Could I become a winning poker player?

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  • Post category:Poker
  • Reading time:12 mins read

When you play poker, you are playing directly against other players – it goes without saying, that in the long run, studied players implementing the best strategies leave with a bigger slice of the profits than those with worse strategies (who may even be leaving with a loss). We want to teach you how you can help yourself to the biggest possible slice of available profit in your game!

No hidden secrets to become a winning poker player!

All the information you need is already available online. However, the information you need is often hard to find, spread over multiple resources (with each resource containing just a few nuggets), or often behind a paywall. Some information out there is just wrong or useless! We believe we can help you get to grips with winning concepts quicker.

We believe our free content will help you gain a massive edge over your fellow players. If you are currently a losing player we hope to turn you into a winner, and if you are already winning we hope to show you how you can increase your winrate. Once you have had some success, you may have thoughts about going pro – however, we would strongly recommend against this for many players.

To become a winning poker player, you need to learn:

…how to do all the math you need

There is no way you can become a winning poker without doing any math. However, if math is not your thing don’t fret: the good news all the math you need to get by, is really not that difficult.

Things you will have to learn, include how to calculate your:

  • pot odds – ratio of the current pot size, compared to the cost of a possible call
  • equity – how often your hand/range will win the pot at the river (if you don’t fold)
  • expected value – the amount we expect to win, on average, for a given line
  • SPR – the effective stack size, divided by the current pot size.
  • fold equity – useful if you are planning a semi-bluff
  • Minimum Defense Frequency – the % of time a given player must not fold in response to an aggressive action from their opponent, to prevent their opponent from doing so with any two cards.
  • How to use combinatorics (inc. the effect of blockers) & probability
  • ICM – (for tournament players only) ICM assigns a $ (or £, €, etc.) value to the current chips stacks.

Where possible, we will show you mental shortcuts you can use to do the calculations needed in a matter of seconds.

…how to play preflop

During a poker game, the decision you make every single hand, is whether to fold or play the hand dealt to you. Live poker players receive around 25-35 hands/hour. Online poker players receive 60 hands/hour – and online that’s for each table they are playing.

If you start off by getting your preflop hand selection wrong, you are setting yourself up for a fall postflop. It will be difficult to recover. Of course, you can also punish your unstudied opponents who are choosing the preflop strategy incorrectly.

If playing live low stakes cash poker (where many of the players are exploitable, and preflop effective stack sizes vary a lot), we do not recommend you memorise starting hands starts. Instead learn what makes a good preflop hand selection strategy, so you can dynamically adjust at the table. If you are playing online cash games (except microstakes) where the players are less exploitable and preflop effective stacks are usually either 100bb or the minimum, there is a case for memorising charts – especially if you plan on multitabling.

…how to deduce your opponents’ ranges

Think of yourself as a master detective. There is a lot you can deduce about your the cards your opponent(s) are holding, even though you can’t see them. You can do this by observing your opponents’:

  • frequencies
  • tendencies

Whilst it is usually impossible to place your opponent on a specific hand due to incomplete information, you should always be able to place your opponents on a range of possible hands. The more accurate your range predictions, the better your strategy has the potential to be.

Whilst your opponent can hide the exact hand he is playing, It is really difficult for your opponent to hide the range of hands they are playing, as poker is essentially a game of frequencies.

  • Your opponents cannot escape frequencies in the long run. If they are playing hardly any hands you might be able to be certain they are starting the hand with premiums like AA,AK etc. If they are playing almost every hand, you can be surmise they must be playing a lot of weak starting hands.
  • Then given the hand range they are choosing to play, based on all the other factors relevant in the hand, they will need to raise/bet/call/fold a certain % of time based on the board texture. If they are choosing these frequencies badly, you can take advantage of their bad strategy.

Infact, one of the primary ways you will be making profits at low stakes live poker, is your weaker opponents choosing to play too many hands preflop, and then having to proceed with these extra hands in a way you can take advantage of. For example, they might be reluctant to fold postflop (i.e. they start off with too many hands, and continue with too many hands), or they might fold easily every time they don’t connect.

If you are playing live we suggest you make detailed notes on all the key hands, and if playing online use the hand histories provided by your online poker room (in conjunction with other software). You should do work away from the table, to see if the conclusions you came to in game were infact justified. You should use tools such as an equity calculator, or a solver to help you.

…how to come up with a complete strategy

One of the common mistakes a beginner poker player makes is they concentrate too much on tactics – they want to know if the way the played their actual cards in one particular hand was good. Instead, our main aim at is to teach you how to come up with a proper poker strategy – this will help you become a winning poker player in multiple environments. Tactics are a micro way of looking at the game, whereas strategy is the macro way. A proper poker strategy will allow you how to play your range, versus your opponents range, in a way that will maximize your EV.

You will need to decide whether to use a GTO strategy, an exploitative strategy, or a hybrid in your game as a default (and then whether to do something different for any given hand).

  • If you are playing low stakes live cash game poker, you will mostly find yourself playing exploitative strategies. Nevertheless, if you want become a good poker player, we recommend you understand the principles of GTO poker, even if you don’t need to use it in the game you play. This way you can understand how your opponents are deviating from the GTO strategy, so you can figure you the best way to punish them. You will also be aware how your exploitable strategy is differing from GTO, so you can anticipate any weaknesses your opponents may choose to exploit.
  • If you are playing tough higher stakes online games you will have to play GTO (which is unexploitable), unless you find exploitable weaknesses in your opponents strategies – in which case you will try and exploit their weaknesses, trying not to get re-exploited yourself

An understanding of tells, including when they might be reliable, and how to avoid giving away tells is important too.

…how to master the mental game

Tilt is any deviation from the best possible strategy that you are aware of. Examples of tilt could include:

  • after suffering a bad beat, doing something in a future hand that you wouldn’t have done had you been playing your A game
  • not quitting the game, when tiredness is causing you to be lazy in your decision making, for example you are guessing when when you have the ability to calculate something more accurately

Clearly by definition, as any form of tilt is a deviation from the best possible strategy, we want to find ways to reduce it, or eliminate it altogether.

…how to manage your bankroll correctly

You could understand poker strategy as it relates to any individual hand perfectly. However, without a bankroll management strategy you are unlikely to be a long term winning poker player. In poker, you can make correct decisions and lose (of course you can make wrong decisions and win too). Sometimes you can lose a number of times in a row (whether due to bad luck, or bad play). If this happens, you don’t want to lose all your money, if you cannot replenish it. You need to have many times the amount you are risking in one buy-in, available in your bankroll.