5 Insanely Useful Advanced Poker Strategy Tips (#3 Might Surprise You)

Advanced Poker Strategy Tips

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker is an incredibly competitive game, and it’s no surprise by any means. Wherever there’s money, there’s people scrambling to get a piece of the action. 

One great thing about poker is that, unlike many other endeavours, there’s a minimum barrier of entry. Anyone can play, and anyone can win, and it only takes an hour or so to learn. 

All you need is a "chip and a chair" as the old saying goes.

The basic poker strategies are widely available online, and with a little effort, anyone can learn to be a winning player, or at least not a complete noob just waiting to give their hard-earned money away.

But to be a successful long-term winner, you need a little more than the basic know-how, especially in today’s games, where the edges seem to be getting smaller and smaller. 

It’s not enough anymore to just play tight, wait for a hand and get paid.

After learning the fundamentals, it pays to keep building up on your poker knowledge, because that’s the only way to keep up and stay ahead in an increasingly competitive environment. 

This article will give you five advanced tips to take your game to the next level and crush the competition who just wait around for the nuts all day.

Let’s dive right into it…


1. Get the Jesus Seat


What do poker and real estate business have in common? Location, location, location. Poker is a business, and where you choose to conduct your business will greatly influence your profitability. 

So even before you sit down and play, you should consider choosing a seat carefully. Ideally, you want to grab as many Jesus seats as possible (if you’re playing online and can multi-table). 

Jesus seat refers to the position on the direct left of the fish. If you have a recreational player (or more of them) on your right, you’ll have the most money making opportunities.

The most profitable spots in poker are when we are playing in position, as the preflop aggressor, against one opponent. And all these conditions can be met frequently with the Jesus seat.

When you are seated on the direct left of the fish, you’ll be playing in position against them most of the time. 

You’ll be in a great position to take their money first, by isolating them if they limp in the pot, or even 3-bet them if they raise, which means you’ll be playing a heads-up pot with them with the range advantage post flop in most situations.

By being in position, they’re going to have to be the first to act, so you can get better reads on them. Also, you’ll be able to control the size of the pot, get to showdown cheaply with your weak hands, and value bet them heavily with your strong hands.

But there’s an even better variation of Jesus seat you should be on the lookout for. Jesus seat deluxe, if you will. It’s the seat that is directly to the left of the fish, and directly to the right of a nit, a supertight opponent. 

Not only will you be able to isolate the fish all day long, you won’t need to worry about getting reraised yourself. 

By the way, if you don't know how to spot the fish at the online poker tables, I highly recommend using a good poker HUD.

Just look for the players on your HUD with a VPIP of 40 or more. VPIP by the way is just a fancy term used to indicate the percentage of hands that somebody plays.

A VPIP of 40+ is a guaranteed recreational player (fish) in any poker game.

Your HUD will tell you everyone's VPIP (and dozens of other highly useful stats) directly on your online poker table screen. 

BlackRain79 actually shows you step by step how to setup your PokerTracker HUD in less than 5 minutes in this video:


You can download the free trial version of the PokerTracker HUD, right here.

Anyways, as you move up in stakes, you’ll encounter more and more solid and aware players who will realize you’re abusing the fish, and they will start to make adjustments to your play. 

They’ll start calling your isolation raises more widely, or start 3-betting you lightly. This can get quite frustrating quite quickly. 

Fortunately though, these kinds of players are a minority at the lower stakes. 

Most solid players still play pretty straightforwardly a large chunk of the time, and there’s a bunch of multi-tabling nits still populating the lower stakes. 

They don’t make a lot of mistakes and you won’t be able to make a lot of money against them, but they aren’t that difficult to play against either.

If they have a strong hand, they’ll let you know, if not, they’ll let you have it and look for a better spot. So having these kinds of players on your right is great for your bottom line. 

Not only you need not worry about their incessant aggression, you can also pick up their blinds uncontested most of the time, which will add up nicely in the long run. 


2. 3-Bet Resteal


Anyone familiar with the basic poker strategy knows the importance of stealing the blinds. Winning poker players know that most money comes from playing in position as the preflop aggressor. 

Conversely, playing from the blinds you are actually expected to lose money in the long term, no matter how good you are. It’s just how the game is structured, and there’s really no way around it. 

So when playing in the blinds, your primary goal should be to lose as little as possible. The easiest way to go about this is simply folding a 100% of your hands in the blinds. 

That way, you’re losing 1.5 big blinds per orbit, or about 25 big blinds per hundred hands if you’re playing 6-max, for example. So folding all the time is hardly an optimal strategy.

One way to reduce that kind of negative outcome is to occasionally 3-bet light to steal attempts. When we say steal attempts in this context, we’re talking about open-raising from cutoff, button or small blind. 

You can see your opponents stealing tendencies by checking their Attempt to steal stat in PokerTracker 4, by the way. 

The beauty of this play is that it is insanely simple and can be outright profitable, because you’ll be able to win the pot right then and there preflop. 

Also, you’ll be able to pull it off quite frequently, because open-raise stealing situations are very common.

It will also make you harder to play against, because your opponents will have to think twice before trying to steal your blinds. Rightly timed aggression can go a long way.

The best players to target with this play are of the TAG and LAG variety. They tend to be positionally aware, and they widen their range considerably in late positions.

See The Micro Stakes Playbook for much more on how to create optimal strategies versus TAGs, LAGs, and all player types in small stakes games.  

But basically, these two player types will have a lot of speculative hands in their range, and even some borderline junk in some cases, like A6o or 85s, and a lot of these hands will fold to a 3-bet. 

Remember, the idea is to get folds preflop, so your opponents have to have a fold button. Doing this against recreational players can backfire, and you’re better off 3-betting them mainly for value. 


Example Hand


You are dealt A♠3♠ in the SB. A TAG villain open raises from the BU to 2.5x.

You should consider 3-betting to 10x. 

An average tight and aggressive player will play about 40% of their hands on the button, and a lot of them will fold to a 3-bet, which makes this play outright profitable. 

We have a great speculative hand that can flop a lot of monsters, and blocks a lot of villains' big hands (like Aces, Kings and Ace-King) as well. 

Even if we do get called, we’re going to see the flop with the initiative and range advantage, and can often take down the pot with a simple C-bet.


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3. Squeeze More Often Preflop


A squeeze is a preflop 3-bet where there was an open raise and one or more callers before you. 

If someone open-limps and one or more players limp behind and you raise, this is not considered a squeeze. If someone open-raises and you 3-bet them, this is also not considered a squeeze.


It’s called a squeeze because: 

a) you’re trying to “squeeze out” dead money, ideally from weak ranges, and b) because the original raiser and caller(s) are “squeezed” between two opponents and find themselves in hard to defend positions.

The primary objective of the squeeze is to get your opponents to fold and pick up the pot uncontested preflop. 

Here is a recent hand where BlackRain79 discusses the benefits of squeezing in more detail:


If you 3-bet Aces after an open-raise and one or multiple calls, it’s technically still considered a squeeze, but in this case you are not looking to get folds, but rather get called by weaker hands and build up the pot with your value hand.

But in this context, we’ll consider only bluff squeezes, where we intend to get all our opponents to fold and pick up easy money preflop.

What makes this play so effective is that we’re ideally attacking a weak open-raising range and callers’ capped ranges, both of which are likely to give up when facing a 3-bet.

Let’s consider the open-raising range first. We should ideally target opens from late positions (cutoff and button) because these tend to be the widest. 

We should be more wary of attacking under the gun open-raises, because they tend to have more value hands in their range (like AA, KK, QQ, AK) and are less likely to fold to a squeeze.

We should be less worried about callers’ ranges, because we can basically eliminate those strong value hands from their range. 

Had they had them, they would have 3-bet them themselves instead of calling. That’s what we mean when we say someone’s range is capped. 

Now, that’s not to say that some players won’t try to get cute and flat call with Aces preflop, but that’s a suboptimal strategy for a number of reasons, which we won’t be getting into here.

Our target(s) should be weak players with loose ranges, because they typically can’t stand the pressure of the 3-bet, especially in a multiway pot. 

It’s important to mention right off the bat that they also need to be able to fold to 3-bets, otherwise we run the risk of getting involved into a bloated multiway pot with a bluffing hand. Not a great look. 


Example Hand


You are dealt A♣J in the BB.

A LAG villain open-raises to 2.5x on the BU.

A nit calls in the SB.
You: ???

You should 3-bet to 11x.

We can certainly call in this situation, but the chance of encountering a lot of gross spots postflop is through the roof. 

We are playing a multiway pot, out of position, with an easily dominated hand. We also don’t have a discernible skill edge on our opponents. 

Even if we do connect with the board in some way, we won’t be able to tell where we stand with our hand, and if we completely smash the flop, there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to extract max value from it.

Let’s consider the alternative. We have a great 3-bet bluffing hand and can get easy folds preflop. The nit’s range is capped, and the LAG’s range is extremely wide. 

The bet size and his position indicate he’s stealing the blinds more often than not. Also, we block a lot of value hands like Aces, Jacks and Ace-King. 

We’re getting a great price for a squeeze and even if we get one or two calls, we still have a playable hand and we’re going to the flop with the initiative and range advantage.


4. Shove Big Draws


As a rule of thumb, the stronger your draws, the faster you should play them. 

It means you are better off getting as much money in the middle as soon as possible in most situations. There are a couple of reasons for this. 

First of all, your drawing hand doesn’t have showdown value and can’t win the pot unimproved, so you have to rely on hitting your outs. 

If you bet, raise or reraise, you don’t have to rely on luck, and can win the pot with Ace high, for example. 

Secondly, even if you do hit your outs, there is no guarantee that your opponent will pay you off, because the board runout can scare them off. 

Generally speaking, the implied odds are higher on earlier streets than the later streets, and players are more likely to pay you off on the flop than on the river.

Some draws are so blatantly obvious that even the fish can see through them, and won’t be as willing to put the money in when the third heart comes on the turn, for example. 

You often won’t get good pot odds to call a bet with your draw, so you can give yourself a better chance to win the pot by coming over the top with a bet of your own. 

That way, you get additional fold equity versus your opponents, rather than just calling and hoping the draw completes AND praying that your opponent will pay you off if it does.

This is a fundamental principle of an elite winning poker strategy as BlackRain79 discusses in Crushing the Microstakes.  

That is, wherever you can rely on skill, do so, and count on luck only as a last resort. 


Example Hand


You are dealt A7 on the BUTTON. 

A TAG villain opens to 3x in middle position. Folds to you, you call, blinds fold.

Pot: 7.5 BB

Flop: K9♣4

Villain bets 3.5BB
You: ???

You should raise.

Folding is far too nitty, considering you have a nut flush draw. 

Calling is not the worst option, but even if you do end up improving on the turn, your opponent might not be inclined to keep barreling on such a wet board. 

By raising here, you’re putting tremendous pressure on the villain, and he needs to have quite a strong hand to continue. 

By continuing, he’s putting his whole effective stack at risk on consecutive streets. He’ll have to give up hands that he’s actually ahead with, like KQ, KJ, AQ, AJ, and maybe even AK.

Even in the worst case scenario, let’s say that he’s only continuing or coming over the top with pocket Aces, Kings or Nines. We still have about 30% equity with our draw.

So we see that it’s better to use aggression and put max pressure on our opponents rather than relying on luck alone. As they say, fortune favors the bold. 


5. Overbet Jam the River


Strong hands don’t come around very often in poker. So when they do, you need to make sure you win as much money as possible in order to make up for all the lost pots, busted draws, bad beats and so on.

The majority of money you win in poker will actually come from a small number of huge hands. 

The way these hands are played separate losing or breakeven players and solid winners, and will determine your long term profitability more than any other factor.

If you are playing no-limit hold’em, make the best use of the no-limit part. Everytime you are in the hand, consider the effective stack size. If it is 150 big blinds, you should be aiming to win no less 150 big blinds.

Always aim for the maximum profit. So the next time you find yourself facing a huge river decision with a strong hand, ask yourself: can I shove here?

Here is a recent overbet jam hand discussed by BlackRain79 illustrating this more:
  

A lot of players start fretting about the bet sizing, especially on the river where there is usually the most money on the line. 

When they have a huge hand, they go for something like ⅓ pot or ½ pot bet so they don’t scare off their opponents, or even worse, they try to get tricky and check in order to induce a bluff.

While there certainly might be situations in which these lines are the most +EV, more often than not, people get in their heads too much and make things more complicated than necessary.

If you’re playing at the micros, your balanced bet sizing with a polarized range is going to go completely over most of your opponents heads. 

In order to win at poker, you need to be thinking only one step ahead of your opponents, not five. For more on this, see the recent BlackRain79 article, 15 proven ways to beat the micro stakes.


If you overbet jam the river, one of these things will happen:

a) your opponent will think you’re bluffing and call you down with their third pair.

b) your opponent knows you have it, but they just can’t fold their precious set or overpair and call you down.

c) your opponent will have a busted draw and fold to any bet, regardless of the size.

d) your opponent will cooler you with a monster hand of their own, which is least likely. The stronger your hand, the less of a chance there is for someone to have an even stronger hand.

In any case, you are not really benefiting from a smallish bet size, but are potentially missing out on a ton of value. Even if you don’t get called, you’ll appear to be more aggressive, which is great for your table image. 


Example Hand


Effective stack size is 100 BB.

You are dealt 9♠9♣ in the CO. You raise to 3x.
A loose passive fish calls on the BU. Blinds fold.

Pot is 7.5 BB 
Flop: J2T

You bet 2.5 BB. Fish calls.

Pot is 12.5 BB
Turn: 2♠

You check. Fish checks.

River: 9
You: ???

You should shove all-in. 

Let’s consider the previous action. You open raise pocket Nines from the cutoff, and the fish calls. Totally standard and predictable. 

We don’t get the best flop in the world, but we reckon the fish is of the fit-or-fold variety, likes to see a bunch of flops, and has an extremely wide calling range. 

Most hands miss most flops, and the wider the range, the more flops it will miss. 

So we go for a small C-bet, figuring we don’t need to get a lot of folds to still be +EV. Plus we still have a backdoor straight draw and some showdown value. Unsurprisingly, the fish calls.

The turn doesn’t change a lot for us. We know we don’t have a lot of fold equity in this situation, and we certainly can’t keep barrelling for value. 

We still have some showdown value, so we check and hope to see a free river. 

And the river comes with a miracle action card. This is a spot to go for maximum value and forget all about balance, considering our opponent type and the board runout. 

The number of hands that would pay us off here is huge. Remember, we’re playing against a recreational player, and recreational players love to make huge hero calls, and don’t fold a flush, ever. 

They don’t care about the pot odds and ranges one bit. So we’re getting called by Jx hands, any deuce in their hand, any two diamonds, KQ, Q8, 87, you name it. 

So going for something as ½ pot or ¾ pot bet would be a disaster. 

Sure, a lot of times they’ll have complete air, but if they do, they’re folding, and if they have anything, they’re calling regardless of the size. They’re pretty inelastic that way, so we should make the most of it.


Summary


One thing all of these plays have in common is aggression. This is indeed a crucial component that you will find in any advanced poker strategy.

Winning poker is aggressive poker. Every time you’re involved in a hand, make a habit of asking yourself: can I bet/raise/reraise here? 

You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) do it every time, but at least being aware of the prospect can make you see a bunch of profitable spots you might have missed before.

In short, you should try to position yourself in a way most conducive to exerting maximum pressure on your opponents, and you can do that even before you sit down at the table. 

Look carefully and snipe that Jesus seat. Be on the lookout for steal attempts and try to resteal the blinds often. Also, look for squeeze opportunities and try to pick up easy money with a well-timed aggression.

If you have a big draw, try semi-bluffing instead of only relying on hitting your outs and praying your opponent will pay you off if you do. Save luck only as a last resort.

And finally, when luck finally does work in your favour, make the most of it. 

Monster hands don’t come very often, so when they do, make sure you get paid. Forget about balance and go for max value. Your bankroll will be better off for it.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete BlackRain79 advanced system for crushing the small stakes games make sure you pick up the free poker cheat sheet, right here.

Advanced Poker Strategy Tips