A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Poker Strategy | Betsquare

Article by Andy Potts
Guide to Mastering Poker Strategy
Last Updated: Feb 19th, 2024 Share On Your Network:

There is so much more to the game of poker than meets the eye. There are heaps of elements that combine to make a talented poker player. Today’s best poker players are maths gurus, exceptional problem-solvers, emotionally stable and have the patience to play the long game.

Although luck plays a part in poker, there’s plenty in this game that you can control. Within this page, we’ll explore all the facets of live and online poker strategy for Aussies just starting. Whether it’s picking the right hands to play and fold, highlighting the ideal table position to play hands or recommending a sustainable approach to managing your poker bankroll, we’ve got all the angles covered below.

The Importance of Poker Strategy

Strategy is the beating heart of poker. This intricate dance of skill, psychology and maths separates winners from losers. In this epic card game, strategy isn’t just important – it’s paramount. Whichever variant of poker is your bag, the decisions you make at the table will largely determine your success.

A well-crafted poker strategy assesses your opponents, understands the odds and masters the art of deception. It’s about calculating risks, managing your bankroll wisely and adapting to ever-changing table dynamics. Without a strong poker strategy, you’re less likely to maximise your wins and mitigate the inevitable losses. These solid foundations turn this unpredictable card game into a controlled, strategic battlefield.

Comparing the Most Popular Poker Variants in Australia

Poker strategy plays a key role, no matter which variant of poker you choose to play down under. Several popular poker variants are offered to Australians playing poker online and offline within the poker rooms of land-based casinos

Below, we’ll explore these variants and outline the main features of each poker game type so you can choose the one that appeals to you the most.

Texas Hold’em Poker

Texas Hold’em is considered the premier format of poker. Established in the early 20th century, its roots can be traced back to the small Texan town of Robstown before making its way across the Nevada desert to the casinos of Las Vegas.

As the world’s most popular version of poker, it’s easily the most accessible format to learn and play with Australia’s leading online poker rooms.

Unlike some poker formats, you’re only dealt two cards by the dealer. You must then make the best possible five-card hand using any of your hole cards and the community cards available to all players active in the hand.

Omaha Hi Poker

Omaha is a close second as the most popular poker game format. Unlike Texas Hold ’em, which is typically a no-limit format, Omaha Hi is usually played as a pot-limit game.

What is a pot-limit game? These are poker games where player bets and raises are capped at the current size of the pot. For instance, if the pot after the flop was $50, you could only bet up to $50, and your opponents could only then raise you by a maximum of $100 ($50 flop + your $50 maximum post-flop bet).

The other big difference between Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi is that players are dealt four hole cards in the latter rather than two. Statistically speaking, this makes it easier to make premium hands in Omaha. Hi poker.

Seven-Card Stud Poker

Prior to Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud was the most popular poker format of all. It’s now been put firmly in the shadow of Texas Hold’em, but you’ll still find that most Aussie-friendly online poker rooms will offer Seven-Card Stud cash games and tournaments.

In Seven-Card Stud, each player is dealt their own full hand. Some of the cards are face up to your opponents, while the others are face down, obscured from view. By the end of the seventh card, it’s possible to see four of your opponents’ seven hole cards, making it easier to gauge the potential strength of their hands by the final round of betting.

Starting Hand Selection

The cards you play at the beginning of every hand of poker can set the tone for success or failure. It requires discipline and patience to pick the right moments to strike. Folding weak starting hands is a profitable play in the long term. It prevents unnecessary losses, conserving your chips for bigger and better opportunities.

Rookie poker players often underestimate the value of restraint in hand selection, preferring the excitement of being active in hands over a pragmatic approach. Optimal starting hand selection depends on several factors, including your opponents’ playing styles and your table position when the hands are dealt – there’ll be more on the latter shortly!

As a beginner looking to improve your poker strategy, it’s best to take an ‘ABC poker’ approach to starting hands:

  • Bet strongly with pairs of Aces, Kings and Queens. These are the premium starting hands; you can bet these in any position at the table.
  • Try to see the flop cheaply with small pairs and suited connectors. Ideally, you’ll play these hands in late position after you’ve seen the betting decisions of most of your opponents.

What’s a suited connector? If your hole cards are of the same suit, there’s a chance of flopping a flush if the first three community cards are of the same suit as yours. 

It’s a similar story if you have two hole cards in numerical sequence. Let’s say you’re dealt J-10. If the flop comes Q-K-A, you’ve flopped the nut straight, i.e. the best possible straight.

How Table Position Dictates Your Poker Strategy

A symbiotic relationship exists between your betting strategy and table position at the poker tables. Early position seats are those to the immediate left of the big blind. They must act first, without any information on the strength of their opponents’ hands. Middle position seats are those midway around the table from the big blind, while late position seats include the dealer button and the player to the right of the dealer button.

Without knowing the betting actions of your opponents before committing chips to the pot, it’s best to be conservative in early position, playing solely premium starting hands. In middle position, you should also largely stick to premium starting hands, as plenty of players still have to act behind you. You may bet aggressively in middle position if you believe the current opponents in late position are weak and likely to fold to pre-flop aggression.

In late position, you’ve got a strategic vantage point. You have the luxury of observing most of your opponents’ move before picking the best course of action for your own hand. Positional awareness is a powerful tool. It allows you to capitalise on the vulnerability of those in early position.

You may consider loosening your hand range in late position. You can get creative with drawing hands here, especially if none of the players acting before you have raised the big blind.

The Art of Bluffing and Deception in Online and Live Poker

What’s great about all forms of live and online poker is that you can win without holding the best hand. Although we spend lots of time discussing optimal starting hands, poker ultimately requires you to outsmart your opponents whichever way possible. Bluffing is one way to outwit players at your table, representing a strong hand and forcing them to fold what you believe to be stronger than your own.

First, ensure you understand how your opponents think and play. Do they play aggressively, with a wide range of hands? Or do they sit tight and only wait for premium starting hands? If they take note of opponents’ strong raises, you’ll have a chance of spooking them off their hand when the time is right, making them think you’ve landed a monster hand of your own.

Timing is everything with bluffing in poker. It’s a fine art. Bluff too much, and your cover will likely be blown. The worst-case scenario is that a player calls your bluff, and your foiled plan is exposed when your cards are shown. In this situation, your opponents will no longer respect your raises, labelling you a loose-aggressive player, i.e. someone prepared to play a wide range of hands.

How Do You Know When an Opponent is Bluffing?

Spotting a bluff when you play live poker in person is easier. Over time, you grow accustomed to your opponents’ tells. These may be physical tells, where they do something subconsciously out of sheer nerves.

Judging bluffs online is harder since you can’t see them face-to-face. Instead, you must consider their betting patterns. When someone bets very quickly, it’s often a sign of a bluff. Novices think that betting fast indicates strength in online poker. As a matter of fact, experienced players see through this. They recognise when novices are trying to rush through a hand, hoping a hefty bet is enough to force them into submission.

In online poker, gauge the size of your opponents’ bets. Does the bet feel genuine? Are they betting for value with a strong made or drawing hand? Or are they simply overbetting the pot to try and imitate strength? If it’s the latter, in many cases, they’re being disingenuous, and you can call their bluff.

Common Betting Strategies to Consider

You can take several approaches with your betting strategy at the poker tables. Each of which can be used depending on the dynamics of your table. Below, we’ll run through some core bet types and when to use them to your advantage.


Value Betting

If you know you’ve got a strong hand, it’s important to extract maximum value from your opponents holding weaker hands. Value bets involve sizing modest bets to entice calls from those you know are beat. Value betting is particularly effective against rookies who only consider the strength of their own hand.


If you have a strong hand and hope to induce an opponent to add chips to the pot, you could look to check-raise. Check-raising requires you to initially check your hand. In an ideal world, an opponent bets into you, and you can then raise them.
This often takes opponents by surprise. One minute, they feel they’re taking charge of the hand, and the next, they’re being put to another betting decision. It’s a clever ploy, forcing them to reconsider the comparable strength of their hands.

Continuation Betting

Continuation betting, also known within the poker scene as c-betting, is a popular betting strategy in poker. It requires the player who took the lead in the previous round of betting to continue with another bet, regardless of the strength of their hand.
A continuation bet is meant to be a sign of strength while giving you the first opportunity to maintain overall control of the pot and the pot size. The size of a continuation bet usually mirrors the previous bet size. Alternatively, it may be the same percentage of the pot, i.e. if you bet 30% of the pot in the last round of betting, you’d place a further 30% bet at the start of this round.

The Mind Games of Poker: Dealing with the Psychology of the Game

Poker is a battleground of minds as well as cards. One of our number-one poker tips is to take the psychological aspect of this game seriously. Players will employ all kinds of psychological tactics to manipulate their opponents.

We’ve already touched on bluffing, a prime example of a player feigning strength or weakness to mislead their opponents. Reading and exploiting your opponents’ psychological vulnerabilities is a critical skill. It gives you an insight into their hands and intentions.

Emotional stability is one of the keys to a profitable poker strategy. Your “poker face” must create a barrier between your opponents and your hands. This stability is also vital in dealing with the upswings and downswings that inevitably come in poker. Negating the feeling of tilt – a state of emotional frustration leading to bad decision-making like chasing losses – is the bane of most rookie poker players.

Those who can accept bad beats and bounce back by making rational decisions are much more likely to stay the course.

Table image is another facet of poker psychology you need to think carefully about. A table image is your perceived playing style in the eyes of your opponents. Do you want to be viewed as a tight, conservative player, or do you want to be considered aggressive and reckless? A reckless table image means most players are unlikely to respect your raises. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re considered an ultra-tight “rock”, you’ll find it very hard for opponents to consider calling when you do raise.

Learning to switch-up your table image mid-game can exploit opponents’ perception of you, giving you a subtle yet potent edge in the game.

Table Etiquette and Player Dynamics

Poker isn’t just a competitive game; it’s a game of respect. Table etiquette goes a long way in poker. It helps to ensure a respectful and enjoyable gaming environment for all. It doesn’t just promote a positive, friendly atmosphere, but it also ensures fast, smooth gameplay.

Rule number one – avoid excessive chatter or distracting behaviour at the tables. Each player should have the headspace they need to focus on the game. Don’t take unnecessarily long periods to make decisions on your own hands. 

In live poker rooms throughout Australia, opponents are allowed to “call a clock” on you, where the floor boss gives you a set amount of time before you’re automatically folded from a hand. If you’re clocked too many times by opponents, you’ll develop an unwanted reputation for yourself at the tables.

How you use your betting chips is another important aspect of table etiquette in Australia’s leading live poker rooms. Don’t splash your chips into the pot, making a mess for your opponents and the dealer. Keep your own counsel when you’ve folded a hand. It’s not your place to commentate on how your opponents are playing.

Ultimately, good sportsmanship is the cornerstone of table etiquette in poker. Be gracious in victory and defeat. Your behaviour with online poker rooms is less important as you don’t see your opponents face-to-face. However, it’s still recommended that you avoid goading opponents during and in between hands via the live chat box.

Why Bankroll Management is at the Heart of Any Successful Poker Strategy

Managing your poker bankroll is one of the most overlooked aspects of a profitable poker strategy. This is the lifeline of your poker entertainment and, if you plan to take the game seriously further down the line, a potential income.

The reality of playing poker is that you’ll always have ups and downs – hopefully, more upswings than downswings! But you can never be sure, which is why bankroll management is one of our most important poker tips for you to take on board.

If you play poker at stakes too rich for your bankroll, you won’t be able to absorb a sustained losing run. This is one of the most common errors from rookie poker players. If you can acknowledge this before you’ve begun, you’ll start on a higher rung on the poker ladder than most beginners.

As a rule of thumb, most cash game players look to have at least 50 buy-ins for the levels they play, both on and offline. Even at micro-stakes levels online (NL2 – $0.01/$0.02), this equates to $100 since one full buy-in at NL2 is $2.

When it comes to multi-table tournaments, bankroll management becomes even more important, mainly if you prefer playing events with hundreds or thousands of entries. This jacks up the variance of your poker games further still, with downswings and upswings likely to be more volatile playing these formats. That’s why most tournament pros advocate 100 buy-ins for the levels you play.

How to Transition Between Online and Live Poker in Australia

Both online and live poker formats have unique advantages and appeal for Aussies. Online poker is naturally more accessible than live poker. As long as you’ve got a computer or mobile device and reliable connectivity, you can play poker online wherever and whenever you like. Whereas live poker requires you to be present in a designated land-based poker room.

Let’s talk about some of the most significant differences between playing online and live poker games down under:

  • Within an Aussie-friendly online poker room, it’s possible to multi-table, i.e. play multiple tables simultaneously. In live poker, you can only be at one table at one time.
  • The speed of play at online poker rooms is much faster than at a live poker table. Live poker games are shuffled and dealt by human dealers, so there’s less automation.
  • Live poker games require you to see your opponents face-to-face. This increases the power of physical reads and tells to improve your decision-making. Whereas in online poker, you’re largely restricted to using an opponent’s hand history or betting style to spot bluffs and strong bets.
  • Online poker rooms also give you game variety. These sites will run all types of games day or night. Whereas you’re restricted to the games and stakes offered by a live poker room.
  • In terms of game fairness and security, online poker rooms use decentralised algorithms and random number generators to maintain fair and random game outcomes. As for live poker rooms, their games are usually overseen by floor staff and CCTV.

Useful Resources for Honing Your Live and Online Poker Strategy

We’re fortunate that so many poker professionals have taken time away from the felt to put their own thoughts in writing. So many great poker books are out there focused on poker strategy and the psychology of the game.

There are heaps of online courses out there, too. Many are well-respected and operated by teams of experienced – and profitable – poker pros. Below, we’ll list some useful books and online courses to get your teeth stuck into if you’re ready to take your live or online poker strategy to the next level:

Popular Books on Poker Strategy

  • Harrington on Hold’em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments
  • Sit ‘n’ Go Strategy, Colin Moshman
  • The Theory of Poker, David Sklansky
  • Essential Poker Math, Alton Hardin
  • Super System, Doyle Brunson
  • Every Hand Revealed, Gus Hansen
  • Small Stakes Hold’em, Ed Miller, David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth

Popular Online Courses to Improve Your Poker Strategy

  • Run It Once Training
    Led by respected poker pro Phil Galfond, Run It Once offers an excellent online poker training platform with video content and articles covering all types of poker games.
  • Crush Micro Stakes Online Poker
    Access Alton Hardin’s online course via the Udemy portal. This is aimed at rookie poker players looking to develop a watertight poker strategy for winning at micro-stakes online poker games.
  • Upswing Poker Lab
    Founded by well-known poker personality Doug Polk and Ryan Fee, Upswing Poker is another online poker training platform brimming with content on poker strategy, psychology and game theory.

Conclusion and Next Steps

I’ll level with you – mastering the art of Texas Hold’em isn’t a quick endeavour. It demands passion and commitment to playing thousands of hands to develop the necessary skills to read opponents and deploy strategies that tilt the odds in your favour based on math and probability.

The best poker players on the planet would admit there’s always something new to learn about the game. Check out our recommended resources, prepare to be inspired and put your newly acquired skills to the test with the best Aussie-friendly poker rooms online today.

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