All About Poker Strategy

Before you even start playing online, you should have a general idea of the used strategies. Online poker sites will vary, as will their policies, and this can impact upon strategy as well as: the games available, and poker legislation.

This poker strategy guide is meant to be a brief introduction into the art of playing poker online. Strategies and tips aside, we will discuss and summarize the current state of affairs regarding US online poker legislation. If this is not something you have been following, there might be some big surprises for you. 2018 was a pivotal year in the future of online poker in the United States.

After reading this poker online strategy guide, you will have a strong idea about a number of needed strategic topics including:

Basic Online Poker Site Strategy

When you start out playing online, there are some very key initial strategic decisions which must be made. First and foremost, are you looking to actually win money or just play casually, for fun? While this guide is directed at those looking to play for real cash money, there are a lot of casual players out there as well. Playing for real money online will require some study and practice.

Next, recognize you are not going to win every time out. There will be ups and downs (called variance) in your results when playing at online poker rooms. Not even the top pros win every time out. Having a losing session should not lead you to going on tilt (playing overly loose and/or aggressively, getting away from your normal style). Play your game carefully, regardless of previous outcomes.

Focus on a starting hand strategy: You need to develop your standards for which starting hands to play and the others should be folded, except in special circumstances. One of the most common mistakes new online poker site players make is that they play too many hands and play too deeply into those hands.

Learn basic poker odds: When playing at online poker rooms, you should know how to figure out your odds of making certain hands, given the board and the hand situation. Even better, this skill can help you to figure out the odds of your opponent making particular hands. You can certainly learn to do this in your head, but here is a helpful table to get you started.

Probability of...
Odds
Example
Being dealt a pair
17-1 5.9%
8 – 8
Being dealt Aces
221-1 0.45%
A – A
Being dealt Ace-King suited
331.5-1 0.3%
A – K
Flopping a Set (or better) w/ pocket pair
8.51-1 11.76%
9 – 9 = 3 – 9 – K
Flopping 2-pair (w/o pocket pair)
48-1 2.02%
6 – 10 = 6 – 8 – 10
Making a Flush by the river (flopped 4 to a suit)
1.9-1 35%
Ah – Qh = 9h – 3h – 10d – Kh
Making open ended straight by river
2.2-1 32%
7 – 8 = 9 – 10 – A – 2 – J
Full house or better by the river (flopped 3-of-a-kind)
2-1 33%
Q – Q = 5 – Q – 5 – 9

The above table generally assumes Texas Hold’em, although the odds are pretty similar for most other online poker site games as well.

Focus on your position: A key element of strategy at online poker sites will be where you are sitting in relation to the poker betting action. For example, if you are one of the first players who needs to make a betting, calling, folding, or raising decision, you should have a much better hand to actually throw real money into the pot than if you are one of the last to make such decision. Actually, being in later position can improve your pot odds dramatically. Pot odds are calculated by figuring out your odds of making a hand and then comparing that to the odds the pot are offering. For example, you figure a 4-1 shot of making your hand, but the pot is 10 times the size of what you need to bet in order to stay in the game; you therefore have pot odds of 10-1 on a real 4-1 shot, so you should make the bet and stay in the game.

Count your outs: In poker, speak outs are the number of cards which will help you to improve your hand. Although this is closely related to calculating your odds (and even knowing the pot odds), it is not the same thing. Consider not only making the straight, but also maybe pulling in a two pair hand or something else which might be a feasible hand improvement. Knowing all of these possibilities will make a better player at online poker sites and improve your overall decisions.

Stop bluffing: We all love watching and hearing stories about the perfect bluffing hand. But during play at online poker rooms, bluffing rarely works. This is especially true in the lower stakes games you will most likely be starting out with. If you have graduated to higher stakes games, especially outside of Texas Hold’em, then you might be able to pull off a bluff or two here and there. Generally, avoid bluffing until you have more experience. Most online poker sites' players will either be very loose and aggressive or have some starting hand standards but then like playing all the way through; in either case they are not very likely to fall for a bluff (even a good one).

Don't talk: Although this is online, poker rooms do have a chat feature and many players enjoy the banter. Our advice is to not talk, or talk as little as possible. Certainly, never say anything about the hands. Why give your opponents any additional information?

Keep records: As the professional player you want to become, always keep records of your play at the various poker rooms. Of course, you can develop a system that works for you, but always know how much has been invested in each of your websites, approximately how long (time) you have played during each session, and the overall result (i.e. how much money won or lost). This can help you analyze your progress.

Basic Texas Hold’em Poker Online Strategy

Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker you will find at the various online poker sites offering real cash play. For the most part, this will be the no limit game, meaning you can control the size of your bets. So, if you are playing against an opponent who just has to call, even when they are holding nothing, you can really make them pay—literally. The key element of virtually all online poker room strategy is to make the decisions hard for the other person.

You will first need to learn to only play stronger starting hands. This is the exact opposite of how most people play at online poker rooms. Many online players are action junkies and feel the need to always be in on something. Then again, those who can limit themselves to better starting hand criteria also tend to play more aggressively from that point further. Therefore, you need to not only wait for good hands to play, you should also pay attention to your opponents and their style of play. Players generally fall into the categories of loose-passive, loose-aggressive, tight-passive, and tight-aggressive.

Next, focus on your starting hand strategy. Beginners should really only be playing premium hands. By reducing the number of hands played, you will also avoid many of the bad decisions most often made at poker sites. Most pairs should be played, as should suited cards. The AA and KK are considered premium pairs, with AK, QQ, and JJ as strong. AQ, 10-10, 99, and 88 are thought of as good starting hands. Marginal would be: AJ, KQ, 77, 66, and 55. Slightly more marginal hands include A-10, KJ, K-10, 44, and 33. Anything less than this is pretty weak and should only be played as the situation calls for.

Positional play is also an important part of your strategy. When you are seated in early position at an online poker room, call with pocket pairs of 8's through 10's and raise with hands like AA through JJ and the AK. If you think most players will enter the hand (based on how you read opponents), then pocket pairs of 2's through 7's can be played. If you are in middle position, raise or re-raise with the top two categories of hands. Third tier hands can be worth a call after a raise, but consider folding the AQ if this is from a playing who very rarely raises. Also, if you are the first player to enter the pot, you can raise with the top two categories and maybe the third if you have weaker players behind you.

When playing in late position, you will need to have a lot more flexibility. Use the rules for middle positions as a general guide when playing against online poker sites' opponents, but really think about the motivations for all of the previous bets when deciding what to do.

When playing in late position, you will need to have a lot more flexibility. Use the rules for middle positions as a general guide when playing against online poker sites' opponents, but really think about the motivations for all of the previous bets when deciding what to do.

Basic Omaha Strategy

Omaha works almost the same as Hold’em, from the perspective of its structure at most online poker sites offering real money games. However, there is one major difference—players are initially dealt four hole cards face down. When it comes time for the showdown, each player must make their best five card hand, using at least two of their hole cards. It should be noted that this feature makes Omaha a much more 'action' oriented game. There will be more players staying in and more hands will be made (and won) on the turn and river cards than in Hold’em.

If you are used to playing Hold’em, then accept the fact that you will need stronger hands to win at Omaha. Suited and connected cards are more powerful than pocket pairs. These features also make it much more difficult to run a bluff in Omaha. However, there are still a number of needed skills and strategies to master when playing Omaha at online poker rooms. Strategies include strict hand selection and also choosing your tables more carefully. Learn to never chase opponents with second best hands and learn how to read your opponents (this really only comes with experience, and is more difficult to do at online poker sites). When you do have the perceived best hand, you can't be afraid to play it aggressively in this game.

The better you know your poker odds and how to calculate pot odds, the better experience you will have at those online poker rooms offering Omaha. This way, you will not overvalue Hold’em type hands. Playing the player is also probably more important with this game, since there are less bluffs. When you do end up playing to a draw, you want to be playing to the nut (or the best, unbeatable, draw based on the hand situation).

Learn how to be aggressive as well. If you do have a premium hand, even pre-flop, go ahead and raise. When playing pre-flop, also make sure to take into consideration all the factors, like whether the table is tight or loose, how many other players, how many of them are still in the pot, has the pot already been raised (and if so how much and from what position), and where is your current position. Obviously, the tighter the table, the less restrictive your own starting hand criteria can be. Also, play tighter at a full table and looser at a short-handed table.

Omaha Hi Lo Poker Site Strategy

Omaha Hi Lo poker is a split pot game, meaning that when playing this at online poker sites, there could be two winners for each pot. The pot will be split between the person with the lowest hand and the person with the highest hand. Other than that, all the normal rules of Omaha online poker will apply. Most of the same strategies listed above will also be applicable to this game. One interesting thing to note is that any time you see a chance to go after the high portion of the pot, it is probably a smart idea to do so, since statistics show that about 70 percent of the time a low hand is possible, and it seems as if many players at online poker rooms like playing for the low hand.

Another thing to remember in this game, whether you are playing for the low or the high side, is that it is very rarely profitable playing from a position where you are a middle high and/or low hand. In other words, if you are going to draw, you really want to be drawing to the nut hand, low or high. This is still a heavy action game, so be prepared to bet aggressively once you have made the decision, based on solid starting hand cards, to enter the game.

As a beginning Omaha Hi Lo player at online poker rooms, you really want to focus on playing only premium starting hands. This allows you to avoid a lot of situations which require difficult decisions later on; remember, you want your opponents to have to make those difficult decisions, not yourself. Some of the premium hands include: a pair of aces with wheel cards (cards 5 or under—if suited, this is even more powerful) and single ace with two or three wheel cards. Beginners will want to avoid consistently playing these starting hands: an ace with a deuce, four cards less than six but without an ace—however, this can work in an unraised pot with strong position. Avoid hands with two pairs, especially low pairs, since they typically cause a lot of problems. Four cards less than an eight are especially difficult and you might often find yourself either coming up short or maybe tying and taking only a quarter of the pot. Of course the guidelines listed above in the Omaha section can apply if you are looking at playing for the high half of the pot.

Beyond this, you really need to think strategically with Omaha Hi Lo. For example, if you have a hand that may be vulnerable based on the board, it might be worthwhile to raise in order to drive out some potential drawing hands and thin the field. Also, if you get to the river card and you have the nut hand with no chance of being split, then always raise. This might fool some people into thinking they might at least be able to get half the pot.

In general, with Omaha Hi Lo at online poker rooms, focus on playing solid, straight forward poker and everything should fall into place.

Basic Draw Poker Strategy

You may remember watching old movies where people were playing draw poker. This actually used to be quite a popular game, especially in the American west, although it has certainly taken back seats in recent years to Hold’em and Omaha. Be that as it may more online poker sites are now including draw poker as an option than ever before.

The basic strategy when playing draw poker at online poker rooms is to follow basic poker guidelines. This means particularly focusing on only playing those hands which have good starters, such as high pairs (like kings or aces). If you do have premium starters, consider raising the pot early in order to drive the weak out. Those playing from middle position can be a little more lax and include pairs down to about 10's and from late position, down to about 8's, provided the pot has not been raised in either case. If you are in late position and have a drawing hand you might even be correct to stay in as long as there have been calls ahead of you. Of course, always know your outs, odds, and even the pot odds.

As the game continues beyond the first round, position becomes a bigger and bigger factor. For example, if a player only draws one card, then it is logical to conclude they either have 2 pair or are drawing to a flush or straight. This will guide you in the decision not only as to how many cards to take, but also how to play the subsequent betting round(s). Ultimately, draw poker relies on sheer solid poker fundamentals. It is really to be considered as one of the purest forms of poker.

Basic Stud Poker Strategy

There are actually a couple different forms of stud poker that may be played at online poker rooms and websites. Probably 7-card stud games are more popular than 5-card stud games when talking about the sheer volume of real money online poker rooms offered. While the focus for this will be primarily on the 7-card stud variation, much of this can also be applied to the 5-card stud game.

Stud is a highly strategic game, and learning how to play smart—especially making good decisions on third street—will really help your game. Just as a basic refresher, the dealing starts with two face down cards and one card exposed followed by a betting round (this is third street). Unlike Hold’em, the player with the lowest up-card has to make a bring-in bet and then play continues clockwise. From here, three successive up cards are dealt, with a betting round in between. The player with the highest up cards starts each betting round and play then proceeds clockwise. The seventh card is then dealt, face down and a final betting round ensues.

The best strategic advice for playing stud at online poker sites is to be very smart, careful, and selective. Your key decision is to only play strong starting hands, but this also needs to be a situational decision, so learn to play the players by assessing your opposition as quickly as possible. Know who will play weaker hands, who folds when they see strength or aggression, who bets when they have a draw, who bluffs, etc... In this game, consider either folding or raising; only really consider calling for situations where you are looking to trap an opponent.

You should have—or develop—a good memory for stud. Always know the upcards, even on those hands that were folded. All of this is important information when determining your outs, those of your opponents, and prospects for winning the hand. If you have a strong draw, especially one where your opponents can see (due to much of it being visible with your upcards), consider raising.

Stud Hi Lo Online Poker Site Strategy

Most of the basic principles of playing the high only version of stud will apply for the Hi Lo split pot game of stud poker. It is fairly similar in this respect to playing the Omaha Hi Lo game, except with a lot less cards. It is also fairly specialized game that not too many players at online poker sites are really proficient with. In other words, you can make real money with this if you focus and learn proper strategy. The strategies for making a high hand are listed above in the stud section. Just remember that ultimately you will be making two different hands in order to qualify for both halves of the pot.

The most profitable method for play is to focus initially on those cards which will qualify you for a low hand (must have a high card of 8 or less). Then, any trips, flushes, straights, draws, etc... along the way will be an added bonus. You do really need to focus on your stating cards and hands to determine not only which type of hand to focus on, but also even to continue play. Consider factors like the number of high and low cards on the board, how many of each suit are showing, which cards are dead for you and others, who is calling with what looks to be a high hand, and who is raising with a low door card (and could it be trap to hide a high pocket pair)?

This also really emphasizes the point of focusing on your opponents and their tendencies. Knowing how and when they call, raise, and fold will be even more valuable than simply memorizing a list of opening hand criteria. If you are able to make a low hand by fifth street, be ready to raise with it. This is the type of aggressive play needed in order to make those who are still drawing to a low hand really pay for the privilege.

Basic Razz Strategy

Razz is considered to be one of the most frustrating games offered by online poker sites, especially by poker pros. This is essentially the low version of 7-Card Stud. Therefore, most of the strategies and guidelines listed above for the hi lo split pot games (stud and Omaha) will more or less apply here. This is an ante game and you do really need to focus on the opening cards and starting hands. Also, remember that flushes and straights are ignored in this game.

Play tight in Razz, but also always be thinking about the chance for a quick ante steal or scoop. Having three cards between the ace and a five is a great place to be in for your starting hand (the A-2-3 is the top starter). If you end up with this, it is a great time to not only bet but also raise. Even if you have a six, you can play this one aggressively also. Also, be sure to focus on the other hands and upcards, which can often guide you on how to play. A great example is if you have three cards to an 8 and there is nothing showing below a 10, you know without a doubt that you have the best hand. It might be worth a raise to try and scoop the antes, even though three to an eight is a bit marginal.

Believe it or not, dead cards are even more important than live ones in Razz. The reason is if you have some decent low cards, less live cards means less chance of making a pair, which kills your hand. If you have a good hand early, it is generally right to bet and possibly raise in an effort to build the pot. That way, you can still recover from a bad card on fourth street since the pot odds are in your favor.

One insider tip for Razz players at online poker rooms is that after five cards are dealt, the best drawing hand is typically a favorite over any made hand with a nine low. This is completely contrary to almost all other forms of poker, so keep it in mind. However, things are back to normal on sixth street.

Strategy For Playing Online HORSE

This is one of the most used mixed game formats at online poker rooms, although it is primarily held for tournaments and other events. The actual HORSE is an acronym for the games which compose the event, namely Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi Lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud, and 7-Card Stud Hi Lo. As you can see, this will require a fair amount of expertise in a wide range of poker specialties. It is a true overall test of poker playing ability, yet most players might only be very good at one or two of the games. Incidentally, the games are always played in that order, normally nine hands of each before switching to the next.

Overall, the position and starting hands selected to play will be a major factor in this type of event. However, this will be much more important in the Hold’em and Omaha sections than in the other games. Hold’em, for example, will tend to be much more value oriented since this will likely be a limit stakes game. The Omaha strategy will be pretty similar as to Hold’em, except that you need to be very careful about not over valuing your hands (Omaha games tend to have stronger winners than Hold’em).

The remaining events, Razz, Stud, and Stud Hi Lo will focus tremendously on starting hand selection and positional factors. Most players who are strong at Hold’em and/or Omaha will probably be significantly weaker in Razz. For more details on the specifics of these games, see their respective sections on this strategy guide, or their individual game guides.

Open Face Poker Site Strategy

Also known as Open Face Chinese Poker, this is one of the newest versions of online poker, invented sometime around 2011 and gaining popularity throughout 2018. No bets are made during the game, but it is instead scored according to points, similar in this respect to gin rummy or hearts. Players take turns drawing five cards, which are then arranged into a series of three hands, a top, middle, and bottom (the top is a three-card hand, the others are regular 5-card poker hands). After this initial round, players receive one card each, which are then placed in a similar fashion on their boards, face-up.

In order to have a qualifying hand, your bottom hand must be at least as good as the middle, and the middle must be at least as good as the top hand. If this is not possible, the hand is called foul and that player loses all three hands (unless the opponent also fouls). Generally, each hand is worth one point and you play independently against the other opponents, normally heads-up. There is also a variety of bonus points that can be earned.

Since this game is so new, the basic strategy is still in a bit of flux. The basic thing to remember is that the set is very important, and really influences how you play. For example putting a four to a flush in the bottom means you have to assume you will get that flush. Play big pairs on your top hand with caution. Also, always keep track of which cards are completely live, one out, and dead. Don't be afraid of fouling, since playing passively won't turn you into a winner. Watch your opponent, if they are ever guaranteed to foul, play even more conservatively in order to scoop up three points easily.

Basic Chinese Poker Strategy

Chinese Poker, or more specifically, closed face Chinese Poker is pretty similar to the Open Faced Poker game listed above. However, in this case players will be dealt all 13 of their cards at once. This means it is a game of perfect information. You can set all three of your hands at the same time, while knowing all of the cards you have been dealt, rather than having to do so one at a time and guess about what the remaining cards might be.

Again, the strategy for this is still a bit unsure and it is certainly not one of the more commonly offered games at online poker sites. The bottom line is that there will be times when you simply cannot properly set the hands and will foul, losing all three. On the other hand, knowing the cards that have in your hand should help you to be able to set boards that are much stronger than in the open faced game.