sure you are being aggressive when it makes sense. Don’t bluff all three streets with no pair and no draw, make sensible bluffs, and be aggressive with your strong hands.
This is also important with preflop poker strategy. As discussed in tip #1, you want to play a narrow range of hands, but that should be mixed with aggression. In low-stakes games, many players elect to call a raise preflop rather than re-raise. Since this is a pattern, you will likely be going to the flop with 3+ players still in the hand, and it is much harder to beat three players than it is one.
By being aggressive preflop, you can make more players fold and likely go heads up to the flop or win the pot outright preflop. Being aggressive is an effective winning poker strategy, so take aggressive actions when you can.
Poker Tip #3: Play in Position as Often as Possible
Playing in position versus your opponents, meaning they act before you, is integral to a basic winning poker strategy. By playing in position you get to see your opponents’ actions before you have to make your own decision. This can give you key insights into their hand strength and make your decisions easier.
If you flop one pair and have two opponents act before you, you can comfortably fold if the first bets and the second raises, as your hand is not strong against two aggressive actions. On the contrary, if you are first to act and bet out with one pair then get raised by the other opponents, you will still likely fold but will have lost money by doing so. The more information you can gain from your opponents, the easier decision you have.
Not only does playing in position help in making your decision, but you can also control the size of the pot. If you have a marginal hand that isn’t strong enough to bet, but not weak enough to fold, you will get to continue in the hand for cheaper more often in position. If your opponent checks to you and you have a marginal-made hand, you can check also and go to the next street without needing to add money to the pot. When you check as the first player to act, many aggressive players will take advantage and bet, putting you in a tough spot with a marginal hand. Since you gain more information and have more control, this allows you to play a wider range of hands in a late position. So, whenever you can, play pots in position.
Poker Tip #4: Don’t Limp, Even if Everyone Else Does
Small-stakes poker, especially live poker, tends to have a lot of limpers. Limping is when you call the big blind preflop instead of raising. If you wander into any casino and watch the $1/$2 and $1/3 games, you will see a lot of limping. This is almost always a losing play. Sharp players will see multiple limpers and will attack that by raising large preflop.
If you want to play a hand, you should be raising it preflop. If you don’t think your hand is strong enough to raise, limping is not the answer. When you limp with a weak hand like 6-7 off-suit and someone raises you, you will likely have to fold and will have lost a big blind for no reason. For this reason, a beginning poker strategy should have zero limping.
On the contrary, if you see a lot of players limping at your table, be even more aggressive with your raise sizes preflop to punish those limpers. If the typical raise in your live $1/$2 game is $8, but three people limp before you, don’t just raise it to the normal $8 as they will likely all call; it is much harder to beat three opponents than one. If you see those limps and you have a hand that is strong enough to play, increase your raise size to something like $18-$24. Most of the time all the limpers will fold, and you win a small pot. Other times, one may call but you are the aggressor in the hand and they can’t be very strong, so you will be able to bluff (and win) more often, or win larger pots when you do make a strong hand.
Poker Tip #5: Don’t Chase Draws for a Bad Price, Learn Pot Odds
Many players see their draws as potential monsters but are losing money by calling large bets when drawing. While you can make a lot of money when you hit a big flush draw, you only have a chance at hitting the draw and will not get there every time. Using pot odds in your poker strategy will help you to make profitable calls when drawing, and fold when the bet is too large.
The concept of pot odds takes your chances of hitting the draw and compares it to the size of the bet relative to the pot. If you have a 35% chance of making your hand but the bet size is 50% of the pot, then you do not have the right odds to call. In this same situation, if the bet were only 20% of the pot, you do have the right odds to call. This is a quick way to use probability at the poker table and avoid putting too much money in for the wrong price. This may seem like a daunting task, but if you can do simple multiplication and division, you can add pot odds to your winning poker strategy.
Poker Tip #6: Pay Attention to Your Opponents
If you walk into any card room today, you’re bound to see many players with their headphones in, scrolling on their phones, or even watching a movie on an iPad. These players are missing out on vital information that could improve their poker strategy. Watching your opponents and paying attention to their betting patterns will help you categorize each player.
In your first hour of your session, try to find the strongest and weakest players at the table and play accordingly. If there is a player constantly putting their opponents in tough situations and always seems to have a good hand, try to avoid them unless you have a very strong holding. If you see a player showing down bad hands and calling with weak pairs, they are likely a bad player, and you should try to get involved in pots with them.
All this information is lost when you are not paying attention to the action. Just because you folded your hand preflop doesn’t mean you should completely check out of the game, watch how everyone plays and take mental notes on their abilities. This is one of the most valuable poker tips for new players, and it is not specific to live poker. If you find yourself putting a movie on while you play online poker, you are missing out on valuable information. The game should have your attention as much as possible so you can focus on your winning poker strategy.
Poker Tip #7: Value Bet Your Strong Hands
Many beginning poker players try to play tricky and will play passively when you have a very strong hand. While some situations do warrant setting a trap, a valuable poker tip for beginners is to build pots when you have a strong holding.
Most beginning and recreational players are loose and passive. This means these players will not take aggressive actions like betting and raising but will call bets at a high frequency. To exploit this, you should bet your strong hands, don’t check to hope your opponent will bet it for you. While check-raising is a strong play and can make pots larger, you are better off betting your strong hands to avoid your opponents checking back.
You may run into situations where you are bloating a pot with the worse hand, and unfortunately, that is part of the game sometimes. Don’t let this deter you though! Continue to bet your strong hands, as you will get a lot of calls from worse holdings, which will help you win at poker.
Poker Tip #8: Play Stakes You Can Afford
When playing poker, you need to make decisions on a rational basis, not an emotional one. If you are playing with money you can’t afford to lose, you will make poor decisions to conserve money. Also, despite poker being primarily a skill game, luck does play a factor. At any moment, all your chips can be in play in a no-limit poker game, so it only takes one unlucky river card to send you packing.
If you only have one buy-in for a game, you shouldn’t play in that game. Having a poker bankroll separate from living expenses will allow you to handle the variance in the game and sustain a few losing sessions. No matter how good a poker player you are, everyone goes on a downswing and loses a few sessions in a row, so having enough money in your bankroll is necessary to survive the swings.
Professionals have different poker tips and recommendations for the number of buy-ins you need to start playing, as these can vary widely depending on the games you are playing. Some professionals say you need 60+ maximum buy-ins, others say 15-20 will do the trick. If you are starting online, you should stick to the higher end of the range as those player pools tend to be tougher, plus you play far more hands in a shorter amount of time. For live poker, you can begin your journey with a smaller amount of buy-ins, as the smallest stakes in a casino ($1/$2) attract many recreational players who don’t tend to be very good.
If you are following a basic poker strategy, we suggest having around 30 buy-ins to start. Luckily, online poker sites have stakes as low as $0.01/$0.02, so there are plenty of affordable stakes where you can learn how to win at poker.
Poker Tip #9: Play in Good Games
Game selection is an important piece to a winning poker strategy. There will likely be multiple tables running when you go to your local card room. At a casino, you can request a table change if yours is a bad one, and it is optimal to do so. You may be limited if it is a smaller poker room, but even small rooms should get more than one game running.
If you sit down at a table where everybody is playing passive and only betting when they have an exceptionally strong hand, it is going to be difficult to win money. Also, if you sit at a table where everyone is a strong and aggressive player, you may be put in difficult situations when just starting your poker career.
If you realize after the first 30-60 minutes that you are at a bad table, call the floor over and ask for a table change. Chances are you will be moved to a new table and hopefully get in a better game. If you play online, it is even easier to do so. Online poker sites have many games running, so if you find yourself in a bad one just exit the table and try to find a better one.
Poker Tip #10: Learn One Game at a Time
With countless variants of poker, winning strategies will vary between the game type. To set yourself up to be a winning player, it is best to learn one game at a time. Trying to master the starting hand selections for Texas Hold’em is much easier when you aren’t also trying to learn poker strategy for 7-Card Stud and Pot-Limit Omaha. Sticking to one game allows you to get comfortable and start working towards a winning strategy.
Once you are winning in one game, the learning curve for new games will be much easier to manage. While a winning Texas Hold’em player may find difficulty transitioning to stud games, the amount of time it will take to be a winning player in 7-Card Stud will be much less than the first learning curve of Hold’em. If you take it one game at a time, you will be a winning player quicker than trying to learn it all at once.
Learning How to Win at Poker
Professionals have provided much more than quick poker tips. There is a large amount of poker content on the internet as well as poker books. With the internet, you have multiple options for free poker strategy tips in the form of online forums and YouTube content. If you are willing to invest money in your poker strategy, consider some poker books or online training sites. There are many good options for subscription-based sites where you can watch recorded training sessions or get group and one-on-one poker training.
Poker books can be a little trickier, as the first strategy book, Doyle Brunson’s Super System, came out in 1979. The game has evolved greatly over the past 40+ years, so try to find books published in the last few years if you wish to get more up-to-date strategies.
Another great way to improve at the game is to talk about hands you have played with winning players. Find players winning at the same stakes you are playing and start a group chat or meet weekly to discuss difficult spots you found yourself in. Talking these decisions out with your peers will help you understand different strategies and see how winning players are thinking about the game.
Whichever path you take to learn how to win at poker, keep in mind studying isn’t a one-time ordeal. The prevailing poker strategies are ever-evolving. With the increased use of computer algorithms to determine optimal decisions, poker strategy changes year to year. Stay up-to-date as much as you can and continue to study winning poker tips from professionals. Mix studying with playing often to gain experience, and you will be a winning player in no time.