Poker isn’t your typical casino game. Forget about battling against the house edge or the dealer. At the poker table, you’ll be testing your meddle against fellow gamblers in a true showdown for supremacy. Poker is a categorical term that can actually refer to a collection of games. These days, if someone asks if you play poker, they’re probably referring to Texas Hold ‘Em, which you’ll undoubtedly recognize as the featured contest in most televised World Series of Poker bouts and the game of choice in films such as Rounders. Despite the popularity of Hold ‘Em, there are plenty of other poker games enjoyed in casinos around the world. Some examples include Omaha, 7-Card Stud, 5-Card Draw, High/Low Chicago and Follow the Queen. If you’re unfamiliar with any or all of those games, don’t fret about it. A good working knowledge of Texas Hold ‘Em will be more than enough for hours of fun at the casino.
Making solid bets in poker isn’t as simple as it is with other casino games. In baccarat, for example, simply sticking with the banker bet hand after hand is a decent strategy that gives you solid odds. At the craps table, putting your cash on black with every passing spin doesn’t diminish your chances in any way. At the poker table, however, live competition and shifting odds make a highly adaptable betting strategy essential if you want to multiply that bankroll. So, how can you tell when are the right times to fold and when are the right times to push all in? While this instinct can definitely be developed and refined with experience, we’ve got some tips that will get you on the right track. Deal the cards, it’s time to take a closer look.
There are a number of different scenarios that could be fueling your bet on any given hand. Novices may infer that the goal of poker is to get the best hand, but that’s not technically the case. In fact, you can win a lot of money with trash cards, but that’s another type of bet. Value betting is betting with what you think will be the best hand. For example, if you receive pocket aces on the deal in Hold ‘Em, you’ll be feeling really solid about your chances, and you’ll be right in feeling so. There’s little doubt that pocket aces are a strong hand that presents a great opportunity to win. Despite the advantage, pocket aces don’t ensure that you’ll be standing tall after the river is revealed.
Keeping in mind that a loss is always possible, value betting is all about playing strong with strong cards. While aggression is good in this situation, it can also be your undoing. The trick is to bet an amount that will net you a significant win without scaring off the other players. Luring your opponents in against your strong cards is the best way to make some serious money playing poker. Learn to read your opponents and push them to their limits. If your intuition about the value bet is correct, these mistakes will result in huge boosts to your chip stack.
Not every hand will be pocket aces. The key to a successful bluff is in making your opponent think that you are value betting, despite your less than favorable cards. This can be tricky, because it is ultimately a balance between the risk associated with raising with poor cards and the potential glory of raking in a huge pot thanks exclusively to your poker skill. Poker experts suggest that a good bluff is much like telling an intriguing story. Instead of characters, plot and setting, you’ll be focusing on the matter of your hand and your supreme (false) confidence therein. Of course, not every bluff has to be a high stakes, all-in game changer.
One example of a way to add a few chips to your stack without too much risk is known as blind-stealing. To use this technique, you’ll need to make it to the final three of a poker game. In other words, there’ll be only you and the two blinds when you’re in the dealer’s position. Following the initial deal, it can be advantageous to do a small raise from this position. If the blinds don’t have playable cards, they’ll fold instead of simply checking to the flop. This can add a buck or two to your pot without incurring too much risk. It won’t make you rich, but every dollar counts, right?
Simply knowing when to bet isn’t enough to win at the poker tables. You’ll also need to understand how to effectively size your bet. Consider, for example, that your goal is to force your opponent to fold. You don’t want to push all-in and hope for the best. On the contrary, you want to bet as little as possible to get the job done. Most opponents will fold to a smaller bet just as often as they will to a full-pot-size bet, so there’s no reason for excess risk.
On the other side of the coin, sometimes, you’ll want your opponent to call. When you’re making a value bet, you’ll want to make the highest bet that you think your opponent will call. Knowing your opponents is key to success at the poker tables. Making a $20 bet when a $10 bet will achieve the same result may not seem like that big of a deal, but bets occur on every single hand that you play. Over the long run, shifting your strategy by a few dollars can add up to some serious cash in your pocket.
Knowing how and when to bet in poker can depend on a wide variety of factors. Your opponents are the key to your success, so study their actions and take note of any potential weaknesses. Value bet when appropriate, but don’t be afraid to fold if the action just isn’t right. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to mix things up. Controlled, selective aggression is important in poker, because it prevents your opponents from outdrawing you cheaply. As with most things, practice makes perfect. Take a seat at a low maximum table and hone your skills in both value betting and bluffing. With a little persistence and attention to detail, you’ll be on your way to your first big win!