Poker Strategy Guide

Poker Strategy
Playing excellent online poker is more than luck; it’s a skill. Most players forget this concept and play poker for fun, not profit. If you have already learned the basics of how to play poker, you are ready to step up and learn how to win regularly.

It’s not as tough as some people make it, but you do have to be disciplined and keep your wits about you. Drinking liquor will have an impact on your play, mostly for the worse. And losing your cool and going “on tilt” because you got beat for a big pot won’t help either. Poker doesn’t call for wildness; it calls for cool, calm aggression.

This guide will explain some basic concepts of strategy, game types, pot odds, when to call, raise, and even when to bluff. But there is much more to being a winning player. Keep reading, and you’ll find tips that took other players and me years to understand. Use the tips, and you’ll be far and away better than your friends who treat poker as just a diversion.

What Is Poker?

To begin with, poker is a fight for the antes. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing for cash, matchsticks, or Monopoly Money, as some of my friends used to do. You want to win what’s in the pot. To that end, poker games start with a token (small) wager from each player, such as 25 cents, before any cards are dealt.

The ante gives players a reason to stay in the game. Otherwise, players would never play marginal hands, only the best. Now, most Seven-Card Stud games start with the first three cards dealt (two down, one up), and the lowest (yup, the worst) card is forced to make an opening bet. In a $1-5-10 on the end game, the opening wager is usually $2.

In Texas Hold’em, the ante idea was converted into blinds. The first two players to the left of the button have a half and full bet that they must wager (in the blind) before they see any cards. That way, there is already a bet and a half in the pot to fight over.

Since the basic idea behind poker is to win chips/cash/money, the best strategy is to play good starting hands from a good position. Then, the more mistakes the other players make based on your hand and the fewer mistakes you make based on what the other players hold, the more money you will make.

Yeah, that’s a mouthful. Poker players lie. They misrepresent what their cards are, both purposely and accidentally. A bad player can fool you because they don’t know any better. Good players try to fool you so that they can make more money. It’s as simple as that. So, how do you fit in as a want-to-be winning player? You can win more by making fewer mistakes. And you can do this by learning the games, evaluating starting hands, understanding pot odds, and watching and categorizing the other players at the game.

I’m only going to cover Texas Hold’em in depth because it is the most popular poker game. However, the overall thoughts here are a good foundation for any poker game once you know the basics. You also need to know that tournament play is different than live play because your bankroll is limited to whatever stack a buy-in is worth. In many tournaments, you are not allowed to rebuy.

Certain plays that work in no-limit because they involve large wagers simply won’t work at limit games. In a limit game, you must show down the best hand most of the time. If you are playing Seven-Card Stud and betting all the way with a pair of aces and never improve, betting or raising on the river isn’t always the best move against two or three opponents. You are going to get called.

If the pot contains a dozen bets, nobody is throwing a reasonable hand away. The only people you can beat are those that were going for a straight or a flush, and you don’t need to get them out unless you think they hit two small pair and might throw their hand away for one more bet. Usually, they won’t. So, let’s look at the overall structure of Texas Hold’em.

Texas Hold’em Game Structure

Hold’em is played with anywhere from two to ten players at a table. The more players, the higher your hand needs to be to open. If you are playing heads-up, most hands won’t be pairs or even high cards to start. With ten hands, multiple players may have a pair or hold an ace pre-flop.

And since most games are played with several players, we’ll proceed as though you are playing on a table with at least eight players. In this case, it’s not just the hands you start with, but your position on the table that will dictate how you play and which starting hands are worth betting.

The dealer button is the best player spot because they will be last to act after the flop, turn, and river. When calling the pre-flop bet under the gun (the first spot to act after the blinds), you’ll need a better hand than that dealer spot. If you call with K-J off-suit under the gun, you’re in a world of trouble if there is a raise.

Are you up against a big pair, like aces, kings, or queens? How about A-K, A-Q, A-J, or even K-Q? And if you do call a raise with a hand like K-J off-suit, what kind of a flop are you happy with? A lone king on the board? At this point, you’ve got to ask yourself, “How many hands will beat me?” If you don’t know, there are plenty. The only flop you might really like is one with a king and a jack, or a Broadway straight draw (or made straight like ace-queen-ten).

Unfortunately, those flops won’t happen enough to make you a profit, and if a king and a jack do hit the flop, someone else probably has a straight draw of their own. What will happen often is that you’ll get raised pre-flop and must fold, or you’ll call a raise and get in more trouble after the flop.

If a lone jack flops, should you bet? Perhaps, but if you do, you are likely to get played back at (re-raised). Then what? The original better might only hold A-K no-pair, but you don’t know that. Hmm, looking back, perhaps passing on that hand altogether might have been wise.

However, because of the way Hold’em is structured, you can play that K-J from late position. In fact, if you are in the cut-off or on the button, that’s probably a raising hand. And if nobody has yet called, you want to raise and try to steal the blinds. If you don’t try and steal the blinds, they will try to raise and bet you off your hand, or they’ll have a good chance of beating you after the flop.

Another advantage of acting last is that on the flop, the player on the button can bet or raise and possibly win the pot right there. And if they are on a draw, they can get a free card (or more accurately, a half-price card) on the turn.

You see, in a limit game of Hold’em, wagers pre-flop and on the flop are one unit, and those after the turn and on the river are for two units. So, suppose the game is $10-$20, and you bet $10 on the flop. Now the player on the button raises to $20, so you call and give them credit for holding a decent hand. Then the turn card comes, and you can check or bet $20. In this case, you check to their power.

However, they just check behind you. Now they get to see the river card for free! If they were on a draw to a straight or flush or to a big-card hand like A-K, they get another shot to beat you on the river. Bummer.

Table position and aggression are so important in Hold’em that it can’t be emphasized enough that you must play good cards, mostly from later position, and you must play them fast! But what are good cards?

Playable Texas Hold’em Hands

Generally, successful poker players choose to play only their best starting hands. Playing every hand is a recipe for disaster. If you can get in cheap, you can see more hands, but that’s based on your read of your fellow players, and I’ll get to more of that a bit later.

For now, I can tell you that in a limit game, if you are playing more than 25% of your starting hands, you are going to be hard-pressed to beat the game, especially if the other players have any clue what they are doing. Now, some players can be pushed around and are terrible after the flop, so there are times you can use your powers to play more hands and take advantage of the other players. In a standard poker game at a card club or a casino, though, that’s unlikely.

As for starting hands, everyone knows that A-A is the best. And some players figure it’s good to get lots of callers in the pot so that they don’t raise pre-flop. That’s a mistake with any big hand in Hold’em. You see, big pairs play better against fewer opponents, so it’s better to raise and narrow the field. That helps get players pot-committed to their hands (where they will call to the river) and to improve your chances of winning.

Against a single player, A-A will win about 80% of the time. But against five players, it will win less than half of the time, and you are likely to get trapped for extra bets when someone makes a flush or straight against you. That’s less likely with only one or two callers.

Large pairs are great in Hold’em, but smaller pairs don’t play nearly as well. New players often over-value small pairs like 5-5 and 6-6. These pairs will barely win 20% of the time against four callers, and if you are forced to call several bets preflop, you are likely to lose more than you’ll ever win. Any over-cards (cards above your pair) are likely to pair another player and make your hand worthless.

Usually, the only time a small pair is any good is when you flop trips. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are 7.5 to 1 against. So, if you call two-bets pre-flop against one or two opponents, you are going to be disappointed most of the time. And if you miss the flop, there are only two cards out of the 47 you haven’t seen that will help you on the turn and the river.

If you are playing no-limit Hold’em, those pocket pairs go up in value if you can get in cheap to see a flop or know you can double up against a player holding a big pocket pair if you flop trips. Then it is the implied odds or the implied size of the pot that makes a call worthwhile (more on that later).

Pairs only come around about once every seventeen hands. In between, you’ll get plenty of hands like J-6, 9-4, and 8-3. The worst hand, 7-2, is one that can make the smallest pair and that can’t flop a straight. It’s junk. Why play it?

Suppose every hand was turned face-up before the flop. Would you play every hand? Of course not. You’re not crazy; you’d only play the few hands when you held the best or one of the best hands. Would you win every pot? Nope, not even if you saw every hand.

Poker is gambling; it’s that simple. Still, it’s better to gamble a couple of times out of ten hands when you hold a good start as opposed to gambling on junk hands. And I don’t care if they are suited. You should know that being suited improves your hand by less than 3%.

If you throw away 6-5 against six players because it only wins about 12% of the time, playing it suited doesn’t make much sense, either, since it still only wins 15% of the time. Toss it; it’s a rag hand. So, what hands should be played? Overall, pairs larger than 7s, aces with at least a nine, and any two face cards are going to win most of the pots. Any hand can win, but those will win the most.

There are 169 starting hands in Texas Hold’em. The best is A-A. If you got aces every hand, you’d win somewhere between 80% and 35% of all the pots, based on the number of callers. Sweet! If you exclusively play the top 20 hands, you can expect to win quite often. But variance is a tough mother at poker.

Even pocket aces can be beat over and over. A hand like 7-2 (the worst starting hand in Hold’em) can beat aces by catching two pair, making a straight, a flush, or a full house. It happens. How often? Rarely enough that playing 7-2, or even hands like Q-6 suited, will cost you a fortune in the long run. But people like to gamble.

The better you play, the more you can gamble. For now, stick with this small group of hands, and you’ll do well. In the top five starting hands, Ace-Ace is playable from any position. In fact, you should raise or re-raise from any position. You’ve got the best hand; get all the money in the pot you can before the flop. You’ll want to raise or re-raise with A-K, A-Q, K-K, and Q-Q also.

You are going to play these starts fast and heavy, narrowing down the field and betting on the flop, regardless of what hits the board. You’ll have to use some logic on the turn and river. Sometimes you just have to throw away the best starts to heavy re-raises and boards that suggest straights and flushes you can’t beat.

If you flop a monster and cripple the board (a full house or quads, maybe trip aces), you can just call or even check and let players think they might have you beat. Waiting until the turn to get more money in the pot and letting them catch a little something won’t hurt you.

The second five starting hands include K-Q, J-J, T-T, J-T, 9-9. With these hands, raise from late position and call from middle or early spots. You can call a raise with J-J, K-Q, T-T, and 9-9. I might call a raise in late position with J-T suited, but I’d toss it otherwise. Toss the unsuited variety to a raise in any position.

With the top pair on the flop, you’ll want to bet or raise.  Same story if you flop trips, but if there is an early bettor and no straight or flush draw, you can just call and wait to re-raise until the turn. If you flop a monster, hold back a little, as with the top starting hands.

The third-five group of hands is worth playing in late position; calling a raise is a judgment call. Remember, you need a stronger hand to call a raise than you do to raise yourself. This group includes A-J, A-T, K-J, K-T, and Q-J.

You can’t be fast and loose with this group, because any raise is likely from a better hand. It’s possible to call and then get away from your hand on the flop if there is nothing there. Calling would likely be when there is a Broadway straight draw or if you have a chance at a big flush. Heavy action with an ace or king on the flop is trouble!

In no-limit, you don’t want to call a raise with A-Q, A-J, A-T, and see an ace on the flop because you won’t know where you are. If there’s a decent bet on the flop, you are likely looking at pocket aces or A-K. What did you call that raise for?

The forth-five hands include A-9, K-J, Q-T, 8-8, and T-9 suited. You must be cautious with this group. These are hands you’ll routinely call with from late or middle position, raising in late position if there are no callers yet.

Much of this group’s appeal is hitting your kicker, not your top card, and making high straights. The hand of 8-8 is sometimes best on a low flop but gains great appeal on a flop with an 8 and two over cards. Here you are going to get some good play-back and get paid off most times.

That same appeal applies to the final group of hands that smaller pairs that can trip up on the board and crack big pocket pairs like aces and kings for good pots. This final group is for pairs of deuces through sevens and suited connectors like 6-7, 7-8, and 8-9.

With these hands, you’ll consider calling in middle position if your table rarely produces raises pre-flop. If there is a lot of action, you might still call, hoping to make a big pot. Still, you won’t hit very often and will experience plenty of variance in your bankroll.

More than regularly, I’ll just limp in with these from the middle or late positions for a call. You can also play A-x the same way. Still, for the most part, I’ll toss these cards as often as I’ll call with them. You aren’t losing anything by not playing them.

Overall, the above situations mean you’ll be playing the top 20 hands in most instances and perhaps limping with another ten hands under the right circumstances. That gives you 30 out of 169 possible hands, or just 18% of the hands you see. That will put you on the conservative/tight side of most players you’ll see.

Of course, some of your blind hands will be playable, and that means you’ll probably see closer to 25% of the flops. That’s not too tight to make money. If you are playing more than 30% of the pots, you’ll probably be losing money.

Raising, Calling, and Folding

Since the main idea behind poker is to make money, you’ll want to raise or re-raise when you start with the best hand, or flop/turn/river what you think is the best hand. Get the money in the pot! That’s the basics, but let’s dig deeper.

Suppose you start by raising with pocket aces from an early position and there are several callers and then a raise from the button. Should you re-raise? Certainly. You have the best hand. You don’t need to be clever or secretive. And you are going to bet on the flop no matter what the board holds. You still want to narrow the field if you can, and there is no point in letting anyone get a free card on the turn.

Now suppose you raise with your aces pre-flop, and everyone folds except for the button, who raises. Should you re-raise? Yes, most of the time. However, there can be something to gain by letting the button take the lead on rare occasions. In this instance, you want just to call, and check the flop. The button will most likely bet, and you can call.

The thinking here is that you’ll gain back that bet by re-raising on the turn and almost guarantee that the player will misread your hand. If nothing else, it adds deception to your play and will keep players from constantly playing back and bullying you.

Calling a raise pre-flop requires a strong hand. I’ll raise with K-Q and sometimes K-J depending on my position, but I don’t like calling with them any more than I like calling with A-Q (especially in no-limit). If I am calling, it’s because I know the player to be overly aggressive and as likely to have 6-6 as A-K.

Personally, I’d prefer to call a raise pre-flop with a pair. I know right where I am on the flop with a pair. It’s either an overpair and likely good, or I flopped a set and can drag a big pot with a deceptive hand. I also like them because if I miss the flop completely and over-cards hit, I can get away from my hand cheaply. Will I call a bet on the flop if I don’t hit? Possibly, but my chances of making a set on the turn are only 2 out of 47. I’d have to win a big pot, an implied odds pot, which already contained at least 15 to 20 wagers.

That can happen when you call pre-flop and get trapped for a raise against a half-dozen players. On the flop, if you are almost last to act and there are another five bets in there, well, the pot odds are about right (see “pot odds”).

Raises don’t always have to be about getting more money in the pot. Sometimes they are defensive or deceptive. Suppose that pesky aggressive player is on the button and he loves to raise a lot of flops. In this case, you might put the raise in yourself if you are somewhere in the middle of the table. That puts more pressure on him, and he might fold.

If you don’t raise, he probably will, which costs you the same number of bets. But if he folds, you get to be last to act on the turn and the river. Sometimes you even win the pot right there, whether you have made a hand or not.

You can also take the aggressive approach with a flush or straight draw (make sure it’s going to win if it hits). You bet or raise close to the last position with an open-ended straight or four-flush. You’ll make the hand about one-third of the time, but you should be getting reasonable odds if there were several callers pre-flop, and the bonus that you might win right there helps tremendously.

Also, if you miss on the turn, you can either bet again as a bluff or check and take a free card. Most often you’ll want to just call with a flush or straight draw, especially in a fairly loose game with lots of bets. You don’t want to put in an early bet and have to call a raise yourself if you can avoid it.

Wondering when to fold? Well, we covered all those hands you should fold before the flop, but you’ll want to pass on a straight or flush draw against just one player most of the time because you won’t get good enough pot odds. And you can forget about a gut-shot draw unless you get closer to 11-1 odds from the pot.

You’ll also need to consider folding, even when you start with a strong pair like kings, queens, and jacks if there is heavy action and flops that consist of suited cards, cards that make a straight, or an over-card. Likewise when you played A-Q or a lower kicker ace to a similar board.

Keep in mind that your kicker card is extremely important. Players who insist on playing ace-rag often lose pots to A-K, A-Q, and A-J. On the other hand, if you hold those A-face hands, it’s a good reason to raise and either knock out A-x or make them pay to draw.

You also want to bet or raise on the flop when you have top pair if there is a four straight or four flush possible. Don’t let them draw cheaply. And don’t give them a free card on the turn, either! If they are going to draw out on you, make them pay.

When you don’t hit the flop and hold nothing, don’t be afraid to fold. It’s better to give up then and there than to keep calling on wishes and dreams.

Pot Odds

With many hands, you’ll need to know whether it makes sense to call, raise, or fold. The decision is usually made for you if you count the money in the pot (actually count it by bets).

Suppose you are playing $5-$10 limit Hold’em and you flop a four flush. You’ll make that hand about 35% of the time, so you only need 2-1 from the pot to call. Heads-up, you’ll probably just toss your hand away to a bet. If there were two callers pre-flop and there is $15 in the pot and player one bets, you are getting 3-to-1 odds.

However, suppose player one bets and the other player folds. Now you are going to call $5 and then $10 on the turn if you missed your flush. So you are committing $15 to win a minimum of $25, maybe $35. Subtract the rake and dealer toke, and you’ll put up $15 to win $25 or hopefully $35. That makes calling a bad deal.

It gets worse if there are two players and a raise, or you have that aggressive player behind you. Then your pot odds will shrink. Don’t forget that you need to be drawing at the nut straight or nut flush most of the time. Sometimes you’ll make your hand and still get beat by a full house or higher.

Pot odds are more dramatic in no-limit, where players will raise to protect their top pair or made straight against a flush draw. They do this by counting the pot and offering you a bad deal for your money. Suppose again that you flop an open-ended straight (which you will make about 31% of the time) in a three-handed pot with $100 at stake.

You want to get in cheap, to keep those good odds. But now player one goes all in for $250 and player two folds. The pot holds $350. Even if we round up your chances of winning to .333%, or once in three times, you have to fold. Why? Because if you called a similar raise and pot three times for a total of $750 and won only once, you would risk $750 and get only $600 back. Your call cost you $50 on average. That’s a bad call!

Now suppose both player one and two went all in for $250 each, making the pot $600. In this instance, you would happily call because this returns a profit. In three similar instances, you would risk the same $750 but get back $850 on your one win. Your call wins you $33 on average.

Here’s another $5-$10 limit game example when there are four callers for two bets each to see the flop. The first player bets, and the other two call. Now it’s your turn. The pot holds $55, and you flopped a gut-shot straight. You won’t make it very often, but the 11-to-1 odds the pot is offering is good. If you hit it on the turn, great. If you miss the turn and there is a $10 bet and two callers, the pot has grown to $85. You might think you need $110 to call and get those 11-to-1 odds, but you don’t.

In this instance, you need to consider the implied odds. With that size pot, even if everyone checks to you on the river, the pot is $95, and if you bet and get just one caller, you get almost an 11-to-1 return. Sure, you were gambling, but with a positive return. When you gamble at poker with an expected return lower than your cost, you will lose in the long run.

A final strategy in this category is betting and calling for value. Calling for value happens when another player represents a specific hand (perhaps aces pre-flop, or a flush on the river). When this happens, it helps a lot to know the player’s tendencies.

If they are aggressive, they might have anything, so it could be a bluff. If the pot holds $100 and you can call for $10, consider it. If you think they might bluff 15% of the time, that’s a positive call because you only have to be right 11% of the time to make a profit. If the player is tight and unlikely to bluff, it’s wiser to toss your hand if you can’t beat what they are representing.

Another way of figuring pot odds is to count all of the ways you can win (or at least improve) a hand. Suppose you have a four flush and a four straight. How many cards can make your hand on the river? There will be nine flush cards and eight straight cards with an open-ender, two of which are also flush cards. That gives you 15 outs. You’ve seen four community cards and your two cards, so 15 times in 47 you will improve. That’s close to once in three draws. You only need 2-to-1 odds from the pot.

Another example is the same open-ender, but you don’t have a flush draw, and a third flush card probably makes your straight a loser. Now you have only six outs in 47, so you need almost 8-to-1 odds from the pot. Count your outs, divide the pot by your outs, and see if it makes sense to call.

Betting for value is slightly different. This usually happens when you have been betting all the way, and a third straight or flush card hits the river. You should still usually bet in the limit, but it’s tricky. Again, you need to know your players. Go back to the pre-flop action and remember how they played there. How about the flop? Does it make sense that they were on a draw all that way? If it does, don’t bet; just check and call.

Player Types

There is a multitude of player types, but for this discussion, we’ll just look at the four most popular poker styles, which includes loose players, tight players, aggressive players, and passive players. The toughest players are those who are tight when it comes to which hands to play but aggressive afterward.

A loose player will get in on way too many hands. They love action, and you won’t be able to push them off a hand with a gun. Forget about bluffing or betting marginal hands because they will call you down. Tight players hate most everything from slow cocktail service to bad cards, but they are patient about waiting for just the right starting hands. In Seven-Card Stud, they’ll only play high-quality starts like a pair of aces through jacks, three straights, and three flushes.

In Hold’em, they will show you nothing but the best, starting with a pair of aces and faces, A-K and A-Q, and K-Q. They like suited cards, won’t call a pre-flop raise without premium hands, and hate to gamble on straights and flushes. If they bet pre-flop, you’re better off tossing your hand unless it is a group one. They won’t get action from other players either, so their pots will be small.

Aggressive players will often be loose, raising with anything that looks interesting. They will play back with marginal hands and love to steal the blinds. You’ll have to be careful playing drawing hands because it will get expensive. When you do have a big pair to start, they will often re-raise.

This can be to your advantage. Don’t bother bluffing these players, either; they will call until the river if they aren’t already betting and raising. Passive players are also referred to as calling stations. They hardly ever raise, often just calling with a made straight or a flush if it isn’t the nuts. They won’t get good value out of their top pairs, and you’ll sometimes bet their hands for them because you’ll think they are weak. They are, most of the time.

Keep betting against these players and get full value for your own hands. Take your lumps with a grain of salt and move on to the next hand. At the end of each hand, try to reconstruct what the original raiser was thinking. If you see the final hand, what did they have? Then, make mental notes not only about what kind of hands each player raises but what kind of hands they will call with.

After a while, you will be able to put a player on a range of hands based on your observations. You might note that the passive player raised with aces and nothing else, while the loose or aggressive player even raised with baby pairs. Getting to know your players will pay huge dividends. Beginners will probably be the toughest to categorize since they often don’t know exactly what they are doing. You’ll just play your best against them and see what happens.

Stealing Blinds

Stealing blinds, especially in a tournament, can keep you alive in a game. The blind hands are at a terrible disadvantage. They are first to act after the flop, turn, and river, and they got their money in their before seeing their cards. Often, they will have little to defend.

If you are in late position with any top 25 hand, you should be raising when nobody has yet called. On the button against weak players, you can expand your selection of raising hands to any pair, and two cards with an ace or face, and any two connectors (6,5 – 8,7, etc.). Sometimes a blind will call your raise. Sometimes they are smart enough to defend their bets, but often they simply can’t. They may know you are preying on them, but their cards are terrible.

On the flip side, you can prevent having players steal your blinds by immediately raising with any marginal hand and playing fast and loose a few times. Players will think twice if you play back at them occasionally.

The Art of the Bluff

Bluffing takes real skill and art. You can’t just jam a big bet out there on the turn or the river and expect everyone to fold. You must know your players and pick your spots. And if you get caught, you probably won’t get away with a bluff later, either. But use that to your advantage by over-betting your best hands.

To begin with, elaborate pre-flop bluffs that run to the river will rarely work, especially in limit games. They will work more often in no-limit games, but why bother when you could dump your stack to a smart player for no reason? Desperation bluffs where you suddenly bet or raise on the river aren’t often successful, either, but that’s what you’ve got to do in certain situations. And you have to do it against the right players.

You can’t bluff a bad player because they won’t recognize what you are trying to represent. They will just call your final bet and show you a winner. Bummer. You’ll also have trouble bluffing a loose but aggressive player. They want action and can’t stand to lose. And finally, you can’t bluff a calling station because pretty much no matter what they have on the end, if they went that far, they will call in a limit game. You have to show them the best hand.

Who you can bluff at times are tight players who you just know don’t have the nuts and players who are complaining about their hands, taking beats, and who are looking to get beat. They are in a mind frame that tells that you likely beat them. And you usually can’t bluff more than one player, two tops. More than that, and someone will call for value.

Ideally, you will be up against a single player, and you raised pre-flop with a drawing hand like A-K. You assume you have the best hand and hope you hit something on the flop. Unfortunately, you miss the flop, but you confidently bet, and bet the turn. If they seem weak, as though they are also on a drawing hand or small pair, you may get them to toss their hand on the turn or river.

More often in limit play, your bluff will be representing a flush when you have been calling, and the river matches two suites on the flop. If they now check or you are first to act, bet, representing a flush. A player with a single pair will sometimes assume you were trying for a flush all along and toss their hand. In no-limit, the size of your stack will greatly influence the times you get called. A sudden bet of a quarter of the pot won’t convince anyone to toss their hand. If you are short-stacked and give it a try, expect a call.

Once again, your ability to bluff will depend on your assessment of the other players, the situation, and your own image at the game. If you have been playing only quality hands and been fairly tight, you’ve got a chance to succeed. If, on the other hand, you have been playing lots of hands and have shown down some questionable starts, you’ll probably get called.

Final Thoughts on Poker Strategy
Good poker strategy starts with playing quality hands and playing them aggressively. You can’t win at poker if you play too many hands, and you can’t win if you don’t understand your opponents. These things I’ve made clear. Now the final step, which you’ll have to learn on your own.

You have to take your thinking to the next level. You always want to guess what cards your opponents are playing and what hands they might be trying for or have already made, but there is more. You want to figure out what they think you have. When you can do that, you’ll be able to make better decisions.