Advanced Online No Limit Holdem Poker Strategy
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on Texas Holdem poker strategy. The first was appropriately called “A Comprehensive Introduction to Texas Holdem Strategy” and you can read it in its entirety here.
With near-infinite concepts to explore when it comes to online no limit holdem poker strategy, it would take many articles – or books for that matter – to even scratch the surface of all the things one needs to consider when learning how to play poker.
However, there are a number of key factors that newer players would be well served to internalize as they begin their poker journey which will set the stage for everything that comes afterwards and help set a solid foundation from which to build on.
These ideas include adapting to the specific game format, deciding which poker hands to play from which position, building a well-rounded game plan for each of poker’s four primary decision points (preflop, flop, turn, and river) and adapting to the variance and mindset the game of poker requires.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at each of these areas of interest as we work to create a cohesive online no limit Texas Holdem poker strategy. We hope you reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.
Online Poker Game Format
Between 9-handed cash games, 6-handed cash games, Heads-up cash games, tournaments, Sit & Go’s, Jackpot Poker games, speed poker, and many others, there’s a whole host of no limit holdem poker formats to choose from, each one with its own unique poker strategies. However, for the sake of brevity and simplicity, in this article we’ll focus exclusively on 9 or 10 handed online poker tournament strategy, though many of the ideas discussed will be applicable to other variations as well.
The basics: How to play Omaha Poker
Using a standard 52-card deck, each player playing in the Omaha card game is dealt four cards, face down. After each player receives their four cards, an initial round of betting takes place. Then, three common cards hit the felt, face up. This is known as the flop. After another round of betting, a fourth card hits the felt. This is called the Turn. There’s another round of betting, followed by the final card, known as the River. This is followed by a final round of betting.
Hand Selection For Optimal Texas Holdem Strategy
As with most forms of no limit holdem poker, a tight-aggressive approach is going to be the optimal strategy for the vast majority of the player pool. This means that we reduce the number of speculative hands we play out of position and slowly increase that number as we get to the most advantageous positions at the table, primarily the button and cut-off. From these later positions we can mix in a much wider range of both opens and 3-bets, putting our out-of-position (OOP) opponents to a seemingly endless string of tough decisions where they won’t have the luxury of seeing our action before being forced to take theirs.
This dynamic is why you’ll see some professionals opening an incredibly wide range when the action gets folded to them on the button. Since they know how deceptively tough it is to make a strong hand in no limit holdem, they are able to anticipate putting their opponents in incredibly difficult decisions, almost regardless of what the board brings. This same dynamic can also be witnessed in blind-vs-blind (BvB) battles, with the Big Blind able to call an even wider range, not only because they’ve already got money invested in the pot, but because they know it’s going to be extremely tough for the OOP small-blind to attack aggressively on most board textures.
More specifically, barring late-game dynamic, a typical raising range is about 9%-10% of hands in first position or ‘under-the-gun’ (UTG) – which looks something like 77+, all suited Broadways, and AQo+ -and getting progressively wider all the way to between 35%-40% of hands on the button and 40%-45% from the small blind.
Texas Holdem Preflop Strategy
As discussed above, preflop play is largely dictated by position and hand selection. Although live poker broadcasts often focus on huge 3-bet/4-bet/all-in pots, the majority of preflop play is nowhere this exciting, mostly consisting of single-raised pots with one or two calls. The truth is that very few tournament wins are built through preflop play, and those that are, are often marked by ‘coinflips’ (AK vs. QQ) and ‘coolers’ (AA vs. KK). So rather than looking for spots to pile all your chips into the middle as fast as possible, the key to strong Texas Holdem poker tournament strategy – especially in the early to mid levels – is to look for low-risk spots to leverage a decent preflop holding with good position and focus on extracting your poker edge through post-flop play.
With that said, two key points to remember when playing preflop is that an OOP call will often play better as a preflop 3-bet and that ‘splashing around’ (aka as playing an overly wide range of hands) is very rarely the most profitable strategy. As “tight-aggressive” players, we want to pick our spots selectively and then attack them with controlled aggression. That is, not betting just for the sake of betting, but analyzing our opponent’s likeliest holdings while staying aware of what they perceive ours to be and attacking accordingly. This is what’s known as ‘ranging’, which will, in one way or another, make up the bulk of the remaining sections down below.
Advanced Texas Hold em Strategy: Hand-Ranging & Perceived Range
Boiling it down to its most basic form, ‘ranging our opponent’ simply means thinking about the entire collection of hands they are most likely to have based on position, stack size, and prior action. Conversely, our perceived range refers to the entire collection of hands our opponent is likely to expect us to have based on our position, stack size, and prior action.
To offer a simple example, if you’re playing against a tight opponent, when they raise preflop in early position and then re-raise against a middle position 3-bettor, their range is highly unlikely to hold weak or even marginally strong holdings. In fact, there are many times this could mean nothing but a top 5 hand. Meanwhile, when an intelligent loose-aggressive player open-raises from the small blind against our big blind, we can safely assume that his or her range is quite “wide” (meaning that they could be holding a large number of starting hands) and that when we flat or re-raise, our perceived range will also be quite wide, meaning that our opponent will expect us to continue with a large collection of starting hands (as one should do to counter heightened aggression).
This constant battle between ranges, which can and will change multiple times per hand, is where the game of no limit Texas holdem strategy truly lives. And although it’s a skill that takes a lifetime to master, by consistently asking yourself both ‘what can my opponent have here?’ and ‘what is my opponent likely to think I have here?’, you’ll soon see that your insight into the game will begin to open up in a way it had never before. The only thing to keep in mind is that you need to remain consistent with your ranging throughout the duration of each hand. Meaning that if, for example, you think it is unlikely an opponent has an ace in his hand based on his position, stack size, and preflop action, make sure not to reintroduce it into his range when the dreaded river ace falls.
How To Get Better At Poker – Flop Play
Once again, the flop is dominated by position play, with the in-position player having the benefit of seeing their opponent’s action on every remaining street, allowing them to comfortably call both their medium and weaker holdings. This is knowing that they’ll often have the luxury of seeing the remaining cards for free when their opponent fails to bet again on the turn. This leads to many aggressive players employing the ‘float’ play, which is when you call an unmade hand with the intention of trying to bluff it away from your opponent on later streets.
As for optimal online no limit holdem strategy on the flop, the key will be continuing the ranging process we began preflop by eliminating a progressively greater number of hands from our opponent’s range based on their post-flop actions. As we do that, we can look for opportunities to exact our ‘range-advantage’ (when our perceived collection of hands is stronger than our opponent’s based on board texture and prior actions) often regardless of the cards we hold. For example, when we raise in early position and only the big blind calls, if the flop comes out AAK, we have a clear range advantage (we hold more combinations of Ax and Kx hands than our opponent) and should bet a large percentage of our range.
Poker Tutorial: Turn Play
At this point in the hand, ranges should be relatively well-defined and we’ll likely only be facing one or two opponents at most. As the preflop aggressor, this is the time when it’s really important to have an understanding for not just how to play this street but also the next one.
Too often in no-limit holdem poker, inexperienced players will raise preflop, continuation-bet on the flop and turn, and then feel completely lost on whether they should bet on the river as well. And while there is a certain unavoidable element of guess work in poker, we want to minimize it as much as possible and only make plays that fit holistically within the entire scope of the hand.
This means that before you fire a bet on the turn ‘just because’, it’s critical to review your opponent’s range and your own perceived range to see whether it even makes sense for you to be in the context of the prior action. You also need to have a very well-defined strategy for how you’d handle both a flat-call and a check-raise, as well as which types of rivers you’d continue betting on and which you’d give up.
Winning Poker Strategy: River Play
Speaking of the river, this is the time where all your hard work earlier in the hand pays off. If you have kept close track of both your range and your opponents’ ranges, it’ll often be very obvious (at least to you) who should and shouldn’t be betting and whether it makes sense to bluff, hero-call, or simply check it down and hope for the best. Simply put, when arriving at the river, you should be asking yourself one basic, but often complicated, question: ‘who has the range advantage?’ This means, to reiterate, who has a stronger collection of possible holdings based on both players’ stack size, position, and previous action.
If it is you, that is the time to be aggressive and put your opponent to the test, regardless of whether you have a real value-hand or just a bluff masquerading as one. If, however, it is your opponent, it may be time to seriously consider making one of the toughest plays in the game. That is giving up on a hand after putting in a significant portion of your chips into the middle. As the classic Kenny Rogers song goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run”.
Texas Holdem Tips: Variance & Mindset
Of course, sometimes you’ll have done everything right – played the right hands in the right position, tracked both your range and your opponents’ ranges correctly, and only bet or called when it made most sense based on all the information at hand – and still end up losing the hand.
This could be because your opponent ended up holding the top of their range (aka the very best hand of all their likeliest holdings) or because you made an analysis error somewhere in the process. In these moments, it’s key not to get too frustrated or tilt, and instead mark the hand for review after the session and look for the reason the results didn’t match your intention, seeking out things that can be adjusted and improved for next time.
This way (just like in life) you will never truly be losing, only paying for an education that, when applied appropriately in future instances of a similar situation, will pay itself off many times over.