Whether we are sitting down in a tough line-up, running our first home game, or firing up our regular online tables, being in the right frame of mind is crucial for success. In any game of poker, we are exposed to such a sheer amount of information that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to focus. Reviewing our top 10 tips will help us pay attention to what’s important and maximize our chances of walking away a winner.
1. Know the rules. It can sometimes be surprising how far a good grasp of the rules can take us. This is especially true when sampling some of the more exotic poker variants. Even in relatively common variants such as Omaha, initial losses can easily be prevented by understanding that we must always use exactly two of our four hole-cards when formulating our hand. Even in Hold’em, the average novice could save money by understanding “counterfeit” scenarios more thoroughly before sitting down at the table.
2. Employ good bankroll management. Unlike many recreational poker players, professionals are always very deliberate regarding how they invest their bankroll. The goal is to maximize growth while keeping the probability of going broke below acceptable values. It doesn’t matter how good we are at poker, sitting down with half of our bankroll is a recipe for going broke.
3. Stay off tilt! It’s only in more recent times that professional players have fully begun to understand the relevance of a strong mindset when playing poker. Edges are small enough that “tilt” (playing while overly frustrated and angry) is virtually unacceptable for a professional. Preferably our emotions must be kept well managed. However, in extreme cases, a heavily emotional player might decide it is best for him to quit his poker session early rather than risk further losses.
4. Know your opponents. Whether we are playing live or online, solid information regarding our opponents can prove extremely lucrative when harnessed effectively. For live players, this means watching opponents closely for any visible signs of tells or betting patterns. For online players this means making use of a HUD (heads-up display) where possible and keeping track of our opponents’ strategies over the long run.
5. Start out tight and strong. Regardless of the poker variant in question, there is a very clear trend between winning players and careful starting hand selection. Although it is possible for a very loose player to profit, most loose players are losing over the long haul. We hence maximize the likelihood of turning a profit by starting out with a relatively tight range of starting hands unless we have a very good handle on a certain situation.
6. Think in ranges. Novice poker players try to put their opponents on individual hands, while strong professional players think in terms of hand ranges. If the concept of thinking in ranges is new to us, it’s worthwhile doing some further research to establish exactly what this entails.
7. Look for backdoor equity. Professional players always spot the finer details relative to their opponent. In Hold’em, even if we don’t flop a direct draw, we should always be looking to determine exactly which backdoor equity is available to us. This helps to plan the entire hand from the earlier stages onwards.
8. Develop a study routine. The best players don’t just play poker, they actively study it between sessions. Our goal should be to break our chosen poker variant down into all its respective components and study them systematically. For example, in Hold’em, we might invest time specifically in learning to play OOP. Utilizing available poker software can help us to reach new levels of depth when running our analysis.
9. Put in the volume. Although study is crucial, we don’t want to study at the expensive of putting in volume. Playing a large number of hands is a pre-requisite for becoming a strong player. We don’t want to fall into the trap of spending all of our time studying and never making any money. It’s recommended to draw up a schedule to help balance our time effectively between study and volume.
10. Love the game! One of the clearest trends that distinguishes between winning and losing players is their attitude towards the game. Those who get into poker purely for the promise of financial gain tend to burn out or fade away. When things get tough, they realise that they didn’t like poker that much anyway and quit. Those who play poker for more than just financial reward are the most likely to stick around for the long haul and finally see a worthwhile return on their investment.
Reviewing these top 10 tips periodically can help us develop a professional outlook, and routinely take copious amounts of profit from the poker tables.