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Last updated June 11, 2020

Advanced Poker Strategy

Poker is one of the most popular card games in the world. The game combines luck, skill, and competition to make for some thrillingly exciting games and whether you’re playing real life Poker or online, it’s a lot of fun. The skill aspect of Poker is something that can take years to master but learning a good strategy doesn’t have to be complicated.

Advanced Poker Strategy

If you’ve already read our Poker Rules of the Game and How to Win at Poker guides, you should be familiar with some basic advice and strategy. In this guide, we’ll be sharing some more advanced strategy that will help you take your game to the next level.

Here at Xfire, we love playing casino games, and online Poker is one of our absolute favourites. The excitement that comes from having an excellent hand or convincing your opponents to fold through bluffing is part of why we love it so much. Obviously, winning games is a lot more fun than losing, so learning the skills and strategies of Poker is very useful.

In this guide, you’ll find lots of tips and strategies that will help you to win more consistently at the Poker table. We’ll be giving you advice that has worked for us and sharing some secrets and strategies that other sites charge for. If you want to have the best possible time playing Poker online, you don’t want to miss this.

General Tips

When you first start playing Poker, there are a few different tips that will be applicable to you. Most of these can be found in our previous guides on Poker. If you’ve already gone over those, it’s time for some more advanced tips. Here some advice that we give to players who’re looking to take their Poker game to the next level:

Picking the right site – This one applies to advanced players just as much as new players. If you’ve been playing Poker online for a while, you’ve probably gotten used to the site you use and the kind of tables it offers. Just because you’re comfortable with a site, however, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best option. Before you start playing, take a look at some other online Poker sites and casinos and see if any of them are better suited for you. Remember that you can easily claim welcome bonuses just for signing up to a new site. Give a new site a try, and even if you don’t think it’s much of an improvement, you can always come back to your favourite. The best online Poker players regularly change sites, keeping their eyes open for the best sites that provide the best deals, tables and tournaments.

Upping the stakes – If you’ve been playing Poker for a while, you should already have a decent amount of experience at the game. In our previous guide, we stressed the importance of starting off slow and playing low stakes games. At this point, you might want to consider playing higher stakes tables. A lot of sites will offer different tables with different stake sizes. If you’re starting to get better at the game, this can be a good test for you. The level of player can change depending on which stakes you play, so watch out for an increased level of competition. Provided you stick to your strategy and keep an eye on your bankroll, you shouldn’t have too much trouble progressing into the big leagues. High stakes games and tournaments are where players can really start to make some serious money, and you’ll increase the size of your wins.

Keeping track of your opponents – In Poker, beating your opponents is the most important part of the game. Being able to read your opponents actions and guess what hand they have is necessary if you want to consistently win. Pay close attention to the actions of the players at your table, what kind of actions they take after a new card has been dealt. You can learn a lot from observing your opponents and looking for patterns in how they bet. Keeping track of how much a player has invested in the pot is a great way to spot true behaviours, a player is much less likely to be bluffing when they have a large amount of their money in the pot. At this point, you’re more likely to see their true behaviour than any bluffs or deceptions.

Position Strategy

In Poker, position refers to the order at which the players are seated around the table. When playing online Poker, you may not be seated at a table, but you’re still placed at a virtual table along with your opponents. The order at which you’re seated will have an impact on your strategy, and you should pay close attention to it.

Players who have the first action are in what’s known as the early position. The two players to the left of the dealer will be the small blind and the big blind. Then there’s the early position, the player who must make the first action.

Those after the early position are known as middle position, and after them is the late position. Generally, being in an earlier position puts you at a disadvantage. You’re forced to make a decision before you have much information to go on about your opponents.

If you’re in late position, you’ve already had the chance to see the actions of the other players and observe how they’re playing. This is important information when deciding on your own action and so it puts you at an advantage.

If you’re in an early position, you should normally only ever play if you have a strong hand. Generally, all but the strongest hands should see you fold in the early position. As you get further into the late position, the range of hands that you can play with success grows. While a weak hand won’t have a good chance of success in the early positions, it has a much better chance in the late positions.

Understanding Poker Odds

In Poker, there are two main types of odds, the odds of winning and pot odds. If you have ideal odds of one or the other, you’re in a good position. There aren’t many times when you’ll have the benefit of both good odds of winning and good pot odds, but understanding the two types of odds is important if you want to play successfully.

Here we’ll be explaining both types of odds and how you can calculate them as you’re playing. As with any form of online gambling, knowing your odds is essential and helps to shape your decisions and ultimately win more.

Pot Odds

Pot odds are the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet you’re facing. They should be used alongside the winning odds to determine the likely outcome of your success. With pot odds, you’ll be working out exactly how much you could potentially win from each dollar you’re prepared to bet.

As an example, let’s say the pot is at $100 and the bet you need to call is $50. At this point, the pot is $100 plus your opponent’s bet of $50 and your potential call of $50 for a total of $200. The pot odds would then be $50 divided by $200 or 0.25. Multiplied by 100 this gives us the percentage odds of 25%.

In this example, you’ll need to win more than 25% of the time in order to make a profit by calling your opponent’s bet. The skill in Poker comes from working out whether your hand has at least 25% equity compared to the potential hands of your opponent.

Winning Odds

While Pot odds show how much you can potentially win from your bet, winnings odds are simply the chances that you have of winning. By themselves, the pot odds are not that useful, but when you combine them with the winning odds, it gives you a much better picture of your chances and which action you should take.

To calculate your winnings odds, you’ll first need to know about outs. Outs are cards that can potentially come up and improve your hand. The number of potential outs you have will depend on your hand. You calculate your winning odds by multiplying the number of outs by 4 if you’re on the flop, and 2.2 if you’re on the turn.

As an example, let’s say that you have a hand with two of spades and Ace of spades. The dealer deals a flop containing a nine of spades, a Queen of spades and a King of hearts. You’ll only need one more spade to make a flush, and it can be dealt from the next two rounds. There are thirteen cards in each suit, and you currently have four on the table. That means there are nine spades remaining (we have to ignore the fact that other players could have spades in their hands).

As there are nine outs in this example and the stage is the flop, you find out the winning odds by multiplying nine by four. This gives us 36% as our probability of winning this hand.

For the same hand on the turn, you’d again have nine outs, but this time you’ll be multiplying by 2.2. This gives you a probability of 19.8%. Obviously, the chance of success is lower because you can only win from the final card on the river being a spade.

Odds and Expected Value

Once you know your pot odds and your winning odds, you can use them together to find out the expected value (EV) of playing that hand. You do this by subtracting the pot odds from the winning odds. If you’re left with a number above zero, proceeding with your hand and making the call is profitable. If you have a negative number, you should fold, as it’s not worth it for the odds.

As an example, let’s say you have the winning odds of 36% with pot odds of 25%. This would give you an expected value of 11, meaning you should call and continue with your hand. If you have winning odds of 19.8%, meanwhile, with pot odds of 25, your expected value would be -5.2. In this scenario, you’d be better off folding to avoid losing more money by calling.

Exploiting the Weaknesses of Your Opponents

Poker is a highly competitive game, and there aren’t many other casino games like it that encourage such competition between opponents. If you want to get ahead in Poker, you need to be strong-willed and ready to exploit players who you suspect have weak hands.

If you spot a weaker or inexperienced player, you’ll need to be ruthless with them and induce them into making further mistakes. If you think back to when you first started, players probably did the same to you too. That’s just how things go in Poker, it’s a highly competitive game, and there’s no room for sympathy.

One of the biggest signs of a weak hand or inexperienced player is the limp. This is where a player calls the big blind rather than raising it, it’s also sometimes known as a flat play. Generally speaking, a player will limp if they have a weak hand or aren’t sure of the best course of action to take. Both of these signify weakness and you should exploit it whenever you see it.

Whenever you see a player call the big blind, you should raise to isolate them and force them into folding or calling again. Bear in mind that some more experienced players may also limp as a strategy to show false weakness. A player might be reverse bluffing and trying to encourage players to raise when they actually have a strong hand.

Controlling the Game

In Poker, it helps to be in control, both of your actions and ideally of your opponent’s actions too. This means you should avoid situations where you’re being forced to take a certain action and try to force your opponents to react to your actions as much as possible.

Pot Control

In important part of control in Poker is pot control. Pot control refers to keeping the pot as small as possible when you don’t have a great hand. Make small bets whenever possible or simply check to keep the money you’ve invested in the pot as low as possible.

Sizing your bets and keeping track of your stack of chips is essential and you don’t want to get carried away by making big bets to force your opponent’s actions too often. When you have a strong hand, however, you should take the opposite approach, building the pot up as much as possible. This doesn’t just mean making big bets of your own of course. You also want to encourage your opponents into betting more.

Proper pot control is a difficult skill to learn but will come through practice. You should always be watching other players and seeing how they react to your actions. If you find that you can force them into certain actions, you should exploit this whenever possible. This can be used to control or build the pot depending on what kind of hand you have.

Folding

Folding sometimes feels like a last resort, but it should really be one of your go-to moves. You don’t want to fold too often of course, but folding when you have a weak hand is cruical if you want to preserve your stake and stay in control.

Knowing the right times to fold is what separates the good players from the very good. You can stay in the game for longer and come back stronger provided you know when to fold. It’s also important to remain calm while playing. Part of being in control also refers to your emotions. All Poker players get overly emotional at times, but you need to learn to recognise when you’re getting tilted and control it. Getting tilted means to get angry or upset over a losing hand, and players who get tilted often lose more.

Narrowing the Field

When you’re playing Poker, the temptation is to get as many players out as early as possible. Lots of players think that playing aggressively right off the bat is the best strategy. For some, it might be. But for the majority of players, playing aggressively is just going to end up costing you.

Keep your play steady and consistent, slowly building your stack with lots of little wins rather than a few big wins. Keep your play tight in the early rounds of the game. Watch your opponents as much as possible and learn their behaviours and strategies. You should start to notice patterns in their actions, whether they’re bluffing regularly and how they react to a good opening hand.

Once you’ve got a good idea of the behaviour of all the players around the table, you’ll be in a much better position to start eliminating them one by one. Note that this style of play works much better in tournaments where players can’t join and leave tables whenever they want.

Getting more aggressive once you’re familiar with the other players at the table is a great way to get the edge over your opponents and control the play. You’ll be surprising them with your change of strategy and have a good chance of forcing them into mistakes.

Poker Actions

Poker, similar to any card game, has set actions which you should take for certain hands. While these actions don’t guarantee you success, they do increase your odds. We’ve written up examples of actions you should take for certain starting hands. You can also find a cheat sheet below, which gives you a clear picture of whether you should play your starting hand of not depending on your position at the table. These strategies are applicable to Texas Hold ‘Em only. For other variations of Poker, the best course of action for each starting hand can be different.

When to Fold

As we explained, folding is an important part of successful Poker strategy. Generally, your folding strategy will depend on how aggressively you want to play and whether you’re interested in crushing your opponents or playing it safe. For a safe folding strategy, you should consider folding if any of the following is true on the preflop:

  • You have a hand with a two that’s not a pair of twos or an Ace and two suited.
  • You have a hand with a three that’s not a pair of threes or an Ace and three suited.
  • You have a hand with a four that’s not a pair of fours or an Ace and four suited.
  • You have a hand with a five that’s not a pair of fives or an Ace and five suited.
  • You have a hand with a six that’s not a pair of sixes or an Ace and six suited.
  • You have a hand with a seven that’s not a pair of sevens or an Ace and seven suited.
  • You have a hand with an eight that’s neither a pair or eights, an Ace and eight suited, a ten and eight suited, a nine and eight suited or a seven and eight suited.
  • You have a hand with a nine that’s not a pair of nines, an Ace and nine suited, a nine and King suited, a nine and Queen suited, a nine and Jack suited, a nine and ten suited or a nine and eight suited.

When to Raise

In Poker, raising is a great way to not only build the pot up, but also eliminate inexperienced players or players who are unsure of their hand. You can raise early to play aggressively or raise late on to force players to fold when the pot is much larger.

If any of the following is true about your starting hand, you should consider raising to maximise your winning potential. These hands are all ranked in order of best to worst so you can decide how much you want to raise for each one.

  • You have a hand with a pair of Aces or a pair of Kings
  • You have a hand with a pair of Queens, a pair of Jacks or an Ace and King suited.
  • You have a hand with a pair of tens, an Ace and King, Ace and Queen suited, Ace and Jack suited, or a King and Queen suited.

When to Call

Whether you call or not will depend on what the previous action was as well as your hand. Of course, if you have a weak hand, you normally won’t want to call a raise. But if you have a strong hand, it’s much less risky to call a raise. Ultimately, you’ll have to use your own judgement and your knowledge of the player who made the raise. Do you suspect that they might be bluffing? Is it possible that they have a very strong hand already?

The amount raised will also change how you react. Remember the pot odds and to only go ahead with the call if you’re sure that your winning odds are greater than the pot odds. Some players are completely against the idea of calling at all due to its passive nature.

If you followed our previous Poker guide, you’d know that passive play is generally discouraged. As we talked about earlier, the game will generally go a lot better for you when you take control and avoiding passive play is part of that. If you feel like calling the bet will be too passive, you can fold or even raise yourself.

When to Check

Checking is another example of playing passively but doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. In fact, it’s exactly because it’s often considered a sign of weakness that it’s so useful. A good player will know when to check while holding a strong hand, bluffing and encouraging their opponents to raise and increase the pot.

Checking can also be useful in working out what kind of hand the players behind you in the position have. Once you check, you’ll get to see their actions and judge whether they have a strong or weak hand.

Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Cheatsheet

To give you the best possible chance when playing Poker, we’ve created this cheatsheet for you. You can use it while you’re playing online to determine whether you should play your hand or not. Note that this doesn’t guarantee you’ll win with this hand, but it shows you whether you have a chance and how your position at the table affects your odds.

Poker Cheatsheet

 

Other Poker Strategy

While we’ve included as many tips in this guide as possible, there’s always more to learn. Poker is an incredibly complex game, despite the fact that its rules are fairly simple to learn. Below are a few more examples of Poker strategy which can help to improve your game while playing online.

Showing Your Hand After a Win

If you win a hand by forcing your opponents to fold, you’ll have the option of showing your hand or not. In most cases, you’ll want to keep your cards to yourself and not reveal to your opponents the cards that you had. This will mean your opponents will have less information about your playing style and won’t know whether you’re bluffing or not.

However, there are still some instances where showing your hand is a good idea. For example, you might want to show to your opponents that you were bluffing. Then in future hands, you can make it seem like you’re bluffing when you actually have a strong hand. This is some high-level deception is an incredibly fun strategy to use if you’re confident in your Poker playing ability.

Slow Playing

Slow playing is essentially the opposite of bluffing. With this strategy, rather than playing aggressively and raising, you’ll play slowly by checking or calling as much as possible. This is best used when you have a strong hand and when your opponents are already playing aggressively.

The downside of this technique is if your opponents recognise that you’re slow playing or simply have weak hands themselves, they may not fall for the bait. Then you’ll have a low pot from a strong hand.

Donk Bets

A donk bet is a leading bet made from out of post-flop, usually out of position. It’s known as a donk bet due to it being linked with inexperienced players (donkeys). While it’s generally associated with inexperience, it does have its uses in the arsenal of an experienced player. Donk bets can be used strategically to induce raises or to block the action of a certain player at the table.

Over Betting

An over bet is a bet larger than the current size of the pot. While this is a risky move, it can be a surefire way to win big when you have a strong hand. Either you force most players at the table to fold, or you increase the pot by a considerable amount. Some players also use overbetting as a way to bluff. The general rule of overbetting is that it should only be done with a very strong or very weak hand.

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Author
Arthur is a staff writer at Xfire.com. He contributes to all things casino, from our ‘how to play’ guides to tips on finding the best sites for your favourite casino games.