Winning easy and poker usually don’t go hand-in-hand, but that’s only because people love to complicate the game of poker. They tell themselves: I can figure out a way to make this much more complicated so I can sound smarter than everyone else and then get people do buy my poker strategy classes so I can make money since I’m not a profitable poker player.
First off, they had a run-on thought, so we can already fault them for that. Secondly, I’m not one of those people. I try to simplify the game with learning how to win at poker. Thirdly, I always admit when I lose. You can just look at my book Felt Hopper: Florida for proof on that one.
All that said, it’s going to be challenging to teach you how to win at poker in five easy steps, but I accept the challenge. I’ll keep it to the poker basics and drop some easy-to-understand poker tips.
#1. Play Fewer Poker Hands
This is a simple yet highly effective poker strategy. It definitely falls in line with our poker rules for winning.
When you first start playing in poker tournaments, you tend to play a lot of poker hands because you want to see a lot of flops. You want to see a lot of flops because you view it as fun. Then it becomes like a bad golfer hitting a great shot. They don’t think about shooting 115 in 18 holes. They think about that one approach shot that was right on the money. That’s what keeps them coming back.
In poker, you might have played J9-off despite the hand being 4-bet pre-flop and then flopped a straight. Won a huge pot there, which made you think you were a great poker player, or that the game was easy. You would be wrong on both accounts. You did everything wrong and the game isn’t easy.
Sorry for being harsh, but that’s how you get better. I’ll start by saying you should never call a pre-flop 4-bet with J9-off. I’ll continue by saying that there is a very easy way to get a lot better at this game, which is to play fewer poker hands.
You probably haven’t noticed, but the best poker players in poker tournaments and other poker games are tight players. This means they play fewer poker hands than the majority of the field. Always remember this simple concept: The pot is a dangerous place to be in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. This means that you should only be getting involved with strong hands or when you have an opportunistic situation.
Let’s begin with strong hands. The range of hands you play should depend on your position. If you’re in early position, you should only play AA, KK, QQ, and AK. Maybe AQ if you’re a strong player. I’m going with poker basics because I’m assuming you’re a beginner. In other words, I’m trying to simplify the game for you while also giving you poker tips to win.
You want to play the aforementioned hands in any position, and you want to play them aggressively. If you’re in middle or late position, then I would recommend raising (not limping) with the following hands…
Not all these hands are the same. If you get three-bet by an opponent and you have AK-off or better, it’s usually a snap-call. You live and die with the results. However, there have been instances where I have had a good read on my opponent and fold a strong hand because I have them on AA or KK.
During the Main Event in Coconut Creek, the tightest player at the table three-bet me pre-flop and he became very still and stoic, not wanting to give anything away. His eyes also seemed more focused as he glanced at my chips. I tanked with KK and folded pre-flop. He had AA. So, there are situations where you can fold monsters. But, personally, I’m probably calling with AQ-off and better most of the time. I will usually be ahead, and even if I’m not, I’m not drawing dead.
AJ, KQ, JJ, and TT are a little different. Some people will call-off with these hands. I’m not one of those people. You’re in a race-at-best situation most of the time. That’s -EV. I will say this, though. If someone is short-stacked and jams it for 10 BB or something in that area, I’m usually calling. They will usually have a smaller pair or some marginal hands like KT-suited or QJ-off. There will be times when I’m wrong, but I will usually be correct in this spot.
The basic idea is that if you only play the hands listed above, you will win more than you lose. I would highly recommend adding all pairs of 44-99 as well as Ax-suited in late position. If you’re past the beginner phase of your poker journey, then I would also add suited-connectors and suited one-gappers.
I would also raise with all the hands mentioned in this paragraph from late position. By doing so, you’re opponents will not be able to put you on a specific range of hands. If you’re raising bigger with monsters and smaller with suited-connectors, your opponents are going to pick up on it. Always go into this game knowing that it’s okay to eat your raise and fold pre-flop sometimes. It’s part of the game. Disguising the strength of your hole cards fits into our poker rules for how to win at poker.
#2. Bluff Correctly
Three important points here.
One, semi-bluffing is good. You can’t always check a flush draw to see if you get there. You’re losing tons of value! In most cases, either your opponent will fold or you will hit your flush. I’m not saying that you will usually hit your flush. You will only hit your flush 36% of the time when four to the flush on the flop. I don’t know the numbers on how often your opponent will fold.
Nobody does. But I do know that the amount of chips you accumulate by getting your opponent to fold combined with the amount of chips you win when you get called and hit your flush is likely to be more than the chips you earn by checking and seeing if you get there. There will certainly be times where you are called and don’t get there.
This is why so many people are afraid to pull the trigger. But in order to live in poker games, you can’t be afraid to die. This is how to win at poker.
Two, I would recommend almost always putting in a continuation bet or check-raising when heads-up. The check-raise is an incredibly powerful bluff. Even if you’re wrong, you will find out the strength of your opponent’s hand with absolute certainty.
An opponent is NEVER going to call a check-raise with a marginal hand. Well, maybe if they’re a donkey. There are some donkeys out there. If you do get called on a check-raise-bluff, hit the brakes. Sometimes how to win at poker relates to aggression until resistance.
Three, if you’re going to barrel on the river, then I highly recommend that your story makes sense. Let’s say your opponent raised pre-flop, bet big on the flop, and bet big on the turn. There were two hearts on the flop, but you had 6s 6d with no six anywhere on the board. Then a heart hits the river.
Since your opponent kept coming after you, and since he began raising pre-flop, you can safely assume he has an overpair or top pair. He bet for value pre-flop, and he has been trying to get rid of you ever since, especially after seeing two hearts on the flop. Now that a heart hit the river, you can bluff to represent the flush. You better make sure it’s a big enough amount to scare him away.
If you get away with this bluff, you’re probably wondering if you should show it. You want to show it, but that’s Ego, and it could cost you. It’s hard to make winning hands in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. If you show that bluff, then you need to hit cards going forward because you just lost respect from everyone at the table. I don’t recommend relying on the cards.
If you fold without showing the bluff, then you got away with it AND the players at the table still respect you because they think you had the flush. If someone asks you if you had the flush, don’t say, “Yes” or “No.” Say, “I can’t answer that.” Always keep them guessing.
#3. Bet Out On Monsters
I play a lot of poker. I have seen it all. At least most of it. I can tell you that if you check a monster on the flop, your opponent is going to be more suspicious than if you bet out on the flop. If you bet out with a monster on the flop, a good poker player is going to put you on a marginal or good hand that you’re trying to protect.
They are not going to put you on a monster. This is why you should bet out monsters. Your opponents usually won’t believe you, which will lead to them calling more often and you getting more value. This is how to win at poker.
#4. Not Sure? Fold!
I know you want to see what your opponent is holding. I also know that you don’t want to be bluffed in front of everyone at the table. Know this, though. The person showing the bluff is the idiot. He or she is giving away information for the sake of Ego. Even if it doesn’t cost that player during this sessions, it will cost them in the future. Your job is simple. Forget Ego and remind yourself that if you’re not sure, fold. This is how you win at poker: Fold more often!
Also in regards to embarrassment and your opponent showing a bluff, think about how many times you made the correct laydown against that player and he mucked his cards. He will show you when he’s correct, but he will not show you when you are correct. And you are correct more often than not if you lean toward folding. I’ll put this as simply as possible: You will know when it’s the right time to call.
#5. Attack Every Single Time in This Spot
If you have three or more opponents, don’t bet out unless holding strength. If you have 1-2 opponents and they’re checking, you should almost always bet. When you sense weakness, you need to attack. This how to win at poker. Your opponents will gain respect for you and stay out of your way more often.
You might have noticed that I wrote ‘almost always.’ There is one instance when you don’t want to continue being aggressive in this manner. It’s when you have been playing against these same players for hours and they have picked up on your aggression. I can guarantee you that at least one of them has been waiting to set the trap for you. But this is where you change gears. And changing gears and quickly adapting is also how to win at poker.
If you sense something is up because one of your opponents flatted you, check it back. This is going to frustrate them. They can’t beat you when weak, and that can’t extract chips from you when strong. You might get them on tilt. Let’s add another how to win at poker: Get your opponents on tilt by not falling for their trickery.
To review how to win at poker, play fewer poker hands pre-flop, bluff correctly, bet out more often with monsters, fold if you’re not sure, and attack whenever you sense weakness. For the last one, I’m going to change it to: Attack whenever you smell blood. That comes across much better because it’s more shark-like. Be the shark. See you at the WSOP!
How to Win at Poker – FAQs
Q: What are the ways to win at poker?
A: Be patient, read betting patterns of your opponents, fold whenever you’re not sure, eliminate Ego and Greed, minimize risk off the felt in every way possible.
Q: What is the object of the game of poker?
A: In a cash game, it’s to leave with more chips than you started with. In a poker tournament, it’s to come in the money enough times that you’re profitable.
Q: How do I beat my friends at poker?
A: Read these poker articles, read/listen to as many poker books as possible and practice. Next poker night, look out.
Q: What are good ways to bluff in poker?
A: It depends on your personality and what you’re comfortable with. For example, the majority of my bluffs are small to medium sized bets on the flop and turn, nothing big.