The tendency for most poker blog posts offering tips on how to improve your game is to write about specific games – usually Texas hold’em.
I thought it would be fun to write a poker tips post that would offer tips that would be applicable to all players, regardless of which games they prefer to play.
Here are 11 of the best poker tips you’ll ever read:
1. Don’t Let Other Poker Players Intimidate You
I don’t care how new you are to the game of poker, don’t be intimidated by the other players at the table. Not only will being scared ruin your good time, it will probably cause you to lose, too. Scared money always loses.
Most of the other real money online poker players at the table are lousy at poker, anyway.
They might have more experience at the table, but if you’ve read so much as one poker book or spent any time at all playing online and talking about it on a forum, you’re probably better than your opponents already.
You don’t have to be the bully, but you must avoid being the victim of bullies.
So, put on your game face, and don’t let the other players intimidate you. Choose your approach and stick with it.
2. You WILL Have Losing Sessions
Think of poker as one lifelong session of ups and downs. The individual sessions you’re playing contribute toward your overall lifelong wins and losses, but they’re blips on a big radar.
In other words, when you play in a 2-hour, 4-hour, or even an 8-hour session and show a loss, don’t worry about it. Even the best poker players have losing sessions.
You can’t book a win every time you sit down at the poker table. That’s just now how it works.
Focus instead on whether you’re making good-quality decisions and understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
It means that you’ve thought about what your opponent might have, and you think that the move you’re about to make has a positive expectation.
3. Be Willing to Take a Break
No matter how many times I reassure you that you’re not a bad player just because you’re having a losing session, you’ll still get frustrated and rattled some of the time. I’ve had pocket aces cracked 3 times during a single session.
When you start to feel this way, take a break from the table and go do something else for a while – preferably not craps.
- Get something to eat.
- Go for a walk.
- Get a massage.
Anything to clear your head and reset your attitude before you sit back down at the table.
Your emotions play a bigger role in your decision-making than you’d prefer to admit, so be gentle with yourself and manage those emotions as best you can.
4. Play Within Your Bankroll
I sometimes see players who can barely afford the buy-in at a table sit down and lose their entire bankroll almost immediately.
Their goal was:
- Sit down.
- Win a couple of big hands.
- Then leave.
That’s not the way to approach the game.
I’m going to refrain from giving you specific advice about what limits you should play given the size of your bankroll.
Instead, I’m going to suggest that you think about how much money you’ll need to sit down with to enjoy 3 or 4 hours of cards with some new friends.
If you’re comfortable with those stakes, you’ll make better decisions.
That will lead to bad decisions, too, and bad decisions in bad stakes games still cost you money.
5. Don’t Treat Casino Poker the Same as Home Poker
Poker players at casino games are generally more skilled than players at home poker games. You should keep this in mind and stay at the top of your game when you’re playing in an online casino.
Also, casino poker games charge a rake. That’s a percentage of each pot that the casino collects to pay for the space they’re “renting” to the poker players.
The rake is usually just 5%, but the implications to the individual players is important.
If you’re just as good but no better than the other players at a home game, you can mathematically expect to break even. Over time, you’ll all get the same cards, and you’ll play them with equal skill.
But if you’re playing in a game with a rake, if all the players are of the same skill level, they’ll all gradually lose money until they’re broke.
You make your profit in poker by being more skilled than the other guy.
And it’s not enough to just be more skilled than your opponent. You have to be so much more skilled that it makes up for the 5% rake on every pot.
6. Play Poker Games You’re Familiar With
If you’re playing poker in a casino, it’s easy to find a game you’re familiar with. Everyone knows how to play Texas hold’em online these days with the growth of internet gambling, and all physical casinos with poker rooms offer the game too.
But go ahead and play stud or Omaha if you prefer. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the games first.
If you’re playing in a home game that offers dealer’s choice games, pay attention to what games are being dealt.
And when it’s your turn to deal, keep it simple and deal a game you’re confident you’re good at.
7. Watch the Alcohol Intake
Casino poker rooms offer free drink service just like the rest of the casino.
You should be even more cautious about participating in these comp drinks than you would be if you’re playing slot machines.
But, in poker, it’s important to make good decisions.
And guess what happens when you drink alcohol?
Your judgment starts to deteriorate.
Skip the alcohol if you’re playing poker. Drink coffee or water instead.
8. Don’t Show the Other Players Your Cards
It’s easy to accidentally show the other players at the table your cards when you’re playing poker. This is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid.
All you need to do to avoid showing your cards to the other players is be careful.
You don’t even have to pick your cards up from the table. All you need to do when you look at your cards is to fold up the corners just enough to see the rank and suit for those cards.
It only costs you money.
Don’t flip your cards over after a successful bluff, either. If everyone folds to you, they didn’t pay for the information, so don’t give it to them.
9. The Most Popular Game in the Poker Word Is Texas Hold’em – Learn to Play
If you’re going to play in the poker world, you need to go where the action is. It’s great to be the world’s best 7 card stud player, but you’ll be so limited in terms of where you can play and with whom that you won’t make much money at it.
The game isn’t hard, either. You get 2 cards face down, 3 cards face-up that everyone shares, then another card that everyone shares, and a final community card.
You can use any combination of the cards in your hand and the cards on the board to make your final hand.
Since that’s where the action is, that’s where you should be, too.
The best way to improve at poker is to study. I like to suggest reading legitimate poker books from legitimate poker authors. The books from Two Plus Two Publishing are a great place to start.
In fact, I started my online poker career reading a general book about gambling from Two Plus Two called How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living. The book had a section on poker that I took notes from.
Of course, I went on to read Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players and Small Stakes Hold’em.
These provided the foundation for my poker knowledge.
It’s hard to read too many poker books.
And you can find books on any kind of subcategory of poker literature that you want. You can find books on how to read your opponents. You can find books about tournament poker in general. And you can find books from poker celebrities – some of these are better than others.
The most important thing about engaging with poker literature is to engage with the material fully.
11. Have Fun
I know professional poker players who say they’re not interested in having fun while they’re playing poker. I know other professionals who still enjoy the game.
I think most of my readers are recreational gamblers, and that means if they’re not having fun, there’s no point in them continuing to gamble.
But even if you aspire to be a winning player, why not try to enjoy it?
Life’s too short to do stuff you don’t enjoy, and that includes playing a game like poker.
Those are my best 11 tips for poker players of any skill level. They might or might not all apply to you, but they were all important insights that contributed to my own development as a poker player.