Poker Strategy - Shorthand Limit Texas Holdem
Shorthand (tables of 6 or less people) is very popular on the Internet; in fact, most of the higher limit games are played shorthand. Thus, to make any sort of of money playing net poker, you really should learn how to play shorthand.
What type of game should I look for?
One of the most important skills at playing poker is simply playing the right game. Unless you just want to practice, there's no reason to play against other pros! You certainly can't expect to make money! The best way to tell if the game is easy or not is to look at the flop %. If it is 40 or higher, the game is good. If it's 25-30, stay away. Some sites express the flop % as average number of ppl at flop. This isn't as helpful, but generally go there if it says the average is 3 or more. More people going to the flop means that the quality of hands being played is lower. Thus, all you have to do is sit and wait to strike.
Preflop Starting hands
So what exactly are the good hands and the bad hands? Many books have been written about this, but I'll summarize what I briefly believe are the 'playable' hands.
One thing to remember is that hand values are relative, so a hand can be good under some situations and total trash under others. For example, if there has been a lot of action, like a raise and a reriase and then someone calling the reraise, I would fold anything besides AA/KK and I maybe would even fold KK if I knew the players were really tight. Remember, hand values are relative, so always think about what the other guy has and guess if you have the better starting hand than him before going in.
Hands to raise with, non-raised flop: Paired cards, A10+, KQ,KJ, QJ, J10s
Hands to call a raise with: high paired cards, AQ, AK, AJ(maybe), KQ
Hands to reraise a raise: This depends on the raiser. Reriase a maniac with any pair or A9+ because you'll probably be winning at the flop. Otherwise, reriase with made hands like JJ, QQ, KK, AA (although you may want to smooth call with JJ)
Hands to call and hope to build a pot with (early position) high suited connectors (i.e. 910s)
When you have a made hand, bet it. If flop is AK5, bet with your KQ, maybe they'll fold. If one calls, then you have a decision to make, if you think he's drawing, continue to bet at him. If he's the type to call with the second best hand. Maybe check to him to see if he bets (he probably has a pair too, it just matters if it's ace low kicker or king lower kicker or a pocket pair).
When you pair but it's not the top pair, DON'T call a bet. Either raise or fold. Find out where you are on the flop. If you just flat call, that's a total of 5 small bets. If you raise and he comes back firing, you can probably fold and save yourself 3 small bets (unless he's a maniac, in which case just call him to river).
Drawing hands and pot odds: Always know your number of 'outs' i.e. number of cards that will make you a hand that you are pretty sure will win. Number of outs X2 + 2 is the percentage of hitting at the next card. So divide the pot by that number and if the bet is smaller than that, call. So, for example, suppose you are on a flush draw in a 10-20 hand, you have two spades in your hand and there are two on the flop. So there are 9 spades out there. The chances of hitting on turn are about 20%. So if pot is 80 and bet to you is 10, call! When calculating the pot size, it is generally best to remember future bets. For example, even though the pot is 80, if you hit, you'll win 40 more on turn/river bets. So all you really need is a 1/12 chance of hitting.
General rule of bluffing: It doesn't work until $5-10 or higher.
Semibluffing: this is betting when you don't have a made hand yet, but you can. For example, betting on a flush draw. Example: Flop is A64, you have KQ suited and there are two of your suit on your board. Go ahead and bet. Not only do you have a good chance of hitting, you also can steal the pot. Semibluffing is only effective at higher levels, because at lower levels you are just value betting b/c ppl will call you.
Pure Bluffs: These don't work too well at limit, but they do work at times. At higher levels, if the flop is kinda scary, say AQ9, if the action is passed to you and there aren't many in it, go ahead and bet at it if you had shown strength preflop.
Poker Strategy - Longhand Limit Texas Holdem
This section will give you the basic strategy at winning at longhand, limit holdem (limit holdem with 8 or more players). This section is intended for the beginner, so he or she can win at the lower limits (2-4 or less).
This is where most beginners make mistakes. Simply, they play too many hands. What beginners fail to recognize is that longhand limit holdem is a game of PATIENCE. As sad as it sounds, you literally can just wait to be dealt the quality hands, and just win with those.
So what are the good hands? David Skalansky, a poker expert, groups hands into 8 categories. I'm going to simplify his method a little bit for you. The main difference between my ratings and his ratings is that I don't seperate the suited cards. The only reason I do this is for simplicity. Furthermore, being suited tends to not be a big deal, except for connecting hands and category III hands. Being suited is nice, but it's just a bonus, it doesn't change the actual value of the card that much. On any given board, there is a 5% chance a suited hand will form a flush by the river. So in general, you will win close to 5% more pots with a hand that is suited than unsuited.
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK
These are the best hands, bar none. You should raise or reraise with them preflop. If you hold AA, you especially want to jam as much money into the pot as possible
TT, 99, AQ, QK
These are good hands, but they aren't amazing. You generally need help from the board. Almost always in low limit, you will need to hit a set with TT or 99 to win.
AJ, AT, KJ, QJ, 10J
These are good hands. However, be careful playing AJ, AT, KJ as these hands are vulnerable to losing to a higher kicker (i.e. if an ace is on the board, but someone else has AK, you would lose because he has a higher 'kicker'). You should generaly play these hands only if they are suited.
88, 77, 66, 109, 98, 87, 76 (only play the connecting cards if they are suited)
These hands are ok, but generally don't win. They need a lot of help from the board.
small pocket pairs (i.e. 55, 44, 33, 22)
Category I hands should almost always be played. The only exception if if you hold AK or say JJ and you are positive that someone has KK or AA by the way they are raising (in other words, the person is a very tight player but is acting like a maniac preflop). These hands in general should be raised from any position and you want to get a lot of money in preflop. However, remember, for AK you need to hit an ace or a king. So do not get in a raising war with one person because that person likely has a pocket pair already.
Category II hands should generally be played. These hands do best with less people, so you should raise to knock people out. Do not jam the pot though (i.e. reraise) b/c these hands have little value before you see the board. Do not call 3 bets cold with these hands (if you raise, then someone reraises, call, but do not call if someone raised, then reraised, and then it's your turn.) The reason you do not call 3 bets cold is because you clearly do not have an advantage going into the flop. THE ONE THING TO REMEMBER IN LIMIT HOLDEM IS YOU WANT TO HAVE AN ADVANTAGE GOING INTO THE FLOP. Go ahead and call one raise in late position, unless the raiser was in early position and is a very good player (he probably has you beat with a category I hand).
Category III: Treat these hands with caution. They are easily beat by category I or II hands, so these hands are best played with fewer people in the pot who do not hold category I or II hands. In other words, raise to knock people out, but do not call a raise.
Category IV/V: these hands are very different. You want a large, multiway pot. The reason being is that 95% of the time, these hands are trash. However, 5% of the time, these hands are amazing (i.e. if you hit a straight, flush, or trips). Therefore, you want to be paid of big when you actually hit something with these hands, which is why you want a lot of people in the pot. Example: you hold 67, the board is A58, you call a bet on flop, 9 comes on turn and then you jam the pot. Thus, you want to commit as few chips preflop with these hands as possible while hoping that many people go into the flop. THus, if you are the dealer, and one guy is in with a raise, fold. However, if you are the big blind, and 5 people have called a raise, go ahead and call and see the flop.
Once you hit the flop, you will be in one of four situations:
1. You will be winning but have a beatable hand. You will have top pair, top kicker for example or an overpair (i.e QQ and the board is JT5). You want to jam the pot and knock people out. Thus, you want someone to bet to you and then to raise if you are in early position. If you are in late position and no one has bet, you must bet to knock people out.
2. You will have a boss hand. More than likely, you will have three of a kind or maybe even a full house on the flop. There is no reason to knock people out because you will probably win (unless you have trips and there's a flush draw out there, then you need to make them pay). In these situations, it's generally best to wait til the turn to really jam the pot, but jam the pot on the flop if you think a scary draw is out there that will beat you.
3. You will have the second best hand. If you follow my preflop strategy, this is unlikely, but it could happen. An example is if you have AQ and KQ4 is on the board. In this case, treat the hand as a drawing hand or simply fold, unless you really believe that you may have the best hand at the moment (this is unlikely in a larger, multiway pot b/c someone is bound to have the K).
4. You will have a drawing hand. An example is if you have two spades in the whole and there are two on the board. For these hands, you must use outs/pot odds. There is a detailed explanation of this in the shorthand section under 'flop tips.'
5. You will have nothing. An example would be if you have 66 and flop is AK7. You clearly are beat, just fold at the first bet.
This is the basic way to win at limit, longhand. There really aren't that many tricky situations you will encounter. Just remember, the larger the number of people, the higher the likelihood that someone has the boss hand that is out there on the board, so be careful of that. Don't get attached to AK if AQQ is on the board b/c someone probably has the queen.
Poker Strategy - No-Limit Texas Holdem
No-Limit holdem is game of general strategy, basic tactical skills useful in all forms of poker, and a game of intense psychology.
Let's first talk general strategy. When you enter a No-Limit ring game, you need to know two things before you can really expect to roll in it:
1. Who are my opponents?
2. How many hands go to a showdown?
Types of opponents:
Generally, people speak of four types of players: tight-passive, tight-aggressive, loose-passive, loose-aggressive. The first modifier characterizes the number of hands the person plays while the second describes the player's betting style. I think for No-Limit holdem, loose-aggressive should be divided into two parts: action-seekers and solid players. Let's go through each of these types of players.
Tight-passives: These people do fine in a limit game, but they won't make much in a No-Limit game. The only way these people will win is when they pick off bluffs, otherwise they won't get the value out of their hands that they should. When against these players:
1. Bluff at the flop a lot. Put in a raise preflop and bet at the flop no matter what calls
2. Fold when they represent a hand. If they bet a little, they're probably on a draw. So stick with your hand if you got something. If they bet a lot, they got something good.
3. Take advantage of your control. Don't go wild with your bluffs though. Fold preflop when you have nothing. But raise when you have a good hand and go for the kill at the flop. If you miss the kill, give up. But when you have something, milk him for everything it is worth.
Essentially, you can quickly tame these players into being calling/folding stations. And if he is making money against you while being a calling/folding station, you are doing something seriously wrong. These players are common, and you will certainly play against quite a few.
Loose-passives: They have to hope that people continually bluff into them because these people have they will call frequently with the second best hand. This is a recipe for disaster at No-Limit. You don't see too many of these bad players at No-Limit games because they lose so quickly and run to Limit games.
Maniac loose-aggressive: These guys will buy a fair share of pots, but then will get themselves trapped by another aggressive player and will lose their stacks in one or two hands. What separates these from good loose-aggressives is that they lack discipline. They love the action of No-Limit so much that they get themselves trapped too easily. These players are even more rarer than loose-passives in my experience.
Strong loose-aggressive: These guys seem like they are horrible maniacs, but in reality, they are a very dangerous form of player. These guys will certainly lose a lot of money in pots, but they also will buy a lot of pots and will win huge ones. The way these types of players win is mainly by getting a good read on the opponent and then making a well-timed bet.
My main tactic against these players is to trap them in their own game. I generally try to avoid having the pot escalate too much preflop unless I have aces or kings, and I generally try to not let them buy every pot. In other words, when I put in the raise preflop, I'll still often make a stab at the pot at the flop.
More importantly though, the way I beat these guys is to take them down at one big pot. Since these guys will play a lot of hands, especially short-handed, they'll often play hands that lend themselves to be second best hands. Once I catch them in this situation, I just have to make sure I don't let them go too easily.
Tight-aggressive: this is my style and the style and the strategy that I'll teach. The tight-aggressive's main problems are that he may get chased out of a lot of flops early and that he may be too easily read. If I were to play against a clone of myself, I would hope to trickle him down bit by bit and hope to throw him off balance by doing so.
This is a critical concept in No-Limit. Since No-Limit lends itself to bluffing, one can make a lot of money simply by stealing pots. However, this strategy obviously fails if everyone shows you down to the river!
Generally, before I play in a high-stakes game or start really getting hardcore into one, I pay attention to the number of hands going to showdowns. This is really easy to do on the internet because you don't even need to watch the game. You just leave the window open, go eat a snack, go to the bathroom, whatever. Come back twenty minutes later and see what sort of game you are about to dive in.
Types of hands to play:
The types of hands you play in No-Limit differ than those in Limit. This is because of implied odds. Hands like KQ offsuit go down in value because they cannot withstand much pressure. Even if you hit a K with this type of hand, you still may be losing to a set, two pair, AK, or may lose eventually to a draw. Thus, with big cards, you generally want to take down the pot at the flop. The exception to this is if you think you have someone outkicked (say AK vs KJ with a K on the board), or if you hit the flop hard (like KK3 when you hold AK). In these cases, you generally want to extract money from your opponent bit by bit.
The types of hands that go up in value or ones that you can bet with confidence: pocket pairs and suited connectors (strong draws in general). Pocket pairs do well because they are sneaky and can often withhold pressure. With pocket pairs, you can bet hard if you have a set or an overpair, which are hands that people generally don't expect. Suited connectors go up in value for several reasons. First, if the flop comes weird, you generally will be paid off. For example, if you hold 76, you'll get paid off a lot more if flop is A76 (against an AK) than you would pay off an AK if the flop were A72. Furthermore, you can take down pots and disguise your hand with semi-bluffing. If you hold 76 and the flop comes 45J. People will probably put you on a jack if you bet. They will then either fold or will probably call. Thus, you will either take down the pot at the flop or will be drawing to a hand that people don't expect. If the next two cards are 8 and A and youre opponent holds AJ, expect a huge reward.
How to bet
Many novice No-Limit players simply don't know how much to bet. Well, the concept is simple. You want extract as much money from people who have made hands but are probably losing to you, you want to punish draws, but at the same time you don't want to be trapping yourself.
Example: Suppose you have 99, flop is A89. You are pretty sure he doesn't have 10J.
You want to put in about pot size bets here. Reason being: He either has a straight draw or pair of aces. If he has a straight, you don't want him to draw on the cheap, and if he has pair of aces, he probably won't let go of them so take as much as you can.
Example: You hold KQ of spades, flop is A95, A5 are of spades.
Bet into this flop. But don't bet too much, just enough to make ppl fold if they don't have an ace but enough to maybe make an AQ just freeze up and call. A 1/3 size pot bet would be good. This way you draw relatively cheaply and can punish if you hit your flush.
This relates back to the showdown percentage. More showdowns means bluffing works less. If you are in a game with a lot of showdowns (typical of lower limits), cut down on bluffing and punish them when you have the boss hand.
Poker Strategy - Advanced Shorthand
This section will provide tips to help you in certain trouble situations in a shorthand-limit game:
1. When you're dealt a small pocket pair (7s or less)
Small pocket pairs work best in a large, multiway pot (you're hoping to hit another card of your pair and make trips) or heads up. Therefore, your preflop strategy should reflect this. If you're on the button, one guy has raised and another has folded, your best strategy would be to shut out the blinds and make it heads up. So in this case, reraise. However, if you're the big blind and three other ppl have already called the big blind, it's best to just check and hope to hit a set on the flop.
Note: Don't use the reraise to make it heads up against a very tight player. There's a good chance he has a higher pocket pair, in which case, you're owned. The reraise to make it heads up is useful under the assumption that your opponent just has two high cards.
On the flop:
If you're in a multiway pot, the answer is simple, fold if you don't hit a set, jam the pot if you do. The only exception is if you hit a weird flop - like 552 or 666 (and you hold like 77), in which case, you probably hold the best hand and should jam the pot.
If you're heads up, it gets a little tricker. If the flop is mainly low cards, bet at it, he probably has nothing. However, if the flop is AJQ, you're probably toast. You can go ahead and bet at it (in case he has a low pocket pair too), but if you encounter any resistance, you must fold.
2. Flop bluffs
Flop bluffs work best against one or maybe two opponents. The method is fairly simple. Suppose you raise it up preflop with KQs, and the flop comes A95, well you have nothing, not even a flush draw, but they may have nothing too. Go ahead and bet at it, you might steal the pot right there.
If they just call you. You have a decision. They may have Ace and a low kicker or they may have like K9. Either case, you're losing. You should generally check and fold. Do this about 80% of the time. However, you don't want them to be able to crack your bluffing strategy by just calling you on the flop and then seeing what you do on the turn. Because of this, I recommend sometimes slowplaying. For example, suppose you have A9 at this flop, I'd bet at flop, then check-raise at turn. In other words, you must punish them for just calling. People should never be allowed to just call with a second best hand if they hope you're bluffing, they should be forced to raise to see where they are. If you suspect that they just call you with the second best hand. You should bet til the river when you have the goods, but now always just bet/check-fold when you don't. You sometimes ( most of the time don't) should bluff on the turn too. And hey, who knows, you may hit and win it anyway.
I'm not a huge slowplayer because I like to run flop bluffs and flop bluffs are only successful if you actually bet with the goods at the flop. However, sometimes it's best to just wait and jam the pot. I like to slowplay in multiway situations when I really have the goods. For example, If I have AQ and the flop is AQ3, turn is A, I have the stone nuts. I'll generally wait for a bet if I think one will happen and then raise it. In other words, slowplaying and jamming the pot on the turn will often be very profitable in mulitway pots, but I don't recommend it in heads up situations. Often, in heads up, you'll give them a deadly free card and it's not worth losing the pot for one more big bet.
One thing to always remember about slowplaying is that it is successful when you have a super boss hand and you want to let them develop a hand that is good but not good enough to beat yours. Slowplaying a set when a flush draw is on board is dumb, because you are allowing the to develop a hand that can beat yours. You have to think 'what can they develop that won't beat me but will still make them bet so I can raise them.' Don't slowplay if you just have a good hand, slowplay if you have the boss hand but it won't be paid of unless something develops on the board that won't beat you but will cause people to think they can beat you.
4. Paired board when you have the third card
This is a trouble situation. Say the board is QQA and you have AJ. You may have the best hand or you may be toast. However, the situation is pretty simple. If it's checked around to you, check. After all, what will ppl call you with? The only thing ppl will call you with that can't beat you is A7 or maybe a pocket pair (few would call though).
So, when you're in this trouble situation, you have to consider two factors: What will people callyou with that won't beat you and what are the chances they have the trip. The higher the two cards, the much higher the chance they have the trip. AAJ is far more scary for someone with KJ than 44J. I would treat the first flop with caution and probably give it up pretty easily while the second one I'd bet at it.
Which brings up the question: What do you mean play it carefully? Well, if someone bet at me with the board AAJ and I had KJ, he may have QJ, so I'd go ahead and raise, he'd probably fold if he had QJ, but he probably wouldn't if he held an ace.
Of course, this brings up the counterpoint: Don't they know you don't have an ace if you raise? Well, that's why you can't always slowplay in these situations. If you have AQ on that board, go ahead and raise too. This way they can't predict what you have.
5. Play against a CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY maniac
Maniacs can be a real pain in shorthand. However, they are generally dealt best with by just calling (although raise them if you hold a very strong hand). They will increase the variance of the game, but you will win in the long run. For example, one game at the 100-200 at Intercasino, I was dealt QQ, a nice hand. Anyway, someone calls, maniac raises, I reraise, maniac caps and there's one other standard player in the pot. Flop comes AK4. I mean, this is the worst possible flop for me. Anyway, I bet at it, the standard player folds (thankfully) and the maniac raises me. Normally, I would fold but this guy is nuts so I just check call to the river. Anyways, I win. The maniac had 35.
6. Don't pay them off
Sometimes, when people are on a flush draw and you have top pair or top two pair, they will wait for you to bet so they can raise. If you think they were on a flush draw and then the flush card hits on the river, don't pay them off. Just check it on the river. Think about the math. If you are in position and just check the river, you save yourself 2 big bets (4 total bets). If it's a standard hand, there was probably a raise preflop and bet-calls on flop-turn. So you put in a total of 5 bets. You literally save yourself about half the money you would have lost using this technique.
Some Quick Don't's of Shorthand
- Don't go in with any ace if someone else has already gone in. Chances are, they have either a decent pocket pair, A and a higher kicker, or something like KQ. Any of these hands dominate you. Fold
- Don't play above your bankroll. I've made this mistake several times myself. Shorthand has a high level of variance. Make sure you can bank many hours of play before sitting in. You don't want to go in, have your aces cracked, and be broke!
- Don't just play your hand. Always remember what the other player is thinking. While this isn't quite as important as it is in no limit, you have to think about what the other player went in with and what he is calling/raising with. Don't always bank on that he's bluffing because most of the time he's not.
Poker Strategy - Advanced No-Limit
According to famous poker player and author Doyle Brunson, No-Limit holdem is the Cadillac of all poker games. The skill involved with No-Limit games is tremendous, even seasoned professionals admit that they still have a lot to learn at No-Limit holdem. However, don't let this scare you; No-Limit holdem is, in my opinion, the most fun of all poker games as well. It can also be profitable, sometimes even for beginners.
After playing No-Limit extensively on the net, I've noticed that the keys to winning No-Limit are one's knowledge of the game and his ability to adapt to his opponents' knowledge. You must know what your skills are at No-Limit; what stages of the game you have mastered. Once you realize how you are good at No-Limit, you must then apply this to how badly others at your table play No-Limit.
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to divide the skills of No-Limit into several stages. After mastering each of these stages, one can expect his or her profit potential at No-Limit to increase.
1. Pot odds
You must understand what odds you are getting if you call a bet with a draw. Since you can determine the size of the bet (it's not fixed), you should know if you are getting or giving good odds to someone.
For example, calling an unraised pot preflop with 55 is good odds. If you hit a set, you can expect to make a lot of money (people will not expect it so they will call with top pair). However, let's say it's on the turn and you have a flush draw. The pot is $10 and someone bets $20 all-in, you are getting horrible odds. You have roughly a 1 in 5 shot of hitting, and you would be betting $20 to win $50.
As basic as this may be, many No-Limit players have not even mastered this stage! So if you are still insecure about pot odds, don't worry. Many others are too and often they don't even realize it.
2. Realizing the differences between Limit and No-Limit
Check-raising for value is far less valuable in No-Limit than Limit because you may be giving your opponent's a deadly free card. In Limit poker, if you have the second best hand, you will lose a little bit. In No-Limit, you could lose your entire stack.
Betting is far better than calling in No-Limit. When you bet, you can win if you have the better hand or if your opponent folds. If you call, you can only win if you have your opponent beaten. If you bet, you determine the bet size. You determine the pot odds. If you call, you are accepting someone else's odds.
If you bet, you force people to pay off when you have a good hand. If you are a caller, you have to hope someone else will willingly pay you off. The importance of aggression is why tight-passive players can win a lot more at Limit than No-Limit.
4. Quick Adjustment
Different types of games require different amounts of aggression. Shorter games require one to be looser and more aggressive. However, if your up against many loose opponents, you must tighten up and wait until you have a strong hand. Generally, the opposite of what the game is does well. If the game is very loose, tighten up. If the game is very tight, take advantage and steal pots.
You also must adjust to your opponent's quality. If you are up against weak players, simply giving them bad pot odds and taking money from them bit by bit works well. If you are against better players, you must set some traps.
5. Reading skills
Getting an idea of your opponent's cards is very important. This takes time and experience. However, a way to improve your reading skills is what I call the 'three question technique.' Always ask yourself these three questions when someone makes or calls a bet:
What does he have?
What does he think I have?
What does he think I think he has?
6. Psychology and Traps
Once you hold the whopper and your opponent also has a good hand, what's the best way to double through him? Learning to get out of and set traps is very difficult and only experience will help in this department.
Fundamentally, game psychology and traps are used to manipulate the three questions mentioned earlier. For example, if you overbet the pot with a flush draw and then check when you hold the flush, either your opponent will fall for the trap, thinking you had top pair or will realize the trap and check-fold to you on river. The slowplay was used to manipulate the variable: what does he think I have?
Generally, this sort of game pscyhology is to only be used on good players (players that have mastered the first 4 steps). Against weaker players, you should just build a good hand and extract money out of them bit by bit. Weaker plays just play their hand; they don't think about what you have.
Poker Strategy - Introduction to Omaha
In Omaha Holdem each player recieves 4 hole cards and everyone shares 5 community cards, similar to Texas Holdem. The catch is that you must use exactly 2 cards from your hand and 3 cards from the board to make your 5-card poker hand. In general the winning hands in Omaha are much better than the winning hands in Texas; in a game of more than 3 people usually a straight or better wins.
When you are first playing Omaha, you should make sure you are actually using 2 cards from your hand, and not 3 or 1. For example, if the board is K Q J 5 4, and you have A Q 4 4, your hand is only three-of-a-kind 4's. You do not have full house of 4's over queens. If the board is A K Q 10 9, then your J J 5 4 is not a straight, since you must use two of your cards.
Why play Omaha?
Omaha Holdem is not as popular as Texas Holdem but is played by plenty of fish. Also, alot of good Texas players want to try out Omaha and are unfamiliar with the game but they may still play at high limits because they are good at Texas. These players generally play too loose.
Also, it is much more of a technical game because it is easy to see what the best hand is, since usually there is a flush or a straight on board and odds are that somebody has one.
Some good places to play low-limit Omaha are Party Poker or Empire Poker (they are on the same network). Another place to play is Paradise Poker but they don't have as many Omaha players.
Read our Low-limit Omaha strategy article for some Omaha advice
Poker Strategy - Low-Limit Omaha Holdem
At the low limit Omaha Holdem games, there is easy money if you have the patience. Usually, these games are filled with players who are playing far too loose because everyone thinks that their two-pair is a great hand. The best strategy is to play hands that do well in multi-way pots and bet hard when you have the nuts.
There is another version of Omaha called Omaha hi-lo. In this game the high hand and low hand split the pot. This article will not discuss the hi-lo version; I will only talk about Omaha hi.
Some good places to play low-limit Omaha are Party Poker or Empire Poker (they are on the same network). Another place to play is Paradise Poker but they don't have as many Omaha players.
In longhanded Omaha there really isn't any such thing as a "dominant hand" preflop. You could get two Aces and two Kings and still easily get beat. However, that isn't to say that you should call to the flop with just anything. You should still play tight preflop and wait for a good hand, although now there are many types of good hands, hands that become dominant after the flop hits. The best starting hands in Omaha are hands where you hit two pair and your draw, for example Kh Qc Jh 10c. (A decent flop would be Q J x). Those hands are a bit rare, so another good hand in a loose game would just be a hand with a lot of drawing possibilities. If you are expecting a multi-way pot, then it is important to be drawing to the nuts. In other words, you want to draw to an Ace-high flush, not a 9-high flush. Also, you don't want to draw toward straights if you have low cards and are likely to end up at the low end of the straight.
You may wish to simply call preflop with drawing hands so as to not scare away the loose-passive players. This way you also risk less if you don't hit your draw. However, if you hold a hand which has strength in high cards, such as Ah Ad Ks Js, then you should raise. You should also raise with several drawing possibilities to build up the pot, if you feel that people are staying in too much for big pots.
Hands with only a high pair can sometimes be played. Play AAxx, KKxx definitely; with AAxx you should raise if you think you can knock people out and get the hand heads-up or 3-way. You may experiment with QQxx but that is very borderline. A set would be nice, but sets aren't so great in Omaha since someone can easily draw a flush or straight on you. With high pairs you really want to hit a high full house, and rob someone who thinks their lower full house is the high-hand. The main reason high pairs are much less valuable than in Texas is because having an Overpair on the flop is worthless in Omaha. Most likely someone else has a two-pair.
In general, you want to fold any hand unless you have top 2 pair or a draw to the nuts or near-nuts (for example a King-high flush). These requirements can be relaxed a bit if the game is shorthanded: you can draw to slightly lower straights/flushes. However, you still don't want to be calling with one pair.
If there is a pair on board and you don't have trips, then do not draw. Most likely someone has the trips and you're unlikely to semibluff people out of the pot. If you call and hit your draw, you may be beat by a full house!
Semi-bluffs are only useful if you can think you can win outright. However, in many loose low-limit games you will get called to showdown by multiple players. In this case, you don't want to semi-bluff that much. Maybe throw in one or two for deception, but try to avoid it otherwise.
Two pair and sets are troublesome if there is a draw on board. With several people in hand, there may be so many outs against you that you will probably lose the hand! Try to go for a check-raise and punish people for drawing. However, be prepared to fold at the turn if a draw (or two!) hits and you think you are beat. If you hit your full house, you can try slowplaying (if you have the nut full house) and hope someone hits their straight or flush. However, don't overdo the slowplay, you should only do it if you really can't be hurt by the river card, and be more inclined to slowplay if the opponents fall for it often and if you have position. If you find your opponents to be call-stations then go ahead and bet on the turn anyway. If your opponents are new at Omaha and they think their Ace-flush is the nut hand when the board is paired, you don't want to slowplay. Often times these players will cap out against you on the turn and river despite the full house possibility showing!
However, please note that full house is not even guaranteed to be high-hand. It is quite common to see one full house beat by another at an Omaha game. Generally, you have a low full house if your trip is lower than the board pair, and you are probably safe to win if your trip is higher than the board pair. The best way to tell if your full house is the best hand is by paying attention to your opponents betting sequence. With a low full house, you may consider trying to encourage a bluff by checking and calling instead of betting out, on a fraction of your hands.
If you hit your flush or straight by the turn you definitely should bet hard, and even check-raise if you are certain someone will bet (But bet outright if you have any doubt). There could easily be a set or two pair out against you and they could make their full house on the river. Make sure they don't get a free card here.
Often times the board will have no straight or flush showing and you think your two pair or set is the high hand. Then a scare card will hit on the river. If this happens, you may want to check down the river. After all, if you get check-raised, you are doubling the amount of money you have put into the hand. It depends on how many opponents are still in the hand and how they played it, but in a multi-way pot, checking is usually the right move. However, if your opponent rarely check-raises, or if he has played the hand like he had two pair, then you may consider betting.
If you are on the other side of the coin, and you hit your hand on the river, you may want to bet out instead of check-raising, because your opponent may check it down. I usually mix-up whether I bet or check-raise in that situation, depending on what I think my opponent has, but also to add deception and uncertainty. It is important to make your opponents fear the check-raise so that they are afraid to bet on the river, letting you see some showdowns more cheaply.
Poker Strategy - Tournaments Overview
Tournament poker is one of the world's hottest fads. While poker has been consistently played for over 100 years, the tournament circuit is still a relatively new thing. In 1972, the grand prize at the World Series of Poker (a $10k buyin) was only $80,000. In 2003, Chris Moneymaker took home a cool $2.5 million. The reason for this drastic increase in prize money is the number of players that have entered tournaments. In 1972, only 8 players entered the world series of poker, while 839 entered in 2003.
I am not a fan of tournament poker. Television has made tournament poker look glamorous- a competition where skill prevails. However, the truth of the matter is that luck plays a much larger factor in tournaments than ring games. Think about it this way: if you started with $2000, what is the chance that you would end up with $2 million dollars before the night was over at a regular no-limit game? Zero. However, to win a tournament where each player has 2k starting chips and 1000 people enter, you would need to win two million in chips to win the tournament. Not an easy feat to do unless lady luck truly smiled upon you that day!
In short, the reasons I prefer to make money at ring games rather than tournaments is:
1. I can consistently win at a ring game, whereas a tournament is feast or famine.
2. Luck plays a much smaller role in having a winning session at a ring game than at a tournament.
3. It is much easier to tell if you are a good ring game player than a good tournament player. Since the best tournament player can easily go ten sessions winning nothing, it is very difficult to tell if you are 'doing the right thing.'
Nevertheless, I play tournaments because they are fun and because I hope to make some money at them. Winning at tournaments still requires sound poker strategy, but emphasizes several factors more so than ring games:
1. Your chips have a different relative value. In a standard poker game, you should view each dollar as having equal value. This is not the case in a tournament. When you start off with an initial thousand in chips, that thousand is worth a lot more than the next thousand you make. Since you cannot buy back in, you always need to have chips in order to survive. At the beginning of the tournament, you should be more reticent to go all in because even if you win you are not in much better of a position. However, later in the tournament you must gamble or else you risk just losing by being blinded away.
2. Domination plays a much bigger factor. Later in the tournament, the blinds will be so high that most players in contested hands will be all-in preflop. Thus, you want hands that dominate other hands. High pocket pairs are good because they dominate lower pocket pairs, and ace with a good kicker is a good hand because it dominates many other hands. Many players make the mistake of betting very hard with a low pocket pair such as 55. In truth, these low pockets are only good for stealing blinds. If someone calls you, you are at best a 50-50, while you are a 4.5:1 underdog if they have a higher pocket pair.
Poker Strategy - Single-Table NL Tournaments
This section is on how to win the single table NL tournaments which are very popular at Party Poker. The buyins range from $5 to $100, so play whatever you can bank.
The goal is place 1st 20% of the time and 2nd, or 3rd 40% of the time. This yields a profit of about the entry buy-in over the long run. So if you play a 10 dollar buy in, you can expect to make $10 dollars every time you play if you achieve the goal.
The way I'll write this strategy guide is by the blind size. Note: The overall strategy is to get ahead quick and stay ahead, or to not die and then quickly come back later. In other words, you'll become the boss of the table throughout the game if you get good cards and get lucky early, or you'll be hanging in there until the late rounds when you make a big move.
10-15, 10-20- regular game, aim to trap a big hand if possible and double up. Don't be afraid to call or go to the flop with a marginal hand that has high implied odds. So, in an unraised pot, I'll go in with 78 suited, b/c I know if I hit the hand well, I can get paid off quite nicely.
15-30, 25-50- Tight aggressive play when possible, aim to win a big pot but avoid putting yourself all in or seriously depleting your stack. In layman's terms, play only good hands (the top tier) but don't be afraid to play them strongly.
50-100, 100-200- You're in three possible situations after the first 30 hands and into these blinds.
1. You're shortstacked- can only afford about 4 big blinds at the level, and those big blinds are just gonna get more expensive. Go all in with A and a high card, or any pair preflop (provided another person hasn't bet for a lot already). You want enough chips to survive and get into at least third place
2. Large stacked, you won a big hand in those first 30. Don't let ppl double through though- try to continue to increase slowly, avoid a big confrontation unless you clearly have the best of it. Steal the blinds a lot when you have a decent hand- just put in the minimal raise. Your goal is to win, not to place.
3. Very short- like almost out. You gotta fight and fight quick. Take a couple long shots, go all in with KQ if you have it, etc. There's nothing worse than being blinded to death. If you're big blind and can only afford one to two more big blinds, go all in no matter what (so if you paid the big blind of 50 and have about 75 in reserve, go all in no matter what).
Poker Strategy - Multi-Table NL Tournaments
About No-Limit Tournaments
The popularity of No-Limit holdem tournaments is booming. Fueled by the WSOP (World Series of Poker) and the World Poker Tour, many people are intrigued by these competitions and enter for a chance to win a 'big score.' In fact, most No-Limit holdem is played in tournament form nowadays (which upsets someone like me whose favorite poker game is a No-Limit holdem ring game).
While No-Limit holdem ring games offer the lowest variation for a consistent winner (I probably win 80-90% of the times I enter a No-Limit ring games), No-Limit holdem tournaments have crazy variance. This is because all the money gets shoved in preflop on near coin flip odds at the end of the tournament. For example, AK versus a pocket pair is a very, very common battle late in a No-Limit tournament.
I'm not saying you shouldn't play No-Limit tournaments, but please don't think that these tournaments are all skill and no luck. The famous quote from Rounders, "The same five guys make it to the final table every year at the WSOP" is the opposite of the truth. You MUST be lucky to win a No-Limit tournament because you must win more than your fair share of coin flip battles.
That's enough preaching about No-Limit tournaments. In terms of strategy, No-Limit tournaments are very different from No-Limit ring games. You simply can't bluff as much because people's stacks tend to be smaller in relation to the size of the pot. Also, since the amount of chips you win from a bluff is worth less than the amount you stand to lose, bluffing loses a lot of 'value.'
Now, many of you may be confused. Suppose you bluff 1000 chips at a 1000 pot and figure you have a 50-60% chance of taking it down. Many of you would think it's worth it to take that risk. However, those 1000 chips you win are worth less than those 1000 chips you stand to lose. If you have a 2000 stack, getting knocked down to 1000 has much more negative value than the positive value of getting up to 3000. The 1000 chips do not represent money. The only monetary value in the tournament is either losing all of your chips or winning them all (and losing them all is more important because you do get a prize if you lose them all in the late stages of the tournament). Losing those 1000 chips knocks you half the way out, but winning those 1000 doesn't do squat for winning.
This is not to imply that you can simply fold your way into the money. The blinds will eat you alive. You must win pots so you don't get knocked out most of the time. Towards the end of the tournament, you can think of winning pots to win the whole tournament. However, most of the time you must win pots simply so you don't lose!
Thus, in the early stages of the tournament, you should avoid gambling much. Generally, the amount you win isn't worth the gamble. If you can see the flop for cheap with a suited connector or someone goes all in preflop and you have AA, by all means go for it. However, I wouldn't suggest bluffing all in as a wise move. In the early stages, you want to win a huge pot here and there because you hold the nuts. Target a bad player and make him pay you off.
Towards the middle of the tournament, you need to switch gears. Since the blinds get bigger, stealing the blinds will help you stay alive. Here, the 'gap' concept becomes more important. It takes a much weaker hand than usual to raise to steal the blind, but a stronger hand than usual to call a raise. The middle rounds introduce the 'survival mode' concept.
Again, most of the time you will be looking just to survive and increase your stack bit by bit in the middle rounds. You want to avoid confrontation without the nuts and just take down some small pots without controversy.
However, if you are a large chip stack (or even just a medium one), you may want to take advantage of this survival mode. Take control of the game by raising and frequently putting other people at a decision for all of their chips. After all, if they go all in, they're risking it all but you aren't because you can lose the pot and still keep on fighting. However, don't do this too much. Steal some pots, but don't be so obvious that people will call you all in with top or even second pair. Also, don't do this against very bad players. They will call everything.
Towards the end of the tournament is when the coin flip decisions become very important. Frequently, the blinds are so high it makes sense for a player with a low or moderate stack to go all in preflop. Generally, when you go all in you want to have A(good kicker) or a pocket pair. If you have A(good kicker) you are an advantage to all non pocket pairs and may even have someone dominated. If you have a pocket pair, you are a small advantage against all non pocket pairs and at a huge advantage/disadvantage against other pocket pairs (depending on their size).
Generally, if you have one of these marginal hands, it's best to just shove all of your chips in preflop. When you are a low stack, you cannot afford to be blinded away anymore. Once the flop comes, chances are it's not going to be perfect. By shoving in all of your chips preflop, you have the added chance of stealing the blinds and can avoid being bluffed out.
Multi-table Limit Tournaments
I'm not a huge fan of multi-table limit tournaments; I personally think there is too much luck involved. Nevertheless, the Party Poker Million and Empire Poker Crown Tournament have increased the popularity of these tournaments. To succeed at these tournaments requires a slight change in strategy from your usual limit game.
The most fundamental change to your gameplay involves the 'gap' concept. Mid-way and later through limit tournaments, you must change your style of play from simply trying to get the best of it (winning money in the long run) to just winning pots. Instead of pot odds being your guiding force, you just want to straight up win the pots you play. Since the blinds are so large, you do not want much competition, as a simple blind steal will help your position tremendously.
You should begin playing hands that will just likely win. Flush draws and straight draws lose a tremendous amount in value and high and mid pocket pairs soar. AK and AQ also go up in value because they have most other hands dominated (e.g. AK versus A10 or AQ versus KQ). Late in limit tournaments, you want to avoid heavy conflicts with dominated hands (i.e. you don't want to have AJ against his AK even though he will pay off nicely if AJ is on board).
In order to conform to this strategy, you must do two things. First, if the mood is tight, you should be more willing to go in on marginal hands just in order to steal the blinds. Always, always raise preflop with these hands. If you are two off the button with A9, you should consider raising to steal the blinds. However, the second change you should make is to avoid conflict. If someone has already raised, you certainly should chunk that A9 if you are one off the button. The underlying concept here again is dominating hands- you want your opponents to fold because they are afraid they are dominated and you want to fold if you may be dominated. If you raise with A9, someone with A10 certainly will consider folding because they are afraid you have AJ,AQ, or AK and thus have them dominated.
Now, what if you are dealt a premium hand like KK and someone has raised? Ther'es no way you can chunk this hand preflop; what are the chances he has AA? In this situation, you should reraise to knock people out. Raising and lots of reraising is the key; you want to send the opposition the message that you are challenging him for all of his chips if he plays against you in this hand. When you are dealt a big gun like KK, you want to make your stand.
Obviously throughout all of this, you should take into consideration the strength of your opponents. Good players understand the 'gap' concept and will fold if they have borderline hands like A10. However, bad players will simply call. Bad players play their hand; good players play their hand relative to other people's hands. If you see the flop with a bad player, he will most likely fold if you bet and he has not hit and will call you to the river if he has. A good player knows that if he has A10 and there is an ace on the flop, he may be finished because of kicker. A bad player is just happy he has top pair.
Poker Strategy - Moving Up/Down Limits
Choosing which limit to play is a critical element when playing poker. Generally, you should choose which limit to play based on your financial situation, your poker ability, and your aversion to risk.
No matter how wealthy you are, it is often best to start out at the lower limits simply because the competition there is easier. Few 'professionals' play at the $1-2 games, so it is a relatively safe place to begin one's poker career. Even if you are a billionaire, no one will know it when you play on the internet and think any less of you for playing at a low limit.
When choosing a limit, the major choices come when one decides to move up a limit or down a limit. Generally, you should only move up a limit if you think you are comfortable playing at that limit for seven sessions or more. Do not choose a limit so high that it makes you scared to play. Playing scared is a guaranteed recipe for losing. It is also not wise to 'go for it' at a higher limit. If you are making a run for it at a higher limit, you probably do not have the bankroll to survive there for long. Even if you win on two straight sessions, you will likely bust out and have to move down if you are not bankrolled enough at any given limit.
If you take a hit at a higher limit, you should generally move down. However, you shouldn't move down so far that you are totally unmotivated to play. If you move up to $25-50 from $10-20, you shouldn't fall back to $1-2 once you decide that $25-50 is too high. While people tend to play too scared at a higher limit, they also tend to play too loose at a lower limit. Play a limit that motivates you to play, but also at which that you are not scared to play.
Poker Strategy - Quitting for the Day
Even if you are the best poker player in the world, you will have some losing days. Knowing when to just call it quits for the session will do you a world of good for your bankroll. If you play limit poker, it is wise to quit if you have a swing of 40 big bets or more either way. Forty big bets at limit is a lot (especially longhand), so having swings more than this may drive you insane. The only reason to break the 40-big-bet rule is if the game you are in is really good.
Fundamentally though, you should quit because you are tilting, you have played a lot already and risk being tired, or you just have other things to do.
Here are some signs that you may be tilting:
1. You always think your opponents are bluffing
2. You really want to break even for the day
3. You want to get back into the action as soon as possible
Here are some signs that you may have just played too much poker:
1. You are falling asleep at the table
2. You have played more than ten hours for the day (never play more than ten hours at any one time. It is better to play many short or medium sessions than a few long ones).
3. You find it harder to pay attention to your opponents.