Poker

Beginner Strategy

Bodog offers the best poker strategy tips and techniques to improve your game. The basic strategies outlined below are your first step essentials in your poker education. By the time you're done you'll know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em!

Game Selection

Game Selection is a very important first step when beginning a poker session, from choosing the appropriate game for your bankroll to choosing your skill level.

  • Bankroll
    • Make sure you have an adequate bankroll for the stakes of the game. Normal game fluctuations dictate that playing in a $3/$6 game with a $50 total bankroll will normally see you leaving the table broke and looking to deposit more dollars.
    • A good rule of thumb is to have a bankroll of about 200 times the big bet to consistently play at a particular limit (e.g. $200 to play at $.50/$1).
  • Evaluate the Game
    • Some games are tougher than others, even though the limits are the same.
    • It is important to find a game that has weaker players as opposed to a game that has stronger players. This is a very important ingredient to poker success that you will pick up as you continue to learn the game.
    • Take some time to observe a game before sitting down. If it looks like a game full of tough players, then you should consider looking for another game.
  • Tight/Loose and Passive/Aggressive
    • There are two major ways to describe games and players: Tight/Loose and Passive/Aggressive.
    • Tight/Loose describes how many hands a player will play. If they play very few hands, then they are considered Tight. If they play a lot of hands, then they are considered Loose.
    • Passive/Aggressive describes how often players tend to bet their hands. Passive players do not bet very often and prefer to call or check. Aggressive players tend to heavily bet their hands and rarely call or check.
    • The easiest games for the smart beginner are those that are Loose/Passive. These are games where players tend to play too many weak hands, and do not raise often enough when they have strong hands. These are games that beginning players should seek out.
    • The toughest games are those in which players play fewer hands and bet heavily when they do enter the pot. This is a Tight/Aggressive style of playing that all poker players should aspire to; conversely, these are exactly the types of players that you should be cautious of.

Position

  • Early Position
    • Early Position is usually defined as the first three players to act after the blinds (for a full table). A player in early position should only play strong hands, as there are players to act after them who may raise.
  • Middle Position
    • Middle Position is usually defined as the next three players after the three early position players. A player in Middle Position may play slightly weaker hands than an early position player as they have the opportunity to see some of the action before them.
  • Late Position
    • Late Position is usually defined as the last two players before the blinds. Players in Late Position may play a greater number of hands, as they are able to see the actions of the majority of the players at the table.
  • Blinds
    • The blinds have the advantage of playing a diverse number of hands as they have already contributed either a partial or full bet. If there is a raise before them, then the blinds must often fold, as they will be in Early Position after the flop and so need a strong hand to continue.

Hand Selection

Hand Selection is as important as Game Selection, and will have a major impact on whether a player is a winner in the long run. The hands mentioned here are just a rough guide to hand selections. Playing more hands than this list suggests is perfectly fine if a player is comfortable with the action of the game. Note: suited cards are stronger than unsuited cards as they also have the possibility of making a flush.

  • Early Position
    • AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AK, AQ
  • Middle Position
    • 88, 77, 66, AJ, KQ, QJ, JT
  • Late Position
    • 66, 55, AT, KJ, KT, T9, 98, and any Ace with a same suited lower card.

Folding

Learning the discipline of when to fold cards will save players a lot of dollars over the course of their poker careers. A good player will fold far more hands than they will play.

  • Generally fold any hand not listed above on the pre flop betting round.
  • A player should typically fold their cards if the flop does not pair their high card(s), make three of kind, or flop two cards to a straight or flush.
  • A player should usually fold if the betting actions of another player(s) convince them that they are beaten, or if they do not complete their straight or flush draws after the last community card is dealt.

Checking

Checking is a play that has advantages and disadvantages. Often a player should consider raising or folding rather than checking.

  • A player should typically check if the community cards have not helped them.
  • Drawing hands are often checked in the hopes of seeing the next card for free.
  • If a player is unsure of whether or not they have the best hand at the showdown, then checking is often the best course of action.

Calling

Calling is very similar to checking in that it has advantages and disadvantages. Often a player should consider raising or folding rather than calling.

  • A player typically shouldn't call if the community cards have not helped them.
  • Drawing hands are often worth calling a bet in the hopes of making a straight or a flush. Drawing hands usually require a slightly bigger pot or lots of players in the hand, as the odds of completing your draw are roughly about 4-1 against.
  • If a player is unsure of whether or not they have the best hand at the showdown, then just calling a bet is often the best course of action.

Betting/Raising/Re-Raising/Checkraising

Betting, Raising, and Re-Raising are instrumental weapons in a poker player's arsenal. It may be said that the very nature of poker is about betting and raising.

  • A player should bet, raise, or re-raise whenever they believe that they have the best hand. This is done to increase the amount of the bets in the pot and to protect their hand against drawing hands.
  • Players in late position may also bet or raise with strong drawing hands to either win the pot right away, or to enable them to receive a 'free' card on the next betting round when all the players who act before them check.
  • If a player flops or later makes a very strong hand, then checkraising becomes a powerful play to get extra bets into the pot. Players must be very confident that someone else will bet after they check for checkraising to be a viable option.
  • Betting, raising, re-raising, and checkraising are powerful tools when trying to deceive or bluff opponents, but only when they are used sparingly.

Bluffing

Bluffing is an important part of poker and it is a valuable tool for poker players. Bluffing can often win pots, and it allows players to create deception and uncertainty in the minds of their opponents.

  • Bluffing works better against a smaller number of opponents, and often will not succeed against a larger number of opponents.
  • Do not bluff players who tend to call too much. Bluffs tend to succeed better against players who are more willing to make a fold.
  • Be careful of bluffing too much, as opponents will soon catch on and failed to be fooled.

Observe Your Opponents

A winning poker player will always be observing and watching their fellow poker players. Analyzing an opponent's play allows a player insight into what hand their competitors may hold. This allows the observant player to make better decisions, and ultimately win more pots and lose fewer chips.

  • A player should pay attention to other players and their actions even when not involved in the hand.
  • Use the note-taking feature to build up a database on other players and their habits.
  • A player should remember that their opponents might be watching them and so vary their own play occasionally.