Roy Cooke’s Twelve Fundamental Poker Tips

This by no means covers everything, but there are an awful lot of key basics here. Learn and apply this information and I guarantee your poker game will get better!

Also, I’ve added a “Roy’s Poker Room” to my Real Estate website where I’ll input this, as well as other poker writings. Check it out at  and click on “Roy’s Poker Room.”  Lots of good information will be there that will improve your game!

  1. Chose Games in Which you Have a Large Edge Over your Opponents:

You may make more money playing higher with a smaller edge over your opponents. But, if you chose that formula you need to make sure you have the bankroll and emotional stability to accommodate the larger downswings you will actualize.

Keep in mind that the best game is not always the one with the largest pots. Rather it is the game where you have the largest edge over your opponents. Finding the best game for your ability and bankroll on a day to day basis is the most important poker decision you will make.

  1. Compute the Price on All your Plays:

This is an important concept in every poker decision, and it will also help you develop “feel.”

Consider how the hand is likely to play, count the bets AND estimate the expectation you will gain/lose from them. Additionally, weigh how less likely scenarios might affect your value. Calculate the value of your hand in terms of expectation NOT money wagered.

When considering a call from a hand you think likely to be second best determine the IMPLIED price you are receiving from the pot. This includes the chance your hand will win, the probability (including your opponents tendencies) of winning extra money over what is already in the pot, and the true price of the call including the possibility it will get raised behind you.

When determining whether you should call without the best hand, take into consideration the chance that the hand you are drawing to will not be good. Even if there is a small chance that it won’t be good, you must considerably increase your odds required to make the call. Conversely, when you think a possible out for your hand is unlikely to be good, still include the possibility that it might be good!

The more you practice computing these equations, the better you will get at them!

  1. Adjust your Play Based on the Money in the Pot:

The larger the pot is the more you should be inclined to play your hand in a manner that protects your hand. Often, this includes taking more risk in an effort to protect your hand. That said, the risk must be calculated and merited.

Winning a big pot without competition is generally not a bad thing unless your hand almost cannot be drawn out on. The smaller the pot is, the more correct it is to make trap plays that gain you extra bets; even if those trap plays cause you to assume extra risks. Reason being, the additional bets add more expectation value when the pot is small. That said, you still must factor in the probability that your opponent(s) will draw out on you. Once again, the risk must be calculated and merited.

This concept is huge in no-limit and pot-limit games.

  1. Take your Position into Consideration:

Always consider your position when determining a play. This includes your position in relation to the bettor and the texture of the players to act behind you. Having an accurate feel of this will add great value to your poker game. Important information can be accumulated when your opponents act before you do!

Some thoughts to ponder: How many players will act before and after you? What are their tendencies? How does your hand play against the range of hands of your opponent(s)? If there was a raise on a previous street, is the raiser in front of you or behind you? What is the probability the pot will get raised behind you? How do you think the hand will play based on your read? How should you adjust your play based on your position?

  1. Bet Draws if you Might not get Called:

In limit, you should almost always bet a draw if you think there is a chance you could win the pot with a bet. When you bet a draw you give yourself another way to win the pot if everyone folds, currently or subsequently.

In no-limit it depends on the size of the pot and the probability that you may be able to acquire large bets later in the hand if you allow people to stick around.

Keep in mind how betting one street affects the bluffing equity of a future street. Additionally, when you bet a draw, you might win a bigger pot if you make your hand. It also adds deceptive value to future hands you play and makes you a much harder player to read.

  1. Don’t Slowplay if your Hand is Vulnerable:

If your hand is in significant danger to free or cheap cards do not slowplay your hand. You want to charge them to draw and not give a player that would fold a free shot to beat you.

This concept correlates to point 3, you don’t want to lose the money already in the pot. The bigger the pot the stronger this concept!

  1. Adjust your Play Based on the Texture of your Opponents:

If you are playing aggressive players, induce bluffs and utilize trapping plays take advantage of the fact they generally bet with more hands than they call with. Plays created from this concept will reward you with extra bets and take away some of your opponents’ aggression.

Conversely, bluff tight players and rob their blinds. Bluffs and semi-bluffs increase in value when your opponents fold more frequently. Make the scenarios in which they save a bet(s) occasionally cost them the pot.

Generally speaking, the looser the game is, the less aggressive you should play your medium wired pairs. When playing loose AND passive players you can profitably play more hands. In that texture of game you will get a lot of volume, as well as opportunities to make hands cheaply that will procure large payoffs. When playing loose AND aggressive players don’t get caught up in the action, instead just play very solid cards. You will make the best hand more often than your opponent(s) will and when played correctly action will always be available.

  1. Assign Capabilities to Players when Reading Hands:

When calculating a read on an opponents hand, ask yourself what the propensity and/or capability he has of making the play you are giving him credit for. Base your reads on HIS capabilities, how HE thinks, how HE is emotionally and how HE reacts.

  1. Make Deception Plays:

If you always play your hands the same way, observant opponents will be able to read you and your strategies will lose a great deal of their value.

Play unusual hands in strange positions to create indecision in your opponents minds. Use hands/situations in which any edge you give up is minimal. All you need to do is create doubt, your opponents don’t have to think you’re foolish. Do not make deception plays against players who do not take notice or do not understand.

  1. Watch your kicker:

Huge money is lost in hold’em when one player has another “outkicked”. Pay attention and be wary of your “kicker” in all situations.

When you are “outkicked”, often you will only have three cards in which you can win with, sometimes none. If your opponent flopped two pair with a better kicker, you are drawing virtually dead. Try not to play hands in situations where the propensity to be “outkicked” is high.

  1. Stay Emotionally Stable:

This is a huge leak even to many very good players. If you can’t keep your head on straight when you’re running bad, poker is going be a torturous lifestyle for you.

Get in tune with yourself. Know what sets you off. Is it your own bad play? Are you angry at a beat? Looking for revenge? Learn what relaxes you. Take breaks, deep breaths, self-talk your way to emotional neutral, focus on keeping your thoughts intellectual not emotional. Conquer tilt or it will conquer you!

  1. Manage your Bankroll:

When you’re out of action, you can’t make any money. If you’re a pro keep 6 months living expenses as well as a sufficient bankroll to handle any swings of fortune you might take.

How much you should keep as a bankroll depends on your style and ability. The greater the spread in ability, the smaller the fluctuations in the game you play and the lower the variance of your playing style, the lower your bankroll requirements need to be.

Depending on those concerns, for limit games I would recommend somewhere between 200-400 big bets and in no-limit games anywhere between 20-50 buy-ins. If you lose that number of units, you need to reassess either the game you’re playing in or your play. It isn’t about luck!