Online Poker Strategy
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Online Poker Strategy
Texas Hold'em - Starting Hands
Perhaps the most important concept beginners need to learn when playing limit hold'em is which starting hands to play. In other words, which hands to call or raise with pre-flop and which hands to fold. Starting hands are not created equal and the skill differential at many low limit hold'em games often revolves around pre-flop decisions. These pre-flop decisions are critical in preventing you from being trapped with the second best hand post-flop. Here are the starting hands you should consider playing: High pairs and AK suited: AA,KK,QQ,JJ, AKs. These hands are playable in any position and you should generally go in with a raise. These hands are good on their own and can often hold up without any help from the board (with the exception of AKs which generally needs to hit an ace, king, or flush). Big cards: AK (non suited), AQ, KQ. Again, these hands you can generally go in with a raise. The reason is these hands do well with few people in the pot. You want to win if you hit one pair, so you don't want a lot of people in there drawing to all sorts of flushes and straights. While you should generally raise with these hands, you should strongly consider folding them if there are two raises in front of you (i.e. the pot has been raised and reraised). This is because there is a very good likelihood that someone has KK or AA, making your hand a huge underdog. Often, the problem with playing other big cards like AJ,KJ, AT, QJ, etc. is that they may be DOMINATED. I capitalized this word because this is a key concept in limit. Let's say I have AK and you have AJ. If that's the case and an ace hits, I am beating you and you have little chance to win. This is because my kicker is higher than yours. You must hit a jack to win (excluding the possibility of strange straights or flushes), which makes you a big underdog. Thus, if you have two big cards (J or higher), play them very carefully in limit. Many low limit players make the fatal mistake of playing Ace or King-anything. These hands often have the bad luck of hitting an ace or king and losing to someone with a higher kicker. If any of these big cards are suited or connecting (like QJ), that is a huge plus because it also opens yourself up to flush or straight opportunities. Often, this can help negate the negative expected value from the chance of being dominated. Small and medium pairs: Hands like 22,55,99, etc. are also playable. However, you generally will need to hit a set (three of a kind) in order to win the hand. Because you have only about a 12.5% chance of hitting a set at the flop, you generally want there to be many people in the pot with you. This way you have good pot odds and chances are someone will call you all the way down to the river with an inferior hand. Thus, play these hands but only if you think there will be four or more players at the flop. Suited connectors: These are hands like 78s, 9Ts, JTs, QJs, etc. These hands have great drawing potential because they can draw to both straights and flushes. Because these hands will generally be very strong when they hit but will hit rarely, you want to play them when there are many people in the pot. Thus, fold these without hesitation if there is a raise/reraise pre-flop but certainly call if 5 people limp in ahead of you. Note: Axs should be treated like a suited connector.
Texas Hold'em - Post-Flop Play
If you are a beginner to limit hold'em, play on the flop is often simpler than it seems. There are two guiding principles low limit hold'em players should follow post-flop- value betting and pot odds. Bluffing is not a tool to be employed in low limit hold'em- almost every hand goes to a showdown so chances are you will lose money on your bluffs. Only consider bluffing if it is a heads up situation and a small pot.
Texas Hold'em - Value Betting:
Value betting is simply jamming the pot when you think you have the best hand. Now I obviously can't tell you when you have this best hand, it is something you will have to learn to figure out. However, in general, you should value bet when you have top pair, an overpair, or a very good hand like two pair or better. Again, a 'good' hand is relative to what is out on the board and the number of people in the pot. Generally, top pair is good at the flop, but if 5 people stay in to the river, chances are it's going to be beaten.
Starting hand selection helps ease value betting. Suppose you have K9 and the flop comes KT3. You have top pair, but you are a huge underdog to someone who has a K and a higher kicker. Thus, exercising patience and only choosing big cards with a good kicker will allow you to confidently bet top pair most of the time at the flop.
Texas Hold'em - Pot Odds:
When you probably don't have the best hand at the time and therefore can't value bet, you should sometimes still call bets so you can draw to the winning hand. Cards that will help you are called 'outs.' Thus, if you have 89 of spades, and the flop comes AK4, with AK of spades, you have a flush draw (9 outs).
When you figure out how many outs you have, you then multiply that number by two and that is approximately what percentage chance you have of hitting one of your outs on the next card. If you have a flush draw, you have about an 18% of hitting a flush draw on the next card (the actual percentage is a little higher, but for the sake of simplicity, just multiply outs by two). When you figure out the percentage chance of hitting, then compare this to the bet size relative to the pot. In other words, compare chance of hitting to Bet/Pot. If you have a flush draw, the bet is 5 and the pot is 40, you should clearly call. You are investing 11% in the pot with an 18% chance of hitting. However, if you only have 4 outs (an inside straight draw), the bet is 10 and the pot is 10, you should probably fold. You would be investing 33% into the total pot (10 in the pot plus 20 between yours and his bet), while you have about an 8% chance of winning. When calculating for pot odds, you should also count in 'implied odds,' which are future bets. If you have a flush draw, and you hit on turn, you will probably win a bet on the turn and the river. So the odds for chasing are even better than in the example given. Nevertheless, don't count your outs too liberally. If you have TJ and the board is TQK, a jack is clearly not an out. You have a straight draw, you may still lose even if you hit another ten (someone may have KT or the straight already made). Again, use your head and try to be as rational as possible when using pot odds.
Texas Hold'em - Game Selection
One of the most critical concepts in limit hold'em is game selection. Since you will win most of your money due to your opponents' mistakes rather than any great plays made by yourself, you should look for a game where people are making many, basic mistakes. An easy way to check for this is to pay attention to how many people see the flop and how many people go to a showdown. If a lot of people are seeing flops, chances are they are not exercising good starting hand selection. If there are routinely several people at the showdown, the people at the table are probably exercising poor judgment in regards to pot odds and reading their opponents' hands.
If you master pot odds, value betting, starting hand selection, and game selection, you could be on your way to being a winning poker player. These concepts are not difficult to grasp, but they are the fundamental aspects to winning at limit hold'em, especially at the lower limits.
No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em
No-limit and pot-limit hold'em are similar games. No-limit hold'em is extremely popular on the internet, much more than pot-limit hold'em.
No-limit/pot-limit betting structure (also called 'big bet' betting structure) lends games to be far less mechanical than fixed limit structure. Starting hand selection/pot odds are part of no limit hold'em, but this article will focus on the several key big bet poker concepts you should learn before playing no limit/pot limit hold'em.
The amount of money at stake in a no limit game is of paramount importance when formulating your strategy. While in brick and mortar cardrooms the buyin is not capped, there is generally a limit on the amount one can buy into in an Internet no limit/pot limit game. This maximum buyin is determined by the size of the blinds
The game size determines how much bluffing and drawing you can do. Since you can bet any amount in front of you, bluffing is a formidable tool in no limit. Also, drawing hands go up in value because you can extract a huge bet when you hit them. Nevertheless, if there is not much money at the table, your implied odds for drawing go down since you can not extract as much money on the turn/river. It is also harder to bluff because the pot size is going to be larger in relation to people's stacks and your bets will not represent "a lot of money at stake." Opponent Types
Adjusting to your opponents' styles is also critical in no limit. In limit, you can generally play tight-aggressive against any opponent. However, in big bet poker, it is much more important to 'play the man.' Here are some general tips against certain playing styles: Loose-passive: These opponents like to call. Almost always, this is going to be disastrous in no limit. In poker, especially big bet poker, betting is always better than calling because if you bet you can win if you have the better hand or if they fold. However, if you call, you can only win if you have the better hand. Thus, calling a lot at no limit will allow your opponent to control the action. With these types of opponents, I suggest waiting to hit a good hand and then just zapping money bit by bit out of them. Make 2/3 size pot bets a lot. These people will generally call these bets with a super hand like top pair, little kicker. Tight-Passive: These people don't play many hands and don't make much music when they do. These people are generally the easiest to bluff, so go ahead and knock them out if you can at the flop. If these people bet, get out! Chances are they have the nuts or the near nuts. Tight-Aggressive: These people exercise good starting hand selection and will tend to bet their hands very strongly. Some of these types of players bluff more than others. If you suspect that a tight aggressive is not bluffing, fold when he bets (unless you have a very strong hand). Otherwise, I suggest raising these people to see where you are at the flop if you have a marginal hand and trapping them when you have a sneaky hand like a set. The one thing about these types of players that is nice is they generally will bet their hand.
The bets from these people often mean nothing. They will bluff, semi-bluff, and all-around try to bully people. This can often work at higher stakes games but will generally fail at the lower stakes no limit. Since there is not that much money at stake, people will just call these people down and they will lose because they simply don't have the hands most of the time. With these types of players, just try to trap them with a strong hand and let them steal the small pots otherwise.
Starting hand selection is not quite as important in no limit as it is in limit, but there are some key differences between good fixed limit hands and good no limit hands. Drawing hands and pocket pairs gain in value in no limit/pot limit because of their drawing potential. These hands can withstand a lot of heat when they hit (and are often sneaky), so they are able to rake in huge pots. Big cards, like AQ, go down in value because they often can not beat strong hands. Since huge pots are generally the contest between strong hands, hands that tend to be stronger when they are 'strong,' are better. AK/AQ tend to be a pair or two when they are strong, whereas suited connectors and pocket pairs tend to be trips/flushes/straights when they are strong.
Many newbies are often confused by how much to bet in big bet poker. The answer revolves around pot odds and trapping. Suppose you have AK and the board is A48, A4 are diamonds. You probably have the best hand, though you may be wary of someone with 44, 88, or A8. However, your main nemesis is probably the flush draw. In this situation, I would recommend pot-sized bets so the flush draw does not get good odds. In general, pot sized bets are the standard in low stakes no limit/pot limit hold'em when you have a made hand. Again, bet size really should revolve around the type of your opponent, what you think he has, how much each of you have in front of you, and what you think he thinks of you.
One point for new Omaha players to note is that winning hands are usually higher than winning hands in Texas Hold'em, since players have 4 hole cards to choose from. Often times the best hand is a straight or flush; with a pair showing on the board, full house commonly wins. Of course, the number of players in the game affects the quality of the hands, but in general they are better than Texas hands.
An important skill for beginning Omaha players is to simply recognize what the nuts are for a given board. The nuts is the best possible hand. Knowing that you have an unbeatable hand means that you should raise as much as you can; otherwise, play cautiously, even if there is only one card that can beat you. One thing that I commonly see at the low-limit Omaha tables is that one player has a King-high flush and another player has an Ace-high flush. The King-high player will keep raising even though he knows the Ace is out there. This can cost an Omaha player a lot of money over time, and so it's best to limit your raises when you have second best. On the other hand, a player can make a lot of money if he has the Ace and his opponent has the King. Another example is the case of the full house. When the board pairs, there are several full-house possibilities. You can have a pocket pair that hits an overcard.
Omaha High - Example:
The board has AQQ52, and you have AAK3 in your hand, giving you Aces full. This is called the big full house. This kind of hand will usually win. Another possibility is the small full house. If your hand was K553, then you would have 5's full. This is a decent hand but will probably lose to any other full house, so you should play it with caution. Finally, you could have AQ33 in your hand, giving you Queens full. This hand will beat the small full houses, but it will lose to the big full houses. This hand should probably not re-raise.
Many players are unable to see the differences between similar good hands, such as the big and small full house. You can win a lot of big pots by using this edge over them. A related issue to the fact that high hands usually win is the notion of knocking out people who are drawing. If you have trips, you should try to knock out people on the flush draw. If you have the flush, you should knock out people with two pairs, because they might catch a full house on the river. It usually doesn't pay to slowplay in Omaha unless you have the big full or better. When the river does come, don't come out raising if the flush draw hits and you have only two pair or trips. Don't come out raising with flush when the full house shows. Just call a bet, and even consider checking if no bet comes to you. Saving big bets really adds up over time. Another point of interest is pre-flop play. Your hole cards by themselves do not tell you much about whether or not you will win. In Texas Hold'em, AA is an excellent hand, but holding AA in Omaha doesn't mean nearly as much, because flushes and straights win so often. Overpairs are also weak in Omaha, because one pair is almost never enough to win a hand, unless the game is heads up (one-on-one). If you have AA, your best hope is to catch a third ace on the flop. Nevertheless, you should still raise pre-flop with good hands. Many players make the mistake of not raising because the hand difference is not as large. But think about it - KQJT, with KQ of hearts and JT of spades, is much better than K953 of different suits. The best hands are hands with AA or KK, which give you big full possibilities, and hands like KQJT, which will give you both drawing and pairing possibilities; if the flop comes KJ, then you have top 2 pair and a straight draw. It's also important to have the nut draw if possible. Having Ax suited is much better than having two small suited cards; as explained above, small flushes lose to nut flushes all the time. Small pairs are trash for the same reason. If you hit trips, you'll lose to flush. Even if you hit a full house, you almost certainly have the small full house and are easy prey for the big full house.
Omaha hi-lo strategy can be pretty boring when you start out playing at the lower limits. It is often simply hand selection and odds; bluffing is not a tool to be used in this game against bad opponents. Simply playing tight (especially post-flop) is generally the best way to win low limit Omaha hi-lo. There are not any clear cut starting hands in Omaha hi-lo, but you generally want a hand that works for both sides of the pot. This means a hand with good low potential (like A2) and something with high potential like straight/flush draws. If you have a one way hand (a high hand probably), play it very carefully. Hands with a lot of middle cards like 89TJ should be mucked pre-flop, but a very good high hand like AAJT double suited is still playable. Thus, good starting hands generally have very big and low cards; middle cards do not play well at hi-lo. A lot of new players play too many low hands. They will call all the way with A4 and lose to a low with A2. When playing low limit Omaha, I recommend that if you are only playing for the low, play for the NUT low. The nut low is the best possible low. Generally, A2 is the nut low, but this is not always the case. Suppose the board comes A5T, 23 is drawing to the nut low. If a 4,6,7, or 8 comes, 23 has the nut low. However, if a 2 comes, 34 has the nut low (and also a straight). When your low card hits the board, it is said to be counterfeited. Since drawing to the low is often dangerous for new players, I suggest your protect yourself from frequently drawing to the second nut (instead of the nut low) by mucking hands like 23 or A3 if they do not have a very strong high potential as well. If you have AA34 double suited, by all means play it. However, if you have A38T rainbow, muck it. A2xx is almost always playable at low limit Omaha. Being dealt low cards is always a blessing in Omaha hi-lo because they can win both sides of the pot (the lo part or they could form a straight and win the hi too). However, very good high hands are playable in Omaha hi-lo, especially in an unraised pot or shorthanded play. If you need help with what good Omaha hi hands are, read the Omaha hi section.
Third Street Play
The key concept that most new 7 stud players need to learn is proper third street play. Most newbies tend to play for too many hands at seven stud, instead of simply playing the premium hands. The end up calling all the way to the river when they had a minimal chance to win the hand from the start. Tips: Every now and then you'll be fortunate enough to receive three of a kind. This is the best possible hand to be dealt. If your three of a kind is small, say 888 or less, you should probably play this hand strongly. Your hand is likely to be outdrawn, so you want as few of people as possible in the game. If you have JJJ or higher, you can probably wait and jam the pot when the you can start using the big bets.
Big Pairs: If you have TT,JJ,QQ,KK, or AA your hand is generally playable and you should go in with a raise. However, you should often be cautious with these hands. If you have TT and both of your other tens are out there, your hand has lost a lot of its value. Also, if there is a lot of action out there, you should consider mucking TT or even JJ, chances are someone has QQ or better.
Middle Pairs: Hands like 88 or 99 are also playable but only under some conditions. You should play these hands if all of your cards are live (i.e. no others are on the board) and you have a good kicker. This is because it is doubtful you will not win with just a middle pair, you need your hand to improve.
Flush Draws: Three suited cards are playable, but only under certain conditions. First, ideally the flush cards should be high and close together. This way you could form a high flush but also might form a straight or just high two pair/trips. Three random low flush cards are not playable. Also, don't raise with a flush draw; you want as many people in the pot as possible and want to draw cheaply.
Straight Draws: You can play straight draws for a call if they are open-ended (i.e. no gaps) and your improvement cards are all live. It is also preferable that your straight is a high one, so you also have the ability to form a high two pair.
Other Key 7 Stud Concepts:
Pay Attention: Paying attention is key at seven stud. Often, new players just call along, hoping to hit a good hand. They don't realize that most of their flush cards are out on the board and will even keep drawing to a flush or straight when someone has trips showing (hence, very likely to have a full house).. If you have to, drink a cup of coffee because paying attention to each and every game is crucial.
Pot Odds: It is harder to calculate in pot odds in 7 stud then limit, but the concept still applies. Again, pay attention to the number of cards that will improve your hand. If there is 10 cards showing, that means there is 42 cards left. Your odds to improve are outs/cards left, so compare that number with your bet in relation to the pot. Again, since it is difficult to have a calculator in front of you and this does not take into account implied odds, an easier way is to simply multiply your outs by 3 and compare that % to the bet/pot. Obviously this will overestimate your percentage chance for hitting, but it in a way factors in implied odds. Value Betting: You should bet in a manner that makes the game the most advantageous to you. An example of that is betting hard, raising when you have two pair/trips on fourth/fifth street to shut out the draws.
See more information on seven card stud
In Stud 8, you want to aim to scoop the whole pot. From 3rd street on, your main goal should be winning both the low and high hand. Winning half of the pot is considered 'escaping.' When you escape with half the pot, you generally don't win much. For example, take a three handed pot where you split with another hand. Hence, your profits are ½ of one person's bets. If you scooped the same pot, your profits would have been both people's bets, which is four times greater. As you can see, escaping with half the pot really just means you don't lose money; it's not a way to make money. If you are new to stud 8, you should take full advantage of this concept. Many newbies simply call all the way, simply hoping to win half of the pot. This is a recipe for losing because they put in a lot of money, hoping to just escape with a little return.
Newbies are generally clueless which hands to play on third street, but this is a critical concept in Stud 8. Here is a list of hands you should considering playing
Great Hands: trips, three low straight flush cards, aces and a low card. Trips are generally guaranteed a winner of the high hand at least and may scoop if no low appears. The other two hands have great potential to win both pots.
Good Hands: Three small straight cards, AA with a higher card, two small cards with an Ace. These hands will generally at least win the low and could easily form winning high hands.
OK Hands: small pair with an ace or low kicker, three low cards, the 'probable' best high hand, three cards to a flush. The first two have a very good shot at winning the low and may end up winning the high too. The last two should be played very cautiously. If you think you are winning the high and don't, you will be the sacrificial lamb that the high/low make their profit from. So proceed with the best high hand cautiously and dump it if it looks like it's going to lose. Three flush cards should only be played if there is a lot of multiway action, and it's preferable if at least two of those cards are low.
Other Key Seven Card Stud Hi/Low concepts
Many seven stud concepts apply: Paying attention, pot odds, etc. are all seven stud concepts that apply equally as well to stud 8.
Pay attention to the math, forget bluffing: Seven Card Stud Hi/Low is a very math, technically intensive game. It is very, very hard to bluff at the lower limits, as people are shooting for both the high and low pots. The key to winning is playing a tight, aggressive game where you are getting good odds; don't expect to win by using deception tactics like bluffing.
If you hit bad, toss it: You generally want to know by fifth street if you plan on calling all the way to the river. This way you don't invest any big bets into a losing hand. If you have 345 (all of spades), you have a great starting hand. However, if the next two cards are JQ of hearts, your hand just turned into garbage.
The tight, aggressive wins in the long run: Since hand selection and odds are critical at stud 8, people who simply call and call are guaranteed losers in the long run. Most of the time, these people are just shooting for half the pot and their lucky catches will not offset the many bets they put into the pot attempting to escape.
See more information on seven card stud
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Poker Tournament Play
Poker tournaments may be single table poker tournaments or multi-table tournaments. You can join a tournament simply by paying the buy-in and entry fee. Each player will start with an equal amount of chips. Limited re-buys are available at some land based poker tournaments but are not usual at online poker rooms. A player is eliminated when they lose all of their chips. A winner is declared when one player has won all of the chips.
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Best Poker Tournaments
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Ten, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the same suit.
Straight with all five cards in the same suit.
|Four of a Kind:
Four cards of the same number or face value ("quads").
Three cards of one number or face value and two cards of another number or face value. If more than one player has a full house, the full house with the highest ranking three of a kind ("trips") wins.
Five cards of the same suit. If there is more than one flush, the hand with the highest card(s) wins.
Five cards in sequence. Cards can be in any suit. An Ace can be used in the highest straight (10, J, Q, K, A) and the lowest straight (A, 2, 3, 4, 5).
|Three of a Kind:
Three cards of the same number or face value ("trips").
If two players have two pair, the hand with the highest pair wins. If they have the same high pair, whoever has the second highest pair wins. If they have the same two pair, whoever has the highest fifth card ("kicker") wins.
Two cards of the same number or face value. If two players have the same pair, the highest outside card(s) wins.
The hand with the highest card(s) wins.