5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know

5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

With so much technical lingo and jargon, improving your poker game can be challenging to new players.

If you want to quickly improve your poker game, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will show you 5 easy, proven poker strategies you can use to immediately improve your poker results.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right into it.

Beginner Poker Strategy #1: Play Only Strong Starting Hands

If you want to quickly improve your poker game, the best place to start is to simply play less starting hands.

In fact, playing too many hands is just about the most common amateur poker mistake.

That’s because not every starting hand in poker is created equal.

Some hands have a clear statistical advantage over the others, meaning they will connect with the flop and make strong combinations more often than others.

In no-limit hold’em, most hands miss most flops. So the more hands you play, the more money you can expect to lose over the long run.

And the times you do connect with the flop won’t make up for all the misses.

So you should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some way.

So what makes a good starting hand in no-limit hold’em?

Here are a few guidelines on the starting hand strength:

a) High ranking hands are stronger than low ranking hands

This one’s fairly obvious. High ranking hands like Aces or Kings will make top pair hands more often than lower ranking hands.

For example, play all of the hands in red in the charts below.

5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know

And since one pair is the most common combination you’re going to make in hold’em, you want to make strong pairs more often than not.

However, this doesn’t mean playing just about any Ace or King, for example.

You should also consider the other hole card, aka the kicker.

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

For example, if both players have a pair of Aces, the player with the stronger kicker wins.

If you play hands with weak kickers, you run the risk of your hand being dominated. 

A dominated hand is the one that’s unlikely to win against a stronger hand due to the weaker kicker.

For example, if you play a hand like Ace-Two offsuit, you are getting dominated by all the other Ax hands.

For a much deeper dive on this, check out my other article on 4 bad poker hands you should avoid playing at all costs.

b) Connected hands are stronger than unconnected hands

Cards that are directly adjacent to one another are stronger than cards with a gap between them (one-gappers, two-gappers etc.)

Connected hands have the potential to make a straight, which is a relatively strong hand combination.

However, you shouldn’t play just about any connected hand, since it’s actually very rare to make a straight in no-limit hold’em.

This means your hand needs to have something else going for it if you want to play it profitably.

c) Suited hands are stronger than unsuited hands

Suited hands are more likely to make a flush, which is a very strong combination.

Again, this doesn’t mean you should play any random suited hand. Suited junk is still junk.

Also, the odds of making a flush are very slim, so your hand needs to have something else in terms of its playability to be played profitably.

So to sum up, a good starting poker hand will have a good potential to make strong pairs or other strong combinations post flop.

And while every hand has a theoretical ability to smash the flop, some hands will do so more often than others.

To smash the flop means to connect with the flop in a very strong manner, making a two pair hand combination or better.

So if you want to give yourself a statistical edge over your opponents, you should be very selective with the hands you choose to play preflop.

So what does this mean in terms of actual hands you should be playing?

To keep it short, you should only play about the top 20% of all starting hands.

This includes:

a) pocket pairs (AA through 22)

b) broadway hands - high ranking cards that can make the strongest possible straight, like AJ, KQ etc.

c) suited Aces (AKs through A2s)

d) suited connectors - suited cards directly adjacent to each other, like JTs or 87s

Bear in mind that this is just a ballpark number. The number of hands you actually play will depend a great deal on other factors, like your table position, the type of opponents you are up against, the stack sizes and so on.

Now, folding 80% of the time may seem boring, and fair enough.

If you just want to have fun, you can play just about any hand that’s dealt to you.

But you can’t expect to win a lot of money that way.

Risking a bit of boredom for the prospect of making an easy buck seems like a fair tradeoff in my book.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just zone out every time you’re not involved in the hand.

Instead, you should use this downtime to observe the action and try to pick up on tells from your opponents.

It’s a lot easier to pick up on tells when you’re not directly involved in the hand, since the pressure is off and you have less things you need to pay attention to.

By the way, for an even deeper dive, I just released a new video on the 9 strategies every poker beginner should know.

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Beginner Poker Strategy #2: Enter Most Pots With a Raise

Now that you know which hands you should play, let’s discuss the way you should play them.

If you are the first player to enter the pot, you should do so with an open-raise. 

A lot of beginner poker players make the mistake of open-limping instead of open-raising.

To open-limp means to just call the big blind.

Here’s why you should open-raise instead of open-limping:

a) to steal the blinds

If you open–raise, you can sometimes win the pot preflop if all the other players fold. 

If you open-limp, on the other hand, you’re giving the players in the blinds no reason to fold.

At its core, poker is all about blind stealing. Without the blinds to stimulate the action, all the players would simply wait around for pocket Aces to put the money into the pot.

Stealing the blinds is a quick and easy way to win a few pots even without a particularly strong hand.

b) to get initiative

The player who open-raises preflop is perceived to have the strongest hand. This gives them the initiative post flop, i.e. the opportunity to continue the aggression with a continuation bet.

A continuation bet (or c-bet for short) is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make a c-bet on most flops unless there’s a specific reason not to do so.

If you open-limp, however, you can’t make a c-bet on the flop, which makes it harder for you to win the pot.

c) to build up the pot

In poker, most of your winnings will come from your strong value hands. So when you get a strong hand, your best bet is to build up the pot with it as soon as possible.

The bigger the pot you build up preflop, the easier it is to ship the rest of your stack in the middle post flop.

This has to do with pot geometry. In poker, the pots don’t grow linearly, but geometrically.

This means that small adjustments to your initial bet sizing can balloon to a big difference once you get to the river.

d) to discourage multiway pots

If you open-limp, you’re inviting other players to limp behind you, which can lead to multiway pots.

A multiway pot is the one with more than two players involved.

The more players involved in the pot, the harder it is to win the hand, since every player will have a small chunk of equity against you.

For example, let’s say you are dealt pocket Aces, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

Pocket Aces have a whopping 85% equity against another random hand.

But now let’s say you are up against 4 players with random hands. Your hand equity falls to only 56%.

So when some players complain about constantly getting their Pocket Aces cracked, one of the reasons why may be the fact that they’ve failed to “thin the herd” preflop.

Some beginner poker players will open-limp because they just want to see a cheap flop.

But this can often end up backfiring, because another player can open-raise after you, which means you need to pay an additional bet to see the flop.

It’s usually a lot cheaper (and more profitable) to simply open-raise yourself.

Open-raising tells other players that you’re not messing around, and you are there to fight for the pot.

It also prevents other players from realizing their hand equity against you for cheap. You are letting them know that if they want to see the flop, it’s going to cost them.

Now that we’ve covered why you should enter most post with a raise, let’s talk about which bet sizing you should use.

The standard open-raise bet size is 3 big blinds.

So if you’re playing a $1/$2 cash game, for example, and you have a strong hand like Q♥️Q♦️, the standard open-raise size would be $6.

You can adjust your open-raise size depending on the situation.

For example, if you are isolating an open-limper, you should increase your open-raise size to 4 BB.

Or if you’re stealing the blinds, you can decrease your open-raise size to 2.5 BB to give yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio.

Check out my other article on preflop bet sizing for all my exact recommendations.

If another player open-raises before you, you have the option to fold, call, or re-raise.

When you re-raise against another player’s open-raise, this is called a 3-bet. 

When you’re first starting out, it’s best to only 3-bet with your strong hands, like premium pocket pairs (pocket Aces through pocket Jacks) and strong broadways (like Ace-King or Ace-Queen suited).

This allows you to build up the pot while your hand is likely ahead of your opponent’s calling range.

As you get more experience, you can start adding a few 3-bet bluffs in your range as well.

This can help you balance your range and always keep your opponents guessing at your hand strength.

If you can’t open-raise or 3-bet, you should just fold your hand most of the time.

You have the option of calling preflop as well, but as a general rule, this is the last option you should consider.

That’s because it’s statistically less profitable to be a preflop caller for the reasons outlined above.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

A lot of amateur poker players make the mistake of calling too much preflop, which leads them to a lot of awkward spots post flop.

This doesn’t mean you should stop calling preflop altogether, of course.

But it’s usually better to consider other alternatives first, because getting to the flop as the preflop aggressor gives you an edge and makes post flop play easier, as well.

If you do decide to call preflop, you should only do so if you’re getting decent pot odds and implied odds on a call.

Check out my ultimate poker odds cheat sheet to learn all the exact basic poker math you need to know.

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Beginner Poker Strategy #3: Play Most Hands in Position

We’ve discussed the importance of only playing strong starting hands and playing them aggressively, both preflop and post flop.

Now, let’s examine the third key component of a winning tight and aggressive strategy, and that is playing in position.

To play in position means being the last player to act in a betting round, and it’s just about the biggest edge you can give yourself in no-limit hold’em.

Here’s why you should play most hands in position:

a) to get more information

If you are the last to act, you get to see what your opponents do first, while they have no idea what you’re going to do.

This informational advantage allows you to make more informed decisions and choose the best line in a given spot.

b) to control the pot size

When playing in position, you get a final say at the price of the pot. 

If you have a strong value hand, you can bet or raise to inflate the pot size. If you have a mediocre or a drawing hand, you can just call or check behind to keep the pot size manageable.

c) to bluff more effectively

Players who are playing out of position will be less likely to fight back for pots, due to the informational disadvantage. This means you can push them out of pots with a well-timed bluff.

Of course, you should be careful when trying to bluff recreational players, since they are less likely to fold to your bluffing attempts.

Against them, it’s better to keep things simple and stick to value betting your strong hands.

So how does playing more hands in position look like in practice?

You simply open-raise more hands in late table positions (the cutoff and the button), and open-raise less hands in early table positions.

You should also be careful when playing in the blinds, because you will always have a positional disadvantage post flop.

The only exception is when you’re playing in the big blind against the small blind.

When you’re playing in the blinds, you will lose money over the long run, no matter how well you’re playing.

This is simply the nature of the game: the money always flows from players playing out of position to players playing in position.

So when playing in the blinds, your goal is not to win money, but to try to lose as little as possible, then make up for it when playing in position.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should fold every hand that’s dealt to you in the blinds.

Doing so will leave you vulnerable to other players who will try to steal your blinds with impunity.

This means you need to defend your blind from time to time to discourage other players from rampant stealing.

However, it’s important not to get too carried away in this regard, since you will still be playing with a positional disadvantage.

Example Hand #1

You are dealt A3in the BB (big blind). A tight and aggressive (TAG) player open-raises to 2.5 BB.

You: ??? 

You should 3-bet to 10 BB.

In this spot, calling is not the worst play, but a light 3-bet is a much better alternative.

Your opponent is likely blind stealing here, meaning they have quite a wide range. And most hands in this range won’t stand the pressure of a 3-bet.

Even if your bluff gets called, you still have a decent hand with great post flop playability.

Small suited Aces have great nuts potential, with the ability to make both nuts flush and straights.

You also have a blocker in your hand, which means your opponent is more likely to fold.

A blocker is a card in your hand that reduces the number of strong combinations from your opponent’s range.

For example, if you have an Ace in your hand, it’s less likely for your opponent to have strong combinations like pocket Aces, Ace-King, Ace-Queen and so on.

In today’s games, it’s not enough to wait around for the nuts to be a long term winner.

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Beginner Poker Strategy #4: Make a C-bet on Most Flops

One of the advantages of entering most pots with a raise is that it gives you the opportunity to make a continuation bet (c-bet for short) on the flop.

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make a c-bet on most flops unless there’s a specific reason not to do so.

This means you should make a c-bet regardless of whether or not your hand connected with the flop.

5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know

When you make a c-bet with the intention of getting your opponent to fold, this is called a light c-bet.

The reason why light c-bets are usually profitable is the fact that your opponent is just as likely to have missed the flop as you.

And since you are the preflop aggressor, you are perceived to have a stronger hand.

This means you can credibly represent a strong hand when you make a c-bet.

This is because you have an uncapped range, meaning you can theoretically have a number of strong hands in your range (like pocket Aces, pocket Kings etc).

Your opponent, on the other hand, has a capped range, meaning there’s an upper limit of the hand strength they can hold, since they were the preflop caller.

Throwing out an occasional light c-bet can also help you balance your range.

If you only c-bet with your strong value hands, your opponents may pick up on it, and simply refuse to give you action every time you make a c-bet.

If you make a few bluff c-bets, you will always keep your opponents guessing at your hand strength.

This means you’re more likely to get paid off once you actually do flop a monster hand.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should c-bet on just about any flop.

Light c-betting is only profitable if your opponent is likely to fold. If not, you’re better off skipping a light c-bet and wait for better opportunities.

Here are a few key factors that make light c-betting more profitable:

a) When you’re playing in position

The importance of playing in position has been discussed above. 

When playing in position, bluffing is more profitable since you have an informational advantage over your opponents.

Additionally, your opponents are less likely to fight back and more likely to fold.

b) When playing against a single opponent

This one is fairly self-explanatory. The more players involved in the pot, the more likely it is for at least one of them to have something worth calling you down with.

c) When your opponent folds a lot

Some players like to see a lot of flops, but tend to give up fairly easily post flop if they don’t connect with the board (which is most of the time).

These “fit-or”fold” players are ideal targets for light c-betting, especially if other factors work in your favour as well.

d) Dry, uncoordinated boards

Light c-betting is more profitable on dry boards because it’s less likely your opponent connected with it in some meaningful way.

Conversely, you should be more careful when the board is very coordinated, since your opponent has more ways to connect with it in some way.

Example of a dry, uncoordinated board: A83 

Example of a wet, coordinated board: T87

e) Good hand equity if called

Your light c-bets won’t work 100% of the time, and you will get called from time to time.

That’s why it’s usually better to make light c-bets with hands that have a chance of improving on future streets in case your bluff gets called.

For example, if you have overcards and/or some sort of a draw.

Example Hand #2

$1/$2 Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB 

You are dealt AQ in the MP (middle position). You open-raise to $6. SB (small blind) calls.

Pot: $13

Flop: J52

SB checks.

You: ???

You should c-bet $7.

Even though you’ve missed the flop, this is still a slam dunk spot for a light c-bet.

Let’s break it down to see why.

You are playing the pot in position, against a single opponent, and the board is very dry, meaning there aren’t any big straight or flush draws.

Even if you get called, you still have a lot of outs to improve on future streets.

Any Ace or Queen will give you a top pair, but you also have a backdoor straight and flush draws.

A backdoor draw means you need both turn AND river cards to complete your draw.

Beginner Poker Strategy #5: Don’t Tilt Away Your Winnings

This one doesn’t really have to do with the strategy aspect of the game, but it’s worth highlighting nonetheless.

Even if you follow all these strategies to a tee, it doesn’t mean you’re going to start crushing the game overnight.

That’s because poker has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can sometimes lose despite doing everything right.

For example: 

You could literally go all-in with A♥️A♦️, if they call you with ANY two random cards they will win 15% of the time.

It's just math.

The technical term for this phenomenon is called variance, and it’s arguably the hardest aspect of the game to come to terms with.

Winning poker is not just about knowing which cards to play in which position. It’s also about staying patient during the times the winning poker strategy may not produce the results you’re hoping for.

Even if you’re the best player at your table, you can still experience prolonged losing periods.

In times like these, it’s important not to let tilt get the better of you.

To tilt means to deviate from the winning poker strategy due to frustration, anger and so on.

Poker can be incredibly frustrating at times, and nobody is completely immune to tilt.

So if it gets too overwhelming, the best you can do is take a break and live to fight another day.

When playing poker, losing some money is inevitable.

But losing more than absolutely necessary because of tilt and frustration can, and should be avoided.

There’s no magic bullet to stop tilting altogether, but fortunately, controlling your tilt is a skill like any other.

This means you’ll get better at it with practice.

So instead on focusing on your short term results, just try to play to the best of your abilities at any given time.

As long as you keep practicing and improving your poker skills, you’ll have better results than 90% of players who make no effort to improve their game.

This means that it doesn’t matter how many times they get lucky against you.

As long as you keep making good decisions and keep putting your money in with a mathematical advantage, you’ll do better than most players who are just there to gamble it up.

Just remember that honing your skills takes time, and nobody gets there overnight.

So keep at it and don’t forget to have fun along the way.

There’s no point in trying to get better at this game if you don’t enjoy it for what it is.

If you like playing poker for the sake of it, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with all the bad beats and suckouts you’re bound to encounter.

If you want more tips on how to improve your mental game, check out my other article on how to deal with variance.

5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know - Summary

If you’re a beginner poker player, you don’t have to study a bunch of advanced poker strategy to achieve decent results.

All you need to do is learn the basics of tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy which works like a charm in most low stakes poker games.

To sum up, here are 5 easy poker strategies every player should know about.

1. Only play strong starting hands

You should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some meaningful way.

This includes pocket pairs, broadway hands, suited Aces, and suited connectors (the top 20% of all starting hands in no-limit hold’em).

The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

2. Enter most pots with a raise

If you are the first player to enter the pot, do so with an open raise (3 big blinds).

Doing this gives you the initiative in the hand and allows you to continue the aggression post flop.

You can also win a few pots preflop this way, as well as build up the pot with your strong value hands.

3. Play most hands in position

By playing in position, you have an informational advantage over your opponents, you can control the pot size, and you can value bet or bluff more effectively.

To play more hands in position, simply open-raise more hands from late table positions (the cutoff and the button), and be more selective with hands you play from early positions and from the blinds).

4. Make a c-bet on most flops

C-bets are usually profitable, so you should be inclined to make one on most flops, regardless of whether or not you connected with the board.

This will help you balance your range and you will always keep your opponents guessing at your hand strength.

You will also be more likely to get action once you do get a monster hand on the flop.

5. Don’t tilt

Even if you follow all these tips, it doesn’t mean you’re going to start crushing the game overnight.

Poker has a short term luck element, meaning you will sometimes lose despite playing perfectly.

In times like these, it’s important to try to play to the best of your abilities no matter how you’re running.

If you can’t play your A game, just take a break and live to fight another day. The games will always be there tomorrow.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan

Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

5 Easy Poker Strategies EVERY Beginner Should Know