A maxim goes that “poker takes a day to learn, a lifetime to master.” Behind the simplicity of the rules, there are endless variables that change with every round.
1# Don’t Just Play The Cards, Play The Opponents
The big mistake beginner players make is to focus 100% on their own cards – and forget about their opponents’. Paying off a bet with an average hand can be a good idea against a bluffing opponent, but a terrible one against someone who plays it safe. Never forget that. The value of your hand is directly connected to the opponent’s cards and personality.
2# Pay Attention To Your Position At The Table
The player who speaks last in the round is always in a stronger position because he has preliminary information – the opponent’s action – to help him make a decision. This is a huge advantage. Try to play the hands where you have a privileged position, preferably when you are the dealer (the last to speak) or close to him.
3# Play With Firmness And Aggressiveness
The passive players, who pay a lot and bet little, are the big losers of poker. Do the opposite. Play few hands, but when you get into one, take an aggressive stance. The secret of poker is to maximize the hands you win and minimize the hands you lose.
4# Have Patience
Patience is a great virtue at the poker table. Wait for opportunities to attack, taking into account those factors we mentioned before: good cards, a privileged position and the right opponents.
5# Study Patterns And Tics Of Your Opponents
When you get out of a hand, keep paying attention to the table. This is the best time to study your opponents’ betting patterns and body tics. Did he scratch his ear and then get caught on a bluff? Did he bet big with an absolute hand? This kind of information will come in very handy later when you catch him in the act.
6# Know The Basic Mathematics Of Poker
You don’t need a PHD in Statistics to play poker well, but knowing the basic mathematics of the game is good. There are 52 cards in the deck, correct? Subtract the ones you have in your hand and the ones that have already been opened on the table. Now think about the cards that can help you – or hurt you. Just calculate the chance of that happening and you’ll have an idea of whether it’s worth betting, dealing or leaving.
7# Never Lose Mental Control
Many excellent players end the night with zeroes due to a factor called “tilt”, which is when you lose mental control. This usually happens after losing a great hand due to bad luck. At that point, the blood rushes to your head – and you start making decisions based on emotion, not reason. That’s when the player loses everything. Be alert to recognize when you’re like this. Leave the table for about 15 minutes to have a coffee, wash your face and calm down.
8# Work On Your Image At The Table
If the other players think you are a bluffer, whenever you bet with a good game, they will probably pay you off. If they believe you are conservative, then you can bluff at will and the chance of them running away is high. Did you understand the importance of working on your image at the table? And remember that your image is not static, it can change throughout the game. You need to constantly adapt your strategy to it.
9# Analyze The Moves At The End Of The Night
Finally, we have the good old study. At the end of the night, after the match is over, recap your main moves, both the ones you lost and the ones you won. Make an analysis: where did I go wrong? Where did I get it right? What could I have done better? This habit will help you to constantly evolve, which is essential to be a winner in the long run.