Real Money Poker Online
Why Play Cash Games? with Pro Poker
If tournaments are about prestige, then cash games are where the real money is made. They also train you to play real poker, rather than just move all-in and hope for the best once the blinds are high enough.
Five reasons to play cash games
The bread and butter of poker – a great way to get some practice in.
• Play any time with any number of players (well, up to 6)
• Play as little or as much as you like with no start or end times
• With our fast fold games, you can speed through a poor hand in an instant
• Play on your terms. You choose how much to take to the table
• Start a game with just $5.00 and we have tables as low as 0.01-0.02 games, these tables are designed for beginners to real money games.
Six rules for cash game success with Pro Poker
With cash games, playing is easy. The hard part is getting good enough to actually start making money. To help you out, we’ve put together six golden rules to give you confidence and take your game to the next level.
1. Start slowly
In no-limit Hold’em, you can lose your entire stack in a single hand, so stick with stakes you can handle.
One trick is to divide your bankroll (the amount of money you’re prepared to spend on poker) by 20 to find out what you can risk per game. Then divide this by 50 to get the maximum buy-in you should be looking for. For example, if you have $500 in your bankroll, that’s $25 per game, so $0.25/$0.50 is the level for you. Don’t buy-in at anything less than 50 times the big blind, or you’ll be playing defensively with a short stack (not exactly a rich learning experience).
2. Only (usually) bet if you’ve got the goods
In cash games, big pots tend to mean big hands or big bluffs. Anything in between and a more experienced player could take you to the cleaners. So be careful with hands like A-K (which look good, until you make a pair and someone else hits a set). And think twice about betting with low full houses or straights and flushes, which someone could easily beat.
If you’re going to bluff, choose your opponent carefully and make sure you really do play as if you have the hand you’re representing.
3. Pay attention to position
Once the stack sizes get big, you need to pay close attention to what hands you can play, based on your position at the table.
Throw away hands like A-J and A-10 if you’re in early position. Take care in the blinds, as you’ll be out of position throughout the hand. In middle and later positions, you can play a bit looser as you’ve got more chance of seeing the other players off and scooping the pot.
4. Take control
In cash games, your job is to put pressure on other players, steal blinds when you can and make people want to call you when you have a winning hand. The best way to do this is to get in the habit of raising pre-flop and betting again on the flop (putting in a total of about half the pot). In the beginning, this seems a bit counter-intuitive, but realistically most hands miss the flop and the player with the most momentum wins the day.
The only exception is when you’re playing deep stacks and you might want to play it down (to get more money in the pot) before making your move.
5. Play five and six-seater games
You can learn a lot from playing more intense, short-handed games. Here, attitude and position are essential, and feel has a huge part to play. There’s no doubt you’ll need a deeper bankroll for this kind of game and the competition can be tough. But you’ll also learn a lot – and once you’ve got a knack for it you can make more money here than in full-ring games.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Finally, remember to keep your losses in perspective. You’re on a learning curve where mistakes happen. As long as you play within your means, these are just lessons that will help you become a better player in the long run.
it & Go tournaments are ideal for new players with Pro Poker. They don’t cost much to enter and last less than an hour. But you’ll start to get a feel for shifting hand values, the importance of chip stack sizes, position and aggression.
It’s easy to get started too. All you have to do is take your place at a table and as soon as enough players arrive (usually five or more), it’s game on.
Even if you’re a beginner, you’ve got a good chance of winning, as there are plenty of chancers out there trying their luck (who haven’t read our Sit & Go tips ). Keep cool, stick to the basics and you’ve already got a head start.
Five reasons to play Sit & Go tournaments with Pro Poker
Take your seat and get going with these quick and easy tournaments.
• Play on demand. The tournament starts when the table is full, so there’s no waiting around
• There’s a game to match your budget with buy-ins starting at just $1.10
• Be done within the hour when you’re playing just 6 or 10 players
• Choose your game from lots of different types
• Improve with multi-table Sit & Go tournaments against up to 50 players
Sit & Go strategy with Pro Poker
At the start
All tournaments have a beginning, middle and an end. However, in a Sit & Go the middle period is shorter than in a big tournament – so even if you get off to a bad start you still have a good chance of scraping into second or third place.
Tighter than normal play is recommended in the early stages. Fold most hands and wait until a few players have been eliminated before getting involved.
In a Sit & Go, it’s important to preserve a decent portion of your starting chips (at least two-thirds) for the middle stage of the game when four or five players remain and the blinds are high enough to be worth stealing by pushing all-in.
Once you arrive into the middle stages of the Sit & Go, a lot of what happens next depends whether you’re playing a regular or a turbo Sit & Go.
• Regular. It’s common for the final four players to jostle for a long time until either one player makes a fatal mistake or two big hands collide. Wait for good opportunities to get involved
• Turbo. The blinds quickly become astronomical and people will be forced to go all-in and call with far less. Here, it may simply come down to a matter of counting how many hands you can survive until the blinds eat you up and look for the best hand to push all-in with
In the middle
Okay, you’ve arrived in the middle stages with an average stack for the last four or five players.
The first thing to do in this situation is to look around you and see what the other players have in front of them. When there are different-sized stacks, if there’s only one short stack between you and the bubble , you should try to stay out of harm’s way as much as possible (unless a great hand comes along). However, if the stacks are pretty evenly matched, you need to carefully look for ways to maintain your chips or get ahead without risking a disaster, as any all-in benefits the by-standing players so much.
You shouldn’t risk a lot more chips with a marginal hand if another player shows commitment, but remember this is a chance to effectively win the game there and then by getting a mile in front. Even if you do lose an all-in, you have probably paid for it with all the small pots you’ve stolen. What’s more, the other players will know you’re gunning for them and won’t pass easily next time.
The last three
When you get to the last three, the blinds will probably be quite high and, after the tension of the squeeze-out stage, the players will loosen up considerably. If you were the big stack, remember your bullying privileges have just been revoked to a large extent. If, however, you were the short or medium ones, this is the time to gamble it up.
Assuming the traditional 50/30/20 payout structure, the smallest change in pay by position is from third to second, so it’s well worth taking on the bigger stacks at the first decent opportunity in the hope of being in contention for first position.
If you have fewer than 10 big blinds and find a decent hand, you might as well go all-in (unless it’s a real monster and you want action), as you have nothing to lose. Similarly, if you’re the big stack with any kind of a hand, you might as well force the short stack to commit. Because of this situation and the pace of a three-handed game, you will probably reach 1 on 1 play quite soon after making the money.
When you’re new to poker, a cash game is probably where you’ll start. You sit down to play and when you’ve won (or lost) enough, you just get up and go. A poker tournament on the other hand, can seem a bit daunting.
The reality is tournaments are just a different form of poker. Once you’ve won a few prizes and realised you can handle the competition, you might decide it’s your favourite way to play.
Whether it’s the World Poker Tour one of our big online event, there are some essential tournament tactics you need to know. In this section, we take you through the basics, including rebuys and making your stack size work for you.
Shuffle up and deal, folks. It’s time for your first tournament – you can check out our Power Series poker tournament to find a few games or you can read on just to brush up on tournament basics!
Tournament basics with Pro Poker
In this section, we walk you through your first tournament, including:
• How tournaments work
• Time to rebuy?
• Prizes and deals
• Where to start
How tournaments work with Pro Poker
Before the tournament starts, all players pay an entry fee and buy-in. This gets you a number of chips and your seat at the table. From then on, it’s a simple knockout situation where you keep playing until your chips run out. The winner is the player who ends up holding all the chips.
To add to the atmosphere, the blinds usually get bigger by set amounts at specific times as the game goes on. In later rounds, there’s often an ante (a fixed bet everyone pays before the first deal) as well.
Time to rebuy? with Pro Poker
In some tournaments, once you lose all your starting chips, that’s it (we call it a freeze-out). More often, you’ll get a chance to top up your stack, or ‘rebuy’.
This could mean rebuying any amount of chips at any time or, depending on the rules, a limited amount and only at certain stages.
After the rebuys, there might also be an ‘add on’, where everyone has a chance top up their chips.
Should you do it? As always, it comes down to bankroll management, and the odds of winning versus the amount you’re putting at risk.
Prizes and deals
In any tournament, you’ll always know the prize pool in advance – which will help you work out if the money you’re putting in is worth it. Bear in mind that runners-up often get something too.
There can be quite a gap between first prize and fifth prize though. In which case, the final table will sometimes cut a deal to split the money. Result.
Where to start
Ready for your first tournament? We say try a few low-cost Sit & Go tournaments before chasing the big prizes. Our page on Sit & Go tactics is a great place to start.
Have fun – and happy hunting.
Tournament tactics with Pro Poker
Here we’ll give you a little more insight into tournament play, including:
• Choosing your approach
• Tournament type
• A question of skill
• What would you do?
Choosing your approach
Before you start playing tournaments, it’s worth taking a moment to work out your tactics. Yes, you need to win hands and chips, but some situations aren’t as clear cut as they look.
Take this classic poker dilemma:
It’s the first hand of a live tournament and you’re the big blind. Everybody folds except the small blind, who goes all-in. You accidentally see he has a suited ace and king. You’ve got two queens. What should you do?
• Call You have the best hand and need to build up chips
• Fold There’ll be other hands and it’s not worth the risk
In many ways, there’s no right answer to this question. It really depends on where you’re coming from as a player.
Approach one – play to survive
According to a lot of experts, your objective in a tournament is simple: don’t go broke. This means avoiding close gambles for large portions of your chips whenever you can.
Say (as with the above example), you’re a 57% favourite over your opponent. In a cash game, that’s definitely worth a call. But in a tournament, 43% of the time you’d be out. Based on the estimated value (the average outcome if you did this over and over), you’re never going to win.
There’s also the type of tournament. If the first prize is much bigger than the second, then you should gamble to give yourself the best chance. Likewise, in short-stacked game where the blinds keep going up, the clock is against you, so it makes sense to press ahead while you can.
In a typical single-table online tournament, though, it’s not about individual wins as much as defending and growing your stack. In which case you don’t want to risk getting knocked out at any time for a relatively small profit.
A question of skill
Most poker theory tends to assume that you’re a pretty experienced player. If that’s the case, you’ll have plenty of chances to outsmart your opponents later on, so why take the risk?
If you’re a new player, you’re relying on odds, not advanced strategy, to see you through. In which case 57% is not a bad bet to take.
What would you do? with Pro Poker
To get you in the tournament frame of mind, here are some more scenarios to think about.
1. Call that bluff?
Q. It’s the bubble stage (the part just before prizes) of a multi-table tournament and everyone’s folded up to you in the small blind. You have terrible cards, but put in a big bet to steal the blinds. Then the big blind goes all-in, a fraction ahead of your bet. What should you do?
A. Easy. Gamble. It might not pay off, but it’s not costing you that much extra to call, considering this is your chance for a prize position.
2. The big all-in
Q. It’s the middle stage of a tournament, pre-flop, and you are one of two chip leaders at the table (he’s a bit ahead of you – the other players don’t even come close). He moves all-in, but you have two aces. Do you call or fold?
A. Again, this is obvious. You fold, even though you’ve got the best hand. This player is the only one who can send you home, so if you call, you’re going to be out the tournament about 38% of the time. Better to pick off the less risky opponents first and go after the big money later.
3. Chip up at the final
Q. You’re down to the tournament final with just one opponent, whose stack size is about a quarter of yours. She moves all-in. You’ve only got a 2-2. Should you call?
A. Definitely. First, your opponent is getting desperate so might just have over cards (two high cards), not a pair. Even if she does, with your chip lead, you can take the hit. Also, you know you’re up against a good player, so you need to use any chance you can to beat them.
For many poker players, multi-table tournaments are where the real fun is.
For a set fee and buy-in you get a fixed number of chips, so your bankroll doesn’t have to be huge to take part. But with lots of players competing, the prize pool can be impressive, giving more people the chance to win.
As the name suggests, you’ll start on one of many tables, moving round as spaces open up, until you find yourself on the final table. Then it’s up to you – do you play to the finish or cut a deal for a guaranteed win? Either way, prizes range from cash to chances to play big live games in Europe or Vegas.
Reasons to play multi-table tournaments include with Pro Poker
• Control your spending with fixed buy-ins that can start at absolutely nothing
• Lots of players mean lots of prizes
• A chance to qualify for big money tourneys for a fraction of the cost
• Win trips to Europe or even Vegas to play big live tourneys
• Choose from over 500 multi-table tournaments every day
Here, we discuss how stack size affects your play, including:
• Why stack size is important
• Deep-stack and short-stack games
• How much should you buy in for?
Why stack size is important with Pro Poker
In poker tournaments, your stack – the number of chips you have – is a crucial part of your play. It tells your opponents whether you’re strong or vulnerable and defines what sort of risks you can take – and when.
A big stack puts you in control. People will tend not to take you on with cheeky bluffs or raises as it could be too big a risk. Even other big-stacked players will avoid you in the early rounds, preferring to pick off the smaller, easier targets first. But because you have more to lose, you need to be careful how you play.
A smaller stack makes life simple. You’ll play more aggressively before or on the flop if you know you can’t afford to see all the community cards. In fact, a quick all-in, or ‘push and pray’, is sometimes your only chance against larger-stacked opponents playing a longer game.
Deep-stack and short-stack games with Pro Poker
As well as your personal stack, there’s also the type of game to consider.
In restricted buy-in games, players can only bring a certain number of chips to the table. So you’ll see a lot more short-stack play, like players going all-in straight off, even if their cards aren’t all that great.
This doesn’t happen so much in deep-stacked games. Here, you want to wait for a strong hand, then trap other players over several rounds of betting rather than jam everything in upfront and risk your whole stack.
How much should you buy in for? with Pro Poker
So, when you buy in to a tournament, how much should you spend? Clearly, the more chips you have, the bigger your betting (and winning) potential. On the other hand, in a no-limit game, you could lose them all.
You need to look at the big picture. How big is your bankroll? How much can you afford to risk in one go? How good are you compared to everyone else here? How many chips do they have?
If in doubt, the restricted buy-in option is a good place to start. That way, you get the buzz of no-limit betting, without going up against super-stacked players who can steal your entire bankroll at the turn of a card.
Here, you’ll learn how to get yourself out of the tight corner that is being short stacked:
• How to play short stacked
• Short but not that short
If you’ve got a short stack of chips then unfortunately it’s our job to inform you that you’re the hunted, not the hunter. The hunters in question are those with large stacks who will see you as an easy elimination target because there’s less between you and a knockout from the tournament than there is for them. Luckily, we’re here to teach you how to turn that around completely and turn your modest pile of chips into something a tad more formidable.
How to play short stacked
The people with the most chips know that ultimately their main obstacles to the big stack will be anyone else with a big stack – first at their table, and then in the tournament as a whole. Often, though, the big stacks will try and delay confrontation with each other. Instead, they gang up on the smaller stacked players to try and eliminate them and move themselves closer to a guaranteed money finish.
The best way to play the small stack often depends on just how small you are. If you are really small and cannot survive more than one more round of blinds then, when you get a passable hand, you have to go all-in, whatever position you’re playing. If you find yourself in the big blind and the compulsory posting is half your stack, then you are locked into playing at that point, and have little alternative but to go all-in. You will not survive another round of blinds and even if you do double up, you will only be in the same position again one round later.
It is true tournaments are about survival, but there is no point being blinded away.
Whatever two cards you have are unlikely to be that much of an underdog against any other two cards. Under different circumstances you may have mucked the hand but here you go all-in, just remember that 8-5 off-suit is less than a 2/1 underdog against A-K.
Short but not that short
If your stack is short but not so short that you’re hanging on for dear life, you’re in a relatively safe place as there’s no imminent threat of being knocked out. However, you do need to consider a variety of situations in which you’re still more vulnerable than those with big stacks. For example, by being one of the first players at the table to act (also known as being in an early position), you will have to be more careful as the way you play will give those following you time to predict your cards and anticipate you in a way that gives them an advantage.
However, there are ways to work around this. Firstly, don’t raise unless you’re fairly confident in your hand. If you’re holding strong hands such as A-K or Q-Q, you’re in a far safer position as the chances of your raise risking your small stack are significantly smaller. However, it’s also worth waiting for the flop before you commit, as you’re still lacking the safety net a big-stack player has.
If you’re sat in mid-position with only one big stack at your table, you may want to raise with any ace or jack kicker – any card that may not determine your hand’s rank, but may tip the balance if there’s a tie with another player. Late-position players with small stacks have the largest advantage, as not only is it going to cost you less to raise the pot, you’ll also get a better idea of what approach other players are taking before making your move.
If you’ve got a small stack and you’re thinking of stealing the blind, you need to be very careful. If you’re going against a big stack, there’s a far higher chance of you being challenged and seeing your chip pile dwindle as a result, whereas small stacked players aren’t worth stealing from given they’re unlikely to pass up on the same opportunities you see before you. However, medium-stack players are ideal targets, as you’ll find that they will back off their blinds if a small-stack player raises given the inherent risk in them making such a confident play with so little standing between them and being knocked out – especially as medium-stack players can’t afford to challenge them as they don’t have a big-stack insurance policy.
Some players may try to hang in there for as long as possible, but this is only the best strategy if you are near (or in) the tournament prize money and there are other short-stacked players. Being short stacked not only makes you a target for others, it bars you from many important aspects of a successful game such as seeing flops, playing drawing hands and picking up the blinds. It is vital to get out of the position as soon as possible, so work that table, steal the blinds you can get away with, and build that stack.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a big stack, then learning how to make the most of it will help. Here’s our guide…
When you’re at the table with a considerable stack, the game will change around you. The rest of the table – especially in tournaments – become very intimidated, and are unlikely to raise into you or attempt to steal your blind. The reason for this is that you’ve got a huge insurance policy in the form of a big stack, and if they lose their smaller one, they’re out.
Something to remember when you’re starting off a hand as a big stack owner is how your position at the table will affect how you should make use of all your chips. If you’re in an early position – that is, one of the first to fold, bet and so on as the game goes around the table – then you need to have a genuinely good hand if you’re going to raise.
If you don’t, you’re risking your chips to the larger number of people behind you. It’s always easy to strategies when everyone else has made their plays – be careful when they haven’t. You’ll also need to sustain your stack to survive until the final table of the tournament, so careful play is essential, especially in the early stages.
It’s also worth thinking about what hands you should be betting with. For example, if you’ve got a pair of sixes or 7?-8?, these are solid medium hands, but if you’re playing it extremely safe, you’re going to want to hold out. The reason for this is that after a couple of hours at the table, the blinds required to participate will be so large that you’ll simply be whittling down your stack on hands that aren’t as likely to win as a pair of kings.
How rebuys (and add-ons) work with Pro Poker
• How rebuys (and add-ons) work
• Budgeting for rebuys
• Playing strategy
• Staying in control
• After the freeze out
How rebuys (and add-ons) work
Most tournaments you see online and on TV are freeze outs (basically, when you’re out of chips, you’re out). But in some competitions, you’re allowed to top up your chips – or rebuy. If the game’s a double buy-in, you can also buy yourself back in the game if you run out of chips completely.
Depending on the exact rules, you can either rebuy as many times as you want, or just at certain stages (or only if your chips fall below a certain level). Some games also have an ‘add-on’ period, where everyone gets a chance to buy more chips. Once the rebuys and add-ons are over, it’s a freeze out situation for the rest of the tournament.
To make the most of this type of game, you need three things: a few re-buys in your pocket; a good gambling attitude; and a keen eye for what other people are doing – both during the rebuys, and afterwards.
Budgeting for rebuys with Pro Poker
If you go into a rebuy tournament, you need to be prepared to rebuy. After all, everyone else will be doing it, and if you’re short-stacked you’ll have a hard time. So if the buy-in is $10, you’ll want to budget $30-$50 or more for the whole tournament.
You should also check how many chips you’re getting for your money, as sometimes add-ons are better value. For example, if you get twice as many chips for your money in an add-on, you might want to skip the rebuys, play ‘tight’ (carefully) to make your chips last, and wait.
Playing strategy with Pro Poker
In a freeze out tournament, people usually play tight (folding all but the best hands), at least in the early stages. In a small rebuy, you’ll see players go all-in right from the start with small pairs or one high card. This is your opportunity to get some chips.
Your job is to try and blend in, without actually putting in a lot of bets. A few raises, bluffs or the occasional all-in should do the trick. As the rebuys come in, the sizes of bets will get bigger. Then, when you do get a big hand, your opponents will take the gamble – and you’ll get the pot.
Staying in control
The hardest thing about this strategy is that by pretending to be a maniac (someone who plays all over the place), you can easily become one for real. Just make sure you don’t get carried away.
For example, if you’ve got lucky with some crazy hands and doubled your stack, it’s time to calm down and step back for a while. The other players won’t notice your change of pace right away, and it’s not worth losing your advantage if the next hand goes wrong.
And if things haven’t gone well, don’t think you always have to rebuy. If it’s early in the game and you’re at a good table, maybe it’s worthwhile. But if you’re at a mediocre or tough table, you might decide to tighten up and wait for the freeze out stage.
After the freeze out
Once the rebuys and add-ons are over, you’re in freeze out (no more chips for you – or anyone). To make the most of the game at this stage, you need to watch your opponents and see how and if their strategy has changed.
• Have they noticed that they need to play differently?
• Have they taken any add-ons or extra rebuys? How many?
• How many chips do they have now compared with the blinds and average stacks (both at your table and overall)?
If you can get a feel for these sorts of points (especially compared to other events you’ve played), you’ll be well on the way to the final table.
However, the further back you are in position, the greater your advantage becomes, as you can start stealing blinds – also known as waiting until the blinds have been paid, then raising immediately to attempt to force everyone to fold and award you a small pile of chips. Some players will fold whenever someone raises before the flop are dealt – take advantage of them and build that stack even higher.
Of course, if you’re given a great hand, it’s always worth betting as you traditionally would, but don’t be caught out with a medium-ranked pair of cards if you’re playing before the rest of the table. However, it’s when you’re at the back with the big stack that the advantage is truly yours.
The reason for this is that the rest of the table knows two things – that you’ve got a big stack of chips, and that you’ve got the best idea of what to do next. Bet aggressively, and keep on stealing blinds – don’t even worry about what cards you’ve got as the chances of someone going against you are far lower than they would be had you been in an earlier position at the table. If you do face off against someone who’s happy to take you on, use your late position to figure out how good their hand is, and play accordingly.
You also need to play smart, as many players will see your big stack as a target painted on your forehead. If you keep stealing the blind and raising aggressively, eventually other players will realise and begin to take advantage of your considerable wealth by playing back at you. While it’s easy to take blinds in a late position at the table, don’t be too cheeky – know when you’re being obvious.
It’s also worth considering that when you’re playing in a tournament, you’ve got the time at a table to develop a reputation with those you play with. Playing smart throughout while maintaining a large stack is an intimidating image to carry across to other players. You have what they don’t – a hefty amount of chips between you and the point you’re knocked out. Make it clear you’ve built it up through skill, rather than playing in an aggressive manner.
Tactical thinking with Pro Poker
Hard-headed calculations are key to poker, however this does not mean that personality does not also influence the game. As you play more, you will come to identify different styles of play by the way people bet, raise and fold. Being able to identify these styles in others and in yourself is crucial to success.
Here are the three key poker-playing styles. Click on each to find out more:
Playing tight means keeping a tight control on the number of hands you play, or playing very few hands. This is because it is estimated that only about 10%-25% of all poker hands are actually worth playing. However, within the category of tight play there is a spectrum that ranges from aggressive to passive that you need to understand.
If you play too many hands, you are playing loose with your stack. As with tight play, your style of betting determines what sort of a loose player you are. People who tend to play too many hands, but also bet strongly are known as loose-aggressive players, while those who play too many and don’t back up their play with strong betting are loose-passive players. We explain how to take on – and beat – both styles.
Playing against maniacs with Pro Poker
Maniacs are the jokers or wild cards of the pack. These players play very loose indeed but unlike loose-aggressive who bet strongly and (hopefully) sensibly, maniacs ramp up the bets in rather uncontrolled and ill-considered fashion. How’s how to make sense of the mayhem.
Bluffs and semi-bluffs with Pro Poker
Bluffing is perhaps the most famous and most misunderstood aspect of poker. For a start, until the river it’s not really a pure bluff as your hand could theoretically improve (so, technically, you’re on a semi-bluff).
Bluffing pre-flop is mostly about stealing blinds (and re-stealing against other players who’ve already raised). But even this isn’t really a semi-bluff when so much of a hand’s value comes with the flop.
Continuation betting with Pro Poker
Most people know that continuation betting (following a pre-flop raise with a bet no matter what) is a good move 80-90% of the time. This kind of bluff is pretty textbook – unless there’s a draw-heavy flop (like 10-J-Q suited) and you miss, in which case you might want to think again.
The turn is where most people tend to wobble. So if you play aggressively with big hands, draws and a few bluffs, you’ll give your opponents a hard time. Check-raise is a good move here, and often underused – but you’ll need to set your image up with a few good hands, or other players will catch on fast.
Likewise, don’t try to check the turn and bluff the river. The range of hands you could pull this off with is, in reality, so small that you won’t be fooling anybody.
Bluff to value bet ratios
By the river, you’re down to two options: value bet, or bluff. If you played the turn well, you could have a variety of hands at this point. So if your hand isn’t strong enough in its own right, you need to work out if you’re in a position to bluff.
A good ratio to bear in mind is for every two times you value bet you should bluff once. But remember this is an art, not a science, and it depends on the situation – and your opponent’s style of play.
Reading the situation with Pro Poker
Here are some key questions you should ask yourself before bluffing.
• What does my opponent have? What do they think I have?
Bluffing – and poker – is all about reading your opponent’s hand and disguising your own.
• What type of game is it? How many players?
Your bluff is more likely to work when there are big bets at stake (like in no-limit games) and fewer players to face you down.
• What’s my position?
The later the position, the more bluffing becomes an option. Out of position, it’s easier to end up in trouble.
• What’s my table image?
Tight-cautious players can get away with (and tend to be the target of) bluffs more than if you’re fast and loose – or have been caught bluffing.
• What hand am I representing? Can I carry it off?
Against someone good, you need to represent a specific hand and play it convincingly, down to your last chip if you have to.
• Am I getting in too deep? Is it a trap?
Before trying to trick someone else, make sure they’re not doing the same to you. Especially if you can’t afford to find out.
• Am I making the right size bet?
Bet too little and you’ll get called – so get your image right, know what hand you’re representing, and act confidently.
• What are the stack sizes?
Big stacks can bluff and call bluffs easily. Short stacks will if they’re desperate.
• What’s the board like?
Lots of draws or small cards are not going to help your bluff. But a scare card (the ace your opponent doesn’t like), could be your ticket.
Want to get some practice? Try some of our 1 on 1 tournaments. Once you get the hang of bluffing, raising and calling on two cards, you’ll realise how much fun playing on instinct can be.
Know your opponent
Meet some common player types who may – or may not – be ripe for a bluff.
• Mr or Ms Clueless. As the saying goes, “If they don’t know what they’re doing, how can you?” These guys are way too unpredictable to risk chips on. Leave well alone.
• The bully. An extreme version of the loose-aggressive player, this type will pick on weaker players, either as a tactic, or because they have more ego than brains. Decide which and act accordingly.
• The A-Z game player. This is a usually-great player who not only has a B game, but also a C, D, E, F and G game. You need to spot when someone’s below par and find a way to take advantage of it.
• The on-tilt player. This player is visibly off the rails, whether it’s down to alcohol, a bad beat or fear of the high stakes. Play whenever you have a hand and, chances are, it’ll pay off eventually.
• The ABC or ‘textbook’ player (more common in limit games). This player is solid but predictable, so respect their plays and try to wrong-foot them by thinking and playing outside the box.
• Instinct vs maths players (usually found in no-limit and limit games respectively). The first relies on gut feeling in almost all situations, while the other puts their faith in the numbers. In either case, you’ve got an opportunity to exploit their blind side.
• The young gun. People say players often get more restrained with age, so you might want to bear the age of your opponent in mind.
• The gambler, or ‘action player’. Unlike a bully or loose-aggressive type, this player is here for the thrill. Be patient and they’ll most likely give you the money in the end.
• The recreational player. This player’s just here for fun (or to learn), and considers losses as payment for the experience. It’s fairly easy to win money off them, but treat them with respect – you want them to keep showing up, after all.
• The chameleon. This is the ultimate opponent, with no obvious pattern to their play (and no single strategy that’ll help you beat them). Be sure to watch and learn – but don’t try and fool them as they’ll probably be one step ahead.
As you move up the levels, you will start to come up against more solid players, with individual flaws you can take advantage of, for example:
• If a player limps and folds to a raise too often, raise more to steal their money
• If they are overly aggressive pre-flop, re-steal by re-raising them with a wider range
• If they’re not continuation betting enough, steal the pot on the flop
• If they do it too much, raise them or call with weak holdings and ‘float’, hoping to steal later in the hand
Ask a top player what they’d do in a given situation, and more often than not they’ll say, “It depends.” Poker is a game of situations and players, and as such, there are no hard and fast rules about when you should bluff.
What is early position? with Pro Poker
Pre-flop, early position is the seat immediately to the left of the big blind. On larger tables this can include the next couple of players as well. After the flop, well, it’s the first player to act.
Playing in early position and making good decisions is hard.
Why? You’re acting first, with less information. That’s why it can feel like a guessing game.
What to play in early position?
Simply put – premium hands.
If you’re in early position and first to bet, you’ve got to be a bit of a spoiled brat. Only play with the best hands but bear the following in mind:
• Mix it up when you’re playing with small pairs to medium pairs like 10-10 and J-J by varying between raising and calling
• Hands with two big cards like K-Q or J-10 may look good but they can get you into trouble when you land up cornered after the flop
• Fancy trying a cunning move? Trap other players with a re-raise. The ideal hands to do it with are A-A, K-K and Q-Q. Just call the big blind – hoping this will be seen as a weakness – then raise and finally do the re-raise. This crafty little trick works the best at an aggressive table where raising and re-raising happens often enough that doing it won’t set off any alarm bells
Top late position tips with Pro Poker
Small, but mighty, pairs
Opportunities come in small packages in early position. Small pairs are the easiest hands to play in early position.
Why? Because after the flop you’ve either completed your set and can start working out how to milk the most money out of the hand or it’s a dead end and you can back out without losing much.
Watch out, though. You could still get into a bad situation later on in the hand.
After the flop things get tough when you’re out of position (not one of the first players to act). Do you bet or check?
• If you’ve got a decent hand and multiple opponents, bet. It’s a handy way to stop players hanging around and getting the cards to make a winning hand
• When you’re at a table with aggressive players, check-raising is a better move. This’ll mean more money in the pot when you’re confident you’ve got the best hand.
When you’ve raised before the flop and been called, checking after the flop (with intention of check-raising) can be a good move.
Check-raise if you’ve got a strong hand, like:
• An over pair (a pocket pair higher than anything in the flop)
• A top pair (a pair made up of one of your pocket cards and the highest card in the flop)
You can also use this technique as a bluff. For instance, when you’ve got A-K and didn’t make a pair on the flop. If you’re called by another player and the cards that still haven’t been drawn complete your hand, it’s likely to be better than the other player’s.
It’s good because…
• You’re basically running the show! You’re keeping the betting lead and you’re putting pressure on the other players who are in on the hand
It might be bad because…
• It costs more to check and then raise that it does to bet straight out because you’re having to improve on what someone else has already bet
If you’re playing against more passive players, just bet on your strong hands and then continuation bet when you miss the flop because your opponents will probably only call or raise when they have a good hand.
Delayed continuation bet
This is when you check with the intention of betting whatever comes on the turn (the fourth shared card) if your opponent checks too.
It’s good because…
It makes you look like you have a strong hand that you were trying to hide on the flop. It works best when your opponents have seen you check-raise the flop with good hands in the past.
Check-raising on the flop
A great little move to pull out when you’re faced with aggressive opponents who will call on the flop and try and take the pot away from you on the turn.
When you’ve got a strong hand or as a bluff with Pro Poker
It’s good because…
It’ll stop aggressive players from bullying you out of a hand.
It could be bad because…
If you do this move, you’ve got to really go for it meaning it’ll mean putting in a lot of chips.
When you have a mediocre hand (like a pair or even an over pair), it’s important that you try to control the size of the pot so you don’t lose too many chips if you’re beaten.
In fact, one of the best-known sayings among poker pros is ‘only play a big pot with a big hand’.
So, if an opponent is going after you and is fighting for the pot, try checking or calling if he bets. It keeps the pot small and if you end up losing later in the hand it won’t cost you too much.
It stops you from taking the lead, which would open you up to being raised, and then you’d have to either play a really big pot with a rubbish hand or just throw your hand away.
Also if you check it could trick your opponents into thinking you’re hand isn’t that great. This works really well on the river when you check with an over pair because you might lure your opponent into bluffing.
Blocking bet/defensive bet
By making a small defensive bet – roughly 30% of the pot – you stop your opponent from making a big bet that forces you to make a tough decision.
It works because they will call your blocking bet to stay in the hand but won’t raise it – because that would be too risky. It’s a subtle way of keeping the pot under control and playing the hand on your terms. Whereas if you check you could be bluffed or forced into matching your opponent’s bet.
Post flop when facing a single opponent
It could be bad because…
If you use this move against a strong opponent they’ll see it as a lack of commitment which means you could be attacked.
Now that you’ve got a few more tricks to add to your play, the best thing to do is get out there and practice them, either for real or play money.
Remember though, playing in early position is hard and you’re at a disadvantage so try to wait until you’re in late position to put your chips in.