Newcomers to real money poker may approach the game under the illusion that it’s all about luck, sometimes they’ll even think that “beginners luck” is actually a thing that could help them through those first few hands.
While some luck is involved when it comes to the cards you’re dealt, it then comes down to skill. You as the player need to make quick decisions over what you want to do with your hand. Do you have enough to give you a decent chance of winning? Do you have the bluffing skills to deceive your opponents and make the most of a bad situation, or are they trying to manipulate you at the same time?
These decisions and more need to be made in double quick time when you’re playing in popular poker rooms online, so you better have a strategy before you start to play. We’re going to look at the highest and lowest risk strategies you can employ at the poker table, so see which one resonates the most.
Highest Risk Strategy
Arguably the most exciting part of poker is when every single player thinks they have the best hand at the table. All claim they’re in and ‘all-in’. This is a classic representation of the highest-risk strategy because it really is all-or-nothing. You’re either going to win and probably win big, or you’re going to be left with nothing and your night could end immediately.
This is typically used toward the end of the game when all players have studied each other’s playing style, how they react to hands, cards, etc, and when one player thinks they have a particularly strong hand to beat everyone else and become the big winner from the game.
There are two primary uses of this practice that can lead to successful poker sessions. If you legitimately have a strong hand, i.e. a good chance of getting a royal flush, then you’re in a prime spot to cash in on everyone. Announcing all-in here presents the highest risk as if for some reason you don’t win, you’re out. Of course, when you’ve got a strong hand it’s minimized somewhat.
You can employ the same strategy no matter what cards you have but this is where the risk truly becomes higher. If your hand is poor, you’re relying on other players to fold (hopefully you have a good bluff game) or they have even worse hands than you. Either way, it’s a risk. Yet, if you’re good at bluffing this can be a great idea.
Overusing this will however lead your fellow players to see that you’re employing the same shock tactic every time. It should be used selectively. Professional poker players often say that aspiring players should indeed push themselves to call big risks but only in moderation. One reason to use this method semi-frequently is to try to coax out passive players who are potentially running on the lowest percentage strategy.
Lowest Percentage Strategy
There are some players that you will see folding, folding, and seemingly forever, folding. It could be that they’re bored at the table, their raise button isn’t working, or more likely they’re playing the Lowest Percentage strategy.
This essentially means playing for the elite-level hands. A high card or one pair simply doesn’t cut it for them. These guys want to hit a royal flush, straight flush, or four-of-a-kind. The odds are against them but it will be pretty cool and they’ll most likely win. After all, the probability of getting a royal flush is 0.000154% of all possible combinations.
All poker players need patience but these guys are the gods of it. As they will simply appear uninterested in hands that give them any chance to reach the desired outcome. While they might lose a few chips in the blinds, the thinking is that they are saving by not playing on weak hands and will recuperate everything when their big winning hand comes in. If you play enough poker, you’re bound to get a royal flush at some point, right?
There are of course some circumstances where this isn’t going to work. If all the players around the table are folding at every juncture the game may become stale very quickly. Also, if you’re playing recreationally with friends, you’re not going to be fostering a good evening by consistently folding. However, if you’re in a competitive game with an overly aggressive player, the lowest percentage strategy can rile them up and force them into making mistakes.
These two strategies do complement each other even if they are somewhat juxtaposed to one another. Essentially high and low-risk methodologies are beneficial at different times. While difficult to do, if you can combine the two to make yourself unpredictable at the table is a very wise move as other players will not know how to react to your next move.
While these are two good ways to play poker, they don’t guarantee you’ll win any more or less. Poker is a dynamic and chance game, so you could do everything well but if the cards don’t come up for you it doesn’t matter how well you personally play. Furthermore, it depends on who else is at your table. If you’ve got Mr. Aggressive or a player who is bleeding chips every hand, you might want to review your style to suit the game conditions.
As with any game or any sport, you have to be adaptable to the conditions you find in front of you. In the NFL you won’t win if all you have is either a QB kneel-down or a hail mary, and you won’t win in soccer either if you either play with everyone in attack or park the bus the entire game. Poker is the same, there are times when it makes sense to go all-out for the win and other moments where you simply need to bide your time and wait to strike.
This comes with experience and studying other games, but eventually knowing when to employ the relevant strategy will really help you win big when the time comes.