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Poker Strategy

The page lists a selection of web sites with advice on poker strategy. An enormous amount has been written on this subject in recent years - especially on how to play Texas Hold'em Poker, which is by far the most popular poker variant for online players. Some people play poker for entertainment or excitement, some as a social event to spend a pleasant evening with friends, and some play for profit. For many players the motive is probably some mixture of these. Whatever your reason for playing, the experience is improved if you have some idea what you are doing and how to win.

To have a fair chance of winning you need an appreciation of the frequency or rarity of the different hand types, so that you can assess the chance that yours will be the best hand at the showdown. You also need to understand the betting structure and to be aware of the "pot odds" - the amount it costs to stay in a hand compared to the amount you stand to win if successful. Roughly speaking your chance of winning needs to be better than these pot odds for the investment to be worthwhile. For example if you think you have a one in four chance of winning and the pot contains $20, it is worth calling if this costs less than $5, but if it costs more than $5 to call you should fold. Another important factor is your position in a betting round. If you are first to act ("under the gun") you have to make your betting decision with little or no information about the other players' strength or weakness, whereas when acting last you already know the other players' initial actions and with this extra knowledge you can afford to be bolder.

More than in almost any other card game, good poker strategy depends on assessing not only the cards and betting situation, but also the playing style of your opponents. Playing styles are often classified as tight or loose and passive or aggressive. A tight player readily folds when at a disadvantage while a loose player stays in a larger number of hands. Passive players tend to call or fold, leaving it to others to raise the stake, while aggressive players are more ready to bet or raise if they decide to stay in at all. On the whole beginners tend play a loose passive game. They call on too many hands hoping that their mediocre cards will win after all or that the other players are bluffing. It is relatively easy to win against such players - you simply bet on your good hands and fold your bad ones. Bluffing only becomes a viable tactic when playing against tighter players - if they are very eager to fold you can occasionally make a profit by betting on a bad hand.

In practice it is possible for any reasonably intelligent player to make a small but steady profit playing poker online. How is this done? The poker room always makes a profit from the rake it takes from each pot, so the only way you can win is if other players lose. Your profit will initially be made by winning money from casual players who play simply for entertainment and stake a small amount of money hoping to be lucky. Sometimes they are lucky, but in the long run the rational players will always win. If you consider it immoral to make money this way, then obviously you should not play. However, so long as the other players are playing with money that they can afford to lose, and are happy to spend this money on a few hours' entertainment, there is no need to feel guilty about taking what they offer. Admittedly, spending hours at a computer playing small stakes poker is for most people not a particularly healthy or fulfilling life style. Your net profit per hour of play may well be less than the hourly rate you could be paid for a normal productive job. Whether online poker is for you will depend on your skills and preferences.

While it is not hard to make a profit playing fixed limit poker for small stakes, it is difficult to scale this up to achieve a greater profit. At some point you may be tempted to move to higher stakes tables to increase your rate of winning, but then you will encounter better players, and your success will depend on how good you really are. Most people will at some point reach a level where they are outclassed by the opposition and become prey rather than predators. It is important to be realistic about your own capabilities and to keep careful track of whether you are winning or losing on average. Certainly poker may be played for entertainment rather than for profit. Maybe you are prepared to spend money in exchange for the thrill of playing for higher stakes. In this case other players will be grateful to you: professional players depend on people like you for their income. Please be careful to limit your expenditure to what you can afford to lose, and on no account fall into the classic gambler's trap of hoping for a lucky win to reverse an unaffordable loss.

If you want to try your hand at online poker, fixed limit Texas Hold'em is a good place to start, simply because there are so many players, and it is easy to find tables at which you can make a modest profit. First familiarise yourself with the rules and preferably also some of the strategy guides below. Most online poker rooms provide the facility to play for pretend money to get the feel of how their interface works. When you are ready to play for money they will usually offer you an introductory bonus conditional on your depositing some money of your own and playing a certain amount before you withdraw it. If you play carefully this should be enough to cover any initial losses and allow you to make some profit from your initial investment. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy poker as a social activity, the extra effort of setting up a live game around a table with a group of like-minded friends is well worthwhile. The live poker page has a collection of resources to help poker players contact others nearby, as well as information on casinos and clubs where live games can be found.

Texas Hold'em Strategy

Floris' First Time Poker Player site provides a guide for new players, and includes several extensive articles about no-limit Texas Hold'em strategy.

Nathan Williams' site Blackrain97.com has detailed advice on micro-stakes no limit Texas Hold'em strategy from a successful player and poker coach.

Greg Walker runs The Poker Bank, with advice on Texas Hold'em strategy.

To improve your Texas Hold'em skills, you can register for a poker course at Texas Hold'em Questions. They offer courses on bluffing and on continuation betting. Use the code "PAGAT" when signing up to obtain a 10% discount.

Richard Jenkins' How to Play Poker Info site has a growing collection of useful articles on poker strategy aimed mainly at new players.

The Poker Articles section of the Beasts of Poker website as a series of strategy articles and suggestions for further study aimed at beginners and intermediate level players.

The French language Bet-Poker site offers an extensive introduction to Texas Hold'em rules, procedures and strategies.

Headsup-poker.com is an Italian language website with videos and articles about Heads Up (i.e. two-player) Texas Hold'em strategy, both for the cash game and for sit-and-go tournaments.

Poker lessons and tutorials

With the permission of the author, the full text of the book "Poker, A Guaranteed Income For Life by using the Advanced Concepts of Poker" by Frank R. Wallace was published free online by neo-tech.com.

OnlinePoker.org has a collection of articles on poker strategy covering Texas Hold'em, Omaha, 7 Card Stud and Razz.

PokerVIP has a collection of online poker strategy articles and coaching videos, mainly on Texas Hold'em and Omaha.

King Cobra Poker offers a series of poker lessons. The first few lessons are free; to obtain additional lessons you have to sign up through King Cobra to play at one or more on-line poker sites.

Pokerstrategy.com has published a series of notes with cartoons on how to spot a bluffer.

HowToPlay PokerInfo has published reviews of a selection of Online Poker Training Sites.

Jason Spry offers an on line Dealer Training course, a less expensive alternative to land based courses for those who would like to run their own poker games or aspire to a creer as a professsional poker dealer.

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