First of all, don’t be afraid to be aggressive. One of the most common mistakes made by new poker players is a fear of betting and rising when appropriate. No matter what variant of poker you are playing, if you think you have the best hand you should raise. What might have been the best hand can easily turn into a disaster after your opponent makes a draw. So if you have a good hand, protect it by making a strong bet. This will force your opponent to make a serious decision about their own hand, and if they are just on a draw they will probably fold.
While it can be a good strategy to ‘slow play’ and trap you opponents into making a bluff, this should only be done when you have an excellent hand and are certain that you will win. For instance, if you are playing Hold’em, and you have an ace high flush you are probably certain to win. You can tell by the cards on the board what the likelihood is that you are beaten, if there is no way that a straight flush or full house is possible, then you should slow play your flush to draw your opponent into making a big bet. If they fall for your trap, re-raise for an amount they can call. Remember, you don’t want them to fold!
Having said all this, knowing how to win at poker is also knowing how not to be aggressive. Another common mistake made by beginners is being overly aggressive. A new player that has had a run of luck with strong hands that continues to play strongly even with weak hands is in for an inevitable loosing streak. If you’re getting called left and right, step back and play tightly for a while. Poker is about perception, try to get a good feel for the image you have been projecting, and for how the other players are reacting to it and know when to change your tactics accordingly.
The best way to learn how to win at poker is to play it frequently. Play new people often, it will help you to learn how to be observant and keep you from developing bad poker habits that work only with your friends. Online poker rooms are a great way to hone your skills in between live games. Keep playing, don’t get frustrated, and learn from your mistakes and it’ll only be a matter of time before you know how to win at poker!