Want to become a better player, fast? Follow these 10 tips to boost your poker performance & profits. While geared to beginner players, these are poker tips even seasoned pros can reference once in a while.
1. Don't Play Every Hand/Do Fold More
Probably the number one mistake beginning poker players make is that they play far too many hands. When you're just starting out playing poker, you want to play poker, and that means staying in hands that aren't very good just to be part of the action. But playing more doesn't mean winning more, it usually means losing more. If you find you're staying in on half or more of the hands you're dealt, you need to upgrade your starting hand requirements.
2. Don't Play Drunk
There are nights where you're just playing with friends for low stakes and it's more about the fun than the poker. But if you're in a casino, watch the alcohol. The truth is, while you may be more relaxed after two drinks, it may lead to you playing looser and less sharply, even if you're not fully drunk. You may notice that few other players at the table are imbibing at all. That should be your first clue that poker isn't a game to play when you have dulled senses.
3. Don't Bluff Just For Bluffing's Sake
A lot of beginners understand that bluffing is a part of poker, but not exactly how. There's is no rule that one must bluff a certain amount or at all during a poker game, but many players don't feel like they've won unless they've tried a poker bluff. Bluffs only work in certain situations and against certain people, and if you know a player always calls to the showdown, it is literally impossible to bluff that player. It's better never to bluff than to bluff "just to bluff''.
4. Don't Stay in a Hand Just Because You're Already In It
Another common mistake beginners make is to think that "Well, I've already put that much in the pot, I have to stay in now." Nope. You can't win a pot just by throwing money at it. There may be cases when pot odds warrant a call, but if you're sure you're beaten, and there's no way your hand can improve to be the best hand, you should fold right away. The money you've already put in the pot isn't yours anymore, and you can't get it back just by playing a hand all the way to the end.
5. Don't Call at the End of a Hand to "Keep Someone Honest"
Some players look at another player's final bet, look at the hand, and say "I know you've got me, but I have to keep you honest," as they throw in a final call. It may be worth it to see if a player really has the hand they're representing; you're gaining information that will help you later on. But if you really feel a player has the winning hand, why give him another pile of your money? Those bets will add up over an evening.
6. Don't Play When Mad, Sad, or in a Generally Bad Mood
When you play poker, you souldn't use it as an escape from depression or because you've had a really bad day. You start out on tilt -- playing emotionally, not rationally -- and you won't play your best. Likewise, if during a poker game, you lose a big hand or get sucked out on and feel yourself going on tilt, stand up and take a break until you feel calm later on. Fellow players will sense your mood and take advantage of it.
7. Do Pay Attention to the Cards on the Table
When you first start playing, it's enough just to remember how to play and pay attention to your own hand. But once you've got that down, it's incredibly important to look at what's going on at the table. In Texas Hold'Em, figure out what the best possible hand would be to fit the flop. Make sure you notice flush and straight possibilities. In 7-cards stud, pay attention to what's showing and what people have folded when you consider calling opponents. Make sure you can pick out which hand wins in Texas Hold'Em.
8. Pay Attention to the Other Players
As you play, one of the single best things you can do is observe your opponents, even when you're not in a hand. If you know if one player always raises in a certain position, and another has a poker tell when he bluffs, and a third folds to every re-raise, you can use that information to help you decide how to play against them. Once you know that player 3 always folds to a re-raise on a river, that's when you can bluff and steal a pot.
9. Don't Play at Too-High Limits
There are many reasons people move up to a higher limit game than they usually play. Good reasons such as that they've been winning consistently at a lower level and are ready to move up, and bad reasons such as the lines are shorter for higher limits or you want to impress someone. Don't play at stakes that make you think about the actual money in terms of day-to-day life or with money you can't lose. Even if you had one super-good night at £2/4, resist the urge to play £5/10. The next tip explains more why.
10. Pick the Right Game for Your Skill Level and Bankroll
One of the reasons you shouldn't jump into a £5/10 game after winning a huge bunch of money at £2/4 is because as the stakes rise, so does the average skill level of the players sitting there. You want to be one of the best at the table, not the fish who sits down with sharks. If you're making stacks of money at a lower level game, why move? You're winning stacks of money. The swings up and down at higher limits are much bigger, and one big night's win won't last long at a high-stakes game.
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How to Play Smart
- Think with your head, not with your heart.
- Invest into things you're familiar with.
- Look at the big picture.
- Cut your losses.
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