Of all the popular gambling games poker is the only one where you can genuinely use your own skill and knowledge to win in the long run. Assuming you are playing against other players the edge you have is defined by how good you are at knowing the value of your own hand in relation to others and how good you are at exploiting other players inherent biases, tells and vulnerabilities.
Of course, everyone who plays poker thinks they can win and therefore the players that do win, regularly, are the ones that think more deeply about the game and keep their cognitive biases in check. On this page we don’t cover the typical ‘how to play poker’ or ‘best poker sites’ articles, instead we are look at why people play poker the way they do and areas within that where players can find their own edge. Enjoy.
Let's face it Poker is all about finding an edge, it is a game of skill and therefore those that can keep track of their position relative to others stand the greatest chances of winning. Most elite poker players are seriously good at remembering stats and decisions on previous hands for themselves and other players and this is partly what allows them to evaluate risk allowing them to know when to call, raise or fold.
The rise of online poker, however, has lead to some people using artificial means to stay ahead by using heads up displays, or HUDs, to keep track of what other players do in the game. This gives an obvious advantage to the person using a HUD and this has now lead to many sites banning them. Here we look at Poker HUDs, what they are, what they can tell you, how players use them, why sites ban them and whether or not it is cheating.
When you are dealt your hand in Texas Hold'em it doesn't get much better than having a pair of aces. Pocket Aces is one of the best possible hands you can hold pre-flop in poker and when people are dealt them they are certainly going to see the flop and will assume they have a very good chance of winning.
Here we look at the actual chances of winning with pocket aces. While the odds are good, 85% if going up against one other player, they are not bullet proof. Having aces can also lead to people being overconfident in their chances of winning, so make sure you know the odds before you play them too hard.
Poker by its very nature requires players to guess what cards their opponents are holding and make judgements about their own hands in relation to this. Unfortunately not all players are honest and for as long as poker has existed so has collusion, whereby people team up ensure they they win by sharing details of their hands with each other.
The rise of online poker has increased collusion massively, thanks in large part to the anonymity of player on line vs the real world. Here we look at collusion in poker, how to spot it, famous examples, common tricks and what happens to people who get caught.
Poker tournaments are a great way to get more game play time with Poker with lower overall stakes than playing cash games. If you can get far in a multi-table poker tournament, for example, then you can get a lot of hours of poker for a relatively small buy in with the potential of winning a large prize relative to your stake. Single table tournaments are also useful as players can play shorter games but know exactly how much they stand to win or lose.
To get the best out of tournament play, either for experience or to win, then it helps to think about strategy first. The strategies you should use on single vs multi-table tournaments differ and this is what we are covering here.
There are two main types of poker game, a cash game and a tournament. Most people play a mix of the two depending on what is available and how much time they have, but most players have a preference of one over the other.
Here we look at the relative benefits of cash games vs tournament games and how the strategies involved in each differ. Cash games are more flexible, generally require less time / game and give smaller wins more often. Tournament games are usually longer, often multi-table, give far fewer wins and are less flexible but when you do win you can win big. Read more about the differences and strategies involved.
Opportunity cost is a general term applied to the cost of the road we choose not to take. You can see why this is highly applicable in poker as it is often easy to see the opportunity cost of choosing to fold, or indeed not choosing to fold. Working out opportunity cost can help regular players make better decisions about when they should call or fold based on past decisions.
It is not all about money, though. Opportunity cost teaches us that other beneficial factors should be considered. For example, a stay at home poker player could earn more than someone who travels to play tournaments. They may earn more money but they don't get the life experience of traveling. Therefore opportunity cost is relative and also personal,
There are those that play poker for a living, or at least as a serious pastime, and to those people calculating the odds of any given hand in poker is almost innate. You can get to a point where you don't even need to think about it.
For the beginner or occasional player, though, working out the odds of your hand at the pre-flop, flop or board stages can be difficult, especially as the game progresses quickly and the pressure builds. Read our guide on Poker odds to find the common odds to help you make decisions at any stage.
Knowing the common odds of any hand in poker is a great start but ultimately when the game is in process the odds change at each stage and therefore knowing whether you should call, raise or fold as the hand progresses becomes far more important.
This is where implied odds come in. Using a fairly straight forward calculation you can work out whether a hand is worth pursuing or not based on the amount in the pot, the amount you need to call a bet and the ultimate quality of your hand. Of course the more you play the better you get at doing this more naturally. Beginners can start off with pot odds and move up to implied odds. Find out more.
There are many people who have made a lot of money from gambling but many of those do so based on luck. When it comes to Poker luck is a secondary factor, to be good at the game you need to have a huge amount of skill.
We think these people should be given special mention so we have looked at the best all-time players in terms of total earnings, best female players and biggest celebrity players.
When the internet became a thing it was online poker that lead the way initially. By the early 2000's it was the most popular online gambling vertical. Online gambling has only grown since but playing poker online has been dwindling in popularity ever since.
The increase in sharks and artificial intelligence is partly to blame. The loss of the US market in 2006 caused a big blow too but now it is coming back will this reverse the fortunes for the future?
Poker is a game of skill for sure but it is also subject to variance, or what normal people call luck. Even the best poker players in the world go on bad runs as well as good runs and a lot of this is down to variance.
In order to play poker successfully and try to win over all effective bankroll management is critical. A bankroll is effectively a pot of money dedicated to poker that is designed to cover you against runs of bad luck. The strength of this bankroll relative to your stakes and playing habits ultimately refines the risk of ruin, a term used by professional players as the probability of losing all of your bankroll.
Fast fold poker, zoom poker, speed poker, blaze poker, snap poker and turbo poker are all the same thing. Effectively it is normal poker, mostly Texas Hold'em but other versions are available for games such as Omaha, except when you fold your hand you are immediately placed in a new active game with a new hand, rather than having to sit and wait for a hand to complete before being dealt a new one.
It is a fast paced version of the game that many players like, especially those with limited time to play. It does, however, require a very different strategy to normal poker. For example, players are more likely to fold hands pre-flop that are not high value and move on, meaning the cards people hold on the flop tend to be better and bluffing is less common (although of course people still bluff). There is no player history either, which is a good thing and a bad thing as you can't track people but they can't track you.
You might think that most poker sites care about attracting the big money players, professionals or semi-professionals known as 'sharks'. In actual fact they care far more about enticing the smaller occasional or low stakes players to play with them, known as 'fish'. The reason is if you can attract plenty of fish the sharks will ultimately follow, but the sharks won't play if they are mostly playing against other sharks.
Therefore poker sites have tons of strategies to appeal to fish, such as banning heads up displays and setting up anonymous tables. Games such as fast fold poker, low limits for deposits and withdrawals and attractive promotions are all tools used to get the smaller players onto the site. By doing this the poker brands know they will then get more bigger players in the end and ultimately make more money.
Expected Value is the probability of winning multiplied by what you win + the probability of losing multiplied by what you lose. This is what serious poker players use to help make decisions around their gameplay that will hopefully result in taking the the most profitable course in the long term.
EV isn't just applied to individual hands, as each hand is subject to variance, but rather to the overall strategy. In the long term variance is predictable over a lot of hands and by sticking with the basic principles of expected value players can make better overall decisions in the game as a whole. EV can also be applied to sports betting and trading.
While EV calculations can be difficult to apply in action the more you understand about the game and the odds the easier it is to apply it and take more profitable actions in the longer term.
Anyone who plays poker knows the feeling when you have a good hand pre-flop or on the flop, you are excited and you think you can win. The issue is how can you then maximise a potential win from that hand? Well, it is important to build the pot effectively to get the most out of a strong hand as winning a poker hand is one thing but getting a good return from it is another thing.
If you are going to take a risk you want to get the maximum reward from it. The best way to do this is to build the pot but this needs you think about your strategy. Going all in or with a big bet too early can scare other players off, conversely not raising when you should do can reduce potential returns.
Here we look at strategies to build pots in poker games, not just in individual hands but also your overall playing style can help you build a pot when you get the right hand and it matters the most.
The check-raise strategy in poker is one of the most well known and something that can be used by newbies as much as seasoned players. The point is to check on the first round of betting following a hand being dealt or at any other stage (flop, turn, river) and then hope that someone else bets and then when it comes back around to you you then raise that stake.
The idea is to undersell a good hand to other players on the table by first checking, making them believe you are not that confident in the cards you have. Once a bet is made you then raise the pot to show the true value of your hand - or indeed make others think you are bluffing. This is a good strategy for pot building to maximise returns from a given risk.
The issue is you can't do it all of the time otherwise other players will know what you are doing. The trick is to know when to check-raise to get the most out of the strategy. Check-raising is also a common bluffing strategy but of course there is a lot more risk with check-raising when it is a bluff.
On this site we have a whole section of articles dedicated to betting and gambling psychology but here we decided to look at how psychological factors can influence poker in particular. Humans by there nature are predisposed to biases some if which are conscious and some of which are unconscious. These biases can affect how we gamble and our attitude to it and for a game like poker, which is based around skill and knowing what your opponent is doing, these biases can have a significant impact on our success.
Here we look at how factors such as ego and overconfidence, confirmation bias, the commitment effect, action and outcome biases, social pressure, herd mentality and superstitions can affect our poker play and effect the the results. Those who can keep on top of their psychological biases and see the game objectively are often more successful.
There are three major variations of poker games, fixed limit, pot limit and no limit. In effect they do what they say in the name; fixed limit has a fixed bet amount, pot limit allows you to bet up to the size of the current pot and no limit allows you to bet what you want, up to going all in.
No limit poker is by far the most popular but it is also the most risky, i.e. you could lose all of your chips in a single hand, conversely you can double your chips in a single hand. Fixed limit games tend to be more of a long-game where consistent strategy and mindset is often the key. Pot limit is somewhere in the middle. Each type of game lends itself to a different style of play, read more about the differences and strategies on this page.
The straddle bet is simply increasing the big blind before anyone is dealt any cards. This is usually double the big blind but can be higher multiples in certain games. This is sometimes restricted to the player under the gun (to the left of the big blind) and sometimes open to all players.
The idea of a straddle bet is to increase the overall pot size while also discouraging players who persistently call the big blind to see the flop. It is a risky strategy in the sense that you have no idea what your hand will be before you place the straddle bet but it can be a useful strategy for pot building and opening up tight tables.