In this piece, I’m going to share the top five moves to win at poker in 2021.
I’m confident these are evergreen, so the tactics listed in this blog will apply long after the year is over. Many of them are the basis of what I’ve been teaching to my clients and students alike. I hope you take something from it!
Traditional poker strategy says that when you’re the aggressor, you should always follow up with a continuation bet.
However, as No Limit Hold’em has evolved, players are coming to expect this, and many have started floating – calling the flop with air to take the pot away on a later street – and thus, the continuation bet has become less effective.
What players are now doing to counter is to check, both with a strong and a weak range, as not to be exploited.
By incorporating strong hands into your post flop checking range, you make yourself more difficult to play against. Furthermore, you confuse opponents, and your feigned weakness could induce them to bluff off chips to you.
When facing action after you check, adopt a mixed strategy (occasionally check raising, but mostly check calling) to keep them guessing. Long term, this makes you harder to play against because opponents who know you’re capable of raising will give you more free cards.
As the preflop raiser, bet small on the flop, then, if a favorable turn comes for your range, bet big.
Here’s an example of when you can implement this strategy. You raise preflop from the CO with As5s, and opponent calls in the BB.
The flop comes down Js 6h 4c, and the BB checks, you bets ⅓ of the pot and the Villain calls.
The turn brings the King of spades. Villain checks and now you overbet!
This is a great turn to bet big because it’s a card that favors the preflop raisers range as there are many more hands that the preflop raiser bets the flop with that contain a king, than the preflop caller has.
Over betting or betting big on turn cards, especially ones that favor your range or when you have a strong range advantage (meaning the hands you can hold are a lot stronger than the hands your opponent can hold) is a great play to have in your arsenal, as it puts a lot of pressure on your opponents, and forces them to fold.
Warning: Use this play on very select occasions. The reason this play works is because people are being more aggressive in poker nowadays. This is particularly true in the small blind, where players typically reraise or fold preflop.
Here’s an example. Late position opens, SB 3-bets and you wake up in the BB with A5s. Having an ace in your hand is known as a blocker because it eliminates possibilities from your opponent’s having premium hands like AK or AA. When facing your cold 4-bet, villains will most likely fold unless they have super premium holdings, and, since most of the time they don’t, that’s precisely why this play works.
The key is timing. Choose players who 3-bet often in the small blind or a spot when there’s a lot of dead money in the pot and you think the reraiser is making a move. Also, by using extremely selective aggression, your raising frequencies stay minimal (as they should be for a play of this nature) and therefore, you receive more credit for having a premium holding.
Something I always remind my clients is that you can be the 10th best player in the world and lose money playing against the nine best. The opposite is also true: you can be the 10th worst player in the world and make money playing against the nine worst.
The key to your long-term success in poker is to find games that you can win and only sit down when there are inferior players to your level of skill.
This guarantees you have an edge. It doesn’t matter therefore how good you are but rather how good you are relative to the competition.
Remember, your win rate in poker is the difference in skill between you and your opponents, minus the rake.
Action Item: Find games with worse players. Have the humility to quit games when they’re not good or you’re not playing your best. This ensures you’re in a profitable position to win long term.
Arguably the most important skill in poker, managing your bankroll correctly ensures you’re giving yourself the chance to reduce variance by reaching the long term. Otherwise, your results are merely speculative, based on short term variance, and luck.
The fact is true that you can be worse at playing poker, but if you manage your money well and game select, you will be a long-term winner. On the contrary, I’ve seen many readers and students who have strong technical players but take too many unnecessary risks and wind up hurting.
The strategy is you want to have enough buy ins to play profitably and reach the long term for the games you’re playing. A good rule of thumb is if you are playing online MTTs, 100 buy ins, cash games 50 buy ins, live you can get by with a little less because there is less variance, and the win rates are bigger due to you being able to physically see your opponents. Nevertheless, with MTT have at least 50, but preferably 100 buy ins, and cash games 30, but preferably 50 buy ins.
You can afford to take shots in bigger games, with a small percentage of their bankroll, or divide your bankroll between MTT and cash for optimal performance and ROI. Be sure to move down and take time off if you lose.
For more, check out “How to Manage Your Bankroll Like a Pro.” This is just the tip of the iceberg to managing your money, game selecting, and developing systems to build a long-term, sustainable poker business.
Alec Torelli is a professional high-stakes poker player and coach with over $1.5 million in live tournament winnings. As the founder of Conscious Poker, Alec has helped thousands of people take their poker game to the next level through private coaching, seminars, training videos, and blogs, as well as his exclusive mastermind course, Alec’s Academy.