Guide to Online Poker

Generally, novice players call bets way too often. If you're new to poker the most profitable strategy that will get you into the least trouble is to play (ultra) tight-agressive. This means only playing very good starting hands pre-flop and to play them aggressively, meaning you prefer to be betting and getting called than calling other people's bets. The problem with this advice, is that the common adjustment is to bet, raise (and bluff) far to often, which is the second most common mistake that novices make.

Folding should be your bread and butter. That may sound odd, but if you're playing (ultra) tight-aggressive (as you should), you'll only be playing 10-15% of your starting hands (as you get better you can definitely increase that).

Understand position

Being in position means you're LAST to act (not first to act). You always want to be last to act because you get to see what your opponents do. This is a massive advantage, and even allows you to play slightly weaker hands pre flop.

Play tight pre flop

Learn starting hand requirements and strictly adhere to them. This takes a lot of discipline, because you want to play poker, but instead you'll be folding 85% of your hands pre flop. You'll should only be playing AA, KK, AK from early position. JJ, QQ, AQs, AJs and above from middle position. 88+, ATs+, KQs from late position. Here's a better reference: Starting Hand Selection in Texas Hold'em. You want to stick to the group 1, 2 and 3 hands as a new player. Once you start getting a lot of experience you can add in speculative hands (suited connectors and medium pairs) and a few marginal hands when in position.

Don't bluff

Even the maniac Gus Hansen, who many claim will play any two cards and play them aggressively, rarely stone cold bluffs. He documented his entire Aussie Millions tournament and bluffed only 3 or 4 times out of the hundreds of hands that he played. If even pros don't bluff that often, you definitely shouldn't. Make up for your lack of experience with having stronger hands, not with fancy plays.

Continuation Betting

This seems similar to bluffing, but most players don't consider it the same thing. It's actually quite different. The concept is that if you're in position and you raise pre flop (as you should). On the flop, if your opponent checks to you, you bet hoping to steal the pot. The reason this is not actually a stone cold bluff, is that it's very reasonable that you have the best hand here. You started with a great hand (since you're only playing great starting hands) and there's less than a 50% chance that your opponent made even a pair on the flop, even if he did, he might assume you have a better pair or kicker. The key here is to only do this if you're the pre flop raiser, last to act, and there's only 1 or 2 other players in the pot, who have checked to you. Even then there are situations where you wouldn't want to continuation bet. Generally, you'll continuation bet (when checked to you) around 80% of the time.

Be Aggressive

This may sound strange after advising you to fold a lot, but they actually go hand in hand. Given that you're starting with much better hands than everyone else, you should be betting them aggressively for value. The old adage is that if you're going to call a $10 bet, you might as well be the one betting it. But you need to be selectively aggressive. Don't bet just to bet. Start with a premium hand, raise pre flop. If no one is raising you or betting out, continue betting on the flop. On the turn, only continue betting if you have a decent hand. If you do and you're not sensing strength from your opponent, keep up the aggression. Otherwise look to fold to aggression from your opponent. Try to avoid check-calling.

Play straight forward

Don't get too fancy. If you think you have the best hand or a strong draw, bet. Otherwise check-fold. Build pots when you have the best of it and get out cheaply when you don't. Don't call just because you want to see the flop or you want to see one more card or because you think he might be bluffing. Yes, you're making small mistakes by folding too much, but it's better make cheap mistakes than expensive ones. You also keep your decisions way easier.

This is far from an optimal strategy. I wouldn't sit down at a Vegas cash game playing like this. But this will take you quite a long way, especially if you're playing with other novices. It is extremely hard to stay disciplined and fold most of your hands, that's why new players never do it. If you can, however, you'll have a huge advantage.