How to Win at Poker with Expert Strategies

If you really want to win at poker, you need to employ some expert strategies. Obviously, before you do that you need to know how to play poker before risking any money at the game. That sounds simple, but the number of people who are perfectly wiling to gamble their cash at games they don't understand is staggering. To start with, think of the other players on the game as hungry, snapping wolves and you as the sacrificial lamb, but don't worry, they just want your money whether even if it is just a friendly poker game.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson has stated that he became a much better player after winning his bout with cancer. Was it a magical transformation? No. It was acceptance of his desire to play, regardless of how society viewed him, and his ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand for many hours. He has attributed that ability to his training as an athlete and good-old-fashioned perseverance and desire.

Poker is about People

Brunson also believes that poker is all about people. If you can't sit at the table and concentrate on how your opponents are playing their hands and catalog in your mind their actions, then you are going to have to consider staying home and playing go fish with the kiddies.

Keep in mind that watching people in a poker game is one thing, but knowing what they are thinking is another. Everybody is different. The other players on your game won't be thinking just like you.

Other poker players won't play their hands exactly how you would play them. However, they will play many of their hands the same way each time, which means once you've seen their play, you can expect similar actions on similar hands. Even if you are playing online poker, you can track the number of hands your opponents plays and how they play them!

Poker strategy works for online poker as well as live poker, whether hold'em or other forms of the game.

New Studies on IQ and Movement

A new study, published in the journal Current Biology, theorizes (based on a case study) that there is a strong link between IQ and the mind's ability to focus on what's really important, based on the subject's ability to concentrate on important items in the foreground and ignore unimportant items in the background. That means seeing what's happening with the players and processing the quality items, and ignoring the TV going in the background along with the incessant chatter at other tables, and the cocktail waitresses.

Co-author of the study, Duje Tadin, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York, explains that in the study, high-IQ people were seen "Automatically processing motion of small moving objects efficiently, whereas they're suppressing the background. Speedy processing does matter, but it's only half the story. It's how you filter out things that are less relevant and focus your speedy resources on what is important."

The study doesn't prove that some poker players have a higher IQ than others, or that a higher IQ should lead to more success at poker, but it may explain why some people just do better at the game than others.

Regardless of your success at the game, or your IQ, you should be able to improve your success at poker by concentrating on your opponents, their actions, and learning to filter out what is important and what is not important.

Game Theory

One of the most important aspects of winning at any game is the application of game theory. At blackjack, it's easy to understand that based on the dealer's up-card, the player should employ strategic decision making for hitting, splitting, and standing. Likewise, a poker player can make decisions on playing or folding, raising, re-raising, or bluffing. How successful each play may be is based on game theory and mathematics.

Players like Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson are based squarely in the game theory camp, each applying their talents to the non-sequential nature of poker, meaning you have knowledge of earlier plays, and the imperfect information provided by those earlier plays.

If you are heads-up with a single player for a pot and they unknowingly flash their cards at your after the final card is shown, you have almost perfect information. You know what they have and you know if you have them beat. But you don't know how they will react to your play at this point.

Getting Full Value

Author and poker pro David Sklansky takes this situation to a mathematical level when he applies a percentage to the different outcomes. Suppose you are playing No-limit Texas Hold'em and the same situation arises, somehow you know the player's exact two cards after the river, but only because you are great at assessing their play, you didn't actually see their cards. There's no moral question here, just how to get the most money from the player.

You might simply make a standard bet and figure they will call, and you will win the pot. Or you can check, and hope they make the same size bet, then you call and win the same amount. If they will fold 20 percent of the time, do you make more checking? Only if they do the betting more than 80 percent of the time. If they will only bet on the end 60 percent of the time, you know you will make more by doing the betting yourself. But what if you are up against an aggressive player, and suppose you know they may interpret a check as weakness, and they might figure you have them beat, but you'll fold to a very large bet. Based on that information, they may make that huge bluff half the time.

Given these possible outcomes, you need to figure mathematically what you will earn from each play. If the final bet is $100, you collect that 80 percent of the time for $800. If you check, they will bet $100 60 percent of the time, so you lose $200 by checking. But if they will make a large $500 bluff 10 percent of the time, you'll win that too, on top of the $60, for a total of $1100, so in the long run, checking gets you $110 per outcome and betting gets you only $80. Now you know which choice to make based on poker strategy.

The obvious problem with the Sklansky approach is that it is very subjective.

How do you assign the percentages based on a small data base? Experience and practice. And, coincidentally, the experience and practice go hand-in-hand with winning at poker anyway. The more you play and watch the actions and reactions of the other players, the more information you will have when making decisions, and the better your results will be.

If you can master the steps above, concentration, awareness, assignment of playing styles, subjective game theory, and getting full value for each of your own plays, you poker playing will be more intense, more exhilarating, and most likely much more profitable. You can do it!