What is poker strategy?
In many ways, poker is a fairly simple game. The idea is simply to beat your opponents and take a pot with a better hand than them, or by forcing them to fold the hand through your betting. What complicates things, however, is that poker is a game of incomplete information. This means that every time you act, you have to make decisions based on certain things you don’t know for sure.
You don’t know which cards will be dealt next, for example, or which cards your opponents are holding. You also don’t know what your opponents are thinking, or how they will react to the moves you make. Therefore, you must make assumptions or judgments about information that is not available to you, and that is essentially where strategy comes into play.
“Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they win; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all the cards, they lose.” – David Sklansky
The above quote from David Sklansky – a respected poker player and author – is a principle known as the fundamental poker theorem, and it sums up a large part of the strategy poker is all about. If you could always act the way you would if you knew with certainty what cards your opponents hold, you would certainly do very well at the tables.
There is more to it than that. The game is not just about winning when you have the best cards, or even about winning as many pots as you can.
This is what makes poker strategy such a complex subject. The basic principle is relatively simple, but there are many different levels and many different elements. To be a truly successful poker player and make consistently good decisions, you have to understand them all.
Advice for Learning Poker Strategy
The most important advice we can offer about learning poker strategy is simply to be patient. This is a very extensive subject with many aspects that are actually quite complicated and not at all easy to understand. If you just read a book or two and then sit down at the table and try to put it all into practice, you will probably end up very confused.
Just as there is no single correct way to play poker, there is no single correct way to learn poker strategy.
Once you have done this, you can study further while continuing to play. This will allow you to try things out, learn some of the more advanced concepts, and see what works best for you.
Remember, there is a lot of material available to you. It is up to you to find the sources that you find most useful. You may get maximum value from reading books written by experts, or you may prefer to study the best players in action and examine what they do. You may want to consider using our extensive strategy section, or visiting one of the many poker strategy sites on the web.