We’ve got the scoop on how to win poker tournaments and cash games. Whether you’re heading to a local casino, hunting for poker bonuses, or want to play for free online, our tips have you covered.
How to Win at Poker: Getting Started
It’s important to know how to play poker before you fill your head with strategy concepts like bet sizing. Many beginners seem to miss this step before they go off hunting a full house or catching community cards. They get blinded by the potentially profitable moves they can make and forget about the fundamentals.
So, even before you learn basic poker strategy, ensure you know how to play poker. Our guides show you how. Once you’ve got a foundation to build on, these are the proverbial bricks you need to build a system of ways to win in poker.
Picking the Right Games
Always aim to be one of the best players at the table. Learning how to play Texas Hold’em poker online is great because there are dozens of different games to choose from (see image below). Being a good poker player is about knowing what stakes to look for, and who to play against.
Moreover, the lobby tells you how passive/aggressive players are. Look for tables where players are playing a lot of hands (high VPIP % or high Flop %) but not raising very much (low PFR %).
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Look for the Fish
Learning how to win at online poker is about making use of all the information. If you were learning how to play poker before internet sites were a thing, the only way to find weak players (aka fish) was to sit and watch games for long periods.
Of course, there are times when spotting fish in live games is easy. However, for the most part, it takes time. You may know what a big blind is, and that a straight flush beats a full house. But do you know how to exploit weak hands and take advantage of poor players?
It takes just a few seconds to find a weak poker player online. Firstly, you can use online poker sites that attract players with below-average skills.
Offshore poker sites with casinos or sportsbooks attached usually fall into this category. Gamblers from those verticals often cross over to poker, and because they’re not particularly skilled, they’re easy targets.
Use Tracking Software
You can also use tracking software and table stats. Look at the statistics relating to the number of poker hands people play. Then, compare this to how many times they bet or raise during a card game.
If players are playing lots of hands but not raising much, they’re probably a fish. Learning how to win at Texas Hold’em poker is as much about finding the right players as making the right moves. You’ll have a much better chance of winning if you can find players who are weaker than you, so always look at the stats.
There are plenty of mathematical strategy poker books that break down the intricate details of how to bet correctly based on what you’re trying to achieve.
For example, if you know someone calls a lot on the river, it’s mathematically more profitable to bet the size of the pot – or over the pot – than anything smaller.
That’s because, in the long run, you stand to make more overall, even though big bets can scare people. This is a beginner’s guide on how to win in poker, so we don’t need to get too far into the weeds when it comes to nuanced bet sizing. The main thing to remember is that your bet and raises sizing matters when you’re playing Pot Limit and No Limit games.
That’s why one of our top Texas Hold’em tips is to size your bets based on the amount of money in the pot and the outcome you want to achieve.
For example, the standard pre-flop bet is 2.3x to 3x the big blind. The standard pre-flop raise/3-bet is approximately 3x the previous bet. There are exceptions to these rules, but sticking to these pre-flop rules should keep you on the right path.
Pots and Stacks
Beyond these basic poker tips, the amount you bet post-flop needs to be based on whether you want an opponent to call, raise, or fold. Once you’ve got your intention set, take these two variables into account:
Bet an amount that aligns with the size of the pot
For example, if there’s $100 in the pot and you bet $25, your opponent has to call $25 to play for a $125 pot. That means your opponent has pot odds of 5/1. Think about how attractive these odds are for your opponent. If you want them to call, make the odds attractive. If you want them to fold, make the pot odds unattractive.
Bet an amount based on your stack size and an opponent’s stack
A bet that equates to a significant percentage of your stack suggests you’re confident. Why? Because you’re committed to going all-in. The same is true if the bet represents a significant percentage of your opponent’s stack.
One thing almost all novices miss when they’re learning how to play poker is that people watch every move you make. You should also be watching people, but don’t forget that you’ll also be under scrutiny. Consider how you’re being perceived and think about your table image while you watch players betting.
For example, you might get five good hands in a row and play them all aggressively. No one else at the table will know that you had five strong hands if you don’t go to a showdown. Therefore, they’ll probably assume you’re a loose-aggressive player.
The reality is different, but it doesn’t matter. Your table image is based on people’s perceptions. If they think you’re a loose player, they’re likely to play back at you and vice versa. This means you need to think about how your actions affect what people think about you and adjust accordingly.
Everyone has tells. In poker, tells are behavioral patterns that give away something about their hand. One of the best ways to win in poker is spotting tells and, in turn, working to reduce the number of tells you give off. Spotting tells in other people allows you to better understand the poker hands they’re playing.
It’s important to note that live poker tells differ from online tells. That’s pretty obvious because you can’t see people online. However, it’s worth making the point because the setting changes what you need to focus on.
For instance, In live games, physical gestures might be more important than betting patterns. When you’re playing online, all you’ve got to go on are betting patterns.
In the interests of showing you how to win in poker, regardless of the setting, here are some of the most common online and live tells. Before you digest the following lists, remember that all poker tells are individual. A move that signals weakness from one player could represent strength in another.
Online Poker Tells
- Players who check, bet, call, or raise quickly usually have a strong hand
- Players who take a long time to act usually want to appear weak or have a tricky hand
- Players who constantly timeout aren’t focused, usually because they’re playing multiple games
- Players who fold instantly, except when they enter a pot, tend to have strong hands
- Players who talk too much in the chat box are usually on tilt
Live Poker Tells
- Players whose hands shake are fighting adrenaline so they can have a great hand or a bluff
- Players who ask, “how much was that” are usually not paying attention and are ripe for bluffing
- Players who avoid eye contact are typically nervous because they’re bluffing
- Players who lean back in their chair/look relaxed usually have a strong hand
- Players who sit up and take notice when it’s not their turn are usually eager to play a strong hand
Manage Your Bankroll
Bankroll management is as important as knowing how poker hands rank. We can show you how to win a poker online and give you dozens of Texas Hold’em tips, but it all counts for nothing if you are broke. To put it another way, you’ll never be able to implement a basic poker strategy without a bankroll.
You can check out our bankroll management guide for a complete overview of managing your money correctly. What we’ll say here is that the stakes you play for must represent a small percentage of your bankroll. Ideally, you’ll never have more than 2% of your bankroll at risk in a cash game or tournament.
Play in Big Live Poker Events
Experience counts for a lot when you’re learning how to win in poker. Our tip is to get out and play live games in your local casino. It’s also worth playing satellites.
Winning a satellite can get you into mid-stakes tournaments with generous prizepools, such as those on the RunGood Tour, for a small cost. These events typically attract a lot of recreational players, so they’re great places to test out your new moves.
(Source: Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review Journal)
Utilizing Poker Bonuses
Of all the ways to win in poker, bonuses are the only things that guarantee a return on your investment. Playing the right poker hands, mastering the art of bluffing, and value betting are all skills you need to master, but there is no guarantee you’ll win pots. Poker promotions, such as deposit bonuses, rakeback, and loyalty rewards, offer guaranteed returns.
So, even if you struggle to implement a basic poker strategy, claim as many bonuses as possible. Doing this will, at worst, offset some of your losses. Bonuses can also give you a financial buffer to fall back on when you’re first learning how to play poker.
Advanced Strategy on How to Win Poker
This is a beginner’s guide on how to win in poker. We’ve given you poker tips that can put you on the road to success, but there are many steps to the top. The next moves you need to take are listed in our more detailed poker strategy guide.
One of the main concepts discussed in that article is Game Theory Optimal (GTO) play. This approach looks at ways to win in poker based on mathematics.
Specifically, GTO aims to make the mathematically optimal play in every scenario based on bet sizing, pot size, a player’s range, and table dynamics. Essentially, GTO poker strategy removes psychology from the situation and aims to play in an unexploitable way using mathematics.
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Top 5 Tips for Winning at Poker
We’ve laid the foundations, so at this point, you should have a basic idea of how to win poker tournaments and cash games. You can build a fortress from these foundations, and the following online poker tips are the bricks you need.
Focus, Focus, Focus
The easiest thing to do at the table is to lose focus. The most successful players often maintain their focus and composure the longest.
Think in Ranges
Put opponents on a range of hands and whittle it down based on their play rather than trying to pinpoint one specific hand from the start.
Deny Opponents Value
Don’t make it affordable if you suspect opponents are chasing a draw. Deny them value by making large bets.
3-Bet in Position
3-betting is a powerful move as it forces an initial raiser to re-evaluate the strength of their hand. Make this move even more powerful by doing it when you have position.
Squeeze Weaker Callers
The squeeze play is often cited in guides on how to win at Texas Hold’em poker. This move requires you to 3-bet following a raise and a call. You’re raising to squeeze out the person who called the initial raise.
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More Information on Playing Poker
Below are more useful resources on how to play poker like a pro:
Play Free Online Poker and Win
Going from this introductory guide on how to win at online poker straight into a high-stakes cash game is a terrible idea. We’ve given you our best poker tips, but you’re still a novice at this stage.
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Always gamble responsibly. You need to be disciplined to make it in poker and survive for a long time. Employ good bankroll management practices and use the tools available at our top-rated offshore poker sites.