Do you want to be good at poker?

I haven’t been playing here recently due to lack of time, but also boredom and frustration at how the game is played here. I was thinking about my post 3 years ago outlining my top ten tips for Replay (My top 10 holdem tips for Replay). Most of those tips stand the test of time (though #1 should be divided into preflop and how to polarize postflop and include more bluffs). But they also are geared towards playing on Replay.

Poker (specifically no-limit Texas hold-em) is a game of logic and story-telling, and here are a few tips on how to improve those qualities, not only to beat Replay but to be better at real poker.

  1. You need to bluff. Yes, it is possible to win on Replay without ever bluffing. Players will call your value bets when you have a good hand and you can easily fold when players get aggressive because they play in such a straightforward manner. But, if you want to be able to play real poker, to win more regularly, and to beat players who actually think and adjust, you need to bluff. If the only time you raise before the flop is with QQ/KK/AA, then you can easily be beaten by players only calling when they get the right price to beat you (for example only calling with pocket pairs to flop sets and folding everything else). The same goes for 3-betting (raising over an earlier raise). Most players here will only do that with KK/AA. This makes no sense because you do not want to make your hand so obvious, yet players will do it because (as I said earlier) there is no need to bluff because players call too much. But, if you want to be good at poker, you need to open, raise, and 3bet with a range of hands that can hit a lot of boards and which can give you a chance to steal the pot on the flop even when you miss. This includes smaller pocket pairs, suited aces, and suited connectors. Opening a wider range of hands disguises your strength when you do have a premium hand, allows you to be the aggressor and win pots even when you do not have a big hand, and lets you get involved in pots more often.

The actual rate that you need to bluff depends on the game type and opponents. You need to bluff a lot more when going heads up against one opponent than say at a 9 handed table with a bunch of calling stations. But either way, you need to have more hands in your range before the flop than just monsters. You need to be willing to bluff at pots after the flop. Many players on Replay will play extremely straight forward (instantly calling or min-raising with strong hands), so you can tell when they are very strong or barely holding on to their hand. You can use this to your advantage and avoid bluffing players who always call while forcing folds when players show weakness.

Bluffing serves the purpose of creating uncertainty in your opponents. For example, I have a friend who always thinks that when his opponent takes a strong line “they have to have it”. Well, if they are never bluffing then he is right and he is correct to fold, but if they are bluffing some percentage of the time then they are successfully getting him to throw away the best hand without having to have it themselves and even more importantly they are forcing him to call with worse hands when they do have it because he can’t know for certain that “they have to have it”.

  1. A bluff is a story, so it needs to make sense. The awful ways that people here play can make it hard to read them sometimes (limping before the flop with KK, calling preflop with A2o, betting 1 bb with the nuts), so theoretically any line can “make sense”, but if you want to bluff you need to represent a hand or range of hands that would actually take that line. If you raise before the flop and bet 2/3 pot on all 3 streets on a safe looking board, you could easily have AA, meaning you are doing a good job of representing AA. So, the idea is that some of the time you would actually have AA (or KK/QQ), but other times you would have bluffs, so your opponents are uncertain about whether to call you in these spots. If you only bet like that when you do have a big pair, then your opponent can easily fold, but taking this line with your bluffs is pretty easy. However, poker is more complicated than that. Sometimes boards are scary and board texture changes throughout the hand. For example when the flush hits on the turn, are you likely to have a lot of flushes in your range? Is your opponent? Would you have played the flush draw this way on the flop? If you would have played the flush draw this way, then you can bet your flushes for value and you can also bluff sometimes because you are telling a plausible story.

  2. Use logical bet sizes. So many people on Replay just fire out full pot when they have a big hand. It is extremely easy to play against this approach (fold when don’t have it and call when you do). They are trying to get people to overpay for draws (or make foolish calls with worse hands), which is probably effective against most players on Replay, but not against decent opponents. Against a passive player on Replay, if they open preflop I assume they have a big pair. I will call with 44 knowing that they will bet full pot on almost all flops. If I hit my set, they are about to lose a huge pot, and if I miss my set I can easily fold. If my opponent bets a more reasonable size on the flop (like 1/2 or 2/3), or even better if they vary their bet sizing in a deceptive way, it becomes much harder for me to play against them because a) I am not sure if I will get paid when I do flop my set, and b) I might need to call a bet on some flops when I miss my set because the sizing is smaller and I may still have the best hand (unless I am certain they are only raising big pairs).

Never bet 1bb. It gets you no value and no folds. It can occasionally be useful when you want to look weak and try to induce a raise, but generally this is still a bad play compared to just raising in the first place.

It can be ok to give your opponents a decent price to draw. So many players here overplay their hands or make their hands very obvious because they are scared of draws. Yes, players call too much, so many draws do hit, but you just need to be aware of the draws and when they hit. You don’t want to polarize a weak top pair to scare off draws when it will ultimately cost you your entire stack when your opponent has a bigger hand or when the draw does hit.

I may add to this list over time, but these are some ideas to get you started with the complexity of poker rather than just saying “lol I call to see a flop and then hope it matches my hand”.


Nice post Joe.

I don’t know why you had to post my play style like that Joe :innocent::innocent::innocent:

I would like to add a tad if you don’t mind, I would like to enforce the importance of The Bluff at two
critical points in the game. One great time to bluff is when you know people have to tighten up their game, 1st time will be at the bubble area, if you are low on chips when you near the payoff line A timely bluff can be the difference of you making it to the payoff line or further, this bluff can and should be 2 parts, let’s say an Ace hits the flop (or a pair) and you are in late position, if you do a two BB raise and only get one caller, you can either give up, or take a stab at it with a larger raise if he calls a 2nd time you know he has Ace and you need to escape, another way to play the same bluff is to do same move in early position maybe a 3 to 4 BB bet, then play it out the same way… This is also huge at the final table or right before final table. I also like to do a bluffs bluff during a game when I know I have a solid player watching, I’ll do an obvious bluff and fail so my cards are seen when I’m called or if no one sees it as a bluff I show the bluff cards so that later in the game I can use a lot of deception at critical times. Thanks Joe great info…


Don’t tell me what to do…