Most online poker players transition from playing full ring, to 6-max, and then heads-up poker games. But much to the surprise of novices, each of these games play quite a bit differently.
The vast majority of online poker players get their start playing at the full ring no limit hold’em tables that seat nine or ten players on them. The great thing about playing full ring games is that when you make big hands there is a good chance of getting paid off, since there are typically more players involved in pots, and so someone else will usually have made a hand.
When playing full ring, it is recommended that you use the "top ten only" strategy, which is to play the top 10% of starting hands. It is a very effective strategy to use at the low limit tables, and it will allow you to build up a bankroll and gain some valuable experience, so that you can move up in stakes.
The main reason this strategy works over the long term is that micro stakes online poker players play so badly that the "top ten only" strategy will be very profitable. So in a nutshell, make hands and value bet them. There is no need to try and get fancy with your plays and play a higher variance strategy when a straightforward game will get the job done.
No Limit Hold'em becomes a different game altogether when the table you play at has a maximum of 6 seats. When playing at online poker sites it is commonly referred to as 6-max. One of the first things you will notice is that the swings you experience in a six handed game are much larger than the swings in a full ring game due to the fact that 6-max players are playing a wider range of hands and stacking off a lot wider in certain situations.
At a 6-max table we can now add more starting hands to the “top 10 only” strategy, especially in late position at the table. We can add any A-x, and speculative hands like suited connectors and one gappers. In total, you will want to be playing 20-25% of starting hands pre-flop. Obviously, strategies need to be slightly modified based on the table you’re playing at. For example, in a tougher game, it would be correct to tighten up your starting hand requirements.
Playing heads-up poker is strategically much different from a full ring or even a 6-max online game. The types of players that tend to gravitate towards these two player games are usually maniacs as this style does well in heads up games.
Although being a competent player in full ring games requires patience, discipline, and well timed aggression, in heads-up poker it’s a prerequisite to be super aggressive, you can't be waiting around for premium hands to play. You also have to be able to play weak hands well. Patience although an important attribute in any poker player's arsenal, didn't get mentioned as an important trait when it comes to playing heads up poker. This is due to the fact that a lot of patient players usually don't play enough hands in heads-up games, and as a result, don’t know how to play a wider range of hands (weaker hands) well.
Value betting thinly is a crucial skill in heads-up games. Basically, knowing where you are at in the hand is really important. Let’s say you have paired up on the river and you can be confident that your opponent has ace high, then you can get that additional bet in on the river.
When playing against someone who likes to bluff, smooth-calling instead of re-raising with a lot of hands pre-flop and playing in a similar manner after the flop is a good strategy in order to induce bluffs from your opponent.
For example, let’s say you have K-K in the big blind and the player raises on the button which you expected him to. Calling in this situation can be a good option in order to try and trap them. And the flop comes down Q-8-2. Checking and smooth calling again allowing them to bet again with pretty much their entire range can be a good play. Then the next card is a 4. Checking again to induce a bet from your opponent is a good move, as then you can go for a check-raise.
Trapping your opponent when you're playing heads-up can make them less likely to try and bluff you as they will know you are capable of slow playing strong hands. The danger with this play, though, is that you allow your opponent a chance to outdraw you.
Another strategy that lots of heads-up players like to take advantage of is to raise every button. This strategy can be very effective when playing against a weaker opponent who calls or folds most of the time. By doing this against a straightforward player who is playing fit or fold poker, your opponent will just fold their hand every time they’ve missed on the flop, which is going to be the majority of the time. Also, when you’re forcing your opponent to call you with weak hands there will be certain situations where you can bet scare cards to get your opponent off of their hand.
Please be aware that you should only play in games which you are properly bankrolled for. For example, if $400 is the size of your bankroll you have to play with, a maximum of a $0.10-$0.20 no limit hold’em is what you should play. This allows you to have 100 big blinds for this specific game to play with and it will mean you will never be risking more than 5% of your total bankroll in each session.
Bankroll considerations are not a 100% full proof strategy when playing online or live poker, luck will sometimes plays its role, but a big enough bankroll will help you to be able to deal with an unlucky run.