When first learning the game of poker, the game can appear to be an enigma. A hand like AT looks like a strong hand because the two cards are high, without realizing that you are often dominated by anyone playing AJ, AQ and AK. When that Ace-high flop comes, the beginner can easily focus on the sheer fact that he has paired his Ace. After all, a pair of Aces does sound strong. In reality, though, the strength of a pair of Aces is not absolute. When facing another pair of Aces with a better kicker or another superior hand, the relative strength of a single pair is actually quite weak.
For beginners, often the greatest leak is poor hand selection. For that reason, I am going to recommend a very basic strategy for any new players who want to immediately start winning while they learn about the various aspects of poker.
The strategy is as follows: Only play the following hands:
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, AK, AQ
Those are ten hands in total, out of over 200 possible combinations. When you get one of the “top ten” hands, raise preflop. Ideally, you should attempt a bet around the size of the pot. After the flop, if you connect with the board (AQ on Q45 flop) or the board is harmless (TT on a 732 flop), you should bet. Do not slowplay. If the flop is scary or misses you entirely (for example, 77 on a TJQ flop), you should check-fold. Do not bluff.
As the hand progresses, keep it simple. If you have a strong hand, bet. If you are weak, check-fold. Size your bets around the size of the pot. Be wary for re-raises, which often mean your opponent has a particularly strong hand.
In other words, play A-B-C poker. Have a tight hand-selection preflop. Bet if you are strong. Check-fold if you are weak. Do not slowplay. Do not bluff.
This simple strategy will likely help you become a winner on Pokerist. The reason why it is so effective is that it prevents the common leak of playing too many hands. Through tight hand selection, you will almost always start each hand with an advantage over your opponents, since you are only playing strong hands. It will also help insofar as it will allow you to avoid situations where you will have to make tough decisions.
For example, you play KQ of spades by raising preflop. You get two callers. The flop is AQ7 with two hearts. Now what? You have little information from your opponents so you do not know if you are ahead or if they are. If you don’t bet, they probably will, even without the Ace, since you look weak by checking. But if you do bet, you may just be donating money to the guy who called you preflop with A6 and is willing to call you down to the river because he hit his pair of Aces.
On the other hand, if you only play top hands, then your decisions will get easier, since you will often have dominating hands, like when you hit top pair with AK on an Ace-high board and get paid off by AQ, or when you hit your set with 77. When you miss, you will fold, avoiding further loss.
The strategy also works because your raises will thin the herd of players preflop. AA is stronger against one player than against five, since the five players mean five opportunities to suck out. Also, betting post flop will limit your opponent’s abilities to suck out on later streets for free.
This strategy will also work particularly well when playing against loose players who are not paying close attention to your playing style.
Loose players are the perfect target for this type of play because by their very nature, they play a lot of hands that are weak compared to the top ten hands we just discussed. These players will give you action when you bet preflop with your KK or AK, often with hands that are easily dominated, like KJ. When your loose opponent hits a Jack-high flop with his KJ, he will pay off your KK.
Players who are not paying attention to your style are also helpful, since the aforementioned strategy is exploitable. If your opponents catch on that you are only playing strong starting hands, then it will be easy for them to fold whenever you open for a raise. However, many players can sit at a table for an hour without realizing that their opponent has folded for the last 60 minutes. In a worst-case-scenario, if your opponents have figured out that you are playing what is essentially A-B-C poker, you can leave and find a new table.
Here is some more good news. I know a site with lots of players who are loose and who tend not to pay attention to their opponent’s play style: Pokerist! In other words, this style is particularly well suited for Pokerist play because (a) there is a decent percentage of Pokerist players who are too loose, and (b) Pokerist players come and go from tables, so the players are usually not playing long enough to catch on to the fact that you are playing A-B-C poker. Plus, it is very easy to leave the table and find a new one if your table has figured out your strategy.
After a while with this strategy, you may get bored or you may feel the urge to play more hands. Fortunately, while you use this strategy, you will also be gaining valuable experience, which will aid you when you are ready for a more complicated strategy. You will become more adept at reading boards, and you will notice how players bet and how different hands can play out. Once you have a better grasp of the game, I certainly encourage you to open up and play more hands. After all, this is a very basic beginner’s strategy. Just remember to be careful. It is easy for a tight player to loosen up, but it is much harder for a loose player to tighten up.