Ultimate Guide to Poker Strategy

Ready to take your poker strategy to the next level? No-Limit Hold Em has become one of the most popular table games casinos have to offer, as poker rooms across America have seen large upticks in traffic over recent years.

In what has become a rather solved game, as computers have now been able to guide players into a game theory optimal approach is known as ‘GTO,’ crushing your typical low stakes poker table has become much easier with just a little practice.

Below will be your guide to becoming a winning player at No-Limit Hold Em, as we’ll walk you through some of the most important principles, strategies, and exploits necessary to take your game to the next level.

Pre-Flop Strategy & Positioning

Pre-flop play is the bread and butter of any poker game, as it paves the way for how every hand will proceed. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when dealt your cards.

Positional Awareness

In a typical game, there are two blinds — the small blind and the big blind. Action then starts to the player to the left of the big blind, who will have a decision as to whether he wants to play his hand and enter the pot.

This player is ‘Under the Gun’ (UTG), as he is the first to act. Typically, you want to be playing a much tighter configuration of hands due largely to the fact that you have many players left to act behind you. Thus, this is one of the least advantageous positions on the table. You should largely look to fold most of your holdings, unless you have some of the premier hands in poker such as high pocket pairs like 9’s and better, and suited broadway hands such as Ace-King of clubs, or King Queen of diamonds, so on and so forth.

Another issue with this position is that you’ll be one of the first players to act after the flop, which we will discuss later in the article.

Furthermore, the remaining positions on the table are as follows: Under the Gun +1, Middle Position, LoJack, HiJack, Cutoff, Button, and the Blinds.

The closer you get to the blinds, the more hands you can profitably enter the pot with, as you have less players to act behind you. Ipso facto, this makes positions like the Cutoff and Button the most favorable, as you can play hands more freely knowing there are fewer players to raise after you.

Entering the Pot

Another crucial component to your pre-flop strategy, and this is something many low-stakes players fail to abide by, is that you should almost strictly be entering the pot through a raise, not a call. Simply calling the big blind, a tactic known as ‘limping,’ is one of the biggest leaks a player can have, as no poker pro’s ever recommend, nor deploy, this sort of strategy.

I won’t get into all the reasons why you shouldn’t be limping, but for now, just focus on starting all your hands by raising the big blind, as this is known as ‘opening.’

An open-raise should be to a size of 3-5x the big blind size, as this will drive out opponents with weaker hands that could have good equity against you while also building a sizable pot with what is perceived to be a strong hand of your own.

You can sometimes be calling other players’ open-raises when your hand seems to be too strong to fold but too weak to call, but be sure to pick the appropriate spots in doing so, as you must be aware that a player opening to 5x the big blind who is Under the Gun, will have a lot stronger of a hand than someone who opened to 3x in the Cut Off. 

Having positional awareness is crucial to reading your opponent’s hands, as these are the subtle hints that will guide how you proceed in a pot.

The Blinds

Lastly, it is important to go over how to be playing in the blinds.

The small blind is certainly one of the worst positions on the table, as you have already dedicated money to the pot, but you still have a player (the big blind) left to act behind you. 

Therefore, many players implement a raise/fold approach to avoid getting into sticky situations post-flop. By raising, you often knock out the big blind and get it heads up, which is nice since you have the betting lead and can be the aggressor in the hand. Folding some middle strength hands is fine, too, as there will always be better spots to take advantage of.

As for the big blind, you should be playing a very wide range of hands as a call given the fact you already have a fair amount of money in the pot already. Playing north of 50% of hands is pretty standard if it is a single raised pot, and you can continue to re-raise your really strong hands as well.

All in all, a strong pre-flop poker strategy is far and away one of the most important pillars in the game. Be sure to implement these strategies when playing at your local card room.

Playing Post-Flop

Moving on, let’s take a look at what a solid post-flop strategy should look like.

Much like pre-flop, the positioning will be paramount in determining how you should proceed in any given hand. 

Being in position (IP) means you will be acting last on every street (pre-flop, flop, turn, and river). This gives you a tremendous advantage, as you will often dictate the action in hand — making it easier to both value bet and bluff. 

When out of position, however, meaning you’re first to act, you should be doing a lot of checking — especially when you are NOT the pre-flop raiser. You should almost exclusively be checking to the pre-flop aggressor in nearly all situations, as his ‘range’ will always consist of stronger hands like Aces of Kings.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the poker strategy to playing out of position.

Heads up Out of Position (OOP)

When the hand is heads up — meaning it’s 1 on 1 — and you are out of position (OOP) to the pre-flop raiser, you should be doing a lot of check-calling when you make a pair on the flop — especially if it is top pair. You can fold out some of your weaker hands, like bottom pair or middle pair, and a weak kicker when the villain makes a large bet on the flop, as it will be hard to continue in the hand on later streets if he continues to bet. Instead, look to call bets that have additional equity like a pair + straight/flush draw, or a pair with a strong kicker, as these hands can improve at a higher frequency, which will make them easier to play.

However, and this is crucial to being a balanced player, be sure to incorporate some check-raise bluffs with hands that have a lot of equity, such as flush draws and straight draws, as these are hands that can improve later on but still benefit from winning the hand right then and there. This also balances your check-raises when you have a strong made hand like top two pair or three of a kind, making it very difficult to be exploited against.

Multi-Way Pots

When there are multiple people in the hand, equity naturally goes way down since there are more hands to compete against. 

It is highly recommended that bluffing frequency decreases significantly in these spots, as it simply isn’t wise to be bluffing into a wide range of hands. Instead, look to value-bet your strong pairs (top pair, two pair, etc.) while semi-bluffing your strong draws (ace-high flush draw, open-ended straight draw, etc.).

The Name of the Game

At the end of the day, the point of any poker game is to maximize profits and make as much money as possible. Having fun is nice and all, but never take your eyes off the prize, and be sure to incorporate a number of these tactics into your overall poker strategy to crush your local low stakes game. Try out ultimate poker strategy tips risk free with Casino Channel Network!