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Whether you are playing a few hands online to waste some time when you are waiting for the bus, or you are looking to become a professional tournament poker player and make some serious cash, the more you know about poker strategy the better you will play.
Poker is about more than just having the strongest hands. You might already know the poker rules – or you may think you do – but if you want to elevate your game you need to be taking It further than just relying on the cards you are holding.
Let’s start with the basics – what are the best hands in poker? Well, there is a hierarchy in poker hands, and it starts with royalty, right down to the single high card. You can use this as a handy reference if you need it:
*Royal Flush – A-10 in the same suit – beats every other hand.
*Straight Flush – 5 consecutive cards in the same suit
*Four-of-a-Kind – four of the same cards (higher the better)
*Full House – three of a kind and a pair
*Flush – 5 cards of the same suit
*Straight – consecutive cards, not of the same suit
*Three-of-a-Kind – self-explanatory
*Two Pair – two pairs
Even if you play poker professionally, it is super rare to get a royal flush or even a four-of-a-kind, so if you want to improve your play you need to learn to play the players as much as the game.
This article isn’t necessarily about strategy, but about the ways you can play to get the most out of every single game you play.
Tip 1: Play Fewer Hands
When games are available, you’ll want to play as much as you can – but one of the best ways you can improve is to play less hands, but more aggressively.
Don’t limp at the preflop – raise the big blind and boost the pot, because if you don’t, you know the players after you will, and you might end up with more opposition later in the game.
Even if your hand isn’t obviously strong, you can force the issue with aggressive play, fast raises, and a sense of purpose so that you can control the game. Playing tight and aggressive, raising and reraising, will soon sort out those who haven’t got enough to go on – and with fewer hands ahead of you, you can risk your chips to some extent.
Tip 2: Build the Pot with Fast-Play
In a similar way to playing aggressively, raising each hand, and doing it fast demonstrates that you have a strong hand and you are feeling confident – and it helps to boost the pot, too.
There are times when fast play isn’t advised, and you should change up how you use it so that it doesn’t become a tell for the other players – but when you are playing fewer hands you want to protect your equity and make it worth the gamble at Showdown.
Tip 3: Use Semi-Bluffs
Bluffing is a whole other strategy, but the semi-bluff can be an effective way to stay aggressive in your play without too much risk.
Semi-bluffs are essentially bluffing but with some protection – you have an ‘out’ in your hand that could still be winnable down the street somewhere, but you are amplifying how good it is with your bluffing.
To make this work, you still need to be able to bluff effectively, but at least if someone calls you out on it you may be able to rescue it at Showdown.
Tip 4: Fold
This might sound counter-intuitive when you have already been told to play fewer hands and focus on being aggressive, but folding can be an effective strategy too.
The best players know that they can fold on a pair of aces when they need to, and sometimes if you are making the decision whether to call or whether to fold – you should probably just fold. Save your bankroll for the next game when the cards are more favourable, because a pair is probably not going to be enough to win the pot.
Tip 5: Keep it Fun!
Even serious, professional poker players have to find the game enjoyable – it should never feel like a grind, or cause you to feel scared, angry, or frustrated.
Emotion can cause you to throw strategy out the window, and as soon as that happens you have already lost. You need to remember that you entered the game ready to lose your entire bankroll on the first game, so anything after that is a bonus – and if you are not having fun then just stop. Poker will still be there tomorrow and chasing losses is not a good look.
Strategy is Everything
If you really want to step up your game, then you need some sort of strategy that makes sense for you – and you can find out more about different types of strategy online.