Poker Strategy Guide

Want to up your poker game with the top poker strategies? We’ve got you covered. We’ll run through some of the best tips for poker, as well as the top sites to put them into practise. Let’s get started.

Poker is one of the world’s most popular casino games, and the same goes for online poker. This popularity has led to the development of many different poker variations, some of which have become games in their own right. Unlike some casino games, such as slots, which are based on luck, the secret to poker success is two-fold: you must understand it inside out as well as thinking, and placing your bets, strategically. Of course, your poker face isn’t quite so important when it comes to online games, but there are some poker strategies that could help you make better decisions and land a win.

Strategy Basics

Getting Started with Poker Strategy

Understand the Game

Poker is a lot more complex, with more specific elements, than other online casino games, which means it’s not as easy to jump straight into. The different variations mean there’s an option for everyone, but it’s important that you take time to properly understand poker before you start placing real money bets. Any other poker strategy is irrelevant if you don’t know the rules and possibilities inside-out. Make sure you’re familiar with the hand categories, as well as their rankings, and specific variation rules before you get started.

What works for Texas Hold’em isn’t the same for Omaha. You will need to make sure that you understand the specifics of each variation and how to play it in order to make the most of each hand you are dealt.

In Omaha, instead of two cards you’ll be dealt four and must use two of them. This makes for more potential hand combinations compared to Texas Hold’em. Having the nuts — the term for the best hand possible given the cards in play — is even more important in Omaha because otherwise you may end up having to play a weak second card. You will probably want to keep it tight, only playing a hand when you think you’ve got a strong one, both pre-flop and post-flop.

Poker players should vary their approaches between games. If you’re playing Sit and Go — a game with very little waiting time and no chip re-buys — it’s like every game is the final table, so you may want to play more conservatively and do your best to protect the chips you start with.

Tip: Free demo games are a fantastic way of putting your research into practise, and can provide you with a physical measure of your progress.

Stay Sharp

Online poker is much quicker than at in-land casinos, so you must always be alert. So much of online poker is automated, allowing players to choose their action before their turn actually begins in the 90 hands that can be played per hour at some sites. This fast pace requires you to be ready to make a decision at any moment, especially if you’re playing live dealer poker, as the game could carry on without you.

Tip: Try to stay one step ahead, taking notice of previous cards and other players’ reactions to think beyond the cards you’re holding at that moment.

Understand Odds

The odds of winning poker can vary depending on the variation you’re playing and the number of people you’re playing with, but it’s useful to understand the odds of you landing a winning hand, as this could influence how much money you place on the table.

Let’s take a look at an example to help you understand:

You have four clubs and you’re waiting on a fifth to make a flush and win you the pot. There are 13 clubs in a 52-card deck. Two of your clubs are in your hand, and the other two are on the table, which leaves nine more in the deck. There are 46 cards left to be revealed— taking the two in your hand and four on the table— and nine of these will get you a win. This means the odds of you making the flush are 37/9 , as only nine of the 46 cards will result in a win for you. As a result, the odds of you winning the flush is around 4/1, which is fairly likely, so you might place a slightly higher bet.

Tip: Use a poker odds calculator to help you understand the likelihood of you getting a certain hand in a particular poker variation.

Reading online opponents

Of course, you can’t see your online poker opponents, so won’t be able to read their faces. However, you can use factors, such as their betting style and reaction times, to look for any behaviour changes to gauge the type of hands they’re holding. Some poker sites will even give you access to a players’ previous stats, so you can compare their current behaviour to past tendencies as a way of reading them. This tactic won’t always be accurate, because of bluffing, but can still be useful nonetheless.

Tip: If you want to throw your opponents of the scent, you could try experimenting with different reaction times. However, you should only do this when you feel completely comfortable with your chosen poker game.

Picking Your Moment

How to Apply Your Strategy

Buying In

As well as tweaking your game across different varieties of poker, you’ll also need to tailor your strategy to the stack sizes in play. A short stack means you’re playing with fewer chips relative to other players in the poker room. If you buy in with a short stack, the first betting round (pre-flop) matters more, as you’ve got fewer chips to play with and less room to manoeuvre later on. This means tightening up your game or you risk running out of funds fast. If the game is aggressive you can go all-in before or on the flop and find yourself being paid off.

When to Raise

One of the key factors in getting a jump on your opponents is knowing when to raise or call, and knowing when to fold. When it comes to raising, a major thing to bear in mind is your position. If you’re early, you’re at a disadvantage because you’re making your move before lots of other players have to. For this reason, the ideal position to find yourself in is furthest from the blinds.

Raising is different depending on whether you do it pre-flop or post-flop. Pre-flop raising might be a matter of successful bluffing, or being lucky and having strong enough cards to scare other players off. Raising after the flop is often about raw aggression. When it comes to calling, it’s also a matter of position. But even if you’re under the gun, a great hand might tempt you to call the big blind and see the flop.

When to Fold

When deciding whether to fold or not, good players weigh up some crucial questions. Do you have a genuinely strong hand? What sorts of opponents are you up against — can you see that they’ve been bluffing, or are they conservative players who only play monster hands? A seasoned poker player will often fold unless they have a hand in the top 15% of possible combinations. If you’re willing to risk a bit more, you may take that figure up a little and play with something like 20% of the combinations.

It’s also always worth bearing in mind how much the money at stake means to you before you make your move. Your opponents at poker sites can also influence your decision when it comes to leaving the game. If you’re playing poker tournaments against players who are out-bluffing you or cleaning up, a good player knows sometimes the best strategy is to walk away. There’s a lot to be said for setting yourself a limit on time, or the number of hands, you want to play and calling it quits at that point even if you’re on a winning streak.

General Approaches

A Brief Introduction to Poker Approaches

In addition to the strategies listed above, there are a number of more general approaches you could take when playing online poker, such as:

  1. Loose

    A loose player will be open to playing a greater number of hands with a greater willingness to gamble.
  2. Tight

    The opposite to loose. A tight player will be more cautious, playing fewer hands and taking less risks.
  3. Aggressive

    Aggressive players tend to open a lot of pots and make bigger bets more frequently in an attempt to pressure other players into their decisions.
  4. Passive

    A passive player will do the opposite to their aggressive counterparts. They’ll call more often than they make a bet, letting their opponent dictate how the game unfolds.

There are pros and cons to each of these approaches, and a good poker player will adapt their strategy according to their opponents and the hands they’re dealt. Playing too rigidly will make you more predictable and can allow other players to take advantage of you. The ability to mix up your poker strategy will come with experience, but we’d recommend adopting a tight and aggressive approach while you’re still learning the ropes.

The more advanced players will also look into something called Game Theory Optimal play, or GTO. This is a highly structured and methodical style of play rooted in mathematical models, and the idea is if you can play this way you’ll be unexploitable. It’s difficult to pull off, however, due to the sheer number of possible hands and combinations in play, but it’s worth knowing about and learning from if you’re serious about poker games.

Learn the Language and Do Your Research

As well as becoming familiar with the terminology and general principles of cash games and poker tournaments, new players can try to up their win rate by checking out the poker tips documented by professional poker players. Doyle Brunson’s Super System and Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Hold‘em are two well-known poker strategy guides popular with experienced players. As well as poker books, there are also countless poker articles to read if you want to take things to the next level and increase your chances of bagging a winning hand.

Glossary

Here are some of the most important terms you’ll need to know before you play online poker.

Ace High A hand where the Ace is the highest card without a pair or other strong combination
All-in When the player bets their whole remaining stack
Ante A small bet that all players must make before the hands are dealt
Bankroll The money set aside for playing
Blinds Mandatory bets made before the hands are dealt by players to the left of the dealer. There’s typically a small blind and a larger big blind
Bluffing Betting with a weak hand in the hope your opponent will fold
Buy-ins The minimum sum a player needs to pay to play poker
Call When a player matches previously made bets
Check When you don’t make a wager and the action moves on to the next player
Continuation bet An aggressive bet made after the flop but by a player who raised preflop
Donk A bet made post-flop out of position to stop a continuation bet
Edge The advantage over another player at the poker table
Flop The first three community cards 
Gutshot A hand containing four of the five cards needed to make a straight, with the required card sitting somewhere between the highest and lowest rank of the potential straight
Heads-up A game with only two players
Limp To call an unraised pot, rather than raising or folding 
Muck Folding without showing your cards
Open The first raise
Position Where a player is in relation to the dealer
Rake Fee taken by the host
Showdown When the last remaining players reveal their hands to determine the winner
Squeeze Re-raising before the flop 
Straight draw Having four of the five cards needed for a straight
Turn The community card dealt directly after the flop
River The final community card to be dealt

Compare & Bet

Ready to Play Online Poker?

It’s time to put these poker strategy tips into practise! Stuck for the best poker site to give these tips a go? Use our list of the top online poker providers to compare, pick a favourite and start playing!

Your Questions Answered

Do I need to employ a strategy to win at poker?

Yes. Unlike other casino games, you’ll rarely win poker on luck alone. You’ll get better at making strategic decisions the more you play poker online, so it’s definitely worth using demo version to help you feel more comfortable.

The people behind this page

Compare.bet's online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check this page:

Danielle has six years of experience writing on a wide variety of topics, including online casino, sports betting and tourism. She has a BA in French with English from King’s College.