Beginners Luck Poker

How to Play a Poker Game. Before we get started some basic rules for how to play poker you should first get familiar with the basic poker hand rankings. Maybe 90% of all beginner mistakes happen when someone thinks they have the winning poker hand and they don’t.

The concept of a hand range is often foreign to a beginner poker player, but once you understand the idea you will never go back to your old way of thinking. Keep reading to find out more.

How often do you try to put your opponent on a single hand? Do you often say ‘I think he has Ace King’? Nobody, not even seasoned pros, can consistently put someone on a single hand – it's just not possible given the amount of information at your disposal.

The Hollywood scene where the main character has the uncanny ability to read an opponent’s exact cards time after time is completely unrealistic; you shouldn’t hold yourself to such high standards as it will only lead you to make mistakes.

So the question is, what should we do instead of placing someone a single hand?

The answer: we give them a range of possible hands or in other words a set of hands. So instead of ‘he can only have AK’ in a particular situation, we think ‘he can have AK, AQ, AA and some bluffs’. Hand reading then becomes about working out the hand range more accurately; not about finding a single hand that your opponent is holding.

Table Of Contents

Putting your opponent on a single hand doesn’t work

Why doesn’t the method of putting your opponent on a single hand work? Well for one, there are a lot of hands your opponent can typically have; therefore narrowing it down to one hand based on limited information is difficult, if not impossible.

In addition, your opponents should play in a way that gives him multiple hands for the same line (series of actions). If you play a certain way or take a particular line with only ONE hand or hand type then you become very easy to play against. To take an example, it is very easy to play against someone who raises very large preflop with only AA or KK. We just fold!

Constructing ranges

In order to hand read correctly, we need to piece together the story that our opponent is telling us. With every action (bet, raise or check) our opponent is giving us a piece of information. We must piece this information together to build up a possible set of holdings our opponent may have.We called this constructing a hand range.

Poker of all types, including Texas Hold'em and video poker, are easy to play, but difficult to master. Don’t take our word for it – just ask one of the world’s more than 100 million players! Although it is a card game based on luck of the draw, poker also requires thought and strategy. How to Play Poker. Poker is a popular game that's easy to learn but difficult to master. Although it's a card game, poker is also a game of strategy, and you'll need to constantly read the other players to decide when to fold, when to. Summing up best poker tips for beginners. I think these are by far the most important poker tips that you should take seriously when starting out. It will help you to learn poker strategy faster and protect you from many common mistakes that players do. Moreover, if you want to read more, you can find some good advice on poker strategy articles. Now the same can be said about poker in regards to a player needing to be knowledgeable and in control of his emotions. The main difference in the role that luck plays between poker and casino games is the number of trials. In poker, while a knowledgeable player can lose in the short term he should be expected to win over time.

If we are on the river facing a bet we must take into account all the actions on the previous streets. In addition to simply what actions we both took, we must also take into account bet sizing and bet timing on EVERY street.

You begin with a wide hand range and progressively whittle it down as more information becomes available. Each opponent action allows us to remove more hands from his range. Sometimes we can narrow an opponent's range down to a few hands, but not always.

A common example would be that if someone calls your preflop raise you can typically exclude hands like AA, KK, and AK from their preflop hand range. We can eliminate these hands as they will almost always be reraised preflop. Very few players will flat call AA, KK, and AK versus a raise.

Piecing together all this information is a lot like a puzzle. It can be very difficult to keep all the information in your head during a hand; this is one of the key reasons that poker is such a difficult game to master. Although piecing the ‘puzzle' together becomes easier with experience as you will subconsciously work it out. Practice will make perfect.

Hand range example

The best way to explain a range is to do a full example.

One of the main benefits of playing online is that you get to use a HUD(heads up display). A HUD will give you information on what your opponent may be holding in a preflop scenario. So we can use our HUD to estimate what our opponent may be raising from early position – this allows us to make adjustments based on if he is raising a wide or narrow range.

Vs a wide range we should fight back and call or raise might often.

Vs a narrow range we should fold more often.

To take an example, we are on the BTN with AQ and face a raise from UTG from an aggressive opponent. We see that the UTG raiser is opening 17% of hands (if this was a live game we would use an approximation).

We estimate this to be the following (you can directly plug this into equilab): 22+,A2s+,K9s+,Q9s+,JTs,T9s,98s,ATo+,KQo

We choose to call in this situation and the blinds fold resulting in a heads up pot.

The Flop

The flop comes down Q 5 2 (rainbow board) and as a result, we have a very strong hand. Villain bets half pot and we call. Raising is not an option here because raising would fold out all his weak hands and only leaving strong hands. A large proportion of these strong hands are stronger than us – not an ideal situation.

We expect villain's betting range to be all top pair, overpairs such as AA and KK, and sets. He doesn’t have any two pair on this board texture.

So we expect villain to bet with this range: QQ+,55,22,AQs,KQs,Q9s+,AQo,KQo

That will be his ‘value’ hand range. A value range is the range of hands he will bet hoping that he is betting to build a big pot. He will also have some bluffs such as AK, KJs, JTs and possibly AJ. However, the number of bluffs is very dependent on how the opponent plays. The exact number can be sometimes difficult to estimate and comes with practice:

How did we arrive with theses ranges?

Well first, we expect villain to continuation bet all of his top pair (we are assuming he is quite aggressive). We also know from past experience that this particular villain will not bet hands under top pair for value. So he either bets top pair or better, some bluffs or checks.


The Turn

The turn comes a 2 bringing a flush draw and villain bets ½ pot again. We can apply the same logic but expect villain to slow down with some of his weaker hands: QQ+, 55, 22, AQs, KQs, AQo, KQo
In some cases, the villain will check QQ on the flop or turn but for simplicity's sake, we assume he will bet the two streets. For bluffs, we think villain will bet all of his flush draws and some AK: AK, KJdd, JTdd, AJdd.

It can be difficult when first starting out to determine what villain will do with each hand. This just comes will practice and experience.

The River

The river comes a final blank (not very exciting hand example but makes the range work easier to explain) 7. We think villain will again slow down (stop betting) with some of his medium strength hands (KQ) and only continue betting with AQ+:

So our opponent’s final range, including bluffs (busted draws and AKs), may look something like this after opening UTG (under the gun) and betting three streets: QQ+,55,22, AQs+, AdJd, KdJd, JdTd, AQo

With AQ we can then decide to call or fold based on how much he bets.

Vs this range AQ has 33% equity (from equilab). Therefore, if we are getting 2:1 pot odds (villain makes a pot sized bet) we can call, and if he bets larger we should fold. If our opponent bets smaller we should still obviously call. For more on pot odds see Pot Odds, Equity And Expected Value.

Improving hand reading

One quick method of improving hand reading skills is to play without looking at your hole cards. Playing live this is easy, but online this might mean putting a sticker on your screen over your cards. When you can’t see your own cards you have to focus on figuring out what your opponent may be holding as opposed to how your hand matches up with the board. This focus improves your skills rather quickly and is a great drill to perform even if you’re a seasoned poker player.

A word of warning, however: you are obviously at a great disadvantage when you can’t see your cards so play the lowest stakes possible to avoid large losses. Any loss can be seen as the price of your education.

Otherwise you could check out Splitsuit's course: The hand reading lab. This course is focused on one single objective: improving your hand reading ability.

Closing words

Once you have understood what a hand range is and how to apply it on the table, you won’t go back to the ‘beginners’ way of thinking. The concept of putting your opponent on a range starts as almost a guessing game during the early poker career; but as your skills improve so does the accuracy of your hand range estimations.

Strive to improve your hand range construction skills as this is in essence how you will exploit your opponent. Ultimately, with the best hand reading skills, you will come out the biggest winner at the tables.

Further Reading: My favourite poker book, Applications Of No Limit Holdem By Mathew Janda covers hand ranges in a huge amount of detial. I would recommend checking it out on our best poker books page to find out more.

Good luck at the tables.

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Beginner S Luck Play

Carlos Welch

We all know that both skill and luck affect how well we do as poker players. But many people seem to misunderstand the idea that your skill determines how much luck you need to rely upon. If you are skillful enough to understand how your opponents play, you can often wait for them to make their favorite mistakes and thus reduce the effect that luck has on your results.

Many of us make slightly positive-EV but unnecessary shoves against opponents who play 'face-up,' and then blame bad luck when we lose. What we should be doing instead is figuring out how they play so that we can take less risky and more profitable lines against them.

One example of this kind of adjustment is not three-bet shoving 25 big blinds with a hand like K-Q-suited over an open against a guy who makes calling mistakes with an A-x heavy range. Instead against such an opponent we should be three-betting smaller and then taking it down with a flop continuation bet whenever he misses (if you know, that is, that he is unlikely to four-bet light preflop or play too sticky postflop).

Both plays are +EV, but one relies more on luck than the other. If you know how your opponent plays, then you can avoid some slightly +EV all-in gambles and instead depend on skill to generate even larger edges.

So a question arises: When can we rely on skill to generate these large edges, and when must we instead rely on luck?

Here are a few considerations that have served me well when answering that question in the small stakes tournaments I play.

Quality and Quantity of Players in the Pot

If you are in a heads-up pot with an equally skilled player, then obviously you have to rely on luck since neither player has much of an edge. No one wants to give an inch in these confrontations, so sometimes they result in big, high variance pots. The best you can do is play as close as you can to game theoretically optimal (GTO) poker and let the cards fall where they may.

This situation can lead to some unreasonable tilt — for instance, when you correctly bluff off a big stack into a fellow reg who then correctly makes a sigh-call with the top of his range. If both players are equally skilled, then this sort of GTO trainwreck is an unavoidable part of poker. It should no more tilt you than losing in a fair coin-flipping game. In fact, you should treat it like the people do who play the lottery and lose with a smile. At the end of the day, gambling is gambling, but at least you had a much better shot at winning than they did.

The same cannot be said for a heads-up pot against a player against whom you have a massive edge. This is not the time to gamble and rely on luck. If he is the type to make big calling mistakes, for example, then obviously you should not make big GTO bluffs against him. Instead, delay putting the chips in until you have a value hand just above what you believe he will call.

Beginners Luck Pokefind Quest

In multi-way pots, I tend to rely more on luck for a few reasons. First, most of us are not skilled in these sort of pots. The additional players make the game tree so complex that even our GTO solvers cannot handle it, so don't assume your relatively feeble human brain knows what the best play is in every situation. That's the bad news.

The good news is that these pots often contain many bad players who called with hands that cannot stand a lot of heat. I take advantage of this by making big squeeze plays and if I have to get it in, at least the dead money will subsidize my gamble and often turn a dicey situation into a profitable one.

Field Size and Payout Structure

Tournaments with big guarantees and small buy-ins result in big fields. The prizes are usually top heavy and it takes a lot of luck to reach the final table almost regardless of the field's average skill level.

If you are too cautious in these games, eventually you will find yourself shorter-stacked than most players around you and pressured to make a move because of the escalating blinds. Sooner or later, you'll have to gamble and go all in.

For that reason, it's nice to have a big stack so that you can survive one or two of these confrontations. I play a little faster and welcome slightly +EV gambles early in these tournaments, because I'd rather double or bust trying to get a big stack than grind a short stack for hours hoping to get a min-cash that usually isn't much more than the buy-in I invested.

On the other hand, tournaments with small guarantees and big buy-ins attract small fields. This results in lower variance and allows you to be a little more patient. I try to pick my spots carefully in smaller-field tournaments, because oftentimes I can cash with a median stack and still have enough chips to make a final table run once we get into the money.

Far From, Close To, and On the Bubble Play

Beginners Luck Poker Card Game

See full list on Far from the bubble, I rely more heavily on either skill or luck depending on the factors above. As I get closer to the bubble, say for example, the point where half the remaining players get paid, I start to make some adjustments.

Beginners Luck Poker Game

When I have a short stack, this is the time I welcome variance and gamble for a stack that can cash. With a medium stack, I gamble for a stack that can become a big stack while trying to save a few chips to cash with in case things do not work out. With a big stack, I settle down in anticipation of the bubble play when around 80% of the remaining players get paid. This is sort of the calm before the storm because at that point, I plan to apply tons of ICM pressure on my handcuffed opponents.

If instead I am a medium stack on the bubble and the big stacks are playing well, I am more or less forced to fold into the money. As passive as this sounds, it is really just a skillful execution of correct ICM play and I benefit from having opponents who do not understand it. With a short stack, I may need to continue gambling and relying on luck to take me over the threshold.


It is true that both skill and luck are huge parts of poker, but they lie on a continuum and you get to decide which of the two is more important to depend on at any given moment.

The problem is that most of us learned poker from the perspective of making correct plays with our cards instead of attacking incorrect plays our opponents make with theirs. This is a defensive position that forces us to rely on luck more often than is necessary.

It's not until after you have developed these fundamentals that you begin to think offensively and deviate from them in order to attack your opponents who do not use them to protect themselves.

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