To be a successful winner in the game of poker, you can and should be employing a plethora of poker tactics into your gameplay. These tactics can not only make you a winning player but also to maximise your EV in as many spots as possible so that you can boost your profits to the maximum.
Some of the concepts in this article will very much feel like they’re poker tactics for beginners. But there will also be several other exploits and moves for you to learn, use, and be reminded of to counteract other players, even if you’re a long-time veteran of the game.
Before delving into the article’s core content, it’s important to note what makes “tough” players so challenging to play against:
They put their opponents in tight spots frequently, countering their opponent’s effectively by using a variety of different poker moves, betting lines. They use tactics to help them reap profits and make them a feared shark.
With that said, let’s now get into revealing these secret poker tactics!
Table of Contents
Poker Tactics for Beginners
The Preflop Fold: Quite simply, the biggest reason that new players don’t fare well is that they play too many poker hands from less than ideal positions at the poker table. They get into kicker problems (i.e. K2 vs KJ on K9843) or run more frequently into what they consider coolers (i.e. flush over flush). They should aim to have a tighter range from earlier positions at the poker table (when blinds are close to the right of them) and a slightly looser range from later positions closer to the button. Don’t play marginal hands from bad positions just because you have been dealt trash for the last hour. Be patient and wait for your opportune times to attack and profit from your opponents. Winning takes discipline!
- The Preflop Raise: Another common thing that beginning players do too frequently is limp. That is to say, call (instead of raise) the big blind when they choose to enter a pot and play their hand. There are a few problems with limping:
- Usually, players limp with too many hands, in an attempt to see a flop cheaply. This move will put you in many unfavourable postflop spots due to having too wide of a hand range. It will also somewhat cap your range if someone else raises after you limp, and you decide to continue.
- It easily allows other players to take the initiative by coming over the top with a raise. If you continue by calling, you won’t have position, initiative, or a range advantage.
- You encourage other players to see a flop cheaply, too, by limping and giving them better pot odds to see a flop. Additionally, multi-way pots have equities spread more evenly amongst players, meaning that you aren’t going to be able to win them as easily.
- You allow the big blind to realise their equity for free by allowing them to check with any two cards.
- Checking With Strong Hands From Time To Time (i.e. To Check-Raise): Many players are easy to play against because they always choose to bet or raise their strong hands, and check or call with their draws or marginal made hands. This strategy makes their hand ranges and betting lines easy to play against and super readable. By including some of your strongest hands into a checking range, from time to time, you help balance your checking. Also, do note that checking doesn’t necessarily mean check-calling either. Check-raising is undoubtedly a possibility too. An example of where to check might be on the river when you have a full house, bet the flop and turn, and a flush draw got there on the river. If you think your opponent will bet all his flushes, you can go for the check-raise with your boats. This play will put his flushes in some tough spots, allowing you to win more money if he calls your check-raise.
Online Poker Tactics
Exploit Players Through HUD Use: Using a HUD like PokerTracker4 or HoldemManager2 (available for gameplay use on select sites) can show specific stats for your opponents in particular situations. For example, if you see that they fold to 3bets over 60% of the time, you should 3bet smaller and/or at a higher frequency than otherwise to counter this and profit from them. If you see that a Villain’s probe turn/river frequency is high after the preflop raiser checks back flop, keep some stronger hands in a flop/check range so you can easily call them down. Always assess and re-assess select stats of your opponents that you can look to exploit.
- Always Act After “X” Amount of Time: To not give off any tells of your own, never make any “snap” decisions and click the corresponding action button straight away. For example, if you always “snap” bet when you have a strong hand, but always tank for 10-15 seconds and then bet when you have a medium-strength or weaker hand, stronger opponents can look to exploit this timing tell.
Live Poker Tactics
Always Look For Tells: In live poker, if you look for it, there is SO much information to pick up on in the form of physical tells. As a personal story, I remember watching the later sections of Daniel Negreanu’s Masterclass on “tells” before entering one live session. The number of subtleties that I then noticed in players’ actions was off the charts! Picking up on these details can add massive amounts of money to your bottom line, not to mention player profiling.
- Don’t Get Distracted: Yes, 25 hands hour at one table can be very mundane and tedious, especially if you’re transitioning from online to live poker. But, similar to the last point, don’t get distracted by your phone or the televisions in the poker room. You should be trying to pick up on all of the info available to you.
- Don’t Bluff As Often: As a general rule of thumb in live play, especially at 1/2 and some weaker 2/5 games, you should be slightly more weighted toward value hands than bluffs when you bet or raise. The general population pool is usually going to call more frequently and wider than they should, if they were playing optimally.
Poker Tactics Against Aggressive Players
The Slowplay: If you know your opponent is the type to bet-bet-bet and play aggressively, slow-playing is an excellent strategy to use with some of your strongest hands. This strategy can include (1) flatting preflop with some hands you would typically 3bet with (situation and position-dependent) or (2) check-calling the flop and/or turn before coming in for a bet or check-raise on the river. Often, against maniacs and hyper-aggressive opponents, slow-playing can net you more money than otherwise because it keeps all of their massive number of bluffs in their continuing range. However, if you bet, they can easily fold all of the hands that don’t have any value.
- Get To Their Left: Seat selection is a crucial tactic of winning poker, and against aggressive players, you should look to be on their left as often as possible (easier to do in a live setting). Otherwise, if LAGs have position on you, then you’re going to be handcuffed with your ability of options for maximising EV. By having position on them, you allow them to drive the action while giving yourself full freedom for ways to profit, maximise winnings, and take down pots.
- Give Them Chances to Bluff: LAGs are frequently going to bluff too wide and play select hands too aggressively. In this case, you need to know when to take control in building a pot by betting/raising, and when to allow Villains to drive the action by slow playing (often good for dry boards).
- The Flop Float: Floating is where you call an opponent’s bet on one street, having very little equity, with plans to take the pot away from him on a later street. It’s typically an exploitable tactic against players who may have a high flop cbet % and a low turn cbet%/high turn check-fold %. When you float, you should try to do so in position, as your opponent will always be first to act each street. You can glean more information for when to profitably bet and try to take down the pot after floating a previous street.
- Use Selective Aggression Against Them and Loosen Your Range Where Applicable: This point especially goes if LAGs at your table are on your right. Remember the golden rule where if you call a raise, you should have a better calling range than Villain’s opening range? Well, if Villain is raising wide, this means that you can play slightly wider, too. However, note that this shouldn’t always come in the form of calls. If you call too wide pre, they’re still likely to pound bets post-flop, and you’ll be forced to play a fit-or-fold strategy many times.
However, “playing wider” could mean:
- widening your 3bet range;
- playing draws more aggressively with raises IP instead of just calls (especially if you know they’re likely cbetting with air),
- bluff-raising rivers against them more frequently, if they’re value betting too thinly, and
- taking more creative lines to put them in difficult spots because of their aggression.
Sometimes, playing slow is the best way to go versus aggressive players, but when the time is right, you need to know when to open up your range and show them the aggression back.
NOTE: Most players will counter their LAG opponents by only raising when they have a hand. In these situations, LAG’s can easily fold to this re-aggression. As a result, you can also look to have more bluffs in spots where you would typically get LAGs to fold when you have a slow-played value hand, especially if you have a nitty image.
Poker Tactics for Tournaments
Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks: Tournaments are about preserving your equity as best you can while looking to build up a stack. Playing too much of a maniac style when you’re the chip leader in the early stages, for example, is a recipe for disaster. Using this same tactic in the later stages with payout and pay-jump implications can be quite sensible. It can put a lot of well-timed pressure on your shorter-stacked opponents.
- Play The Bubble Well: If you’re the big stack at your table, you should abuse the shorter stacks and recreational players who are looking to get into the money. If you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum as the short stack, it’s essential to cruise into the money first before taking significant risks. Ultimately, going home with a min-cash instead of $0 is going to add much more money to your bottom line.
- Once You’re In The Money (ITM), Play To Win: After the bubble has burst, your primary focus should be to win the entire tournament. Once you’re in the money, payouts increase in such small intervals until the very end. So, it’s best to go for gold, aim for the final table, and look to take it down. This fact doesn’t mean playing with total reckless aggression. But you should be willing to take more chances in marginal +EV spots, such as coinflip situations, immediately once you’ve passed the bubble.
- Study Play For Different Stack Depths: Because of the nature of tournament blinds going up after set intervals of time, you’re going to have to familiarise yourself with good gameplay strategies for both deepstack play (especially during early stages) and shortstack play. This strategy is opposite from cash game players who will usually have at least 100bb in their stack at any given point in time.
Poker Betting Tactics:
Remember to Consider ALL the Variables: When you’re trying to decide on any course of action to take, remember to consider the following:
- What hands you’re betting in that situation
- The ratio of bluffs to value combos
- Hand ranges based on position and player tendencies
- Who might have a range or nut advantage based on position/preflop play
- How many players are still in the hand
- Your position relative to your opponent’s position
- Stack size
- Pot size
- Betting plan for future streets
- Relative hand strength to the board
- Wet vs Dry board textures
- Player tendencies you can look to exploit
- Competency of opponents (pro vs fish)
As you can see, there are a variety of different things to consider when determining how to proceed in any given situation. The more you study, play, and review various spots, though, the more adept you’ll be at piecing together all of the info available to you and determining what the best and most optimal course of action will be moving forward.
- Learn To Use Different Bet Sizings: Many players (especially live players at lower stakes) are so unaccustomed with using under-bets or overbets. Because their betting arsenal usually consists of bets within the 50% to 75% range, this can skew their ranges heavily towards over or under-bluffing and open themselves up to being exploited greatly. As an example, dry flops don’t need that much protection for many hands; there are also very few hands that can be good enough to continue with typically versus a large bet size. Therefore, by learning to utilise non-common/more GTO-based bet sizes on dry flops and in other various situations, it will give you the ability to lose less with your bluffs. You’ll gain more value with your stronger hands and put your opponent in spots where he’ll be more prone to making mistakes.
- Go For Exploitative First, Then GTO: More money can be made by exploiting your opponents’ weaker tendencies than can be done by always remaining unexploitable yourself (GTO). Knowing GTO strategies as a baseline, though, can be highly advantageous. It’s easier to deviate from GTO and shift to exploitable bets and lines than it is the other way around. Overall, as a general betting strategy, you should look for ways to maximise your profits and exploit your opponents fully in all decisions and situations.
- Be Creative With Different Lines: As mentioned earlier, if you always bet your strong hands and check your weaker hands, you become relatively easy to read. Yes, you should always keep in mind the betting lines you should use to maximise EV, but you should also look to protect your ranges. You don’t want to become so predictable and exploitable in your own strategies as well.
Poker Bluffing Tactics
Know What Bet Size To Use: The key to effective bluffing is to use the smallest number of poker chips to get the job done. In other words, you don’t want to risk more than you have to. Whether preflop, as a 3bet bluff or on the river, always account for all variables.
Additionally, this bullet point needs to address the fact that some players butcher their medium-strength hands by betting so large with them on flops, By playing this way, they essentially turn them into bluffs by the river. For example, making pot-sized bets on the flop and turn with KK on an A924 board is essentially turning your hand into a bluff! You’re not gaining value from any worse hands, while you’re only getting called twice by a pair of Aces or better, most likely. If you used a check or smaller bet size, like 25% pot, then this would be considered a value bet instead of a bluff. The small bet size allows a greater range of worse hands to come along and make the call.
Bluff bet sizing should also include the number of value combinations you’d be betting with, in a given situation. On the river, specifically, the more bluffs (compared to value hands) you include in your range, the bigger your bet should be. Betting small on the river would allow you to bet a wider range of value hands, but it means that you should be including fewer bluffs altogether.
- Flop/Turn Bluffs: In general, you shouldn’t be bluffing the flop or turn as a complete air-ball bluff, especially in multi-way pots. Usually, you want to have some overcards, draws or backdoor equity to go along with it. Oppositely, on the river, when all equities have been realised, it’s at this point that you can determine the strength of your hand. You can compare that to the relative hand strength, as dictated by the board along with your opponent’s likely range of hands.
- Don’t Turn Your Weak “Showdown Value” (SDV) Hands into Bluffs: Unless you know that Villain could fold a better made hand if you bet, it makes no sense to include weaker SDV hands into a bluffing range. This strategy would have you bluffing too wide a range and easily open you up to exploitation by being called down more lightly.
- Plan in Advance Your Multi-Street Bluffs: Some players butcher their flop and turn bluff sizings in that that they narrow down their opponents continuing range. So much so, that by the river, their opponent is so strong and likely to call any additional bet. It’s essential to learn how to manipulate your opponent’s continuing range to your advantage (i.e. using small bets on some streets, large bets in others). By doing so, you can keep your opponent’s range wider, when necessary, and simultaneously gain value and maximise EV by increasing fold equity for future
- Bluffing Isn’t Everything In Poker: People watch poker on TV and YouTube and see elaborate crazy bluffs all the time. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. Ultimately, bluffing is indeed an essential aspect of the game, but it isn’t something that should be used more than necessary. If you’re playing live against loose and weak opponents, playing a tight, value-based game is going to show you the highest win rate, You don’t have to worry about bluffing much (if at all) in such situations. Yes, to remain unexploitable, you should know how to balance your bluffs with your value bets and implement it when the time is right. However, where you don’t think a bluff is going to work after assessing all of the factors and variables, sometimes it can be better to wave the white flag than to light money on fire by pulling the final trigger on a river bluff attempt.
- Use Blockers: Often for river bluffs, you want to be bluffing with either (1) hands with the weakest showdown value, or (2) hands which block your opponent from holding the nuts. For example, if you have the Ace of -Diamonds, and the river brings the third diamond on the board, certain combinations of this hand might be good to bluff with - either as a bet, raise, or check-raise. You’re blocking your opponent from holding the nut flush. Another example of using blockers as a bluff is when, let’s say, you’re holding 45 on a 74T5T board. On the river, yes, your two pair got counterfeited, but simultaneously, you significantly block lower boat combinations of 44 and 55. If you think you can get your opponent to fold a better hand that now beats you (like an overpair or a weaker TX combo), this might be an excellent bluff candidate for that board texture.
There are many poker tactics that players can use to develop their poker strategies and add more profit to their bottom line. Always stay on the lookout for which tactics you can use to exploit your opponents to the maximum so that you can profit the most during all of your future poker sessions.