Is poker a game of luck or skill? Sure, you’ve probably had some lucky breaks just like the rest of us, and you possibly have a few tried and trusted moves that rarely fail, until they do. Guess what? So do your opponents.

The pros will tell you that poker is 70% skill and 30% luck. Alright, let’s go with that. You can’t improve your luck no matter what incantations you utter, spirits you call up, or deals you make to sell your soul. Luck is random and it either loves you or hates you. At Ignition, we know that skilled online poker players have the edge all the time, every time.

Yes, you can improve your poker skills quickly and, luckily (had to say it), we’re going to share our expertise with you. We can show you how to use poker charts and apply some math, explain how to use position, describe when to use continuation bets, teach you how to read your opponent’s mind even online. Ultimately, we will help you discover the fine art of knowing when to fold’em or hold’em – without any help from Kenny Rogers.

This is the perfect opportunity to stop the bleeding and start the winning. These 5 tips are designed to help improve your game, whether you play low or high stakes. 

1. Know your poker hands and win percentage charts

Poker charts are like road maps to finding the holy grail. Without a map, you’re driving blind in a snowstorm. We assume you already understand hand rankings, otherwise you need to freshen up your knowledge and memorize them.

A starting hands table is a brilliant guide to not losing all your money. While it’s not mathematically perfect, it is simple to understand and use. This chart shows the win percentages for 169 possible opening hands. Basically, it’s like a traffic light showing variations of green, yellow and red, indicating whether to go ahead and raise, call or fold. If your first two cards look like a sure thing, check with the chart before bailing or diving in.

The starting hands win percentage chart is the quickest reference to recognizing good and bad cards. Of course, if you’ve got a garbage hand and feel confident enough to bluff, you’re on your own and you should jump to tip number 4 down below.

2. What your poker position means

Poker play always goes clockwise, so you will always have an advantage over opponents seated to your right. Regardless of the number of players, there are three positions around a poker table starting at the dealer’s left: early, middle and late. 

Early position means you play first with not a lot of information about your opponents’ playing style. Meanwhile they are learning all about you.

Middle position often refers to the next few seats, before the last seats ending at the button.

When you play in late position you get to see many moves before your own. That’s a lot of information you can use to play your hand. Plus, as early opponents fold, the chances of your hand being the best rises.

So, why not just always play in the later positions? It doesn’t work that way and it’s not that simple. A skilled player with the right cards can kill in early and middle positions, while a late position player, even with a strong hand, can be beat through smart betting strategies and clever bluffing.

The important thing is to know what your position means and adjust your strategy to the table.

3. Continuation bets feel like bluffing

Picture this: you’ve been dealt two solid cards and you’re feeling good. A continuation bet, or C-bet, may be your next move. If you raise before the flop you’re saying you like what you’ve got and you’re ready to risk more money. After the flop, that C-bet says you’re still happy with your cards. An aggressive opponent will often fold and forfeit the pot. 

The cool thing about continuation bets is that a majority of poker hands most of the time miss the flop. If your opponent calls, they’re telling you they have nothing. Now you’re the aggressive one saying your hand is better. You are both likely to miss on the flop, but if they check and you bet, you’re revealing that you’re good two times. Your opponents will simply fold if there’s nothing in the flop for them.

Of course, the best after-flop continuation bets are those that can help your hand. If you raise pre-flop, your opponent is likely to think you’ve got big cards. When big cards show on the flop, your bet can win you the pot quite often. Aces or kings in the middle always make great continuation-bet opportunities because your opponents are thinking they hit the pre-flop raiser.

4. Read the signs from your opponents

Reading tells in online poker is totally possible without the help of a crystal ball or a psychic. Even if you can’t see them, your opponents are sending out valuable intel. Watch their bet speed, bet amount, previous behaviors and these specific tell-all moves:

Raising after a delay: Don’t get suckered in by this obvious trick of disguising the real strength of their hand.

Insta-raise: This usually means they’ve checked the raise/all button. Their hand is probably a good one.

Auto-check: This is the opposite of the insta-raise, the auto-check blatantly signals a weak hand.

Auto-call: This may mean your opponent is looking for a card and wants to see the next one.

Bet amount: Small bets are often signs of weak hands, while huge bets indicate an impatient player has the good stuff. However, be aware that the opposite may be true.

5. Know when to fold

Yeah, poker is a game of skills and luck, but we should mention that it is also a game of nerves and bravado. It’s like a street brawl where you may be outmuscled, outnumbered or outsmarted. They say that discretion is the better part of valor and that applies whole hog to online poker.

When in doubt, pack the women and children into a lifeboat, along with your stack, and sail away. Better to retreat now and live to fight another day.

At Ignition, we love our poker playing members because we are also poker fanatics. It’s a cool, exciting and lucrative game that we all want to master – for the bragging rights, sure, but mostly for the enormous jackpots. That’s why we offer many tips and strategies to get you in the game and keep you there, as long as you’re winning.

Whether you’re new or a veteran, check out our poker strategy page and our instructional video featured above. See you at the table!