Strategy Guide

strategyDominating the US online poker scene and becoming a threat for the likes of Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu is no easy task. Fortunately, if you’re looking to hone your three-betting skills and take your game to the next level, our online poker strategy guide is on hand to help.

Covering the essential skills and ideas you need to grasp in order to become a profitable grinder, our strategy tips will give you a solid foundation from which build your bankroll. As we all know, trying to build a fortress on sand is impossible, so we’ve put together a selection of concrete concepts from which to launch a successful career at the virtual felt.

US Online Poker is a Long-term Proposition

Starting Hand Guide

On top of digesting the theoretical concepts we’ve outlined in our main article, we also think it’s important to give you a basic guide to raising and folding pre-flop. Although our pre-flop starting hand chart is far from comprehensive, you should provide a solid base from which to build on.

Caution: this poker starting hand chart is designed to be a guide and not a strict set of rules. Only follow our recommendations if the table dynamics are favorable.

9-Max Online Poker Starting Hand Chart:
Hands to Play in Early Position:
A-A, K-K, A-Ks, Q-Q, A-K, J-J, A-Qs, A-Qo, or A-Js.
Call a Raise:
None – In general, you should only raise or raise from early position.
A-A, K-K, A-Ks, Q-Q, A-K, J-J
Hands to Play in Middle Position:
All early position raises + 10-10, A-J, K-Qs, K-Qo, K-Js
Call a Raise:
10-10, A-10o, K-Jo, Q-Jo, K-10s, 9-9, 8-8
A-A, K-K, A-Ks, Q-Q, A-K, J-J, A-Qs, A-Qo
Hands to Play in Late Position:
All early and middle position raises + A-10s, K-10s, K-Jo, Q-Js, Q-Jo, 9-9, 8-8.
Call a Raise:
77, 6-6, 5-5, Q-10s, Q-10o, K-10o, J-10s, J-10o, J-9s
A-A, K-K, A-Ks, Q-Q, A-K, J-J, A-Qs, A-Qo, A-10s

There is one online poker concept that trumps all when it comes to improving your game and that’s the ability to understand variance.

Whilst developing a technically sound strategy is crucial, all of this hard work can fall apart if you don’t understand how online poker in the US ebbs and flows. Poker involves both luck and skill, which means there will be times when things go your way and times when they won’t.

Underpinning every move you make at the poker table is a mathematical phenomenon known as variance. Technically defined as the statistical distribution of results over a period of time or, in simple terms, the swings of good and bad luck that affect your bankroll, variance will have a major effect on your game.

Every move you make at the poker table has a certain expectation (i.e. whether it will make a profit or a loss in the long run) and knowing the most profitable moves is the goal of every poker player. However, because poker involves variance it’s possible that the right move won’t always yield the right result.

“Underpinning every move you make at the poker table is a mathematical phenomenon known as variance.”

For example, it’s always a good idea to move all-in pre-flop with pocket aces. However, despite aces being a favorite over any hand pre-flop, it could be the case that such a move would lose 10 all-ins in a row.

Does this mean that it’s wrong to move all-in with pocket aces? No. All this simply means is that, in the short-term, your hand lost. However, over the course of, say, 1,000 hands you would be in profit. This is the nature of variance and something that all professional online poker players in the US will understand. In fact, focusing on the long-term EV of each move you make is the best way to ensure you always make the correct decision.

Go Against the Grain

against the grainGeneral online poker theory dictates that playing aggressively is a winning strategy. However, when you’re at a table of equally aggressive players, this can actually be a losing strategy.

Over the last few years the skill level of the average American online poker player has increased dramatically and it’s now likely you’ll find at least one or two other players who know it’s correct to play aggressively.

In situations like this it’s important to identify these players as quickly as possible and ascertain their position they are in relation to you.

“Identifying the tendency of the table as a whole is crucial when you’re trying to make money.”

For example, if the aggressive players are to your right you should allow them to make moves and only re-raise when you have a strong hand. Conversely, if the aggressive players are to you left, you should be much more wary of making raises because they are more likely to 3-bet you.

Moreover, identifying the tendency of the table as a whole is crucial when you’re trying to make money. While conventional wisdom states that it’s best to be aggressive, it can be very tough to do this when everyone else is doing the same thing.

Thus, the smartest strategy in this situation (and all situations at the poker table) is to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. While adopting this mentality requires you to be a more observant player, the payoff is that you’ll not only become tougher to beat but a more profitable player.

Beating the Modern Game

beating modern gameBack in the days when online poker in the US was an evolving beast, the average player was incredibly tight and usually only made bets with strong hands.

During this time competent players realized that the best way to exploit these players was to be as aggressive as possible.

However, as the game has progressed, this strategy became well-known to the point where most players were confident enough to play aggressively themselves. To counter this trend, it’s now the case that modern online poker players are taking a more conservative approach when it comes to bet sizing.

“Modern online poker players are taking a more conservative approach when it comes to bet sizing.”

For example, most American poker players will now raise 2X or 2.2X the big blind pre-flop and will often only open with the top of their range (i.e. their best hands) from early position. However, a few years ago it was the case that a standard opening raise would be 3X the big blind and strong players would often raise with their top and middle of their range (e.g. hands such as medium pairs and suited connectors).

Poker is a fluid game that evolves over time and to become a winning player you need to understand this fact. Becoming a winning player is one thing, but maintaining this status is extremely difficult if you don’t continue to improve. To thrive in the modern online poker climate you need to stay up-to-date with current trends and pay attention to bet sizing, position and dynamic hand ranges.

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