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What is Poker Strategy and why do I need it to win?
Poker Strategy is a combination of tips and guides describing standard and unusual situations of the game, which help to beat your opponents and grab the pot. Average novice player relies on luck hoping to get dealt a strong hand, but usually he loses too much before actually hitting that strong hand. Poker professionals never rely on luck, they expect to win using poker strategy in all levels of the game.
Poker strategy is a complex subject. I will only try to introduce basic strategy concepts and you can read the rest in strategy articles of this site.
The fundamental theorem of poker states that each and every time you play your hand in the way you would play it, if you could see your opponent’s hand – you gain, and each and every time your opponent plays his hand differently from the way he would do it if he could see your hand – you gain too. This theorem is the basis for many subjects of poker strategy. For instance, slow-playing and bluffing are good examples of using deception to make your opponents play poker differently than they could play if they could see your cards.
The key subjects of the poker strategy are:
• pot odds (ratio of the pot size to the size of the bet required to keep you in the pot), implied odds (money currently in the pot to the expected size of the pot in the end of the hand) and poker probabilities.
• deception (includes bluffing and slow-playing) is used to induce your opponents to act in the different way than they would, if they could see your hand.
• position – this term refers to your actual position at the table (towards the dealer’s button, etc.) and the strategic consequences of this aspect.
• reasons to raise – includes seven reasons to rise: to attract more money into the pot, to scare off your opponents, to bluff and semi-bluff, to get a free card, to gain information regarding your opponents’ hands, to scare off players with worse hands and to scare off players with better hands, when you think you probably have the second best hand.
• reasons to call – includes six reasons to call: to see more cards, to limit loss in equity, to avoid your opponents’ re-raising, to conceal the strength of your hand, to manipulate pot odds, to set up a bluffing atmosphere for a later betting round.
• the gap concept, which shows that most players prefer to avoid confrontations with those opponents, who had already indicated strength.
• sandwich effect, which is related to the gap concept – indicates a situation, when a player needs a stronger hand to stay in the pot, when he still has opponents to act behind him.
• loose or tight play – two different strategies aimed to do the same.
• aggressive and passive play – different manners of the game.
• hand reading and tells – making educated guesses regarding your opponents’ hands.
• equity – expected share of the pot, expressed through probability of winning or expected value (amount of the pot by probability of winning).
• short-handed considerations – strategy of playing at the table with fewer, than normal players.
• structure considerations – explains how blinds, antes and limit structure of the game affects on poker strategy.
It is strongly recommended to read each and every article before you start playing real money poker at the high stakes. It is necessary to practice the given schemes and strategies in real money games, but consider low limit games before you learn to feel the game.