So you’ve been playing a few hands of poker at the local casino or online, and you think you’re starting to get the hang of the game. But hang on a moment, you’ve only been playing against friends who are also new to the game or at a level where no one is really thinking their game through.
You’re playing with players who merely play the hand and not the opposition. While the hand you’re dealt is one of the reasons that you can win or lose at poker, it is not the only reason. Poker is a game that is won by better players not just better hands. Playing a good hand badly can also lose you the game. Below are a few tricks that will help you to be a more effective player and, ultimately, one that wins more money. It is, of course, the object of the game!
Like many games, playing poker at any level requires that you play with the correct poker etiquette. These are the unwritten rules that occur in a game that let the other players know that you respect them and the game. One of the worst breaks in etiquette that you can commit in poker is slow rolling. Put simply, this means taking too much time to reveal your cards or verbally pretending that you have won when you haven’t.
The long pause before a player turns his cards, winning or otherwise, that we’ve all seen in Hollywood films isn’t good form and can end up with opponents not wanting to play you again or ganging up on you because of your unsporting behaviour. Professionals learn to respect the game and if you want to get on in the game then so should you. You’ve been warned!
A trait of all good players is that they play consistently. This doesn’t mean that they always cold call on a ‘Big Slick’ (ace-king) in the pre-flop, or that they always fold on the same cards. Consistency means that they apply the same winning strategy to every game. When you’ve played enough games to understand best how you win hands, then you should continue to play the same way every game.
Changing your strategy, like changing what version of poker you play, will never help – the hand you are dealt doesn’t determine your success, it’s playing with consistency in a game that you are still learning that will make a difference. Professionals know what works for them and apply it to every hand.
Know When to Fold
An overpair is when you hold a pair that is higher than any card on the board. Let’s say you’ve drawn pocket kings for your hole cards and the flop throws up J86. You now hold an overpair. And the temptation here is to stick with it through to the end. For some reason, the brain ignores everyone else at the table and what they might have. The tight player then raises, and you still don’t blink. You realize that he probably has something, but you’re not sure. Queue the ‘crying call’ – ‘I don’t think I’ll win but…’ Learn when to fold. Learn to understand what your opponents will play and when they won’t.
Keep your Composure
You will have days in poker when you lose every hand. Poker, while requiring a great deal of learned skill to master, can also turn against a player with a stream of poor hands. So long as you keep making the same decisions that you would on a good day, then when this happens and your day goes bad, just walk away.
The worst thing to do is to try something else – it’s known as ’tilt’. Losing control of your game when things aren’t going well, will waste all the time and effort you’ve put in to learn and improve your game. Your opponents will see it straight away and will use your emotions against you.
Learn the Game Post-Flop
Mastering your strategy for your pre-flop hand is a fundamentally important aspect of the game of poker. However, the part of the game where the professionals excel against the amateurs is at what happens post-flop. Calculating pot odds, recognizing the betting strategies of the other players and learning how to bluff only comes with years of playing thousands of hands of cards.
Novice players are always called-out when betting on the river. You do not need to protect your equity at this stage because there are no more cards to come. Learn to bluff earlier in the street.
‘The earlier the street, the more often you should be bluffing because that’s when the equities run closest’. Doug Polk, professional poker player.
While you should spend as much time as you can learning the game from others, it is only by playing the game that you will truly learn to master it. Learning to play the game online will give you access to various levels of players and pots and allow you to make mistakes in the privacy of your own home.
The tricks outlined above are just a few of the many that are required if you want to progress in the game of poker. All of them will take time and effort to master, and require a strong mind to see them through. The technical aspects of the game – calculating odds etc. – are hard, but learnable.
The tactical tricks that separate the professionals from the amateurs require practice and patience. If you look carefully, you will see that all of those above are more about your opponents than you. Play the game in the right way, and your opponents won’t block you.
Learn to play consistently but with variation so that your opponents are kept guessing. Know when to leave the room – remember that you should be playing against your opponent and not with your cards. Most of all keep your composure and keep your cool. Good luck!