In this article we'll take a look at some intermediate poker strategy tips to help beginner players improve their game. If you're already placing in the top 20 percent in tournaments at your favourite online poker site, you probably don't need what's in this article. Then again, maybe you're just getting lucky. :)
But if you've mastered the basics of online poker and are ready to pick up some more tips, then by all means, read on! We're here to help.
Analysing the flop
In our article on beginner poker strategy, we wrote at some length on the importance of knowing all of the possible poker hands. Now we're going to talk about why it's important.
Regardless of what you are dealt as your hole cards, you need to look at the flop in two ways. First and most obviously, you need to look at what you could possibly make using your hole cards and the flop cards. And by this I mean not just what is actually there, but what is potentially there with the addition of one or two other cards.
This allows you to figure out whether it's worth sticking around in the hand even if you haven't immediately hit something.
The second way you need to look at the flop is, excluding the card you are actually holding, what could possibly be made from these cards? This is vitally important because all of the more experienced players around the table will be doing exactly this.
Experienced players look at what could possibly be made from the flop, particularly if they are not able to make it with their hole cards. This gives them an idea of the kind of hands they could possibly be facing in the upcoming betting rounds.
Let's look at an example: Suppose that you've been dealt pocket kings, spades and clubs - not a bad hand, but you decide to limp in and see how the land lies. The flop comes down 8h,9h,10h. This flop neither helps or hinders your position - or does it?
Actually, this flop is the starting point for some deadly hands, all of which beat you. With two hearts, a player could have a flush - which beats your pocket kings. 6-7 or 7-J would produce a straight, also better than your kings. Most worryingly, Jack-Queen would complete the straight too, and Jack-Queen is not the sort of hand that someone would arbitrarily fold as weak, the way they might if they got 6-7.
Someone makes a big raise. Calling it would take out half your stack if you lose. Do you hope your Kings are good and call? Or do you muck them, even though they are a decent pair, and save yourself some hurt?
Lie like it's going out of fashion
Now, the important thing to remember in this situation is that all of your opponents - the experienced ones, anyway - will be analysing the flop in this way as well, particularly if they don't have the magic suited Jack-Queen. Therefore, one decent strategy to try is bluffing: acting like you have something you don't.
In response to the massive raise, go all in. Simply re-raising is not going to cut it here - this is an all or nothing risk situation. If you genuinely had the Jack and Queen of hearts - as you are trying to convince your opponents that you do - then the hand would be almost unbeatable. The only way it could be topped is by a higher natural straight, which would statistically be highly unlikely.
So you shove all in, and you do it quickly, like you didn't even have to think about it.
Now, if you are unlucky, then the guy who just raised actually does have the Queen and Jack of hearts, and you just committed suicide. But in all likelihood, he was bluffing just like you, and he now believes himself to be in deep, deep trouble.
Remember that in tournament poker, stack size is less important than simply staying in the game. A player is more likely to fold to stay in the game than risk getting knocked out over something stupid.
For this reason, the guy folds, the hand ends, and a massive pile of chips makes its way to your stack.