Poker is one of the most popular card and betting games in the world. Over 100 million people play online poker, and nearly every one of the 2121 casinos worldwide has a poker table. That popularity and poker’s strategic depth cause several side effects. Some examples are the many misconceptions people have about poker, coming from beginners and casual viewers. The biggest misconception people have is that poker requires more luck than skill.
In reality, skill determines your success, and luck is inconsequential. That is because luck, also known as variance, only exists short term. The cards you get matter on a game-by-game basis, but as you play more and more games, it stops mattering. Everyone has an unlucky or lucky streak here and there, but it evens out over time. Variance even has less impact on individual games than you may think. While it will certainly be easier to win with KK than a four and a five, it’s still possible. This poker guide will teach you everything you need to know about bad hands and how to win with them.
The bluff. A timeless technique seen in poker’s earliest ancestors, like As-Nas in the 16th century, is responsible for most of the suspense and tension in poker. It is simply pretending that your hand is stronger than it is, yet it is so fundamental the word bluff has become synonymous with poker itself. The bluff is made possible because of two things: Incomplete information and the ability to fold.
Poker is a game of incomplete information because players cannot see each others’ cards. They must use techniques like range-reading and consider every action their opponents take to make their decisions. Each action in poker serves a different purpose. Of those actions, folding is the most paramount one. It is a double-edged sword, as while you leave the pot and can no longer win it, you also no longer need to commit any money. Those two elements combined mean that a player can deliberately act as if their hand is strong and win the pot thanks to their opponent folding. Bluffing is the only way to win poker with a truly terrible hand, so we will go more in-depth about how to execute it well.
A well-known kind of hand in poker is a “drawing” hand. That hand is currently weak, but it has the potential to improve if they get specific community cards known as outs to complete the combo. The most prevalent examples are straight and flush draws, where you need a card of the desired rank or suit. These hands are excellent when bluffed with because of the chance you hit the draw. You rely solely on your opponent folding if you bluff with pure air (no good cards). You can make that chance higher by using the factors below, but ultimately it is up to your opponent. Bluffs with drawing hands, known as semi-bluffs, fix that by giving you a chance to make a five-card combo and win at the showdown. Nothing is guaranteed, but semi-bluffs are far more likely to be successful than normal bluffs.
Position is vital for everything in poker, and bluffing is no different. An early position (acting first) is a disadvantage compared to a late position (acting last). That is because acting later than others gives you an informational advantage since you see their actions and can react accordingly. For example, you see the early position players bet and raise against each other from a late position. That can imply multiple players hold strong hands and warn you from joining the pot without a solid hand of your own. While in a late position, you can play more hands since other players do not know about your action. That also means you can get away with more bluffs, especially if multiple players check to you in an attempt to see a free card. However, you must always be wary of traps like the infamous check-raise.
Another thing you must consider when bluffing is the specific playstyle of each player. Poker players are categorized based on how tight or loose and passive or aggressive they are. Tight and loose refer to how many hands you play, with tight meaning you play only premium hands and loose meaning you play a wide variety of hands. Passive and aggressive refer to how you play these hands, whether you prefer passive actions like checking and calling or aggressive actions like betting and raising. This information is invaluable because each player type has a specific way of being beaten. Tight players, in particular, are more susceptible to bluffs since if they are faced with aggression and don’t have a good hand, they will likely fold.
You don’t need to win every game
Finally, a crucial thing to understand for beginner players is that you should not try to win with every hand. Trying to bluff to victory every game can be tempting, but a proper loose-aggressive playstyle takes time and effort. Even then, you should still be folding more often than not. Poker is about long-term profit, and folding is the best way to ensure you are consistent and not wasting money playing mediocre hands.
Where to play poker
We hope this article taught you how to play poker and how you can circumvent your luck by bluffing. To get better at bluffing, you should play on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker is more effective for learning and general play because it is more convenient to access and faster-paced. It also gives access to poker tracking software, which is irreplaceable for analyzing the playstyles of both you and your opponents.