Guide to Playing Online Poker
Prior to playing at online poker sites it is important to conduct your due diligence. On this page we discuss important topics such as safety, legality, poker sites, funding and withdrawing and proper strategy for playing. Please note that in NJ, NV and DE the state has licensed poker sites. On this page we cover Texas Holdem strategy and what poker websites are currently voted as the top poker rooms for US players.
The articles written on this page were conducted by a professional poker player based out of Atlantic City who now runs a multi-million dollar gold currency business, JMbullion. Many of the foundations were taken from his skills as a poker pro. Proper strategy can not only help you in poker but other financial aspects of life. Enjoy the articles and poker website reviews.
Table Selection in Online Poker
Table selection is one of the most overlooked, yet most important, elements of winning play in online poker. If you don’t know how to properly table select, you are going to be self-implementing a restriction on your win rate.
It is infinitely easier to generate a profit when you are picking out weaker competition to play against. For any online regular, table selection is an absolute necessity. It takes relatively minimal time and effort to find the best game available, and the dividends will more than payoff. Depending on your particular game and limit, the amount of games that you have to choose from will vary.
For example, a micro stakes 6-max player will have more games to select from than a high stakes heads up player. The more games that you have to choose from, the greater the opportunity for an improved win rate.
Your First Steps
First, if you are a regular player in a specific game, you should be able to recognize at least a handful of the names at your table. Anyone who plays on the same site for an extended period of time will eventually start to see the same names over and over again. If a mental note and recognition is not enough for you to remember who is who, the next option is to turn to your poker software.
Provided that you are using some sort of software that gives you database history on your opponents, you will be able to see how often a player plays and also how that player plays. This is the easiest way to differentiate between someone who you do want at your table and someone who you would prefer to stay away from.
If these two steps fail or do not sufficiently allow for you to scope out the best games, the last option is to join a few games and get a feel for which one(s) will be the most profitable. It won’t be long before you can tell whether you are sitting with a number of fish or a group of winning or better than average players.
The “Best” Games
It goes without saying that you should be shopping around for tables with over aggressive action junkies, but this isn’t always going to be an option. Weighing your options is important when it comes to choosing which tables to get involved with. If you are on the fence about one game, go ahead and let it sit on the side.
If worst comes to worst, you can always go back and join it later on. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in table selection is joining a table because you feel that there is no other option. The best plan is this situation is to move on altogether. There is no use in joining a game just because you feel obligated to play a certain number of tables.
The best games are going to vary from hour to hour and day to day. The games you find running on Friday nights will not be available on Monday mornings. This means that you will need to adjust your expectations when shopping around for the best tables. Don’t jump into a game with 5-6 regulars if you are playing at what would be considered peak hours.
Peak hours are the evening for most US players on any given day, and even more so on the weekends. The easiest games to beat are almost always going to be found on Friday and Saturday nights, with Sunday being close behind. This is one of the drawbacks to playing a ton of poker online, however.
If you want to truly capitalize and make the most money possible, you might have to stay at home and play poker when you would prefer to be out doing something else. With that said, though, there is no denying that there are plenty of good games to be found on week nights as well, especially if you are on the right site.
One of the primary elements of proper table selection is moving from game to game. You shouldn’t ever feel the need to be sedentary when playing online poker. There are always games breaking and starting up, which means that there are more opportunities for you to shop around for another table. Online players tend to join their games, sit down, and completely disregard the fact that a better game might start running a half an hour later. This is why you should always keep up with the action and check out what is available.
If you don’t want to take a few minutes and expend the added effort required to see what games are new, you really aren’t deserving of the best win rate possible. It takes a lot of work to earn as much money as possible in online poker, and changing tables on a frequent basis is just one of the ways to maximize your returns.
Passing Up on Bad Games
If you can’t find any tables that are to your liking, the best course of action is to simply wait it out. Depending on your game and limits, there will be new options and choices in a matter of minutes. Joining a bad game will either diminish your win rate or turn your win rate into a losing rate. If you are looking for a 6-max game, but the only ones available are full of 5-6 regs, you aren’t going to win at a very strong rate.
Yes, you can definitely beat the games and make money, but there is a big difference between $4/hour per table and $18/hour per table. Instead of expending a ton of effort just trying to eek out a small win, see if you can’t sit back and join a better game later on. You will lose out on a little bit of time, but it is better to ensure that you are in a good game rather than battle it out in a tough game.
Starting New Games
One of the most overlooked areas of table selection is the ability to start your own new games. Every single poker site allows players the opportunity to choose their limits and game types and to start up a new table. In fact, some poker rooms will actually give you a boost or a bonus on your player points for being the first to start a new table.
As a general rule of thumb, a new table is more likely to attract bad players than it is to attract good players. The only common exception to this rule would be if you were actually the bad player, in which case all of the stronger players would sit down in hopes of busting you out. Regulars tend to avoid new tables because they will see that they are started by someone who they wouldn’t voluntarily choose to play with (you).
As a result, you should expect an influx of bad players to sit down who are just eager to give their money away.
A unique element to starting up your own table is that you are going to have to play a lot of heads up poker. Since you are the first to sit down, the next player to join is going to be your only immediate competition. Most of the time, your opponent will want to play heads up to get the action started, though there are some players who will wait for a few others to join.
If you are not comfortable playing heads up games, starting new tables is not for you. Sitting out when other players join your new table is a great way to get a fish to leave. Even if you are not particularly good at heads up poker, you should still have a significant edge over the average player who is going to sit down at a new game.
As a result, playing a few hands of heads up will give you a chance to stack your opponent before the game fills up. After all, who doesn’t like eating a fish all by themselves?
Our Editors Top 10 Online Poker Tips
Online poker is a game that takes time to get used to, but it is hardly impossible to get comfortable. There are some finer dynamics that you will learn in time, usually strategy oriented, while the basics of online poker are easy to adapt to.
Basic fundamentals like finding the top poker bonus can increase your bankroll and improve your overall poker experience, and the best part is that it takes little to no effort whatsoever. New online players might neglect some of the “pre-game” steps for online poker, but there is no doubt that they are critical to your success.
- Have a Bankroll
Having a bankroll is a necessary step to take whether you are playing live poker or online poker. If you do not maintain and control your bankroll, you can not realistically consider yourself a serious player. Playing without a bankroll is like driving a car without insurance or a license, and on the opposite side of the road. You might be able to get away with it for a little while, but eventually you will end up crashing and burning.
The proper bankroll that you need will vary from game to game. Micro stakes players need 20+ buy-ins, while small stakes heads up players often times carry closer to 100 buy-ins. Your exact bankroll is going to ultimately be decided by you. There are guidelines that you can, and should, follow, but there is nothing that is set in stone.
- Get the Maximum Bonus
Earning the maximum deposit bonus is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you are making the most “free money” as possible. There is nothing involved with earning a top deposit bonus other than shopping around. Depending on where you live (US vs. non-US), you will have different options available to you.
As a general rule of thumb, however, the poker sites that accept US players tend to offer the biggest bonuses. Read the bonus terms carefully before you sign up and deposit, though, because some bonuses are more difficult to clear than others.
- Choose a Good Site
There is no shortage of shady poker sites out there. If you don’t shop around for a reputable site there is a shot that you will wind up losing your money in the end, which can be a problem with some poker sites. No, there isn’t a major risk that you will be swindled out of your deposits, but it always remains a possibility. Some networks have a better overall reputation than others, and this will make it safer to play at these select sites. In the end, the best plan of action is to simply join a site that you have already heard of. You can’t really go wrong if you join a site that has tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of players. The smaller and newer the poker room, the bigger the inherent risk is of getting cheated.
4. Buy Poker Software
Poker software is a foreign concept to even some of the most experienced online players. I guess if you want to say the “main” software people know is Poker Tracker because it has the most stats on other players. What poker software does is allow you to track your progress on the tables. These programs will tell you everything from how frequently you get involved in pots, to how often you raise, to your tendency to re-raise and fold pre-flop. In short, there isn’t a whole lot that these programs can’t do.
The benefit to poker software is not only that you can analyze your own play, but you can also gauge how your opponents play. Using other players’ statistics, a HUD (heads up display) will tell you exactly how a certain player tends to approach the game. These HUDs are shown as boxes over a players name at the table, and it will give you a quick snapshot of how they play. The quick stats will tell you how aggressive the player is, how many hands they like to play, and how many hands of data you have on them.
You also have the ability to expand the data and find out even more information. For an investment of less than $100, this software will make a world of difference.
- Join Poker Forums
Joining poker forums is one of the best ways to get familiar with the online poker scene. Not only will forums allow you to quickly adapt to the online world, but it is also a great way to improve your strategy at the tables. Many of today’s top poker players learned a lot at popular poker forums like TwoPlusTwo.com.
It costs nothing to join almost any of the major poker forums, and they will teach you infinite valuable tips, tricks, and strategy. Getting serious about online poker means that you should start participating at the forums, whether it means reading, posting, or a combination of the two.
- Never Open Limp
Never open limp is quite the basic piece of strategical advice. The basis for this guideline is that weak play is almost always bad play. If a hand was worth limping with, it was probably also worth raising with. Instead of tipping the advantage in your opponents’ favor, make a raise pre-flop and take the initiative.
It will win you a number of pots pre-flop, and it will allow you to push the action post-flop. Limp folding and even limp calling pre-flop is a fantastic way to burn through your money.
7. Be Aggressive
Aggressive play builds upon the sixth tip of never open limping. Generally aggressive play has been adapted by almost all of the best players in the world. In fact, all of the top players know how to effectively navigate an aggressive style of play. One of the few big name cash game players who doesn’t play aggressively is Phil Hellmuth, and everyone knows how much he struggles. Scared money seldom makes money, and this is absolutely true in poker.
- Make Folds
A tendency of online players is to see way too many showdowns. Sometimes it is best to just let go of your hand. There is a natural inclination to call off bets to see if maybe, just maybe you happen to have the best hand, but it is just not worth it in the long run. Players who call down with super weak hands are usually holding what are known as bluff catchers. A bluff catcher is the type of hand that will only be able to beat a complete bluff.
There will be occasional spots where a bluff makes a lot of sense, but your opponent is going to have it more often than not. It feels great to pick off a big bluff but it feels a lot worse to make a bad call.
9. Pick Bluffs Selectively
Just as making a lot of folds is pertinent, so to is attempting well placed bluffs. Calling off light and making tons of bluffs is the perfect recipe for failure. Picking good spots for a bluff is dependent on a handful of variables. For example, bluffing a super tight player on the river after they called two streets is probably not a good idea. By contrast, bluffing a calling station is even worse.
If you are going to run a bluff, you should have a feel for how your opponent plays and what types of hands they are likely to be holding. If you can’t figure these two things out, passing up on bluffing is generally your best plan.
- Play Pots in Position
Playing pots in position is one of the easiest ways to win the most with your big hands and lose the least with your weak hands. If you think about it, this is the general premise behind all of poker. Position allows you to play hands comfortably, no matter what you have pre-flop or post-flop.
Out of position pots can certainly be profitable as well, but you should be calling with weaker hands in position, and stronger hands out of position. For every bit of position that you have, your overall hand strength is equally improved.
Effectively Playing Your Position
Position is one of the most critical elements in any given hand of poker. Virtually every player with any reasonable amount of experience knows what position is, but only top level players know how to capitalize on each position at the table. As nice as it would be, you are not going to be in position in every pot that you play. In fact, you are going to play a lot more out of position pots than in position pots.
The key to success is not only playing pots in position. Instead, your aim should be to make the most out of any position that you are in, while also creating more opportunities for pots while in position. In other words, getting involved in late position is the best course of action, even if you are not working with the strongest of hands.
Your hand value will rise dramatically no matter what you are holding simply because you have the advantage of acting last. The value in being able to force your opponents to act first can not be overstated.
Some players get to the stage in their game where they realize that position is important, but they are still not quite sure how to implement playing position into their own skill set. There is a big difference between playing more pots in position and playing more pots profitably in position. Anyone could sit down, wait to be on the button, and start making all kinds of loose calls, but this is hardly going to make you any money.
Patience is a huge asset in poker, and you will have plenty of sessions where you just don’t get any really playable hands, be it in or out of position. Forcing the issue will seldom find any success in the short run, and it is all but certainly a plan for failure in the long run.
Position in 6-Max vs. Full Ring Games
There are some very definitive differences between position and its implementation in 6-max games vs. full ring games. If you only play live poker, full ring position is the only thing that will be relevant to you, but online players should all be familiar with how position works in short handed games. 6-max games are very prevalent online, and the occasional full ring game will break up to the point where it is playing 6-handed.
There is a significant advantage to be had if you are able to adjust to short handed play when your opponents are unable to. Even if you aren’t a 6-max regular, there will still be practical uses for the skills that a 6-max player needs to know.
Early position in a 6-max game does not mean that you have to be wildly selective with your hands. As there are only five other players (at the most) fighting for the pot, you do not have to mow down 8 or 9 of your opponents to win the hand. As such, you can widen your range in early position and push opponents around. Having said that, though, you should have a relatively defined set of hands that you are making open raises with.
If there is one thing that you are never doing in early position, it is open limping. Now that you have decided that you are tossing open limps to the side, you need to determine which hands are playable in early position and which ones are not.
Though there is no steadfast set of rules, there are general hands that players will open with in early position at a 6-max games and ones they will not. Again, as a general rule only, anything worse than 22 or JQ should be in the muck. When you start to play speculative hands like suited connectors out of position, you are just asking for trouble.
This goes without saying in full ring games, but it is a concept that many 6-max players seem to completely disregard. Yes, you can play JQ, JK, and small pocket pairs, but since you are opening the action with a raise, you will be bleeding the value from speculative hands by investing too much money.
Middle position and late position are almost one in the same in 6-max games. Since the under gun player, coupled with the blinds, takes up half the table alone, there are just a few positions left to account for. Anything past under the gun is fair grounds for steal attempts, though you should be more aggressive nearer to the button.
Stealing from UTG+1 is really not a good strategy unless you are at an exceptionally tight table. In 6-max games, stealing is more common than it is in full ring games, but along with that comes more players who are willing to fight back. If you are going to step out and make some plays, be prepared to face some resistance from time to time.
This is one of the biggest position adjustments that need to be made in 6-max games when coming from a full ring game. In full ring games, steals have a very high rates of success as players will give their opponents credit for a hand. As a result, full ring players don’t typically worry about being played back at when they steal. When you start to play more aggressive in 6-max games, however, everything is exactly the opposite.
Playing in Early Position
Early position is the spot where you want to be more selective with your hands. Playing suited connectors, weak face cards, and so on and so forth is just throwing money down the drain. This holds true in both 6-max and full ring games. In early position at full ring tables, opening with anything less than AJ is going to be quite pushy.
As a general rule of thumb, AJ is the cut off point for early position hands that are worthy of a raise. You should also be making an open raise with anything from small to big pocket pairs. Whatever you do, avoid open limping. Unless you have found an incredibly good game with well below average opponents, open limping is nothing more than a telegraph of your hand strength. Be selective in early position but also maintain your aggressiveness.
Playing in Middle Position
Middle position is where things can get murky. On one hand, you are not in early position, but on the other hand, you are not in late position either. As a result of being in the middle, you can almost go either way in many spots. Sometimes you will want to open raise with JK in middle position, where other times you will simply fold. Likewise, JJ might call an open raise in middle position, but it is also worthy of a raise.
Middle position gives you the opportunity to “freelance” with your hands. This is a good spot at the table for trying things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. Remember, there are still players to act behind you, but some of your competition has already stepped out of the way. Middle position does not give you the freedom to play a wide range of pots like late position will; so don’t get caught up with suited and connected hands, however tempting it may be.
Playing in Late Position
Late position is the holy ground, the place where you want to be, and the time to make money. There aren’t many players who will get up from the game when they are on or near the button. Late position allows you to act last, after seeing what all of your opponents have decided to do. Have a decent, but not strong hand? No problem, see how your opponents play the hand and decide where you are likely to stand. 44 can be tricky to play in early position, especially if you are re-raised, but it is a breeze in late position.
Late position will allow you to: call raises with suited connectors, raise and call a three bet with small pairs, make steal and re-steal attempts, and fold your “ok” hands without any worries. These are all elements that can and should parlay themselves into significant profits. You can win big pots with big starting hands, but mediocre starting hands in late position are true gold mines. Use late position to effectively manage the pot size, the action, and to ultimately take down more pots.
Spotting a regular is the best way to stay out of trouble. This doesn’t mean that you want to avoid opportunities to play in pots with them, not at all, but it will help you out tremendously. To use an exaggerated example to illustrate my point, do you think a regular or a weak player is more likely to pull a triple barrel bluff? Hopefully you realize that the answer is a regular.
A weak player probably doesn’t even know what the term triple barrel means, let alone how to implement. Picking up on the tendencies of a player will make it that much easier to manipulate them. You will have an easier time deciding when to call, when to fold, and when to raise. Identifying a regular is like having a cheat sheet handed to you.
There are many different ways to pinpoint a regular and each one will tell you something different. Some signs will be more obvious that others. To be completely honest, and any experienced will tell you this: finding and labeling a regular is not at all difficult to do. The only challenge is being able to figure out how you are going to utilize the information that you have.
Will you fire bluffs and double barrels at a tight aggressive regular? Will you do the same against a passive regular? The first step is finding out which players know what they are doing, the next step is figuring out how to manipulate their strategy. The last step creates itself, and that step is monetization.
The obvious signs of a regular are, well, obvious. The biggest sign of a regular is a player who is on many tables at once. Most of the time a multi-tabling player is at least a regular, if not also a winning player.
Now, with this particular piece of information, you will be able to form a handful of conclusions. A multi-tabler at 4-8 tables is more likely to be very strong than a player at 20 tables. 20 tables often times means that the player is their for bonuses and rewards, not true profit from game play. To take it one step further, you can safely conclude that someone playing two tables of 50NL is probably fairly weak.
There are three primary sets of multi-tables: the big winners who play a fair amount of tables, but not a ton, the small winners who play a massive amount of tables, and the steady losers who play a couple tables. Figure out which user id is which and play against them accordingly.
Another obvious sign that a player is a regular is a max buy-in with the auto re-buy feature enabled. Unless they are a professional short stacker, any legitimate reg will buy in for the maximum allowed amount. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it holds true far more often than not. Building off of the full buy-in amount, regulars tend to auto re-buy on any poker site that allows it.
No good player will sacrifice the opportunity to make the most money possible by sitting with a short stack. Note that while this is an obvious indicator, it is not necessarily a consistent indication. There will be plenty of instances where “fish” buy in full and have auto re-buys on. This is just another factor that you can add into your equation.
The trash talking element of online poker is a good reverse indicator of whether or not someone is a regular. Most winning players do not waste their time harassing opponents because they know that it is not productive and is more than likely only going to chase bad players away from the game. There are some notable big winners who are known for their rampant trash talk at the tables, but they are definitely in the minority.
Many regulars just turn their chat off altogether. Anyone can be tempted to reply to critique from their opponents, no matter how unfounded it may be. To counter this, the simple solution is to make it completely invisible. While talking in chat boxes is not going to be the leading indicator of whether or not someone is a regular, it is still going to be one of many signals that you can use.
Less Transparent Indicators
The less transparent ways to find a regular will generally be found within the game play itself. While the previously mentioned elements could be easily observed by anyone, you will need to be playing with someone for awhile before you can get a solid grasp on their approach to the game. There is literally an infinite list of plays that could be used to identify a regular, but these general guidelines will be the most useful and applicable across the board.
Sound regulars do not make a habit of open limping. It would even be fair to say that most of them never open limp. If you see a player who is regularly tossing in nothing more than the big blind pre-flop, it is fairly safe to assume that you want them at your table. Building on this table, a regular is highly unlikely to be making min-raises. Min-raises are the go to play for players who really don’t know what to do in a certain spot. As a result, regulars are seldom found implementing them.
A good way to get a feel for someone’s play is to see them get to showdown. Look through the hand history and see what they did pre-flop, how they played the flop and so on and so forth. The beauty of online poker is that you can see what your opponents had in any given hand that goes to showdown, regardless of whether they won or lost the pot.
This is going to take a little bit of added time and effort, but it is more than worth it. Being able to grab a front row seat for a player’s train of thought is invaluable. Does a certain player run big bluffs? Do they make light 4-bets in certain situations? These are the types of things that will discern between a regular winner and just another losing player.
The last and most common way for regulars to identify other regulars is through the use of various poker software. If you are using a HUD, and you definitely should be in online poker, you will be able to see how many hands of data you have on each of your opponents, if you play on a daily basis, you will quickly realize who else is there every day and who is not and if you rack up 2,000 hands on one of your opponents in the span of a week, that should tell you where they stand.
There are many different ways to pick up on who is a regular at the online poker tables. It is not all about simply finding the solid players, though; it is about exploiting them. When you use these tips to help figure out who is who, remember that the most important step is to monetize the information that you have collected and stored away in your brain. Without some profit to show for it, your skills will be rendered useless.
The Purpose of Suited Connectors
Suited connectors are the type of hands that will lose little but make a lot if played properly. Players tend to get lost in the grand scheme of things when playing suited connectors. Your ultimate goal with a suited and connected hand should be to either hit trips, two pair, a straight, a flush, or better. You should never be shooting for one pair type hands.
A common problem for players is to get caught up in playing a suited connector when it hit’s the flop, but just barely. For example, 7s 9s can see a flop of 9h 2d 4s and make top pair, but this doesn’t mean that it now qualifies as a strong hand. All that you have in this spot is top pair with a weak kicker. Yes, it is worth a bet or calling a bet on the flop, but it is hardly valuable enough to be playing for stacks. This is why you need to define a purpose for your hands before you stick all of the money in the middle.
Pre-flop play is critical to the success of your suited connectors. There is a ton more value in playing a suited connector in position vs. out of position. When in position, you will be able to effectively extract value when you make hands, lose the least when you miss, and even make the occasional play. These are the substantial benefits that are not available out of position. If you are under the gun or in early position, the best plan is to generally get rid of your hand altogether. It seems weird, but a strong suited connector denotes a fold in early position, but can call a raise in late position. From the outset, this appears to be backwards, but it is absolutely correct.
The first primary consideration when playing suited connectors is your position. The ideal position for any hand is late position, but it is even more vital when you are playing a suited connector. Some hands are going to be strong no matter where they are played, take pocket kings for example, but suited connectors are not.
Try to draw a line between which positions can realistically play suited connectors and which can not. A general range would be late middle position to late position. If you are in a full ring game, there are going to be a handful of additional seats where playing suited connectors can be profitable. In short handed games, however, only the last two players before the blinds are going to be in prime spots to play their hands profitably. If you can safely check position of your list of pre-requisites for suited hands, you can then move onto the other dynamics.
Any suited connector is not as good as any other suited connector. Just as pocket pairs have varying degrees of inherent strength, so too do suited connectors. The showdown value of 56 suited is significantly less than that of a hand like 9T or JT suited. The reasons for this should be rather obvious. With 56 suited, you can easily be beaten by higher straights or flushes. While you can still lose with a straight or a flush when holding 9T or JT, it is much less likely. The actual strength of your hand should play a role in deciding whether or not it is worth calling whatever pre-flop raise is ahead of you.
The price that it will cost to play your hand is obviously quite crucial to its long term success. Playing suited connectors can only be profitable if you know how much is too much to pay in order to see a flop. As a general rule of thumb, barring any inordinate raise sizes, a simple open raise should be called almost 100% of the time when in position with a decent or strong suited connector.
The implied odds of hitting a big hand and getting paid off more than compensate for all of those times where you will miss and lose the amount of your initial call. The one exception to this rule would be if the open raiser was short stacked. Implied odds are important when playing suited connectors, and those odds are significantly diminished when you are playing against someone with very little money behind.
The beauty of a suited connector is that a small investment could potentially earn you a big win. This entire premise is voided when your small investment could only earn you a small win at best.
If there is action beyond an open raise and/or calls ahead of you, your play will become less obvious. In most cases, calling a 3 bet with a pending 4 bet opportunity is a major waste of money. When players raise and re raise ahead of you, making a call would mean that you assume the original raiser will simply call the re raise. Even if they only wind up 4 betting every five hands, this will wind up being incredibly unprofitable.
You should be calling raises pre flop when you have a very reasonable expectation of seeing the flop for that exact price. Sure, the blinds are going to 3 bet from time to time, but there is nothing you can do about that. Get involved with limpers or open raisers, but be very cautious if there is a ton of aggressive play right before your turn to act.
The flop will tell you just about everything you need to know when you have a suited connector. In almost every situation, you will either hit hard or miss completely. Yes, you can flop gutshots or middle pair, but these are hardly the aim of a suited connector. If you do not land a big draw or flop one of your originally intended hands, be prepared to give up. A fatal flaw of many poker players is the inability to give up on a suited connector that did not make one of the hands that it was shooting for.
Big draws are what suited connectors wind up with most of the time when they hit the board. It is quite rare to actually make a straight or flush right on the flop, though it will certainly happen from time to time. If you are able to flop a strong draw, the key is being able to play it aggressively and without fear. Worth noting is the fact that there is a defined, albeit murky, difference between aggressive play and reckless play. Reckless play will get you into a lot of trouble, whereas aggressive play can be very profitable. If you flop a big draw, play it aggressively, but don’t press the issue and sacrifice all of the value that your hand has.
After The Flop
If you lead out with or called a bet on the flop, the turn is going to be a very critical card to your success, if you brick on completing your draw on the turn, your odds of walking away with a big hand are decreased significantly and if the price just isn’t right, don’t be afraid to throw your hand away. There is no shame whatsoever in letting go of a draw with only one card to come.
If you have a sound game plan as to how you can win the hand even if you miss your draw, that is one thing, but most of the time it is best to move on. Alternatively, you could make a move, perhaps a semi bluff, in an attempt to disguise your hand and potentially take down the pot on the spot. If you get called with a semi bluff, at least you have outs and a heavily disguised hand on the river. There are a million ways to play draws post flop, and a lot of money to be made if you do it right.
True Value: Suited Connectors
The first step with suited connectors is realizing that they have a lot of value if played correctly. The second step, then, is to gauge which suited connectors than others and in which situations. 89 suited is infinitely better than 35 suited, regardless of position. Sometimes, though, 67 suited will be better than 89, but only because it is in later position. Being able to determine the true value of suited connectors is absolutely critical to your success.
You need to be able to tell when the price is too low, when the implied odds just aren’t there, and so on and so forth. A lot of players greatly over estimate the value of their suited connectors. They say, “Oh 5 7 suited, this is a gold mine!” Like all hands in poker, nothing is static, and a suited connector in one spot is not the same as a suited connector in another spot.
There are three primary dynamics that should be given consideration when defining the true strength of a suited connector. Each of these factors will probably seem pretty obvious, but they only work if they are analyzed in conjunction with one another. The three areas to look at are your position, the action in the hand, and your hand’s actual strength. If you can properly assess these three areas of any hand, you should have no trouble turning steady profits with your suited connectors.
The first element of any hand is position, whether you are playing pocket aces of 35 suited. The best position to be in is late position. The value of a suited connector remains somewhat static from early to middle position, but when you jump to late position, the value skyrockets. Suited connectors need to be able to extract value and play hands they want to be played.
By playing suited connectors out of position, you are sacrificing your ability to easily extract value and manipulate the action. In the end, position is the single most important factor in determining the value of a suited connector, and it isn’t even close. If you had the option of choosing 46 in position or 89 out of position, you should be taking 46 each and every time.
If you are in early or middle position, the best play with a suited connector is to simply fold. Some players think that limping into the pot is some sort of compromise between folding and raising, but it is nothing more than a major mistake.
Even if you happen to hit your hand (generally a big draw), you are going to have a tough time taking down the pot. Beyond this, when you do hit your hand, it is going to be transparent, making it near impossible to extract anything near maximum value. Do not open limp in early position with suited connectors and do not raise, just get rid of the hand and move onto the next one.
The action in the hand is an important factor because it will tell you what your implied odds are looking like. If you are sitting in a pot where you are deep stacked, you will be much more likely to call a 3-bet with 89 suited than if you were sitting with a short stack. While you would generally like to play suited connectors for as minimal of an investment as possible, they are good hands to mix up the action with. In the example above, you called a re-raise with 89 suited.
Now, if the flop gives you a big draw, is your opponent likely to put you on this hand? Probably not. They are more likely to think that you have a big pair or nothing at all. When you have the ability to safely play your suited connectors as if they are already a made hand, you will be putting yourself in prime position to take down some monster pots. Deception is the best way to lure your opponents into the pot. If they can’t put you on a big suited hand, they have no reason to fold when you make your straight or flush.
Just as you should be willing to get involved in some raised pots, limped pots should not be a particular attraction. The most profitable pots with suited connectors are spots where you get to play a raised or re-raised pot in position against the rest of the field. Now, with that having been said, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of opportunities to limp in when you are in late position with suited connectors.
Of course, if there has been no action or aggression ahead of you, raising is always the best option. Raising limped pots will give you the chance to take down the pot pre-flop, slim down the competition, or play with a stronger image post-flop. The big pots are going to be won when you land a monster flop, but there is nothing wrong with using some aggression to take down small, uncontested pots both pre-flop and on the flop.
The strength of your suited connector is going to be obvious. It should go without saying that 56 suited is not nearly as strong as 9T suited. By that same note, however, there are some hands that can put you in particularly tricky spots. Even if you are in position, it is not especially profitable to be getting involved in raised pots with real small suited connectors like 34 suited. This is the type of hand that would be perfect for an open raise/steal attempt in late position, and maybe even a call pre-flop of an open raise, but it is not worth playing in a significant pot.
You are basically only going to be chase after straights with this type of hand. Beyond this, you might even hit a straight that is beaten by someone else. 34 is going to be difficult to make a lot of money from when you have a flush. The most likely player to pay you off will have a bigger flush than you. Someone who does not have a flush is just going to step out of the way or attempt to pot control, neither of which is going to make you any money.
Playing small suited connectors can get you into a lot of trouble as soon as the flop is dealt. You might hit a gut shot draw with a flush draw, but what are you going to do if one player bets out and another player raises? You are now stuck with a seemingly valuable hand, but you could also be completely crushed. If you shove all in here, you are going to get called by draws that leave you dead or hands that are already made.
Suited connectors need to have the ability to gain some fold equity post-flop, and this is not something that small suited connectors come with.
Heads Up and Multi-Way Pots
Heads up and multi-way pots are very different things. The number of opponents that you are facing in a hand will play a significant role in deciding what the proper strategy is in any given situation. You aren’t going to play a flush draw the same exact way against one player as you would against five other players. Not only is there a defined difference between facing one or multiple players, but there is an even greater difference in the playing styles of each individual. Adjusting for play against a loose group of players is different than adjusting to play against four of the tightest players at the table. This holds even more true when it comes to heads up pots.
Heads up play is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses one on one. Where in multi-way pots you can only weave through a hand, heads up play will allow you to exploit the exact playing style of one particular opponent. As contrary as it might sound, there is a lot more money to be made when you dwindle the competition down to one player than when you are up against an entire roster. Heads up play is an intimidating idea for some players but it means increased profits for winning players.
Multi-way pots come in many different shapes, sizes and forms. There aren’t going to be many heads up pots where the two players have limped into the pot, but this is frequently the case in multi-way pots. Likewise, a raised pot is much more likely in a heads up pot than a multi-way pot. As a result, you are going to be playing very different types of hands in multi-way pots; often times the types of hands that will enable you to stack your opponent.
If you are in a heads up hand, it should be because your hand has significant showdown value. When you are in multi-way pots, however, you are looking to improve your hand and stack one of your opponents on deception. Multi-way pots are the product of minimal investment and minimal risk. As unlikely as it may sound, though, they also tend to create maximum profit.
Entering Heads Up Pots
Getting involved in a heads up pot means that you either raised pre-flop or called a raise pre-flop from another player. The one exception to this rule would be if there was a lone limper followed by a check in the big blind, but these types of hands are much too infrequent to worry about. With the assumption that you are going to be playing heads up pots when there is raised action, it means that you should be starting with stronger sets of hands. One of the most elementary elements of heads up play is the need for increased showdown value.
Since you are only up against one player, your investment is going to equate to almost exactly half the size of the entire pot. Because of this, you are going to need to win more than 50% of the time. This is not going to be accomplished with speculative hands. A great way to lose a lot of money is to get in pre-flop raising wars with suited connectors, or anything along those lines. If your hand doesn’t stand a solid chance before the cards are dealt, there can’t possibly be a great chance that things will change significantly by showdown.
Entering Multi-Way Pots
Just as you shouldn’t be entering heads up pots with weaker holdings, multi-way pots provide an opportunity for players to turn rags into riches. It would be a terrible idea to raise, call raises, or initiate re-raises with suited connectors or other speculative hands in heads up pots. When there are a number of people involved in the hand, however, this is a very sound, winning strategy.
The goal of poker is to make your risk disproportionate to your expected long term gains. In other words, if you can pay $5 for a 1:3 chance of winning $25, you should take it every time. This is why there is a lot of money to be made with weaker and more deceptive hands in multi-way pots. Most times you will end up winning big pots with raggedy hands, partly because they are deceptive, and partly because they will cost you little money to play with. If the price is high and the cards are weak, let the pot play out between made hands.
If you can squeeze into the action at a fair price with a hand that has potential, however, multi-way pots can and will make you a lot of money.
Post-Flop in Heads Up Pots
Post-flop heads up play is different than pre-flop play, but quite similar at the same time. You don’t want to be making stupid plays for huge amounts of money, that is seldom a winning strategy, but you are going to naturally inherit a greater amount of risk with each pot that you play. Though you only need to beat one opponent to take down the pot, it should go without saying that this is also going to be your fiercest opponent at the table. If a player was willing to either call your raise or make a raise themselves pre-flop, you can bet that they will be willing to play post-flop.
The important thing to remember in heads up pots is that each street increases the likelihood of showdown and decreases the likelihood of a fold. If you are able to make it to the turn, for example, don’t expect your opponent to frequently give up their hand once the river falls. This is the exact reason that bluffs become less effective and suffer from lower success rates as a hand progresses. Counter to this, however, is the increased ability to effectively value bet your opponents as a hand gets deeper and deeper.
Think about how likely you are to fold on the river if you called a bet pre-flop, on the flop, and on the turn. Not very likely, I would bet. With that in mind, you should be pushing your opponent to the limit when you are fortunate to find yourself in a heads up pot. Don’t be afraid to try and bully players out of the pot when you brick with your hand, but don’t get reckless either.
Post-Flop in Multi-Way Pots
Post-flop play in multi-way pots can get very tricky and very fast. In a heads up pot you will pretty much know what to expect. Either you hit your hand and go with it or miss and bow out. Of course this is over simplifying things, but it is meant to illustrate the fact that heads up play is not usually all that intricate in that your options will be somewhat limited.
When you are in a multi-way pot, however, each hand is like starting on a canvas from scratch. Anything can happen on the flop, anything can happen on the turn, and anything can happen on the river. When playing against more than one opponent, you need to be prepared for innumerable variables and conditions that are ever changing.
Multi-way pots will play differently depending on your position, hand, opponent playing styles, and so on and so forth. Like most poker strategy, the optimal answer for multi-way play is highly conditional. You can not accurately state that one playing style or another is optimal or best for multi-way pots. Instead, the best advice is that you should be dynamic in everything that you do.
Be willing to adopt to a change in the game plan, think of a new way to play the remainder of hands, and always re-assess your position in any given pot. One of the worst things you can do, especially in multi-way pots, is neglect to consider alternative ways to play a hand. The dynamic of any hand is ever changing in multi-way pots with each and every action that is made, so you should be changing too.
Beating Tight Players
Beating tight players in poker is a very different process than beating loose players. When you are facing looser opponents, your goal should be to make hands and capitalize when you have the other player beat.
With tighter opponents, however, your focus should be on how to squeeze out every nickel and dime possible. Tight players tend to be apprehensive when it comes to getting in pots without big hands, and while this will make it tougher to beat them at showdown, it also makes them easier to beat without a showdown. You will find that it is easy to beat these players out of small pot after small pot.
The reason that many people don’t bother with tight opponents is because they don’t have a good chance of taking down a big pot. If your entire stack goes in the middle against a tight player, the odds are that you either colered them or you lost. In the end, beating tight players is just easy as beating loose players, you just need to be a bit more methodical in your approach.
Much of your profits against tighter opponents should be had pre-flop. This is the stage in the hand where someone who is scared to get into pots will instantly exit the premises. To counter this terrible strategy, you should be picking off every single pot that becomes available to you.
There is not going to be a pile of riches sent your way when you are playing against tight opponents, but you can slowly bleed them dry. Often times, tight players wont even know where their money went as they go to reload yet again. The truth is that they slowly lose it one hand at a time, be it through ill timed limps or by paying the blinds. No matter how they put their money in the pot, it is your job to take it away.
Pre-flop strategy against tight players is about as straightforward as it gets. Once you have identified which of your opponents are playing tighter than they should be, all that you need to do is apply the pressure. Of course, it is not quite this simple. Each spot that you are in will call for a slightly different approach. For example, a tight player in the blinds will call for a small steal attempt nearly every hand that you play on the button. If a player limps into the pot, however, you would play the hand slightly differently.
Before you decide how you are going to play against someone, you should first take some consideration into how they tend to play. Some tight players will only raise or re-raise when they enter pots, while other tight players don’t even like to make raises and elect to simply call bets. If the tight player you are up against tends to limp and then call any raise pre-flop, making a steal or re-steal attempt would be futile. Instead, this is the type of spot where you should just move along. Likewise, if a tight player has opened the action, depending on their tightness, you may just want to give up on the hand altogether.
Part of the beauty in playing (and beating) tight opponents is that you will seldom be required to make any significant investments. If you want to stack a loose player, you are going to be forced to make and call some bets and raises. With tight players, however, this is hardly the case. A small raise, a small bet, or a small re-raise is all that is generally needed to get a tight player off their hand. If you have to do much more than this, you know that you are going to have a tough time forcing a fold no matter what.
Stealing the blinds against a tight player is the easiest way to pick up some free money. They will be laying their hand down a high percentage of the time, and you are not left with many (any) other players to deal with. In this spot, you do not need to make an excessively large raise to take down the pot. Instead, you should actually try and trim down your traditional raise sizes.
For example, if you would raise to 3x or 3.5x when trying to steal the blinds against an average opponent, you could change that to 2.5x against the tight player. The odds are that if they were going to fold to a 3x raise, they will fold to a 2.5x raise too.
Stealing the blinds and generally aggressive play is the safest and most fool proof way to ensure pre-flop profits against tighter opponents. If you are up for the idea of some increased variance, you could also try and make some re-steals. Re-steals are best suited for the players who are tight, but also lay down a lot of their hands after raising. Yes, you would think that almost every tight player is prone to a lay down, but this is not the case.
There are a lot of tight players who will only get involved when they have something that they will rarely fold before the flop. This could mean they never fold JJ, or that they only play kings and aces. Whatever the case may be, these are not players who you should be re-stealing against. Instead, eye up those players who make small, weak raises and give up when they face further opposition. These are the players who are sitting ducks just waiting to throw their money away, one small pot at a time.
Post-flop strategy is when things tend to get a bit more involved against tight opponents. Since you know that the player has a more selective range of hands that they are playing before the flop, it also means that they are more likely to have a big hand after the flop. As a result, it is more difficult to continuation bet and get folds from these types of players. With that said, however, it does not mean that a c-bet does not make sense.
Giving up is the best play that you will have available in many situations against a tighter player. If you took a shot by betting the flop and got called, don’t be afraid to shut down on the turn. These players are much like calling stations, except for the fact that they only call with very strong hands. You would need to be a very serious glutton for punishment if you continued to push your luck any further than the flop against the majority of tight poker players.
There is one breed of tight players that is just perfect for value betting. As contradictory as it might seem, there are some tight players who just hate to let go of their hands. Now, this sounds a bit deceiving, so keep reading. The tight players who don’t fold their hands tend to wait for something super strong pre-flop, and then they play it to the death post-flop.
A good example would be a player who is dealt pocket kings pre-flop. They would make an open raise, get called, and then fire out until their money is gone unless an ace came to slow them down. These are the players who you want to play pots with because it can mean you are going to get paid off when you hit your hand.
Yes, these players do have strong hands, but they completely neglect the fact that someone else could have caught up with the help of the board. Spotting these type of opponents is not easy, so you should only play a hand according to this strategy if you have seen some with these tendencies. You will need to get a little lucky on the flop, but when you do, get ready to take home a big win.
It is a play in poker that will either win or lose you a lot of money, depending upon when and how you use it. They are most common among players with strong hands, but this is hardly the only instance where this particular move can turn a profit.
A major obstacle with check raising is the ability to properly identify profitable spots vs. unprofitable spots. For example, check raising with a flush draw on the flop could very well be profitable, but it could be a terrible move at the same time. There are a number of common scenarios where a check raise can be effectively implemented. Read about the common check raising spots below and learn how to play your hands to their fullest potential.
Flop Check Raises
Flop check raises will either occur on a bluff, a semi bluff (with a drawing hand), or with a very strong hand. The exact situation that you are in is going to make the difference between how you should play your hand. For example, a flopped draw is going to be played very differently than a flopped set. Beyond this, your game plan beyond the initial check raise needs to be well outlined.
If you don’t know what you are going to do after your check raise, you have already lost half the battle. Many check raises will not end on the spot, so you need to be able to aptly adjust to any moves that your opponents make.
A complete bluff check raise on the flop should have a high success rate. This is the type of check raise that is least advisable. The drawback to making bluff check raises on the flop is that you are going to be stuck in a world of hurt on the turn, or even on the flop if you face further opposition. Beyond the fact that they will fail a large portion of the time, a bluff check raise on the flop doesn’t really have a lot to offer.
If you are going to risk a decent raise in an effort to push your opponent(s) off their hand, you should be expecting something reasonable in return. If there was a lot of pre-flop action, regardless of whether you were the initial aggressor, there should be a decent pot worth fighting for. Along with this action, though, comes an increased likelihood that your opponent has a strong hand, making it tougher to force folds.
In the end, a check raise with absolutely nothing is going to be a pretty big mistake. Yes, it will work on occasion, but the ultimate reward just doesn’t equate to the sizable risk.
-Semi Bluffs and Draws
Semi bluff and draw type hands, which are often times one in the same, are among the best type of hands for successful flop check raises. If you flop a hand like an ace high flush draw on a queen high board, you can make your money by either pushing your opponent out of the pot on the flop, or instead by hitting your hand.
The only real trouble with check raising while holding a draw is that you are prone to issues further down the line. Say that you check raise with Jh 9h on a flop of 8h Kh 6d. A check raise in this spot will put you in an awfully bad position if your opponent decides to come over the top. Re-shoving all in would be a mistake since you will be drawing only to a flush, and for all you know, your opponent might even have a better flush draw.
The time where this play would work wonderfully, however, would be if you were holding the ace high flush draw. On an unpaired board like this, you are drawing to the nuts and will have outs no matter what the other player is holding. In addition, the reverse of the above situation holds true, where you could have your opponent totally dominated if they are holding a weaker flush draw.
Further still is the fact that you have an over card to the board. If your opponent happens to have a big over pair or just one pair, this would give you a few additional outs to the winning hand. Check raises with draws on the flop are fantastic plays, but you need to be prepared for what will happen after you make them. If you don’t have a complete game plan prepared, the better play is to slow down the action.
You don’t need to and shouldn’t want to be building massive pots with hands that have a long way to go, and might even be losing when they do hit.
Strong hands are “ok” to check raise with, but they will often times sacrifice a lot of the inherent value of any given holding. For example, getting 77 all in on a flop of 7A4 is just not going to happen very often against a random ace.
If, however, you played the hand more slowly, you would be able to extract value one street at a time. Using this example, a set of 7s could lead out on the flop, bet or check raise the turn, and even bet the river. By check raising the flop with such a strong hand, you are handicapping your chances of winning your opponent’s entire stack. The ultimate goal of any strong hand on the flop is to extract value; check raising can easily scare opponents away.
The exception to the rule of not check raising with very strong hands on the flop is when the board is draw heavy. Draw heavy boards are tough to play on no matter what, and you want your opponent to put as much money as possible in the middle before they hit their hand, not after. Aggressive play with 77 on a 7s 8s Qh board is entirely different than on a board of 7s Ah 3d.
On the first board, a number of turn or river cards could spell disaster, where the second board has a good shot of you either improving or maintaining your lead in the hand. Check raising with strength is good when your opponent is strong and also a threat to beat you.
Turn and River Check Raises
Turn and river check raises are very different animals than flop check raises. On the flop, it is very likely that a player would check raise with nothing, a weak hand, or a strong hand. On the turn and river, however, it usually means a very strong hand, and occasionally nothing at all; there really isn’t any middle ground.
Analyzing an opponents check raise is usually not all that difficult to do, but the real danger comes when you make a move that is super high risk. Turn check raises and river check raises are a situation where it is all or nothing, very much high risk and high reward. If you are prepared for some variance, turn bluff check raises can be profitable, but you will need to pick your spots very selectively.
The most risky move in almost any hand is a bluff, but the risks are even more elevated when you check raise the turn or the river. The simple fact that you have gotten to the turn or the river means that you have gotten past pre-flop and flop play. Once you get to this stage in a hand, it means that bet sizes are growing larger and larger.
It is hard to say which types of hands are ideal for turn or river check raise bluffs, as these moves are more dependent on opponents rather than the board or hand itself. Experience and history with a player can go a long way towards success with turn or river check raise bluffs. As a general rule, though, a bad time to check raise bluff is on a draw heavy board that bricked.
One of the most transparent river check raises is when a flop is draw heavy, you check call twice, and then check raise the river after everything has missed. Your check raise needs to tell a believable story, and this type of move is much too transparent. If you are in the micro stakes, players are less likely to fold their hands. As a result, it is much more effective to make a river check raise with made hands.
In small stakes and medium stakes games, however, you will be able to force a number of folds with these high risk, high reward plays. You should have a lot of experience and really know what you are doing if you are going to try and take down pots with bluffs via check raises on the turn or river.
Strong hands are the ideal river check raise hand, but they can be very see through on the turn. A turn check raise is one of the biggest indicators of monster strength in poker. Think about how many times you had an opponent check raise you on the turn with anything less than a monster. If you catch someone bluffing, it will definitely be the rare exception.
Strong hands are good for check raises on the river because they can very well assume the identity of a bluff. If you played your hand like it was on a draw, or got lucky on the river with an unsuspecting hand, a check raise can get you paid off. If your hand is not something that your opponent would be able to reasonably put you on, you probably have a hand that would be great for a river check raise.
Beating Loose Players
Loose players are the most profitable type of opponents that you could ever hope to face. Though they will undoubtedly cause occasional frustration with their seemingly random hands, they are most likely to donate stack after stack. A lot of players will get upset when a loose (bad) player beats them out of a big pot, but this is the completely wrong way to go about beating them.
The best thing about loose players is that they tend to do most of the work for you. You won’t need to place value bets since they will call anything, and you don’t need to worry about making bluffs because you know they are never really going to fold. Loose players are the closest thing to money in the bank when you are playing poker. Yes, they are definitely going to get lucky and win from time to time, but this is what keeps them coming back for more.
Defining a loose player can be a challenge if you only have a limited sample size to work with. After you get through a handful of orbits with a player, however, you should have a pretty good feel for how they approach the game. If a player is limp calling all kinds of raises in every other pot, you can be pretty sure that they are way too loose for their own good. Now, it is important to note that there are some very big differences between loose players and aggressive players. More often than not, a loose player is calling down bets while an aggressive player is the one making the bets. Aggressive players are the complete opposite of loose players in that they are much tougher to beat. Watch out for aggressive opponents and take full advantage of the looser players.
Pre-flop is where you need to avoid getting yourself into some unnecessary trouble. It should go without saying that most loose players tend to hate folding just about anything before the flop. They figure that they have two cards and just about anything can come on the flop. While this is certainly true, it plays heavily into your favor.
Beating loose players out of money pre-flop is a long term proposition with no short term guarantees. So long as you are getting your money in good, though, you can be assured of a significant profit. You are going to have runs, sessions, and maybe even days where the calling stations are just beating you out of every pot, but this is not your long term expectation.
Since a calling station, by name, is going to call down at every chance they get, making plays is all but useless. If you are facing some tighter players, stealing the blinds and re-stealing pre-flop will be one way to make some money. When you are facing the loosest players at your table, however, you should stick to some hands that have real value.
This could mean playing anything from suited connectors to small pocket pairs and big pocket pairs. So long as there was a legitimate shot that you could wind up with a big winner at showdown, it is worth playing.
The key to playing with calling stations is being able to dictate the action to your own accord. In other words, you should be looking to super cheap investments wherever possible. If you can limp into some pots with suited connector type hands against a loose player, you are setting yourself up for some very profitable hands. On the other hand, calling off big bets or making big bets of your own with weak hands is nothing short of bankroll suicide.
Just as you should be looking to make small investments with more speculative hands, you should also be pumping up the action whenever you have a super strong starting hand. The primary characteristic of loose players is that they hate to fold their hands, so you can punish this tendency by making unordinary large raises and re-raises pre-flop.
Say that you would normally open to 4x the big blind with pocket aces. If you are up against one or two loose players, it would only make sense to chance that bet size to 5x or 6x the big blind. You know they aren’t going to fold anyway, so you might as well squeeze as much money out of them as you can. Value betting before the flop is a great way to nickel and dime loose players.
Post-flop is where the real money is to be made against loose players. Once you hit that big flop, you need to be able to string your fish all the way to showdown. It does little good if you get them to play the pot, you hit the board, and then they fold. The first thing you should do when assessing your post-flop strategy is determine whether they are more of a caller or a bettor.
There are two common types of loose players: the guys who like to do the betting and the guys who like to call every bet. Once you know what type of player you are up against, the hand will be infinitely easier to play.
The post-flop strategy for beating these loose players is nothing short of incredibly simplistic. Let the guys bet who like to bet, and bet out at the guys who like to call. Applying one type of strategy to the opposite type of player is a great way to sacrifice large sums of money. There is no need to get tricky against these players because they won’t know what is going on anyway.
Once you get the action started, you still need to be able to keep them in the hand. Just as you did not want to force a fold on the flop, you don’t want to get a fold on the turn or river either. The precise strategy for keeping your opponent involved and interested will change from hand to hand, but it shouldn’t be a great puzzle trying to determine which plot will work the best.
As odd as it might sound, loose players are the easiest opponents to lay down hands against. If you are facing one of the players who tends to like to do the calling, you should be very wary when and if they decide to make a bet or raise. This usually means that they are done seeing card after card and now they want to go after your money. If you get into a pot with a loose caller, bet the flop, and then get raised on the turn, you had better put on the brakes. Yes, your opponent could be making a move on you, but it isn’t all that likely.
Loose players, whether they be callers or bettors, tend to stick to their mode of operation. As soon as a player strays from their usually set of plays, there is an increased chance that something suspicious is going on. The best play is to get out of the way when loose players start to get tricky. Even if they happen to be bluffing you, the money saved will be more than compensated for by all of the times where they do actually have a real big hand.
Adjusting to Deep Stack Play
Deep stack play exists in every form of poker, be it sit and gos, tournaments, or cash games. In a cash game, you will have the ability to control just how deep your stacks are and whether or not you would like to play. In tournaments, however, there is no option to change tables and buy back in with 100 big blinds (unless you’re like Phil Ivey and don’t mind losing over $500,000 a hand). For this reason, learning how to adapt to deep stack play is an absolute necessity.
There are many different things about playing with a big stack vs. playing with a normal sized stack. To start, you will have much better implied odds with random suited connectors, small pocket pairs, and other more speculative hands. This is truly the most important aspect of deep stack play, the number of different hands that any player could have.
Along with that comes the need to be able to read other players exceptionally well. The ultimate goal is to keep your opponents confused by playing a variety of hands, while being able to maintain solid reads against other players. If you can do both of these, you will be miles ahead of the competition.
Deep stacks are one of the few poker variables that affect pre-flop and post-flop play indifferently. You will need to be able to make creative plays at all stages of the hand, and neither one makes a much larger impact than the other, you can get involved in 3-bet and 4-bet pots both pre and post-flop, creating some monster action and you will need to think even more critically about each and every decision that you make because the money is that much more significant.
Where a big mistake might have cost you 100 big blinds before, it may very well cost you 250 or 300 big blinds now. Attentiveness can not be stressed enough with deep stacks.
Pre-flop adjustments, in short, can be summarized best by generally widened ranges. In other words, both you and your opponents are going to be playing a whole lot more hands. When you have more money to play with in relation to the blinds, it gives you the opportunity to make a minimal investment for what could end up being a sizable win. This is the inherent beauty of deep stack play. Of course, the magnified losses will help to balance things out.
Some plays that you can safely attempt with a deep stack that you otherwise would not be able to include: calling 3-bets with speculative hands, light 4-betting, and folding after 4-bets. These three sets of plays would be very rarely implemented in a game with normal stack sizes. Once you are playing with 200+ big blinds, however, these all become realistic elements that you can and should work into your strategy. For comparisons sake, take a look at the examples below.
If you are playing $1/$2 NLHE and are facing a 3-bet with a small pocket pair, the odds are that you will probably let it go. The reasoning for this is simple: the pot and implied odds just aren’t there. If you double your stack sizes, however, the exact opposite will hold true. Whereas before you would need to invest $30 to potentially win a maximum of $200, you would now be investing $30 for a shot at $400. With a normal sized stack you would need to win all of your opponents chips close to 1:6 times, with a $400 stack, that number shifts to 1:13 times. Needless to say, this is quite a significant jump.
4-bet folding is one of the worst plays that you could ever make in poker. While it is seldom going to be a “good” play, deep stacks allow you the chance to cut your losses with a failed 4-bet. It is worth noting that you will need to be working with a super deep stack for this to make sense. A deep(ish) stack is still not enough to justify a 4-bet fold.
Using the same example as above, pretend that you want to 4-bet. At $30, a reasonable 4-bet would be to around $80-$90. With a $400+ stack, this means that you still have 75% of your chips left in play. Many times, you might even have more than that left. This is way too much money to ever require that you shove all in.
While you are sacrificing a bit of equity and shoving/calling an all in would be correct with smaller stacks, there is one big variable in the way. With a smaller stack size, your opponent will be prone to shoving all in with much weaker hands than when they have 200+ big blinds. This alone is enough to give them credit for a hand that will have you beat by a margin much too large to ever warrant a crying call.
With shorter stacks, you should shove/call all ins with 4-bets because there is always a decent chance that you are not too far behind, but that just won’t be the case in spots like this. A deep stack 5-bet is much, much stronger than a short stack 3-bet or 4-bet all in.
Post-flop play, as you might imagine, is much more dynamic than pre-flop. You will run into some awfully tricky hands that will leave you sweating bullets. With that said, you need to enter any deep stack game with a sense of fearlessness. Where fundamentals and actual tangible skills are typically your biggest asset, the ability to make tough decisions for a lot of money will mean much more when you are playing very deep stacked. Your opponents will not usually be all that comfortable with deep stack play.
A natural tendency is to tighten up and wait for great hands to play, but this is going about it all wrong. Instead, you should counter this game plan with aggression and decisiveness.
Winning players won’t be afraid to put all of their money in on the flop with a monster combo draw. Plays like this deliver multiple benefits. First, you are in a great position to hit your hand and win if your opponent happens to call. Secondly, and most importantly, your opponents will tend to get nervous and lay down anything other than the nuts if they are going to need to risk a lot of money. Now, regulars would be the exception to this rule, but your average competition won’t be grinding out 100k hands per month.
Pressure and aggression are big winners in deep stack play. Use your opponents fear as a tool for profit. You might be surprised to see how often players fold their hands just to ensure that they don’t lose a big pot. Remember that it is better to lose some big pots and win some big pots if you are also picking up a bunch of moderate sized pots along the way. Steady wins payoff much more than those occasional monster wins, even if you don’t realize it in the moment.
Maximizing Equity with Big Draws
Big draws are not only valuable because they have a great potential to make big hands. Much of the inherent value of a big draw is found in the situations where it is able to force folds and put pressure on opponents. The best and most profitable play with a flush draw is almost always to get your opponents to simply give up.
It may not be as exciting to take down a pot without seeing another card fall, but it is certainly the safest way to go about handling your draws. If you are anything short of experienced in cash games, though, you might not even have a clue what maximizing equity means. Extracting equity value from big draws is very much a foreign concept to most poker players.
Learning what equity is can greatly improve your awareness, but only real experience and game play will allow you to actually implement the moves necessary for success. Making plays based on equity in poker is one of the more advanced moves in the game, but it can provide an absolutely massive boost to your win rate.
Before the Flop
Every hand takes its shape before the flop with pre-flop play. You may be involved in a limped pot, a raised pot, or even a re-raised pot, and each one is going to be played in a slightly different manner. Approaching a big flush draw in a limped pot is not at all the same thing as playing a flush draw in a re-raised pre-flop pot. Many players fail to consider this, however, and are punished for it as a result.
The exact action pre-flop will be the best indicator of just how much fold equity you are working with. For example, you are more prone to find folds if you were the pre-flop aggressor than if you were catering to someone else’s play. Using the pre-flop information available to you is one way to ensure that your plays are made with reasonable expectations.
Playing the Flop
Having a draw on a flop can mean one of many different things. For the sake of this article, you should be holding at least an open ended straight draw or better. Anything worse than this is just fishing for trouble. There is an opportunity to play hands like gut shot straight draws or back door flush draws, but these are not the type of hands that typically carry a whole lot of fold equity.
Instead, you should be looking for the types of hands that you will have a good shot of winning with even if the hand goes to showdown. Yes, ideally you will take down the pot before it even gets to showdown, but you should also be working with something that your opponent will not have crushed.
Straight draws and flush draws are two very different things, regardless of how similar they might seem at face value. Yes, both will be drawing to about the same number of outs, both can still be beaten by better hands, but they play very differently in the eyes of your opponents. It is much more difficult to put someone on a made straight than it is to put them on a flush.
As a result, it is often times best to slow down and work towards a straight with pot control than it is to go all out with big plays and raises. A flush draw is ok for big moves because it is very transparent when you end up hitting it, but straights are usually very well concealed, barring that there are four cards to a straight on the board. As such, don’t get wild and out of line with straights.
You will have a lot of outs if the money gets in the middle, but you are definitely sacrificing a lot of easy money. Straights are best played as made hands, whereas flushes work well when they are still on a draw.
Finding Fold Equity
The pre-flop play, board, position, opponents, stack sizes, history and your exact hand will all be important when determining whether or not you have a significant amount of fold equity. Needless to say, it is impossible to break down each of these factors one by one.
The only way to figure out whether you have real fold equity is to calculate all of these factors as part of one lengthy equation. This is the reason why fold equity is a more complex subject and is not well understood by less experienced players. Making plays for fold equity with big draws is very profitable, but no one said it was going to be easy.
Pretend that you are in position with a big flush draw after the flop. The board is unpaired and there are two players ahead of you. If the first player leads out with a bet and the second player calls, your ideal play is to simply come along for the ride. This is not a situation where you will typically have a lot of fold equity.
By raising in this spot, you may be forcing out weaker draws, committing made hands to bigger pots, or be putting yourself in a difficult position. Even if you are drawing to the nuts, the better play in this spot is to wait to make your hand. In this example, position and the number of players in the hand are the most important factors.
Using a different example, lets pretend that you are out of position with a combo draw (flush draw and straight draw). The pot was raised pre-flop by a middle position player, and there are a number of people involved in the hand. You decide to check in early position after the flop delivers a monster draw. At this point, you should be happy with it either checking around or a bet being made.
The only tricky spot would be if a bet was made an a player re-raised. If this happened, you would have no choice but to make a big play and go all in, but this certainly isn’t a spot where you could reasonably expect to find folds. If, however, one bet is made and a few players call, check raising could work very well. The trick to making this play work, like most plays, is knowing what you will do after you make your initial move. If you check raise and get flat called, the turn is going to be difficult to play if you miss your hand.
A check raise is best here if you are expecting for your opponent to come back over the top or fold. If you think they are going to flat call a good portion of the time, you should reconsider your play.
The most common situation where big draws can easily find maximum fold equity is in a re-raised, heads up pot. Say that you open raise, get re-raised, and see a flop. If you were the re-raiser, this play would still hold true in most situations.
Now the pot is heads up as you go to the flop. If you hit a big draw, you will want to be all in or force a fold. Passiveness will suck your hand dry of its value. The best play with a hand like Ah Kh on a flop of 8h 6h Js is to check raise big and get the money in. If you are last to act, re-raise your opponents lead bet. Given this example, you have over cards, a big flush draw, and the image of a strong hand.
When you have tons of outs and can also expect that your opponent will fold a fair majority of the time, your fold equity is going to be through the roof. These are the two main factors in spotting a situation with lots of fold equity: many outs if you are all in and a solid likelihood of your opponent folding when you make a big play. If these two variables are positives, you shouldn’t be afraid to make a big play.
You will lose when you miss your draw, but you will win when you hit your draw or force a fold. Forcing a fold or hitting your draw gives you two chances to win, whereas missing your draw only gives you one chance to lose. Whenever you give yourself more chances to win than lose, you are setting yourself up for long term profitability.
Light 4-Bets: Risk and Reward
Light 4-bets are a foreign concept to many players, but the same can be said about light 3-bets. If you know what a light three bet is, then this article is for you. As you begin to progress in limits and work your way up the ladder, your skills will need to develop so that you can keep up with the pace. Unfortunately, a by-product of advanced poker skills and techniques is an increased amount of variance. One of the most popular variance increasing plays is what is known as the light 4-bet. A light 4-bet is when you initiate a re-re raise while holding nothing at all. This is the type of play that is very risky and should only be attempted by players in the proper limits and with the right amount of experience.
Even if you know what a light 4-bet is and believe that you would be able to properly implement one, you should always tread carefully. One of the pre-requisites to ever using a light 4-bet is that you are at least in the small stakes online games. A rare exception could be made for some super tough 100NL games, which would still be considered part of the micro stakes. Light 4-bets are one of the many ways that experienced poker players look to balance their ranges and table image in some of the toughest games online. Small and mid stakes games might not play with nosebleed figures, but they are not that far off talent wise.
Choosing the right hands to 4-bet light with is one of the finer elements of this particular skill. If you aren’t 4-betting light with the right hands, you are already lighting money on fire (pun intended). As odd as it might sound, the best light 4-betting hands are the same hands that you should be throwing away in early position.
On that same note, these are the hands that you are likely to steal with in late position. In other words, sound light 4-betting hands include suited connectors with big cards, such as Kh 4h. This is a valuable hand because it will be deceptive if it is able to hit the flop, is capable of being laid down when shoved on in a deep stack game, and it will help to balance your range in showdown situations.
If you do not see why Kh 4h would be a good hand to 4-bet light with, the chances are that you aren’t ready to 4-bet light at all. Remember, these are total bluff hands that still have some potential major value.
4-betting light with AQ type hands is nothing short of suicide for your bankroll. First, AQ is not a bad hand to start with. In fact, it is quite strong. As a result, a light 4-bet would be turning a strong hand into a total bluff. It is OK to turn some strength into a bluff on occasion post-flop, but it is a major mistake pre-flop. Instead of playing AJ or AQ in a light 4-bet situation, play it slow or get out of the way altogether.
The other set of popular bad light 4-betting hands is suited connectors. You would think that they serve the purpose of deceptiveness, and sometimes they do, but a light 4-bet drains them of their inherent value. The profitability of suited connectors is found in their ability to get into pots for a low price and cash out for big wins. This, however, is the exact opposite of the strategy for successful light 4-bets.
Light 4-betting is a unique move in poker because position will not always be totally relevant. Where a light 3-bet should find a player in late position, this does not need to be the case with a light 4-bet. If you 4-bet light out of position, you are either going to be all in or making a huge play on the flop.
Both of these cases would actually be beneficial out of position. Out of position 4-bets tend to be given more credit, allowing you to force a higher percentage of folds. With all of that said, there is nothing wrong with making your light 4-bet from late position either.
Your opponents are absolutely critical when it comes to your success with light 4-betting. First, you need to be facing some players who are capable of two things: either making a light 3-bet or folding a 3-bet with a real hand. In other words, if you are playing someone who you know is perfectly capable of re-raising light, they would be an ideal target for a light 4-bet. Likewise, a player who you know will 3-bet TT+, but also be able to lay it down, is also a great opponent to 4-bet. If you are up against a calling station or someone who is showing previously unseen strength, however, you should step out of the line of fire.
Bet Sizes and Stack Sizes
The stack sizes of both you and the other relevant player in the hand are extremely important when 4-betting light. If you are playing super deep stacked, you will have the rare ability to 4-bet light and still get away with a fold.
Pretend that you are at 200NL (½) with $700 stacks. This would be the type of situation where you could ditch your failed 4-bet hand, even if it cost you a lot of money. Say that an open raise was made to $12, your opponent raises to $38, and you re-raise to $111. This would mean you need to call any $200 shove, but it also means that you can instantly muck when they re-pop to $300.
Your light 4-bets should be sizable enough to push opponents off their hands, but you shouldn’t make them suspicious. The ultimate goal would be to put a little bit more pressure on your opponents than you would if you had an actual made hand.
You do not want to sucker players in with a light 4-bet like you would with a big hand, so it is better to take a risk now than to get called or re-raised and see a flop. Take a stand and put your opponent to a difficult decision, but don’t make it obvious that you are trying to push them out of the pot with brute force alone.