6 Quick Poker Tips Anyone Can Use to Win A Lot More

6 Quick Tips ANY Poker Player Can Use to Win More!

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

Poker is incredibly easy to learn, but knowing how to play and knowing how to win are an entirely different thing.

While it does have a learning curve, virtually everyone can learn the fundamental winning poker strategy. All it takes is a little effort and a can do attitude.

This article will show you 6 quick ways anyone can improve their poker results, guaranteed. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right into it.

1. Play Only Strong Starting Hands

One of the most common mistakes amateur poker players make is playing too many hands. The reason they do this is because most recreational players play poker for fun, and folding most of your starting hands doesn’t seem like much fun at all. 

This is a valid point. If you just want to have fun, you can play basically any hand that’s dealt to you, chase all kinds of draws, make crazy bluffs left and right and so on. 

But you can’t expect to win any money this way. That’s because most hands miss most flops in no-limit Texas hold’em, so the more hands you play, the more often you’ll miss the flop, and lose more money as a result. 

So you should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in a meaningful way, and ditch the rest. 

There are multiple advantages of playing less hands in no-limit hold’em:

A) You’re giving yourself a mathematical advantage. 

As mentioned, most hands miss most flops, so if you’re playing stronger hands than your opponents on average, you can expect to connect with the flop more often on average. 

You will also make stronger hand combinations than your opponents (i.e. stronger pairs, stronger straights, stronger flushes and so on), which leads us to the second point.

B) Your hand will often dominate your opponents. 

A hand is dominated when it’s highly unlikely to win against another hand. You always want your hand to dominate your opponents’, instead of the other way around. 

For example, if you're holding a hand like JT♠, and your opponent holds J9♣, your hand dominates. 

In this example, your hand has roughly 71% equity against your opponent, meaning you can expect to win the pot 71% of the time. 

In other words, by only playing stronger hands than your opponents, you can avoid the frequent kicker problems. 

A kicker is a card that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can determine a winner if both players have the same hand combination. 

In the previous example, if you hold JT♠ and your opponent has J9♣,

And the board runout is: J♠82♣52

You both have the top pair, but you will win the pot because you have a stronger kicker. 

In no-limit hold’em, the most common hand combination you will make will be a one-pair hand, so the winner of the pot will often be determined by a kicker if both players have the same pair. 

That’s why it’s important to avoid playing hands with mediocre to weak kickers, because they will often be more trouble than they’re worth.

If you want to know exactly which hands to play, just refer to the charts in my free poker cheat sheet.

C) You have more time to observe the action.

Poker is a game of incomplete information, and the player with an informational advantage will win more often than not. 

When you’re not directly involved in a hand, you can use the downtime to observe your opponent’s action. This will help you pick up on clues about their game, which you can use to your advantage later down the line. 

You can pay attention to their betting patterns, physical and/or timing tells, hand they choose to play from certain positions and so on. 

When you’re directly involved in a hand, you have more decisions to make, and therefore less time to pick up on useful information. When not playing, on the other hand, you can assess your opponents more objectively, because you don’t have to think about your own actions.

As to which hands you should actually play, this will depend on a lot of factors, namely your position at the table, the effective stack sizes, the opponents left to act behind you and so on. 

If you want more details about the starting hand selection, check my other article that tells you exactly which hands to play and how to play them. 

Also, be sure to check out Nathan’s recent video about “good” poker hands that actually may be more trouble than they’re worth.


2. Play More Hands in Position

Playing in position means being the last to act in a betting round, and it’s more advantageous than playing out of position for several reasons:

a) It gives you more information. 

When you’re the last to act in a betting round, you get to see what your opponents did, while they have no idea what you’re about to do. 

Poker is a game of incomplete information, so the player with an informational advantage will come out on top more often than not.

b) You can dictate the price of the pot. 

If you’re the last to act, you get a final say at the price of the pot. It also gives you more options than playing out of position. 

If your opponent bets and you have a strong value hand, you can raise them to inflate the pot further. 

If you have a drawing or a mediocre hand, you can just call to keep the pot size manageable and appropriate to your hand strength. 

If your opponent checks, you can check behind to get a free card and keep the pot size small, or you can inflate the pot with a bet.

c) You can bluff more effectively. 

Due to the aforementioned advantages of playing in position, your opponents will be less likely to fight back at you when they’re playing out of position. This means they’ll be more likely to fold and surrender the pot, so you can try to bluff them more effectively. 

In no-limit hold’em, you often won’t have the luxury of making a really strong hand, and sometimes you’ll need to fight for the pot even without holding anything at all. 

Bluffing in position is easier and more effective than playing out of position.

So how do you play more hands in position? You do it by simply open-raising less hands in earlier positions at the table, and more in the late positions (namely the cutoff and the button). 

When playing on the button in particular, you will ALWAYS be the last to act in a betting round. So if you have a hand that’s even remotely playable post-flop, chances are that you can open-raise it profitably on the button. 

As you get farther away from the button, the more selective you should be with the hands you choose to play, because it gets increasingly likely that you’ll be playing the rest of the hand out of position. If that’s the case, you need a strong hand to offset this positional disadvantage.

You should also be careful when playing from the blinds, because you will always be playing out of position postflop. The only exception being playing in the big blind against the small blind. 

When playing from the blinds, you will lose money over the long run, no matter how well you’re playing. That’s because the blinds are forced to put the bet in with two random cards beforehand, and they need to play the rest of the hand with a positional disadvantage. 

So when playing from the blinds, your goal isn’t to win money, but to lose as little as possible, then offset these losses when playing in position.

This doesn’t mean you should just fold all but the strongest hands when playing in the blinds, of course. Doing this can leave you vulnerable to getting exploited, as your opponents will be able to steal your blinds with impunity.

If you want to know more about the blind the defence with dozens of step by step example hands, read Modern Small Stakes.

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3. Don’t be Afraid to Play Aggressively

The goal of poker is to win as many chips as possible from your opponents. There’s two ways to go about this: either to have the strongest hand at showdown, or to make your opponents fold. 

In practice, most of the money you’re going to win in poker is by making the strongest hand combination, so when you do, you should aim to extract as much value from this as possible. 

And the best way to do this is to play your strong value hands aggressively (i.e. bet and raise a lot). 

When you bet or raise with the intention of getting called by weaker hands, this is referred to as a value bet. Learning to value bet properly is the single best way to dramatically improve your poker results, guaranteed.
A lot of amateur poker players make the mistake of slowplaying their strong hands (i.e. checking and calling instead of betting and raising) in order to deceive their opponents. 

While this can sometimes be a profitable strategy, you’re usually better off just building up the pot yourself, instead of relying on your opponents to do that for you. 

That’s because a lot of players tend to fall on the more passive side of the spectrum, meaning they don’t bet or raise often themselves, so relying on them to build up the pot for you will backfire more often than not.

Another reason you should usually play your strong hands straightforwardly is the fact that a lot of recreational players love to call with all sorts of mediocre or drawing hands. 

Basically, if they catch any piece of the board, they’ll tend to get sticky with their hands and pay you off. When that’s the case, you should charge them a premium for doing so.

Otherwise, you’re letting them draw out on you cheaply. In no-limit Texas hold’em, drawing hands are always an underdog to the made hands, so you should inflate the pot while your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

In other words, you should almost always value bet your made hands unless you have a very specific reason not to do so.

We’ve covered the basics of value betting. Now let’s examine the second main reason to put money into the pot, and that is bluffing. 

As opposed to value betting, bluffing is done with the intention of getting stronger hands than yours to fold. 

Since strong value hands don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em, relying on them alone is not enough to be a profitable long term winner. 

Sometimes you’ll need to take down the pot even without a strong value hand (or even any made hand at all, for that matter).

Knowing when and how to bluff is a complicated subject, but there is a golden rule to abide by: you should only bluff if and when your opponent is actually capable of folding! This is why bluffing recreational players is usually a bad idea.

While you shouldn’t go overboard with bluffing, (as fun as it may seem), there are a few benefits to throwing an occasional bluff here and there:

a) You can win more pots even without a made hand. 

As mentioned, really strong value hands don’t come around often, so trying to steal the pot here and there can do wonders for your bottom line. 

During the periods where you’re card dead, it’s important to look for spots to take down the pot regardless of your hand strength.

b) You make yourself more difficult to play against.

If you only ever bet or raise with your strong hands, you’ll become fairly predictable to anyone paying even remote attention, and they’ll be able to play perfectly against you. 

In other words, your opponents will simply fold, and you won’t be able to extract value out of your strong hands. 

What’s worse, they’ll often bluff you themselves and push you around all day, every day. By throwing out an occasional bluff, you keep your opponents guessing. 

Not only will they have to think twice before getting involved in a hand with you, you’ll also be able to extract value out of your strong hands, because they’ll never be sure if you got the goods or not.

c) You can tilt your opponents.

This one may be a bit machiavellian, but hey, poker is not a cooperative endeavour. Poker is war

Winning poker is all about capitalizing on the mistakes of your opponents. If you manage to throw them off their game, they’ll be more likely to make costly mistakes against you. 

And the best way to throw them off their game is to apply constant pressure on them at every turn. 

Now, all of this is not to say you should just spew chips left and right any chance you get. 

The point of playing poker aggressively is making sound, rational decisions, while merely APPEARING to be wild and erratic. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but you can do it with enough practice.

By the way, make sure to check out my complete guide to playing a loose and aggressive (LAG) poker style if you want to know more.

4. Don’t Chase Bad Draws

Most of the money you’ll win in poker will come from your strong value hands. Unfortunately, these hands won’t come around very often. 

The situation in which you’ll find yourself much more frequently will be the spots with mediocre and/or drawing hands. 

A drawing hand has the potential of making a strong hand combination, but it’s worth noting that 

a) most draws actually don’t complete in no-limit hold’em and 

b) drawing hands are often an underdog to a made hand on the flop.

So you should be careful about playing drawing hands, and make sure that you aren’t chasing bad draws, i.e.:

a) draws that aren’t likely to complete (like inside straight draws)

For example, if you are dealt 7♠6♠ and the flop is: 5♣92♦

You need an Eight to complete your straight, and your chance of improvement is only about 17% from flop to river.

b) draws that, even if they complete, don’t make the strongest possible hand combination, meaning your opponent could end up holding an even stronger hand

For example, let’s say you are dealt 7♠6♠ again and the flop is: T92

You could make a straight if you hit an Eight on the future street, but your opponent could end up having an even stronger straight if they have QJ in their hand. 

What’s more, one of your outs is tainted, meaning that an 8 of hearts could improve your hand to a straight, but it could also improve your opponent’s hand to a flush, which can also cause you to lose a huge pot.

So when you’re playing drawing hands, you need to make sure that your draws are at least somewhat likely to complete, and if they do, that you’ll be the one with the strongest hand.

In other words, the potential reward has to be well worth the risk, because again, most draws simply don’t complete. 

And when they do, you want to be able to extract as much value from these hands as possible. This means you need to consider the implied odds. 

Implied odds tell you how much money you could potentially earn if your draw completes. In other words, is your opponent likely to pay you off if your draw completes, and how much. 

The deeper the remaining stacks, the better implied odds you’re getting. 

For this reason, speculative hands (i.e. the ones that have the potential of improving on future streets) favour deeper stacks, because the risk to reward ratio is obviously better. 

You also need to consider the type of opponent you’re up against. You will probably have better implied odds against a loose and inexperienced player than you would against a tight, experienced one. 

The former will be much more likely to put more chips into the pot with a mediocre hand, or will have difficulty folding what they perceive to be a strong hand than the latter.

By the way, if you want a comprehensive guide on everything poker pot odds related, check out my article The Ultimate Poker Odds Cheat Sheet.

Finally, you need to figure out how concealed your hand is, or in other words, how obvious it would be if your draw completes. Even recreational players are able to spot when a potential flush draw completes. 

So the more obvious your draw, the worse implied odds you’re getting.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point. 

Drawing Hand Example #1: 

You are dealt A2 and the flop is K83♣

If a third heart rolls around on the turn or river, it is fairly obvious a potential flush draw completed. Even the biggest fish might get apprehensive if you just blast a huge bet when you hit your flush. 

Drawing Hand Example #2:

You are dealt JT. The flop is Q♠8♣2. If a Nine rolls around on the turn or river, your hand strength is far more concealed than in the example above. 

What’s more, you have a rainbow flop (meaning all the cards are of a different suit), so you don’t need to worry about a certain suit killing the action if you do hit your draw.

5. Play Within Your Bankroll

If you follow these tips and continually work to improve your game off the felt, you can expect to do fairly well over the long run. 

Poker is a game of skill, and the players that put effort into their game will do better than those that don’t. 

However, poker still has a short-term luck element involved. Following all these tips to a tee doesn’t mean you’re going to win every time. 

In fact, sometimes you’ll experience prolonged losing periods, even if you play perfectly. 

Poker is a never ending swing of ups and downs, and the best you can hope for is to have more ups than downs over the long run. But over shorter periods, like days, weeks, or even months, anything can happen. 

The technical term for these swings in your results is called variance. Simply put, variance measures the difference between how much you expect to earn in a given period, and how much you actually earn. 

For example, if you flip a coin ten times, you expect to win five out of ten times. If you win more than five times, you experienced positive variance, and if you win less than five times, you experienced negative variance. 

Same thing with your poker results. Sometimes you’ll win far more than you expect, and other times you’ll get crushed, even through no particular fault of your own. 

In order to weather the negative variance, you need to be sufficiently bankrolled for the stakes you play, so you avoid the risk of going broke. 

By having enough buyins in your bankroll, you can keep playing your best without allowing the short term results affect you in a negative way. 

If you’re playing cash games, it’s advised to have no less than 30 buyins for your preferred stakes. 

So if you’re playing NL5 online, for example, you should have no less than $150 dollars in your bankroll. 

If you’re playing live poker, you can probably have less than 30 buyins in your bankroll, as live games are much slower-paced and tend to be softer, so your results won’t be as volatile as in online poker. 

If you’re playing tournaments, on the other hand, you should have way more buyins in your bankroll, because there’s a lot more variance in poker tournaments. 

It’s advised to have at least 100 buyins for tournaments. 

This might seem excessive, but bear in mind that poker tournaments are very hit-or-miss, and even the poker pros sometimes don’t cash in at tournaments for extended periods of time.

Now, if you’re only playing poker recreationally, you might object that you don’t need to bother with having a bankroll at all. You can just load up and reload when you run out of money. 

That’s true, but remember, the goal is to become a winning player. If you set aside a predetermined amount of money beforehand and select profitable games, it will be the last money you’ll ever need to invest in your game. 

It’s better to do it right the first time.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that the biggest bankroll in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re a losing poker player. You’ll just end up broke at a slower pace. 

The point of a bankroll is to give you a peace of mind and to allow you to keep playing to the best of your abilities despite the negative short term results.

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6. Don’t Tilt Away Your Winnings

The last tip doesn’t have anything to do with the poker strategy, but it’s crucial for your long term profitability. 

Following all the other tips doesn’t mean you’ll win every time you sit down to play. There will be periods where you’ll lose money, even when seemingly doing everything right. 

During these periods, it’s important to stay the course and keep making sound, logical decisions, even when they don’t produce the results you’re hoping for. 

Everyone can play well when the cards are falling their way. But when they don’t, a lot of players get impatient, frustrated and angry, which causes them to deviate from the optimal strategy. 

This in turn makes them lose even more money, which leads to even more frustration and so on. 

This state of compromised decision making caused by negative emotions is called poker tilt, and it’s the bane of every poker player on earth. Nobody particularly likes losing, especially when it feels “undeserved”. 

But losing some money in poker is inevitable, no matter how well you’re playing. The best you can do is to lose no more than it’s absolutely necessary.

While you can’t control how you’re running session to session, you absolutely can control how you react to adversity. 

Everybody gets crushed by this game sooner or later. Being able to take it in stride and keep playing your best is what truly separates the pros from the rest.

If you struggle with keeping your tilting problems under control, check out how adopting a stoic mindset can help your game.

Reading up on variance and how to improve your mental game is definitely useful, but at the end of the day, how you deal with these prolonged losing periods is entirely up to you. 

But knowing how detrimental tilt can be is the first step to actually fixing it.

6 Quick Poker Tips - Summary

To sum up, here are 6 tips any poker player can use to immediately improve their poker results:

1. Play less hands. 

Playing less hands gives you an immediate mathematical advantage, reduces the risk of your hand being dominated, and makes the post flop play easier. You can also use the down time to pick up on tells from your opponents.

2. Play more hands in position.

Playing in position gives you more options and more information on your opponents. You can also extract more value out of your strong hands, as well as bluff more effectively.

3. Play aggressively.

Playing aggressively allows you to get max value when you have a strong hand. It also makes you more difficult to play against. Winning poker is aggressive poker.

4. Don’t chase bad draws.

Most draws don’t complete in no-limit hold’em, so you should only chase draws when the reward is well worth the risk. Always consider the implied odds, as well as the reverse implied odds.

5. Have a healthy bankroll.

Following these tips to a tee won’t help you much if you end up broke. Always have a sufficient number of buyins for the stakes you’re playing to weather the negative variance.

6. Don’t tilt.

Sometimes you’re going to lose despite doing everything right, and you need to be ok with that. Losing some money is inevitable. Losing more than that due to anger and frustration can, and should be avoided.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy for small stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

6 Quick Tips ANY Poker Player Can Use to Win More!