Once you learn the basic rules, poker is a simple card game. But it takes time and practice to master it. Read this article to find out some tips and tricks which will help you become better at it.
Poker Tips: Improving Your Game
Since the early 19th century, poker has been attracting players from all across the globe. In the United States, it was a part of the cowboy folklore, with saloons organizing poker tournaments where coins and pistols clanked about. Fast forward to the 2010s, and poker now represents a major part of the gambling industry worth $400 billion.
Poker, played professionally or just like a home game, is a fairly simple game. Winning a poker round isn’t any more difficult if you’re not a good player — a Full House is always a Full House. However, there are tips and strategies you can use to go from a novice to Phil Hellmuth. But before you even start thinking about poker strategies which will help you improve your game, you need to first know the rules of it.
Brief Rules Overview
The game revolves around poker players comparing their hands in order to see who has the better combination. There are 11 possible combinations, and we’ll list them out, from strongest to weakest:
- Five of a Kind — This is a rare hand which can occur only in those variants which include a wildcard in their decks (usually the Joker). As the wildcard replaces any other card, you can end up with five cards of the same value: 4-4-4-4-wildcard
- Royal Flush — In all other poker games (which use regular poker rankings), Royal Flush is the strongest hand. It’s a specific hand, so there’s only one example of it. It consists of the five highest cards, all of the same suit: 10-J-Q-K-A
- Straight Flush — You can say this is just a weaker version of a Royal Flush. It’s also five cards in a row of the same suit; it just uses lower-value cards: 4-5-6-7-8, all of Clubs, etc.
- Four of a Kind — The strongest of-a-kind hand. To complete it, you need four cards of the same rank. As there are only four copies of the same card in a deck, should you have this hand, you can be sure other players don’t have any cards of this value: 7-7-7-7
- Full House — Full House is a mix of a Three of a Kind and a Pair. You need to have a five-card combination, where two and three of them match: J-J-J-2-2
- Flush — with Flush, it doesn’t matter what the value of the cards you’re holding is — you only have to worry about the suit. You need five cards of the same suit: A-3-9-J-K, all of Diamonds
- Straight — As Flush doesn’t care about the value, Straight doesn’t care about the suit — a Straight is a combination of any five cards in a row: 2-3-4-5-6
- Three of a Kind — From this hand on, it becomes self-explanatory. We’ll just give you examples: 8-8-8
- Two Pairs — K-K-3-3
- Pair — Q-Q
- High Card — This is the weakest hand in that it’s not even a hand. You use this when you’re unable to make any of the combinations above. When two or more players end up in this situation, the one with a higher card wins. For example, a Queen beats a Ten.
When you evaluate your hand with this ranking in mind, you place bets accordingly. During a betting round, you can call, check, fold, or raise. Also, pay attention to what other players are doing — even if you’re confident in having a good hand, others can have strong hands as well, so check out how much money they’re putting into the pot.
Most common types of poker games are community card poker (with Texas Hold ‘Em being the best-known one), stud poker (you play the hand with some of the cards placed face up and some face down), and draw poker (where you have the ability to discard some of the cards from your starting hand) variants.
Now, it’s time to see what tips and tricks you can apply to your game.
You should consider playing poker online, especially in the beginning. By doing so, you avoid being in the same room with your opponents. Hence, you don’t have to worry about any tells you might be giving away with your body language.
Furthermore, online poker plays out a lot quicker than live poker. On top of that, you can access any poker table from your home, the process of shuffling and dealing cards is automated, and you can use various bonuses to get free money and have more goes at playing the game.
Possibly one of the toughest things at the start of your poker adventure is to define the way you’ll bet. Players have different patterns of behavior when playing — they can be passive or aggressive. Depending on the way you play your game, you can be aggressive and chase most hands, making other players nervous to call you. Alternatively, being passive is more conservative, as you pay up only when you’re confident in your hand.
When you define your behavior, you should stick to it. This is especially important when it comes to the art of bluffing. When you bluff, it mustn’t be out of place. If you’ve been tight all night and suddenly you start paying up like mad, your opponents will be onto you.
Ranges, Ranges, Ranges
The difference between a beginner and an advanced player is in the way they try to predict their opponent’s hand. Think in ranges, not in specific hands. When you think in ranges, you take into account every possibility. Don’t close yourself off by thinking “oh, they must have a Straight.” They might, but they also might have a Flush, a top Pair (best Pair available), two Pairs, or they might even be bluffing completely.
When you figure out their betting patterns in a round, you can narrow it down to fewer options. Don’t rush your play — take your time to figure out all the possibilities. If they might have both a Straight and a Full House, are you stronger than both?
Remember, tilt only hurts you, not the other players. When we’re frustrated, which happens when we have an unlucky session, we tend to react rashly and play with our heart, instead of our mind. This leads to poor decision-making, which is a one-way ticket to losing even more money. So if you feel you’re losing your calm, learn to walk away and not go even deeper down the rabbit hole.
Once you get a hold of the basic rules, you need to practice. That part is unavoidable. Playing games is what will get you to become better at poker. But you should be aware of some of the tips and strategies we’ve given you in order to improve your game more quickly.
Just please, don’t wear a cowboy hat and a plaid shirt. Unless you ride in on a horse with a lady who’s packing a derringer in her tights, you’re not a cowboy — you’re a failed lumberjack. Good luck and have fun!