General Poker Strategies
Poker strategy is both simple and complex, and changes with the type of game being played. Whether you’re playing Draw Poker, Lowball, Seven Card Stud, Texas Hold Em, or any of the numerous poker variations you can be sure there’s a specific strategy for the game. The key is to find a strategy that works with your poker playing style and even your personality. But for this article, we will discuss basics that can be applied to any game.
The fundamental theory of poker says to play your hand as if you could see your opponent’s cards. In other words, guess as to what they have based on the cards you can see, what cards you have, what’s left in the deck, and how they are playing. Try and guess when they are telling the truth, and when they are bluffing, and play accordingly.
Conversely, you want to keep your opponents from doing the same to you (that’s where bluffing, raising and the like come in.) For example, if an opponent could see your cards, they would almost always “call your bluff”. You bluff hoping they won’t.
Bluffing is a form of deception to get your opponent to play their cards differently than they normally would. An example would be to call or raise with what you believe to be an inferior hand. You probably won’t win with the hand alone, so you want to make your opponent fold and ideally give that nice big pot of money to you.
Getting an ideal player position is another way to help you win. Playing position refers to your position relative to the dealer. If you act first, you’re in “early position”, while those later in the order are in “late position”. Players in the late position have an advantage because they have information such as cards being dealt, and the chance to observe body language, thus giving them a more informed decision. They can also see how everyone before them bet. However, just to throw out a contradiction, the classic “check raise” player will want an early position.
Raising is another strategy and shares many characteristics with bluffing (they are usually one of the same). As with bluffing, opponents may fold but there are other advantages as well. Raising when you have a great hand will also get more money into the pot, drive out a competing hand if someone folds, and perhaps provide information about the other players. Try not to smile too much as you take their money.
Poker is also a game of profiling and trying to outsmart your opponent. One of the best strategies is to simply observe your opponent and look for patterns in their behavior. Does Mary brush her hair back with every good hand? Is Tony coughing every time he gets dealt a bad hand? Is it me or does Sal tap his fingers when he bluffs?
Pay attention to those signs (called “Tells”, and we all have them) and you’ll be on your way to bigger and better jackpots.