Poker Smarts: Universal Tips

H2H Helmet2Helmet.netContributor IMay 24, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 10:  Sports Illustrated swimsuit models Daniella Sarahyba and Irina Shayk attend the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 24/7: Charity Poker Tournament at The Mirage Hotel and Casino on February 10, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

I've given you my three rules and insight into the different player personalities . Today I finish my series with some universal strategies that should elevate your game in any situation.


Universal Tips to Use Against Any Player

The easiest way to give yourself an advantage at the poker table is to know more about the game and the hand than the other players at the table. The more you know about how likely it is that you'll win while being more aware of the situation, the more often you'll be successful.


Don't Take on the Whole Table at Once

You hear the term "family pot" used a lot. Many players keep this term in a positive light because it means there is more potential for money in the pot. However, keep in mind that even though there is a lot of money in the pot, the more hands that are still in play means that it's more likely that someone other than you will make a winning hand.

You want to make sure that you are keeping the odds in your favor. For example, you have pocket aces at a table with four other players. The other players hold the following hands: 6-8, 3-10, Q-8, and K-5. None of the other hands are suited. In this situation, it's just over a 50% chance that you'll be able to win. However, if you are one on one against any of those hands because everyone else folds, your odds go up to over 85% that you'll win. Even if the other player holds a pocket pair, there is still over an 80% chance that you'll win. Don't let players in a hand without having to pay for it; this will pay off in the long run.


Know as Much as You Can About Pot Odds

When you are putting money in a pot, you are trying to win not only your money back, but also all of the money in the pot. The goal is to make this profitable in the long run. You can't win a poker tournament in one hand. Also, in some casinos, you can't leave after winning a big hand until the blinds go around the table.

You don't want to be that jerk that shows up for two hands in a casino poker room, takes $100, then leaves the next hand. For example, you have a flush draw and you need a heart to get your flush on the turn/river. You are confident that a flush will win the hand. The odds of this happening are about 25% or one in four times you will make your hand. However, in order to be able to see the last card, you have to call a bet that is ½ of your total remaining stack. The decision you need make in this situation is: If I make this call, is it worth risking x% of my stack when there's only a y% chance that I'll win.


Consider "Implied Odds"

The easiest way to think of implied odds is to think about what could happen in the future. You need to estimate how much your profit off of the hand will be if you hit one of the outs you need. You also need to consider how many players will be left at the end of the hand. They could just as easily make a winner out of a marginal hand and beat you. On the other hand, if you get them out of the hand, your potential for profit goes down. So if you have a marginal hand and it is relatively cheap for you to call and stay in the hand, your implied odds are pretty good. If it's not cheap for you, it's probably not going to be cheap for everyone at the table, so your implied odds are much worse.


Know Before the Hand Where You Stand

This is terribly important in tournaments, especially in the latter stages (the final table, for instance). Look at your stack and count how many times through the blinds you will be able to survive without winning a hand. Change your aggressiveness based upon this. If you don't typically play a smaller pocket pair or suited connectors, it may become necessary to think about playing those hands so you don't have to go all in when the blinds hit you. Remember also, that if you're going all in blind, you aren't going to make as much money as you would have had the time the blinds came around before.


Know Poker Odds in General

Know the percentages that it will take to hit your hand as well as what you believe it would take the others to make their hands. If you only have one out left in the deck, you have a four percent chance that it will come up on the turn or the river. However if the river is the only card left, it's a two percent chance.

If you are looking to make a certain type of hand in order to win, you must be aware of the likelihood that it will actually happen. For example, if you have three of a kind after the flop, the highest percentage it could be that you will be able to improve your hand to a full house or four of a kind would be 28%. This is only the case if nobody else at the table or the burn cards hold the card you need. If another player has a card you need, for each card, the percentage goes down 2-4% depending on if the turn or river is left.


Don't Be Overly Predictable

Regardless of the cards that come, the easiest player to beat is the predictable player. Cash games and tournaments are a long process. You typically don't make a profit with a tournament because of one hand. If your betting patterns are predictable, it makes it easier for other players to take advantage. Change up your bets, don't bluff the same way over and over again, don't show your cards, and consistently change what you're doing so people don't take advantage. Learn from wins and losses. You will be faced with nearly identical situations more than once during your time playing. There are many tools on the Internet that can show you what your pure odds are with any given hand. Use these tools. You will be able to recognize your chances when similar situations present themselves.



As poker continues to grow in its availability and popularity, the more people will be coming to play. As you play, learn more and more about the game so that you're ahead of the curve. Keep yourself calm and in check. Follow your strategy and be aware of other players so that you can take advantage of them. This will help you become successful in the long run.

Many different sites are also offering Blackjack as an alternative to playing poker. They offer multi-player table for fun and cash as well as Blackjack tournaments.

My next article will go into simple strategies for Blackjack, as this game can be very profitable. Thanks for reading. I've enjoyed putting these thoughts out there for you to consider, and I hope they help you enjoy more success.


Written by H2H Member Antony Nation