Being able to play real money poker anytime you like is great – that’s what Ignition Casino is here for. Once you download our poker client or use our mobile poker client and get your seat at the table, the world is your oyster. You can bet, raise, call, check or fold as often as you like. But if you want to play like a champ and win more money, you’ll need to employ some online poker strategy. It takes a little time and effort to learn which moves to make at the table, but the rewards are obvious: Look at how well the top players in poker are doing.
Granted, some of these people are really, really good at math. But you don’t need a brain like a computer to play poker well. These wizards have already done the math for us; we just need to pick up the poker tools they’ve created and get to work. And as you’ll see in this poker strategy guide, one of the most valuable tools we’ve been given comes from two of the greatest minds the world has ever seen.
What Is Push Fold Strategy?
When John von Neumann came up with the principles of game theory, starting in 1928 with the minimax theorem, he loved using poker to analyze the way people behave in zero-sum situations. John Nash (the protagonist in the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind) developed these principles further when he introduced the Nash equilibrium in 1951. Thanks to their work, and the advent of computers, we have something concrete we can use to play online poker: push/fold strategy.
Again, you don’t need to be a mathematical savant to use these Nash push/fold strategies when you play online poker – you just need to download the charts and follow the instructions. But you’ll do a better job if you understand why they work, and when you’re supposed to use them. Wrapping your head around push/fold will also help you make better decisions in other areas of the game. In many ways, everything the top pros are doing today is built on push/fold.
Nash push/fold strategies are useful for Texas Hold’em when it’s just you and one other player at the table. You could be playing heads-up cash poker at Ignition Casino, or it could be a poker tournament where you’re down to the final two – although the presence of antes will change the math somewhat. Also, the stack sizes have to be small enough to warrant shoving instead of making a smaller open-raise. This will be when you’re down to around 20 big blinds or less.
Unexploitable Play at the Poker Table
The idea behind push/fold is to put your opponent in a position where they cannot exploit you. It’s kind of like playing for a tie, all the while hoping your opponent will make a mistake to your benefit. Let’s say you’re holding Ten-Seven offsuit in No-Limit Hold’em and you’ve got nine big blinds left in your stack. According to the math, if you open-shove T7o every time you’re in this spot (antes notwithstanding), you will break-even in the long run – assuming your opponent also plays these Nash push/fold ranges properly.
Chances are your opponent won’t have that kind of highly-advanced online poker betting strategy. Ideally, they will fold too often and just let you pick up the blinds. Nash equilibrium says if you’re the caller in this situation, you should swallow hard and call with hands like King-Four offsuit, Queen-Eight offsuit, even Ten-Eight suited. Not every player has the intestinal fortitude to call with a range this wide.
You might also run into a player who calls more often than they should when you put your stack in the middle. This is still good for you – it means you’ll have the better hand at showdown more often. Think of all the times your opponent will have a worse Ten, like Ten-Six; you’ll win those hands about 80% of the time. If they call with low connectors like Seven-Six, you’ll win about 60% of the time. Once your stack gets down to 9BB in a tournament, taking a 60/40 flip is definitely worth the risk.
How to Play Push/Fold
If you’re a relative newcomer to poker, the first thing you’ll need to play Nash push/fold is a reliable set of charts. One chart will tell you what to do when you’re the one who’s pushing (or folding), and the other will tell you what to do when you’re the one facing a push. You can download these charts online, once you find a reliable source, and keep them handy when you’re playing online at Ignition Casino – maybe tack them to your wall where you can see them without taking too much of your attention away from the tables.
Both of these Nash push/fold charts will give you a list of hand ranges to play, based on the size of the effective stack in play. If you have 50 big blinds and the other player has only nine, that means the effective stack size is 9bb, since your remaining 41 big blinds won’t ever come into play during this hand. Find your stack size on the chart, then see what range of hands you’re recommended to push or call with for that size; the shallower the stack, the wider the range will be.
Keep in mind that these Nash equilibria will help you play unexploitable poker – but that’s only half the battle. To fully maximize your returns, you should exploit your opponents who aren’t playing this style, and deviate from the recommended ranges accordingly. If your opponents fold too often, you can open-shove a wider range than the Nash charts recommend. If they push or call too often, you can protect yourself by tightening your range a notch or two, waiting patiently for a better hand to exploit them with. You probably won’t have to wait too long if they’re pushing or calling too frequently.
Increase the Value of Your Poker Chips
Before Nash push/fold ranges started becoming trendy, players didn’t really do a very good job of handling small stacks. It’s not something that happens very often at the cash tables; most players will just re-buy if they fall below 20bb. But in tournaments, you’ll still run into plenty of opponents who simply give up and shove with any two cards once they’re running low on chips, while others will hold on for dear life and get wiped out as the blinds and antes go up.
Here’s another common mistake with a short stack: Open-raising. There are some situations where it’s okay to open for twice the size of the big blind, rather than go all-in, but these are rare. Don’t waste your precious chips by opening small and having to fold when someone else raises; for the most part, you need to shove all those chips in the middle if you’re going to play at all. That way, it’s your opponent who has to decide whether or not to fold, instead of you. Put the onus on them to do it correctly.
Now that you’re armed with Nash push/fold ranges, you can get the most value out of your short stack when you’re playing real money poker online at Ignition Casino. Try this strategy out the next time you’re running low on chips and see how it works for you. Be brave, trust the math, and best of luck at the tables.