Playing poker for real money is fundamentally different compared to playing for play money. The rules may be the same, but the difference is in the way people bet. When winning and losing start making a difference, people are much more considered when they actually put money into the pot. We call this playing ‘tighter’.
The higher the stakes, the tighter the game.
When moving from play money to real money, you will have to tighten up your game as well, or you will inevitably lose money. The aim is to play a slightly tighter game than your opponents. On low limit tables however, this is no problem. The game is still pretty loose anyway.
Size of Table The first decision to be made before playing poker is the size of the table. The strategy required for playing on a ten player table is completely different to that of a two player ‘heads up’ game. Pick a type of table and stick to it to make sure you learn it properly.
In general one can say it’s more difficult to play No-Limit than Limit Games and it is more difficult to play short handed than at a full 10-player table.
Opponents Choosing your opponents is a powerful ploy to successful poker. By selecting the right opponents, you maximize your chance of profitable success. You don’t have to be the best player in the world to be profitable at poker, you just have to be better than the players at your table. (Actually, you don’t have to be the best player at the table either, as long as you know who the good players are!).
Find players that you are better than.
The first and most obvious piece of advice relating to your opponents is to find, and play at, your own level. Secondly, there is some statistical information in the lobby that you can use.
Limit When, in this document, we refer to low-limit we’re talking about tables with $0.5-$1 and $1-$2. The information here should be sufficient for you to play on this level.
To play at $2-$4 and $3-$6 you need to understand the concepts described here on a slightly deeper level and gain some experience of playing.
Statistics To assist you in finding the right table, you can use the statistics in the lobby. Flop Percentage The flop percentage is the most important figure in determining the quality of players at the table. It shows how many players are paying to see the flop. It will give a good indication as to how loose a game is. On a ten-seat table 25% would be very tight and 40% pretty loose.
Pot Size Average Another useful figure is the pot size average. It will also give an indication on how loose the game is. If the pots are large, more players are likely to be contributing
This section will give you an introduction in how to adopt your play from play money to real money in the different stages of the hand.
Pre-Flop Play the right Hands
The first decision is to select the hands you play. To learn more on which hands to play and when to play them, it’s recommended that you read a good poker book. A good rule of thumb is to play fewer hands than your opponents.
In loose low limit games, the pots tend to get big which makes suited connectors (even low) better as you will win large pots making a flush or straight.
Small pairs are good if there are many callers.
High cards are sometimes not as good as you might immediately think. (E.g. QT unsuited is normally not a good hand at a 10 player table)
On the Flop
Abandon bad flops If the flop doesn’t fit, abandon it. It is very expensive to hope to make something from nothing at the flop. A lot of times you won’t, and a lot of times others will make even better hands when you actually do improve.
Inside Straight Draws An inside straight draw is normally not so good to bet with, unless there is a lot of money in the pot already and the risk of being raised is very small.
Flush and Straight Draws A flush or outside straight draw at the flop is normally a good thing. If there are others in the pot, try to raise – if it doesn’t scare people off – to get more money in, as you will win your fair share of the hands.
Pocket Pairs Pocket pairs that haven’t made trips on the flop and with over cards on the flop are not so good. The chance of improving on the turn is very small.
Scares It is important to identify scares on the table. That is flops that can make draws for other players. When this happens, you will probably win less frequently than on a top pair
* Three consecutive or close cards might very well give someone a straight draw. * Two consecutive cards may give a two pair (more connectors played than other cards)
A two flush on the board significantly reduces the profit of a straight draw. One in four of the cards you are waiting for could possibly give someone a flush! On the Turn Coming to the turn, the bet increases. Here’s an opportunity for a lot of money to be won or lost. Managing to make it two bets on the turn when you’ll win and no bets when you would have lost anyway, makes a winner in low limit Texas Hold’em! (Easier said than done, though!) Check Raise Frequently go for a check raise on the turn with premium hands, as you’re often checking/folding less good hands on the turn anyway. This way, your opponent will not be able to read your hand effectively.
Acknowledge Bets and Raises In low limit games, bluffing is not very common, which leads to another rule of thumb:
A raise on the turn almost always means that the other player has a good hand
This is especially true when there are more than two players in the pot. Don’t be surprised if the opponent has trips or a made flush/straight.
Don’t bet on Draws At the turn, the probability for making your hand is substantially lower than on the flop, and the number of opponents calling is probably less. Checking and calling is often the right thing to do, while betting is mostly wrong. (Unless you think you can scare the opponent off).
On the River Checking a weak hand Normally you should bet out on the river if you feel you have a strong hand. There is one exception though. If you have a hand that was good at the flop but unimproved since (like a top pair with a weak kicker), have continued betting and just been called throughout the hand, you should probably be checking. The reason for this is that it is unlikely that you’ll be called with a hand worse than yours (giving you no profit from betting) and you take the risk that someone has made a stronger hand on the river (maybe a two pair), and will raise you (making you lose money). This is a typical no-profit-for-risk scenario.
Seeing it through Frequently on the river there is enough money in the pots to make it worthwhile calling a bet, even if you are unsure if you have the best hand
Bankroll Poker is a game of edge. By playing better than the opponents, you gain an edge and win money. There is, however, a large element of short-term chance, which results in possible swings. To play consistently, you’ll need to have a sufficient bankroll to survive.
Even a very good poker player may have a bad day, a bad week, or a bad month!
In low limit poker you can handle the situation of losing your entire bankroll, as it is in small manageable amounts. Playing high stakes would require maybe $1,000,000 in bankroll, which is difficult to replace if lost.
A good starting bankroll would probably be 100 small bets. (On a $1-$2 table, this would require a $100 deposit.) Playing conservatively will give you a buffer for losing streaks. Depositing less money is of course possible, but you should be prepared to deposit more to cover an unlucky streak.
On winning, it’s important to build your bankroll in order to be able to try a higher stakes table. This way you can move up the limits without any further deposits.
Large Multi-way Pots In large multi-way pots, the number of players going all the way to the river constitutes the number of Miracle Rivers thus making your opponents hands increase. It’s all a question of probabilities.
On the other hand, the pot will be large, so by not betting on bad hands, you’ll not have to win too many pots to end up a winner.
Be aware of made flushes and straights, as well as possible third pairs making trips, so you don’t pay unnecessarily over the odds on the turn or river.
General on Bluffing In loose low limit poker, bluffing is generally a bad thing and will not be profitable. Use bluffing scarcely to put people off. It can sometimes be good to be caught in a bluff early in the game to draw more callers when you have a good hand later in the game.