Casino Poker

What Is the Best Poker Game for Intermediate Players?

Computer keyboard on a green felt table with casino chips and playing cards around and on top of it.

As an intermediate player, you’ve no doubt learned the basics of online poker, have a solid knowledge of the various types of winning hands and have participated in a fair number of poker tournaments. Now you’re ready to take the next step, aided by a host of intermediate poker tips so that you can put your skills and knowledge to the test! 

Considering the number of available poker variations, you may feel slightly overwhelmed when it comes to deciding which variant is best for a player such as yourself who’s looking to further improve their intermediate poker strategy. 

From Texas Hold’em online to 3-card poker and lots in between, here’s a quick round-up of some of the options out there, a list of each of their pros and cons and a few poker tips for intermediate players. There’s also a breakdown of the most crucial skills you should focus on to become a true poker master in time.

Skills to focus on

While you may be tempted to try out unorthodox strategies to fast-track your mastery, Intermediate players should initially pay attention to maximizing their skills and know-how in four main areas. 

Types of poker players

Identify the different types of poker players and how to play your best against them. Generally, there are four main types of players.

  • Aggressive players really go for it and aren’t afraid to raise or counter-raise – sometimes, regardless of the strength of the hand they’re holding.
  • Passive players often follow a more predictable approach to the game and are unlikely to bluff. They’ll usually only call or raise a bet when they know they have the potential to land a winning hand.
  • Tight players are similar to passive players in that they’re extremely selective about when to call, raise and fold. However, it’s certainly possible to come across a tight, aggressive player who won’t hesitate to go “all in” when they’re holding promising cards.
  • Loose players are similar to aggressive players in that it doesn’t take much for them to jump into the game full force, regardless of their winning potential. Most loose players are also aggressive players.

Preflop strategy

Optimize preflop strategy and gameplay. It’s important for intermediate players to understand the various hole card scenarios and how to play them.

Poker math

Do the necessary “poker math.” Poker is much more than a game of chance. So it’s vital that you’re able to do the necessary “poker math” as you adjust your strategy based on who you’re playing with and which cards you’re holding. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the concepts of equity – that is, the share of the pot that’s yours based on the odds that you’ll win the pot at that point in the action – implied odds and pot odds because it will help you decide how best to play your hand in the next stage of the game.

Postflop strategy

Optimize postflop strategy and gameplay. Practice makes perfect, especially with knowing when to fold, value-bet, semi-bluff or bluff.

Secondary intermediate strategies

Once you’ve mastered these four skills, you can focus on a few more moves and strategies. 

The Semi-bluff

Unlike the pure bluff, a semi-bluff is an aggressive move you employ in anticipation of completing a drawing hand or similar. In this instance, you bet or raise to intimidate your opponents into folding while building the pot when you complete your draw. Most novices will likely assume yours is a pure bluff and fold, believing you have a strong hand. 

Understanding variance

Variance is simply understanding that there will be wins and losses in any situation, but overall, there should be more wins than losses. A key metric to watch is your win rate. If you’re winning more than you’re losing, you’re a profitable player. 

This is often difficult to measure if you’re a novice, don’t play enough or take the game seriously. An intermediate player can monitor win rate and variance to manage their responses to any situation by setting up parameters like the number of games per session and bankroll limits. 

Understanding variance allows players to assess their performance over a period and not be susceptible to tilt in the short term when they hit a run of losses and feel the need to win back losses without realizing that they are still, in fact, in the black. 

Positive Expected Value (+EV) strategy

Expected Value (EV) follows on from understanding variance and is a playing strategy that focuses on the average wins and losses based on specific scenarios in poker. Understanding this principle allows players to assess every play with a longer horizon in mind and manage their short-term play accordingly. 

EV helps players manage their bankroll and avoid tilt which often precedes a player embarking on negative expected value (-EV) situations that are unprofitable. The obvious objective is to string together profitable plays to achieve a positive expected value knowing that you are in for the long game.

Now that we’ve looked at the strategies, moves and skills, let’s look at the main types of poker you can play.

Texas Hold’em

Casino chips and playing cards on top of an open laptop against a gray background.

What is it?

Texas Hold’em is undoubtedly one of the most popular online casino games, with a gameplay that’s relatively easy to learn but challenging to master. This is why it’s often the go-to for all levels of players. 

As we’re sure you’re already aware, in this version, two hole cards are dealt face down to each player and five community cards are dealt face up in three stages. These are called the flop (comprising three cards), turn (or “fourth street”) and river (or “fifth street”). Betting takes place in between each stage, or round, and the best hand wins.

Pros vs. cons

Because it’s the most popular poker variant in the world, it’s easy to find strategy guides and informational videos detailing how to improve your poker skills for this version of the game. This is great news for intermediate players, in particular. 

The only potential con of playing Texas Hold’em to improve your intermediate poker strategy is that it’s quite fast-paced, which could mean you’ll struggle to do the necessary calculations regarding your odds before having to make game-changing decisions. As such, it might be best to opt for a slower-paced game if your “poker math” skills need work. Of course, you’ll also need to keep a tight rein on your bankroll and only bet with money you can afford to lose  – which goes for any type of poker or casino game.

Omaha Hi

Hand holding a royal flush of cards on a wooden table.

What is it?

Most gamers who play poker online will agree that, as a poker variant, Omaha Hi is a close second to Texas Hold’em in the popularity stakes. The gameplay for Omaha Hi is very similar to that of Texas Hold’em, but with one major difference: Each player is dealt four hole cards to start with, as opposed to just two. 

As such, the action is more exciting because you’re sure to see many more higher-value hands, which gives you a chance to experience the fun of landing something quite juicy.

Pros vs. cons?

As mentioned, creating outstanding poker hands is easier when playing Omaha Hi. This is helpful for beginner and intermediate players who are still getting the hang of these game fundamentals. Keep in mind, however, that this pro could also be a con when you remember that the advanced players are having an easier time putting together winning hands, too!

Seven-Card Stud

What is it?

The main difference in seven-card stud is that there’s no such thing as hole cards or community cards. Instead, each player is dealt an individual hand, some cards of which will be dealt face-up for all players to see and the rest face-down for your eyes only. This really mixes up the action because you can tell a lot about other players’ hands from what you see face-up around the table and how each round of betting plays out.

Pros vs. cons

Seven-card stud is very easy to learn, but it’s extremely difficult to master from a strategic standpoint. It will take a long time to learn how to read your opponent’s cards when calculating their potential for a winning hand compared to your own. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic game for intermediate players looking to challenge themselves.

Five-Card Draw

What is it?

Much like seven-card stud, when playing five-card draw, each player is dealt their own hand. However, this hand remains entirely hidden from the other players at the table. The big difference is that after the first round of betting, players are allowed to exchange cards in their hand for new ones from the top of the deck and can choose anything from none to all five! This introduces a completely different unknown element into the action and can be quite fun once you get the hang of it.

Pros vs. cons

Five-card draw is a great way to improve your knowledge about the various poker hands and it’s a simple, straightforward poker variant. Having said that, it’s crucial for you to familiarize yourself with your opponents’ playing styles, tells and “poker faces” to determine the strength of their cards. After all, you won’t know what they’ve got until the very end! Avoid focusing exclusively on how strong your own cards might be and you should be fine.

3-Card Poker

Colorful poker chips on a green felt table.

What is it?

You’ll notice that most online casinos offer live poker tournaments for 3-card poker. It’s therefore quite popular among players who enjoy the enthralling, live, and fast-paced action. This simple poker variant is played as heads-up between the player’s and the dealer’s hands, with the best one winning. Of course, with only three cards involved, there are fewer hand types to learn, which is one of the reasons this version is so easy to learn.

Pros vs. cons

Three-card poker follows a simplistic betting structure and is significantly more fast-paced than other poker variants, making it a good choice if you’re looking to speed up your game. Unfortunately, it might be too simplistic for the more advanced players, with minimal “moving parts” compared to Texas Hold’em.

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