Head of Casino Operations
The levels of complexity that are inherent in poker – at least, in terms of what’s needed to be a very good player – are all a part of its interstellar appeal. This makes poker an especially unusual game in the galaxy of gambling, as most become popular as a virtue of simplicity. Take roulette or blackjack, for instance. Sure, they have hidden depths but the fact they can be almost comprehensively explained in a moment is surely a big part of their mainstream appeal. Poker strategy, on the other hand, is much more of a basic prerequisite for play.
You need a battle plan. That’s why we have dedicated this entire article to poker tips and poker strategy for cash games. Think of it as your blueprint, outlining for your cosmic journey into this casino classic.
Often, when people talk about a strategy for poker, they’re actually talking about Texas Hold’em strategy. And indeed, everything we’ll talk about here in terms of poker tips are general, so will certainly apply if that is your personal preference. However, poker is actually a general term for several very similar games – like different poker planets making up one betting Milky Way. There’s Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 Card Stud, Chinese Poker, Short Deck, Pineapple, Horse, Razz, just to give some examples.
Some of them are very similar. If you know Texas Hold’em strategy, for instance, you largely know how to play Omaha Hi. In any case, there’s no right or wrong answer to what kind of poker you prefer, but do your research. Consider which best suits your play style, and make sure you know the rules.
Knowing the rules is especially important when it comes to something like straddle poker, where there are lots of different rule variations. It’s probably a good idea to stick to one or maybe a couple of similar types of poker so you can best concentrate your efforts.
In terms of mastering your preferred style of poker, practise, of course, makes perfect. It doesn’t matter how many strategy guides we provide you, that will always remain a constant. Now, when I talk about practise, we don’t mean accepting losing a ton of money in the pursuit of better poker skills. It may not provide the same high octane action as playing for serious stakes, but you need to get to a point where the rules are no longer alien and you’re confident in your playing ability before getting involved in serious money games.
There’s a couple of ways around this. One is to join very low stake games so while you might lose something, it’s a loss you can comfortably take as a cost of your development as a player. If you find that this doesn’t maintain your interest – which is as important a part of poker strategy for cash games as anything – then consider playing with friends.
That extra social element can really maintain your attention and actually provide better practise than any other option. With so many different ways to play poker with friends nowadays, all you need are some willing crewmates.
Beyond the actual game itself, the most important strategy comes down to bankroll management. This is how so many technically excellent poker players fail – if you don’t have control over your bankroll management, then your poker game is going to spin out of orbit fast.
While how you decide to split funds and how much you decide to play with is entirely down to you, the basics of bankroll management come down to one key thing. That’s ensuring you have a walkaway amount for your losses. This is strategy at its most basic. You need an amount of money that is the maximum you are willing to lose before you walk away from the virtual table.
It’s also vital to ensure that you actually bank money that you win. The gambler that always bets everything they win – even across many games – must eventually lose. So, don’t just put winnings into game after game. Eventually, someone else’s luck must come in. Having a plan on how to cut both wins and losses is vital, and the former is often terribly overlooked.
One of the side effects of poker moving online is that the game has gotten steadily more aggressive. How true this is might be a matter of opinion, but there is some logic behind it. Playing aggressively can help build the pot, and often the difference between novice and experienced players is that newer players are a little too cautious. The only caveat here is ensuring you have a bankroll management plan to ensure that you can play freely and without fear.
However, playing aggressively doesn’t mean doing so brainlessly. If poker could be consistently won simply be playing every bet, well, this would be a much easier game. So, you need to be patient too.
When we say be aggressive, we mean be aggressive when the time and the hand is right. Think of it as bursts of aggression: well-timed and with patience, but done without caution when the decision is made. You will likely, and most wisely fold more than you play. So, that’s not what we mean by aggression. Patience is very important here, just as is the ability to go on the offensive when the time is right.
That balance between these two elements goes a long way in putting you at an advantage to the rest of the table. Patience and aggression, find the balance, and strike. This is true of pretty much every form of poker.
It’s almost like people forget that promotions are a part of the online poker playing world. But indeed, they are, and they should be taken advantage of as much as possible. They are, after all, one of the big advantages of playing online as opposed to in traditional casinos.
Of course, the actual value they hold depends on the individual promotions and the terms and conditions. You should absolutely check these out to fully understand them. Most important of all though is (usually) entrance to cheap and free tournaments. Often, these are huge and the chances of winning slim but they are absolutely worth their weight in space gold in terms of experience.
When you’re waiting to make your move – in other words, when you have to sit back and let the game unfold – don’t just view this as time in a vacuum. Instead, it’s a time to also pay attention to how other people play. Now, this has obviously changed quite a bit with the move online, as you can’t utilise body language in the same way. But the way in which people play itself provides its own indications, and often they can be more useful than some potential visual cues.
Most notably, pay attention to how aggressively others are playing. Not only does this give you a good idea of how different players react to their cards but can also make you reflect on how you are coming across and how much you are giving away.
Remember that poker is an incredibly intellectually taxing game and you are, after all, only human. People often underestimate the sheer level of exertion that’s required over long games and especially when it comes to poker strategy for tournaments. As you get tired, your reflexes, judgement and capacity to think quickly and clearly will slow down. This will impact your ability to play well.
The best way of minimising this issue is twofold. One is simply to not play too much. There is a point of playing where you are not getting valuable practise and it can have deeply diminishing returns, if not be actively harmful.
The other thing is to pace yourself. Think of it as a space marathon and not a sprint across the stars. Try to concentrate, but relax as much as possible too. Finding the right level of engagement for long-term play is key to being a great poker player. Remember too, that this is affecting every person on that table. If you can keep your exertion in check, you have an advantage.
This one is really simple: try and be as honest as you can about your level of play ability and choose the games you play accordingly. More than the overwhelming majority of casino games, poker is one of skill, and it is something you get better with over time. So, be a little bit humble, or someone else may be able to take advantage.
Poker is a passion for a lot of people. With real money being involved, it’s common for people to forget what the whole reason for playing always should be, and that’s enjoying yourself. If you aren’t having a good time, well, then it’s time to take a break and go do something else on this big, wide planet of ours. Don’t grind away – you won’t have a pleasant time and you likely won’t even get any valuable practise in any way because your mind will be elsewhere.
Remember, this is a game that is all about your mindset, and it needs to be in the right space in order for any game of poker strategy to be worth your while. Whether it’s playing in tournaments or playing with friends, try to always make enjoying yourself your top priority.
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
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