Thursday, December 7, 2023

How Players Pick Poker Strategies: A Guide for Casino Managers

Last updated on February 1st, 2022 at 09:21 am

Poker is one of the most well-known casino games in America. It has grown in popularity over the last century, and there are many different reasons players enjoy it. Today’s casino managers need to be aware of which strategies are effective for each type of player at their tables because having an understanding of these differences will lead to more successful business outcomes.

This article will discuss some generalities about poker players that exist now and that have existed throughout history. These include regular home game players, high rollers, casinos, live tournaments, online poker sites, and brick & mortar card rooms. The objective is to help managers better understand what motivates certain types of people to play games like poker, so they can implement strategies that will maximize profits and continue to build a loyal following.

Selecting Games with High Winning Chances

Many seasoned casual and professional poker players do not just select any random poker table or game. Most of the time, they stay on a certain poker game because of the favorable chances of winning. Some players find better win rates in Texas Hold’em, while others in Omaha poker. Recently, the 5 card PLO poker is gaining a lot of attention among Asian poker players in both brick-and-mortar card rooms and online poker sites. Experience is a key factor here, along with the individual playing styles of the players. When they consistently find themselves dealt with strong hands in a certain game, they are more likely to stick to that game.

Analyzing Table Statistics

During the month of February 2012, an MIT student in the United States collected the following statistical data by playing one session of Texas Hold’em on PokerStars:

Average pot size: $0.34

Average bet size: $0.31

Average game length: 15 hands/min

These numbers may not seem to make sense to some regular players, but the relevance of this data came to unravel after recording data on how players play their hands across multiple sessions comprising millions of hands, and the student presented it to share with other poker players. The information was analyzed and summarized into some core concepts that can be applied to strategy development. Many methodical players follow these guidelines when developing new strategies, especially if they are not sure which strategy is optimal for their current situation. Some general rules also apply more broadly across all situations; knowing will save you time while learning game theory. Knowing these strategies can also help you identify certain players. People who play their hands very differently from the average are likely using some sort of strategy. 

Strategic Bluffing or Value Betting

There are certain situations where bluffs can prove effective, and some players are quite adept at reading the room. Combining statistical data with this ability helps improve their chance of succeeding. Here is one situation: players will call down pre-flop when their equity is between 20% and 35%. The closer to 20%, the more likely they won’t fold to one bet. The closer to 35%, the more likely they will call multiple bets at later stages of the hand.

There usually isn’t much difference in calling two bets post-flop rather than just one bet, even if players only have about 25%-30% equity. Players may be slow playing or drawing here; this is where you bluff or semi-bluff. Bet sizes should be large relative to the pot when players have a lot of equity (>60%). They will call down with their medium-strength hands but fold everything else. If you bet small, they could raise you easily or not call at all. You can also use it to induce bluffs by betting too much for their hand. Players are more likely to check face up strong hands pre-flop rather than face down because it’s less expensive. The default range expansion rule applies here: if someone checks behind on one street, then they probably won’t do anything on later streets either, even if they have a strong hand.

Casual vs. Professional Players

The difference between casual and professional poker players is significant. A casual player may only play the game every few months or at most once a week, while a professional plays poker almost every day. In addition to knowing how to play, they dedicate time to studying different strategies in order to improve their chances of winning. These dedicated patrons also typically follow high-stakes games online or wherever tournaments are being held. Professional players can make or break a casino’s bottom line because they usually don’t lose over time and have an extensive ROI (Return on Investment).

Casino managers need to remember that casual players tend to be social people with full-time jobs who treat poker as a hobby. They’re looking for friendly company and conversation while having fun playing cards with strangers. As long as they’re treated with respect, given the best customer service, and allowed to play on the same terms as everyone else, casual players will continue coming back for more. On the other hand, professional poker players are used to competing against others who also dedicate their lives to winning. That said, casino managers should never let them hear anything less than what’s printed on the bottom of the dealer buttons, or risk having them take their business elsewhere.

General Poker Strategy

In general, casual poker players want to mix up games—especially if they’re not very good at Texas Hold‘Em. The game variety doesn’t need to be too extensive (most casinos only have between 12 and 40 options), but having three or four different games running at the same time will keep casual players interested.

Casinos should also make sure all games are running smoothly because most casual players don’t want to wait around for half an hour just to get a seat at a card table. If there isn’t enough space in one game, they’ll leave and try their luck somewhere else. For that reason, casino managers need to have enough dealers on hand, so tables are always full while guests aren’t waiting excessively long times between hands. Some casual poker players are intimidated by higher-limit games, so casinos should avoid having them run at the same time as lower-limit ones. For example, if $1/$2 blinds are available, casinos should also list $0.50/$1 or lower, so guests can choose the level of risk they feel most comfortable with.

Poker is a game that doesn’t require physical dexterity or coordination, making it one of the few casino games where men and women play with each other on equal ground. Casino managers must know how to give the best game experience for male and female casual players. They also should have flexible guidelines for casual and professional players to make their establishment welcoming for everyone. Casual poker players want to feel like they’re welcome once inside the building. Just providing that atmosphere among dealers, managers, and staff will go a long toward encouraging guests to come back for future visits.


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Jennifer Evans
Jennifer Evans
principal, @patternpulseai. author, THE CEO GUIDE TO INDUSTRY AI. former chair @technationCA, founder @b2bnewsnetwork #basicincome activist. Machine learning since 2009.