Poker has become one of the most popular pastimes in England over recent years, with a lot of local pubs now designating one night per week for a tournament. This kind of casual game is a great way to surprise your opponents by bringing your A game to a competition that many play just for a bit of fun. So what skills can you incorporate to catch these unwitting fresh fish off guard and come out with the big stack?
Get your bluff right
Some professional poker players never bluff, and prefer to bet heavy on cards that they believe are certain of winning. And when the stakes are higher, bluffing becomes a seriously unnecessary risk. But in a low-stakes pub tournament, this is the perfect opportunity to test out your psychological dominance. Test the waters with your opponents and see what you can get away with.
One common myth is that the bluffer always bets big. To make it seem like you are trying to draw opponents into the hand, try going for smaller bets that are just high enough to eliminate one or two players each time. Of course, when you are bluffing it is a good idea to have at least something in your armoury, such as a straight or flush draw. Then if someone bets with you until the river card you have a chance of winning the round.
Bet big early
Casual players have a tendency to chase cards and are often happy to wait until the river card to see if they can make a decent hand. This is because pub games usually have low-stakes with the option of rebuys, so there is little risk in operating with this strategy. If you spot some card chasers on your table, the best way to deal with them is to bet them out of the game early on. Pocket aces is statistically the best possible starting hand, but the more cards that come out on the table, the more chance other hands have of beating it. With strong starting hands like this it is imperative to brush aside the casuals who may be fishing for a couple of pairs or a full house.
Work out the percentages
To really get the upper hand and play like the professionals, you can study the maths behind the game and work out the percentages of you receiving the card you need to make a winning hand. For example, a beginner with an inside straight draw (5,6,8,9) may chase the 7 thinking that they are close to getting a great hand. But a more reasoned poker thinker will know that there are only 4 7s in the deck, and other players could be holding them. Therefore, the chances of completing the hand are slim. An outside straight draw (6,7,8,9) gives players a much better chance because they can complete the hand with a 5 or a 10.
Other ways to start excelling at poker are to watch the pros on TV, practice online, and read strategy guides. With a little bit of effort, you should be able to win any pub tournament.