Poker Tricks and Tips
1. Do not play too many starting hands
The pros play only about 15-20% of their starting hands. They are experts after they see the flop. Most beginning to advanced players should only play about 10% of their starting hands. Play hands like AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010, 99, 88, and high suited connectors like AKsuited and KQsuited. Once you get comfortable with play on and after the flop, expand your list of starting hands. Until then, play premium hands and let others at the table make mistakes!
2. Play positional poker
Position is critical in poker. Acting last (on the button) is the most advantageous position. From this spot, you get to see how the betting unfolds. This is valuable information because it provides clues as to what opponents are holding. The closer you are to the button, the more starting hands you can play. If you are in the first few positions to act, you may consider folding some of the premium hands to raisers.
3. Read books and watch poker
Learn from the pros. There is an abundance of poker literature in bookstores, libraries and online that will help with beginner and advanced theory and fundamentals. Use your spare time to study and read up on poker strategy. Watch poker on television to become comfortable with the game-play. Learning about the mathematics behind poker and poker tells are a good starting point. Some of the "must reads" include works by Sklansky, Brunson and Carson. See our Poker Books link for some of the best books available!
4. By folding, you are SAVING money
Each time you lay down a hand, in an early betting round when it is likely you are behind, is an extra bet or bets you can use later when you are ahead. Most beginners like to play out hands to the river. Even experts often donate an extra bet to "see what the winner of the pot has". If you don't make your hand or have the mathematical odds necessary to make it worth continuing, then by all means FOLD. It will save you money in the long run and is the difference between winning and losing long term.
5. Pay attention to ALL your opponents ALL the time
Each opponent plays a little bit of a different style. Some are "bullies" who try to win pots by out-betting their opponents. Others are "trappers" who prey on those who bet with medium-weak hands while they themselves check and call with the top hands or "nuts". Watch the hands you are not involved in and make mental notes. The better you know your opponents, the smarter decisions you will make in each unique situation.
6. Be aggressive at the right times
There is no doubt that playing aggressively is the key to winning at poker. If you are afraid to move all your chips into the middle, you are playing at limits you can not afford. You must capitalize on strong hands and strong draws, by increasing the value of the pot and not allowing your opponents to gain free cards to make their hands. Make your opponents pay to see the cards. If you don't, you will allow opponents to frustrate you to no end.
7. Choose the right (or left) seat at the table
There is a saying in poker that "money moves to the left". You want to sit on the left side of players that have big stacks, are bullies, or play their cards well. By acting "next" you always have seen the actions of the previous player to act. This is important when deciding what you will do. This position also allows you to "trap" bullies and overly-aggressive players who are trying to steal pots. Scout a table before you join and choose the proper seat.
8. More people involved = more hands you can play
The general rule to deciding if you should play a hand is: "Do the pot odds support you being involved?" In general terms, the more powerful hand you have (e.g., AA, AK, KK, AQ, QQ, AJ), the less opponents you want competing for the pot. Suited connectors (e.g., 89s, 910s, 10Js and such) require many opponents to build the pot odds. Therefore, with premium hands it is important to raise to drive opponents out, while with medium connectors, a call may be sufficient from late position, followed by a fold if you do not hit the flop. Remember, the chance of you winning the pot needs to be higher than the ratio of your bet to the total pot amount. For example, if your bet is "one-tenth" the value of the pot, you need to have better than a 10:1 chance of winning the hand.
9. Opponent mistakes + Strong Play = Winning Poker
Capitalize on the mistakes of your opponents by letting "them" make them. You are not going to win every hand. But you will win your share if you are patient enough to wait out the other players. Poker players all make mistakes eventually. They get tired, frustrated, emotionally involved, etc... Take advantage of these situations and the corresponding miscues. Do not be the one making these mistakes yourself. Study your opponents and play powerfully and you will not be the "fish" at the table.
10. Be alert, awake and focused on your game
The mental aspect of poker is of supreme importance and cannot be stressed enough. As stated above, poker players make mistakes when they are affected by emotion and extenuating circumstances (e.g., lack of sleep, stress, personal problems). Do not let yourself fall into one of these categories. Play when you are "fresh" and can focus on mathematics, good reads and tactical play. In other words, play when you can focus your mental prowess on the game.