Mid-level Poker Strategies – Poker Table Distractions

The most successful poker players are those that never lose touch with the game at hand. A player who gets distracted could miss out on a lot of information about their opponents, as well as forgetting to keep a conservative hold on their own chip stack.

There are plenty of ways a poker player can get distracted, especially in a live poker room. A lot of noise coming from a nearby table, or the bar in the next room, could be enough to draw your attention away from the table. Eyeing up the waitress instead of the player across from you might get you a wink, but it won’t tell you that your opponent is holding the nuts against your second-best flush.

Even online poker games can carry distractions. Watching television while playing poker on your computer detracts completely from your ability to make reads on your opponents, assessing behavioural patterns for later in the game.

By keeping your eyes on your opponents, you can pick up a lot of vital information. In a live poker game, your focus should be on mental evaluations of each player. In online poker, make use of the note-taking tools to keep track of everyone else at the table. Within 30 minutes, you should be able to label each play as tight or loose, aggressive or passive. You should know who the calling stations are, who the maniacs are, who is playing only the best starting hands.

Multi-tabling is considered one of the best ways to boost your online poker bankroll, but even multi-tabling can be a distraction if you’re not practised enough to make the proper adjustments. Basically, if you play well at single tables, but find yourself faltering during multi-table sessions, perhaps they are creating too much of a distraction.

Poker table distractions won’t just affect your profit margin. They could be disastrous to your chip stack as well. Too often a player will become distracted enough that he or she doesn’t even realize he’s calling too much.

A good poker player knows the difference between a workable starting hand and one that should simply be folded out of the gate. But even a good poker player will sometimes move on with what would normally be a bad hand. It’s not always a bad decision – heck, Doyle Brunson is famous for it. But doing so too often can be quite costly. Before you know it, you will be looking up and wondering where all of your chips went!

One convincing way to put it is this: Have you ever scoured an online poker site for “fish”? You know, those incredibly loose, careless poker players who do wonders for your bankroll? Let yourself become distracted from your own chip stack and you’ll be the fish everyone else is hunting for!

Patience and discipline are the most common terms used to describe the emotional state of a successful poker player, but if you don’t toss in the ability to stay focused, your game will not have the consistency be categorized as a winning poker player. Pay attention, keep your eyes open and don’t let yourself become distracted at the poker table.

Mid-Level Poker Strategies – 3 Essential Poker Moves

A game of poker is won not by the cards in a player’s hand, but by the player who can convince his opponents that he has the best hand. This is often done by using specific poker moves, either to deceive your opponent into thinking you have the best hand, or to represent weakness, like a draw hand, when you already know you’ve got your opponent beat.

The following are three essential poker moves that accomplish just that. Well discuss the “Float” move, the “Check-Raise” and the “Post Oak Bluff”.

The Float

The purpose of the float move is to steal the pot, much like stealing blinds, but later in the hand for maximum profit. The float can be pulled off in one of two ways; before the flop or after the flop.

Using the float after the flop is more common as it is a straight-out bluff. You will float your way through a hand, limping or calling pre-flop, and maybe even again post-flop. Assuming no one is showing aggression, as soon as you like the pot size, post the big raise and take down the pot.

The pre-flop float is best when you have some kind of hand to work with, at least a solid draw scenario. It also requires good position on your opponents. You wouldn’t normally attempt to steal blinds when a lot of players stay in the pot, but when they are limping in, placing the large raise can steal a lot more than blinds. If an opponent is determined to move on to the flop, calling your raise, you still have something to fall back on.

The great thing about the float is that it requires minimal investment before the big raise. It will not be a big loss if you end up having to fold.

The Check-Raise

One of the most common and feared poker moves is the check-raise. The problem for your opponents is they never know when it’s coming, and if they suspect it, it can cause them to underbet the pot, or check a good hand when they should have been tossing chips.

The idea is simple enough. When you have a monster hand, check to your opponent after the flop. This represents you holding a draw hand that the board didn’t help. Your opponent will try to knock you out with a raise, since he doesn’t want you to keep drawing. You come back over the top with a hefty re-raise. He will either fold (the right move) or defend his investment by calling or raising back (the wrong move). Either way, you win.

The Post Oak Bluff

The post oak bluff is a very delayed bluff. All you have to do is place a low bet on the river, equal to about 25% of the pot. Your opponent sees this as a value bet; a calculated bet used to make your opponent stay in the pot so that you earn more chips at the showdown.

Of course in this case, you’re totally bluffing, which means your opponent has to be paying attention. If you’re up against a loose or novice poker player, he’s going to make the call every time. Your opponent has to be the type to recognize a value bet when he sees it.

Mid-Level Poker Strategies – Off-table Education

If you want to become a serious poker player, you should associate yourself with serious poker players. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from a poker player who is better than yourself. Further development of poker strategies can come from a simple conversation about playing poker, rather than an actual game.

You can learn a lot by playing against more advanced poker players, but they are not going to reveal any of their own poker strategies when they’re trying to scoop your chip stack. However, when you’re sitting around having a drink, you can get a lot of information out of them.

Highly experienced poker players can deduce their opponent’s hand, often predicting exactly what they are holding just by being especially observant. If you’ve ever watch Daniel Negreanu on GSN’s High Stakes Poker, you’ve probably wondered if he’s got some special sixth sense of ESP. Many times, he’ll put an opponent on a hand with dead-on accuracy. However, he is not psychic by any means.

If you find yourself playing against an opponent with acute skills like this, invite them to a drink at the bar after a session. Don’t outright ask them how they do it, because they won’t likely divulge too much information at this point. But if you can start a healthy conversation on poker, you may be able to turn the conversation to a particular hand to learn their techniques.

The information you’re looking for is where you made your mistake, and if you made a bad decision, what would the proper choice have been? If your hand was read, what gave it away? Pay close attention and be sure to apply the information to your game in all future sessions.

It may not be as easy as buying someone a drink to get them to open up. All poker players are different. Going back to our previous example, Daniel Negreanu is known to be one of the most open poker pros in the business, sharing his poker strategies and advice with anyone who shows a true desire to better their game.

Other poker players, such as Phil Ivey, are much more reserved and taciturn with their poker strategies. You’re not going to be able to learn much from a player like this, so as soon as you identify a tight-lipped player, move on.

What if you’re an online poker player? Getting into a steady conversation away from the virtual felt won’t be so easy. However, online poker rooms like Full tilt Poker offer a ‘Pro Chat’ session where players can converse directly with Full Tilt Pros, without actually competing against them. This is a great forum for learning from expert poker players.

If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, joining a top rated poker training school is another great way to get inside the heads of real poker pros. There are a number of quality poker training schools on the internet today. For example, Negreanu runs PokerVT.com, offering a wealth of poker strategies including video tutorials of himself playing real poker games, against real people, and stopping at specific intervals to explain what he’s looking at, why he’s acting in a certain way, and how it works to his advantage.

Mid-Level Poker Strategies – Tracking Profits & Losses

One of the most overlooked mid-level poker strategies is the importance of tracking your statistics at various poker games and stakes. When you keep records of your success rate at specific games and limits, you can determine where your niche lies, thereby turning the maximum profit on a more consistent basis.

So often, poker players keep count of only two numbers – the cash they sat down at the table with, and the cash they are leaving with. So you start with $20 and leave with $30; you made a profit, yay! But how long did it take? What game were you playing, and at what stakes? You may remember these answers tomorrow when you go into work and brag to your buddies, but then what?

Let’s say you played $1/$2 NL Holdem for one hour, ending with a $20 profit. You then play $5/$10 FL Holdem for 4 hours, winning $50. At a glance, $5/$10 FL Holdem seems pretty nice, but for the time you put in, the $1/$2 NL Holdem games actually paid off better.

Keeping track of statistics like these will help you pick the best game, at the most beneficial limit and stakes for your playing style. Essentially, it will pin-point all of your strong suits, as well as your faults. By identifying weaknesses in your game, you can work to improve them, or simply avoid situations where they might be exploited.

What You’ll Need

There’s no right or wrong way to keep track of your poker play; so long as you are recording the proper information in some way that you can go back and understand. You may wish to write down your stats on a simple, paper notepad, or a neatly organized Excel spreadsheet. You can even download poker tracking software and import your hand histories for an instant stat tracking.

What You’ll Track

The following is a list of information that should be documented after each poker game session.

  • Date of session
  • Time you Start playing
  • Time you Stop playing
  • Limit/Stakes played
  • Bankroll at Start time
  • Bankroll at Stop time

You may wish to track further data, depending on how you play poker. If you are a member of several online poker rooms, keep track of where you played each session. Perhaps you like a variety of poker games, not just than the standard Texas Holdem format. Recording the game played would be just as vital.

Reading the Results

Obviously it’s going to take some time for your records to reveal any consistently reliable information. Comparing all reports on a month by month basis is recommended as it will show a diverse range of data with more contrasting results. The greater the contrast, the more beneficial your stats can be to the evolution of your poker strategies.

You’ll also want to read a “legacy” report; a complete running total of your overall profits and losses from the day you started keeping records up to present.

Tracking your poker play will give you a clear, outward view of all strengths and weaknesses in your poker game. By avoiding your weaknesses and sticking to the stronger elements, you can easily increase your steady profit margin and minimize losses; the number-one goal of all poker strategies.

Mid-Level Poker Strategies

Once you’ve learned and successfully incorporated the most basic poker strategies, it’s time to bring your game to the next level. We’ve put together an intermediate strategy, complete with in-depth skills of observation, avoiding common distractions in live and online poker games, and new ways to improve your poker game.

3 Essential Poker Moves

There are specific moves one can make in poker to bring in more chips on an otherwise average pot size. The first is the “Float” maneuver; little more than a delayed bluff, but highly effective in the right situation. Next is the infamous “Check-Raise”, goading an opponent into raising the pot only to raise him back (requires a strong hand). Last we cover the “Post Oak Bluff”, a fake value bet on the river to dupe a strategic poker player into thinking you have a monster hand.

Poker Table Distractions

If you want to be a serious poker player, you need the discipline of a pro. Never let yourself get distracted from what’s going on at the table. You should be paying close attention to your opponents in the beginning to get a good read on their game, and maintaining that focus throughout to exploit all weaknesses. Just paying attention to everyone else at the table isn’t enough either. If you’re call-folding too often, you may find yourself looking up and wondering what happened to all your chips!

5 Multi-Tabling Tips

The better poker player you become, the more bored you might find yourself playing a single table, especially if you’re playing a proper, tight poker game. Luckily, online poker allows you to participate in multi-table games, where you could be multiplying your profits and eliminating the annoying waiting period between eligible starting hands. In this section, we’ll give you 5 great tips for multi-tabling at your favorite online poker room.

Using TV Poker to Improve Your Game

If you like the game of poker, chances are, you enjoy watching the pros play in high stakes ring games and major poker events like the World Series of Poker. Televised poker games shouldn’t just be used for entertainment purposes. You can actually learn a lot by watching these guys and gals banter around the felt. In fact, the ability to see the hole cards of each player gives you an even better read on their moves, helping you to see what works and what doesn’t, and when and how to implement more advanced poker strategies.

Learn Your Tells, and Use Them!

Every poker player was a novice at some point. Whether you still consider yourself a novice or not, it’s time to take a close look at your past and present poker game. What poker tells are you giving off, and how are other skilled players reacting to them? If you can give off poker tells accidentally, surely you can implement a few good acting skills to relay poker tells on purpose, giving your opponents a false impression of your holdings. Come on in and have a seat – It’s reverse psychology 101!

Beginner Poker Strategies – Bankroll Management

Another consequential aspect of poker that many beginners tend to overlook is the concept of bankroll management. In fact, there are several professional poker players who have famously neglected to master this essential skill; pros who would be destitute if not for sponsorship deals or friends willing to help them out until they hit another big win.

Maintaining an awareness of the size of your bankroll will help you to determine what size blinds you can afford to play in order to get the most game out of your money. As a beginner it is important to start off with a more conservative bankroll plan while you develop your playing style.

It is recommended that novices never take more than 10% of their total poker bankroll to the table. If you are playing fixed limit, you should have at least one hundred times the big blind, and four hundred times the big blind for no limit games. So a player with a $1,000 bankroll should take no more than $100 to a single poker game, and start with $0.50/$1 Fixed Limit Hold’em or $0.10/$0.20 No Limit Hold’em. If you only have $50, just start with the lowest limits you can find, and stay there until you build a larger bankroll.

With experience you will learn how much you actually need to compensate for variance in the course of a game. If you play a tight game, your chip stack variance should be relatively low compared to a loose player who will lose larger chunks of their chip stack chasing a strong hand. If you play passively, you won’t experience the wild up and down swings an aggressive player encounters.

Bankroll guidelines for a poker beginner strategy will keep the novice player from going broke while determining how much variance must be accounted for in different limits and levels of game play. From there, you can modify your bankroll strategy based on your own experience.

When you move up to a higher blind, go back to your beginner strategy temporarily while you acclimate to the new skill level. Being an alert poker player with proper bankroll management and awareness of your opponents habits will serve you well into the expert levels of poker.

Beginner Poker Strategies – Be Alert

Perhaps the most important aspect of poker strategy is to pay attention. Watching the players around you gives vital clues about their hand strength, allowing you to adapt your game play when faced with obvious patterns. Being aware of your bankroll and chip stack are also imperative, as neglecting to manage your poker money or entering games beyond your means can lead rapidly to going bust.

Examining each opponent’s playing style will prove tremendously helpful to spotting a bluff, in addition to better preparing you to pull off a successful bluff. In the course of play, try to identify certain characteristics that will enable you to categorize every player’s behavior as tight or loose, and aggressive or passive.

The terms tight and loose refer to a player’s likeliness to fold a weak hand. Tight players will often fold before the flop in early position unless they have a strong starting hand. Bluffs from tight players will almost always be issued from late position, usually with a mediocre hand that might stand half a chance at winning if the bluff fails. A hyper-tight poker player may not bluff at all. Loose players, on the other hand, will frequently stay in the pot with weak hole cards to see the flop, and possibly the turn and river, as well.

Aggressive and passive describe the betting patterns of poker players. People who often take the lead in opening and raising the bet are labeled aggressive, whereas players who frequently call or place value bets (when they don’t fold) are considered passive. Aggressive players generally try to force the rest of the table to fold, as opposed to passive players who, when holding a very strong hand, will not bet more than they think another player is willing to call so as to keep them from folding.

If you spend time analyzing the playing style of each new opponent, you will begin to see a pattern emerge. Loose, aggressive players will bluff often, and though they may lose chips frequently, they make up for it with huge wins when they finally hit a strong hand because everyone thought they were bluffing. Watching such individuals closely may uncover a tell when they actually do have a strong hand. A tight, passive player will rarely ever raise, and will usually fold if they don’t think their hand is strong enough to win, slowly accumulating a profit by playing the odds. It is easier to force such a player to fold, but watch out if they call your bluff.

Each player is going to be different, with varying levels of passivity / aggression and looseness / tightness, with some players being downright erratic and unpredictable. Always pay attention to how each hand is played, and especially be alert when a hand comes to a showdown. The showdown is where you learn what a player was willing to ride to the end.

Beginner Poker Strategies – Odds

A basic knowledge of poker odds will add a new dimension of strength to any beginner poker player’s Texas Hold’em strategy. The ability to calculate hand odds and pot odds equips a poker player with the information needed to gauge whether or not their hand is statistically worth the price to stay in the pot to see the next card.

Pot Odds

If you have read “Beginner Poker Strategies – Outs“, and have practiced identifying your outs, you are ready to move on to determining pot and hand odds. First we will show you how to calculate the pot odds. The pot odds are simply the ratio between the value of the pot and the amount it will cost you to stay in the hand. You don’t have to be a math whiz, just follow a simple formula.

Example: The pot holds $45, and your opponent bets $5 – bringing the actual value of the pot up to $50 – so you must pay $5 to see the next card and stand a chance of winning that $50. That puts your pot odds at 50:5, which can be simplified (for future use) by dividing both numbers by the number on the right (our cost). This gives us 10:1 pot odds. Keep in mind that the number on the right is divided by itself; it will always reduce to 1.

Hand Odds

Now let’s calculate the odds that you will make your hand. There are a couple of approaches to calculating these odds. Since this is poker strategy for beginners, we will teach you the simplest formula for a beginner poker player to estimate the likeliness that s/he will hit an out on the next card.

The quick and easy way to arrive at the figure we want is to multiply the number of outs we have by 2, the result of which is the percentage rate for hitting an out on the next card. So if you have 10 outs, there is a 20 percent chance that the next card is going to improve your hand. To convert that number into a ratio, simply subtract 20 from 100 to get the percentage rate for failure to hit an out. The ratio in this case is 80:20 – failure:success – which now can be reduced the same way we reduced the pot odds. 80/20=4, which puts your hand odds at about 4:1.

For a more detailed look into the calclulation of hand odds (including the full formula) you may want to check out our Odds and Outs info page.

Let’s review:

  • Outs x 2 = % rate for success on next card
  • 100 – % rate for success = % rate for failure
  • %failure / %success = failure rate : 1 odds

Weighing the Odds

The entire point of calculating pot and hand odds is to determine whether or not it will be profitable in the long run to call the bet. In the example above, a $45 pot and a $5 bet from an opponent gives us 10:1 pot odds. If the pot odds are greater than the hand odds, you stand to make a statistical profit in the long run, even if you lose this particular hand.

The example 10-out hand had a 4:1 chance of hitting. Your hand odds tell us that you will hit your hand on the next card every 5 times you play this hand. Calling every 4:1 hand with 10:1 pot odds will – regardless of the outcome of this particular hand – inevitably earn you a return on your bet.

However, if the pot odds are 3:1 and your hand odds are 5:1, you will lose money over time if you consistently call the bet. The profit of one pot, in this example, is less than the value of the bets you will lose over time playing these odds. The pot is worth 3 times what it costs you to call, and over the course of six hands with the same odds, you will win the 3 from the pot once, but lose the 1 you paid to call five times – that’s a loss of two calls.

Many strategy guides instruct players to calculate their hand odds on the flop based on the odds of an out hitting on either the turn or the river, instead of confining the odds to the next card. This is done by multiplying the outs by 4 instead of 2. This is great if you just want to know the probability of making your hand anytime after the flop. The fallacy in this is when you use these two-card odds to calculate your pot odds.

A hand with 5 outs will have 4:1 odds when you allow for two chances to hit, but it has 8:1 odds on the next card to land on the board. So if you are betting on a 4:1 hand after the flop, you would likely call an opponent’s $10 bet to a $40 pot (5:1 pot odds on a $50 pot). However, if you don’t hit on the turn, and your opponent bets another $10, bringing the total pot value to $70 ($60 from the previous betting round – including your $10 call), you are looking at 7:1 pot odds with an 8:1 hand. The odds indicate that you should now fold a hand you just paid $10 for. That is why it is recommended to base your hand odds calculations on the next card when comparing to the pot odds, whether it is the turn or the river.

Beginner Poker Strategies – Outs

Understanding what “outs” are, and how to use them to calculate your odds of forming a winning hand, will significantly enhance your Texas Hold’em strategy and results. With a little time and dedicated study, learning to calculate odds by identifying the outs will soon boost your level of game play from beginner to intermediate.

“Outs” are all of the unseen cards that stand to improve your hand if they are dealt to the board. For instance, there are 13 cards of each suit in the deck. If both of your starting cards are hearts, and the flop produces two more hearts, there are 9 hearts – that’s 9 outs – left somewhere in the 47 cards you haven’t seen yet. That gives you a 9 in 47 chance that the turn will give you the flush.

When counting outs, it is recommended to start with the outs that will give you the nut hand – the best possible hand that can be formed. Do this by examining the flop for potential flushes or straights. A royal flush is the highest hand that can be achieved in Texas Hold’em, but has very few outs. If you are holding A(h)-10(h), and the board shows J(h), K(h) and J(c), there is one out for the royal flush – Q(h) – and 8 other outs for the non-consecutive flush. You also have 3 outs for an off-suit straight. That is a total of 12 outs that will beat three of kind if someone is holding one of the two remaining Jacks.

Of course, things can shift very quickly, and it important to consider the best hand your opponents can have, too. What if the turn reveals the K(c)? Anyone with two clubs in the hole is looking at the same number of flush outs that you are, maybe even a straight or royal flush.

What’s worse, if you have an opponent holding one of the two hidden Jacks or Kings, you will have to beat a full house. In fact, it is possible that one of your opponents may hit four of a kind, if they haven’t already. There is only one out that will allow you to beat anything better than a non-consecutive flush in this situation, that Queen of hearts lurking somewhere in the 46 cards you haven’t seen. You would need to rely on your other poker beginner strategies – such as your position, your opponents’ betting patterns and the size of your chip stack – to determine the best way to proceed.

Keeping a few simple rules in mind will help you get started. Note that an open-ended straight draw (four consecutively ranked cards such as 6-7-8-9) will have 8 outs; four outs at each end of the potential straight. A gut-shot straight (one rank missing from anywhere in the middle of the straight) will have 4 outs. If you have 3-of-a-kind at the flop, you have 7 outs; 6 for the full house, and 1 for the four-of-a-kind.

Counting the outs will become easier the more you exercise the ability. You can train yourself with online Texas Hold’em practice games, or simply by sitting down at the kitchen table with a deck of cards. With a little effort, any beginner poker player can elevate their Texas Hold’em strategy with a good understanding of outs.

Beginner Poker Strategies – Position

Beginner poker players tend to undervalue the importance of position in Texas Hold’em. Many novice players make the mistake of wasting their poker chips calling small raises just to see if the flop or turn happens to improve their weak hand. Understanding the impact position has on your poker strategy will considerably improve your game play, equipping you with general guidelines to determine the strength of your hand relative to the other players.

Each position at the poker table has advantages and/or disadvantages. This is why the positions rotate after every hand. We will take a look at each position, and the pros and cons associated with them, in order to help you develop a more reliable beginner poker strategy.

Dealer or Button

The position of the dealer is indicated by a button in front of that player. This is considered the most advantageous position. After the flop, the player on the button will be the last to act, allowing that player to evaluate the behavior of every opponent before deciding how to proceed.

The button is the best position to bluff from, especially if it is obvious that your opponents don’t have strong hands. A confident raise before the flop will weed out most of the weak hands. Post-flop you are in a position to see how your opponents bet. If everyone checks, it is probably safe to assume that no one has anything stronger than a low pair. A strong raise will usually result in the remaining players folding their cards.

Small Blind

The player to the left of the dealer is called the small blind, and must post a predetermined bet before the cards are dealt; generally half the value of the big blind. Before the flop, the small blind will be the second to last to act. After the flop, the small blind is the first to act (assuming they haven’t folded), putting you at a disadvantage. A check or small raise will indicate to your opponents that you have a weak to mediocre hand. If you don’t have a very strong starting hand as the small blind, it is generally in your best interest to conserve your chips and fold.

Big Blind

The big blind is posted before the deal by the player to the left of the small blind. The big blind is the last to act before the flop. However, after the flop, the big blind is the second to act (first if the small blind has folded). This is not an ideal position to be in, but it is possible to limp your way to a full house or a straight if your opponents have weak cards.

If you have a mediocre starting hand from the big blind, and no one raises before the flop, you might as well ‘check’. If the flop doesn’t connect strongly to your hand, you probably shouldn’t call a raise. However, if you can check your way to the turn, go ahead – it isn’t costing you anything. Same for the river – if you can just check your way along, you could end up with a decent hand. But keep in mind that your opponents’ hands could be improving with every card that hits the board, too.

Under the Gun

This is the player to the left of the big blind, and is the first player to take action in the hand. This is considered the worst pre-flop position, but improves a little after the flop if the blinds haven’t folded. However, this is still an early position, and only the strongest starting cards stand a chance from this location. If you have weak hole cards in this position, it is recommended that you save your chips and fold before the flop.

Your position at the poker table has a significant impact on how strong your starting cards need to be. Players in early position – the first players to act – will need to have stronger hole cards, as it is more difficult to judge the strength of the cards held by your opponents. When you are in late position – one of the last players to act – it is easier to discern how much faith the early players have in their hole cards. Incorporating position into your poker strategy will have a profound effect on your results at the felt.