If you are new to the game of online poker, there are a few basic essential playing strategies that you should master before you attempt to play either ring games or high stakes no limit games. Heading into a world like online poker without this basic knowledge is simply setting yourself up for a world of hurt, because once an experienced player at the table realises that you are a noob, they will eat you alive, and your stack will vanish in seconds.
In this article, we are going to discuss some beginner poker strategies that will help you get your game on track, and survive long enough to make it into the paying orders at an online poker tournament.
Do your homework
Basic poker strategy begins long before you ever sit down at a poker table. Think of this as a Karate Kid “wax on, wax off” scenario. You need to study before you begin playing poker.
Specifically, you need to be able to reel off in your head what all the poker hands are. Know them. There are 10 different possible poker hands - can you list them all?
The first is a simple High Card - if there's nothing else available, the person with the highest card wins. Next up is a pair. Then two pairs. Then three of a kind.
The next most powerful hand is called a Straight - it's five cards in sequence (e.g. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), but the individual suits don't matter. A Straight is beaten by a Flush, which is any five cards, but all of the same suit.
A Full House trumps a Flush. The full house is the combination of three of a kind and a pair. It's a pretty powerful hand.
Then comes Four of a Kind, a rare hand in poker, and one that you'll be pleased to make.
It's topped by a hand called the Natural Straight. This is five cards that are both in sequence and are all of the same suit - sort of a combination of a Straight and a Flush.
And the most powerful hand in poker which beats everything else is the Royal Flush. The Royal Flush is itself a Natural Straight, but it's made up of 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of a single suit.
Now, why am I making such a big deal about knowing the poker hands? Because in Texas Hold'em poker, a lot of strategy based not so much on what is actually in your hand, but rather on what could be made with the cards that are on the table.
We'll get more into this issue in intermediate strategy, but basically, if you can spot the potential of a good hand on the flop, and play as if you've hit it, likely anyone with a less powerful hand will fold to you.
I think I will fold, thank you
Speaking of folding, one of the most critical poker playing skills is to understand when you should fold. In any situation in which you are not one hundred percent sure what to do, the answer is actually to fold. Just fold. Do it.
There is a school of thought that says that a skilled poker player is one who can get their opponent to fold without seeing the river card. And it is true, if someone folds before seeing the fifth card on the table, it is because they believe that they are beaten and they do not wish to risk more cash.
However, the mindset that you have to get out of is that the person who has folded has somehow lost the hand. It is only a mistake to fold if the other person is bluffing.
What I'm trying to say is that folding when you are beaten is the correct thing to do, because the point of poker (unless you're playing a ring game) is to survive long enough to outlast the other players. Tournament poker is all about final placement - the closer you are to first place, the more money you earn, even if you got knocked out.
Chasing someone all in simply because they appeal to your ego is not a smart thing to do - there is no honour in poker. It's better to fold, and live long enough to see them taken out by a better player later in the game.