If you play poker long enough, you will eventually find yourself in a rut, making the same mistakes repeatedly and not understanding how you can fix it. Experienced poker players tend to be creatures of habit and will often start playing predictably. This might work for a while, but over time their bankroll will start to shrink and they will struggle to figure out why. One of the best things any poker player can do is to get back to the basics and force themselves to relearn old concepts or learn new ones. The following are four tips to help you get back to the basics (or perhaps learn something you didn't already know).
Tip #1 – Fold dominated hands. Any time you are dealt a hand like A-J, K-Q, Q-10, fold if the pot is raised in front of you or you are in early position. A common leak poker players have is playing hands that are dominated or leave them uncertain as to where they stand. Think of the number of times the following scenario has come up for you. You call a raise with A-J and the flop comes ace high. Your opponent bets and you raise. They re-raise. How good do you feel about your hand now? This is the problem with playing hands like A-J or Q-10 in raised pots. They leave you with tough decisions more often than not, and often you'll end up being second best if you do decide to go with it.
Tip #2 – Reraising positional first to act raises. Any time a player has raised from the hijack, cutoff, or button, re-raise them with any two cards. In today's poker world, every one raises when they are first to act from late position. It's an extremely effective way to pick up chips and frustrates your opponents. It works well because poker players have survival on their mind and will usually fold all but the best hands when faced with a raise... even if they “know” that their opponent is bluffing. Reraising might take you out of your comfort zone but it will show you the effect of the resteal. You'll learn that more often than not people don't want confrontation when they raise.
Tip #3 – Use position to steal post-flop pots If you are on the cutoff or button, call any raise as long as it is not more than four times the big blind and there is not a reraise. If the action is checked to you on the flop, make a bet of ½ to ¾ the pot. If there is a bet, call any bet other than all in as long as it is a pot sized bet or less. If they check the turn, bet ½ to ¾ the pot regardless of your holding. If they bet the turn, raise them a minimum of two times their bet size. Other than the actual cards you hold, the biggest advantage you have as a poker player is position. It lets you react rather than act. You don't have to guess what your opponent is going to do.
Think of how often you have seen a hand where everyone checks, the button bets, and everyone folds. Does the button have a hand every time they do this? Of course not. They are using the knowledge they have obtained from position that no one likes their hand enough to bet it. If someone check raises, their decision is an easy one (fold unless they have a very good hand). If someone calls the raise, the button will again have position on the turn and can make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Tip #4 – Taking the lead post-flop. If you have the opportunity to place the first bet post-flop and less than three players are in the hand, bet ½ to ¾ the pot. You've probably heard a number of times that the flop misses people 2/3 of the time and that the pot usually goes to the player who makes the first wager. Why is this the case? It puts doubt into your opponent's head. They do not know if you actually hit the flop or not, but your bet represents that you did. They might even fold a hand that has you beat because they think that you have them beat because of your bet. They fear your wager. They know if they call, they might face another bet. They know if they raise, they will probably have to fold if they are re-raised. This fear leads them to fold the best hand.
The Main Holdem Strategy Index: The Great Game of Holdem