Poker is a game of chance, but it also has many strategic aspects. Its rules and betting rounds encourage competition, and the player with the best 5-card hand wins.
The best way to play poker is to understand the fundamentals, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to learn them, there are many online resources that can help you get started. Once you’ve mastered the basics and can hold your own against semi-competent players, it’s time to take your game to the next level with a few advanced strategies.
‘Play the Player, Not Your Cards’
One of the most important rules of poker is to “play the player,” not your cards. That means that you need to look at the cards of your opponents and compare them to your own hands.
This is especially important when you’re learning the game, because it can be easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and forget to consider how your hand relates to the other cards on the table. A good rule of thumb is to always make a decision based on the odds and EV (expected value) of your hand rather than just what you think the other players have in their hands.
In poker, the last player to act is in a position of “bluff equity”–it’s in their best interest to make a cheap and effective bluff. This can include a bet, but it could also be an increase in the size of the pot, an over-bet, or even a check.
‘Bet the River’
After the flop, it’s very important to bet the river, especially if your opponent hasn’t shown a lot of aggression in the betting rounds so far. This is because the river can change your situation and improve your hand, but also can make it very difficult for your opponent to bluff you.
In many variants of poker, the player who checks can call any other bet that is made, and they will count as part of the pot that number of chips needed for them to call. That can be a great way to avoid wasting money on poor cards, but it’s only recommended in some situations, such as when a player has a lot of chips and is able to control their aggression.
‘Raise to the River’
The final round of betting in poker is the river, where each player is dealt two additional cards. During this round, players can either raise or fold, and the pot is split between those who have a better 5-card hand.
‘Don’t Fold Bad Hands Before the Flop and River’
If you’re playing the small blind, don’t make the mistake of folding your kings and queens because of an ace on the flop. The fact is that an ace can make those hands much worse and they’re not worth it, especially when there are a lot of flushes or straights on the board.