Why is it that some players struggle with poker while others consistently appear to do well? Is it possible to improve our success with a few basic pointers?
Regardless of the poker variant being played, certain activities make for successful players. Consistency plays an enormous role in how well they do.
We are going to break it down with our top 10 tips for being successful at poker.
- Play in Soft Games
- Use Good Bankroll Management
- Stay off Tilt
- Schedule Volume
- Study the Game
- Make Use of Tools
- Work with Others
- Play You’re A-Game
- Enjoy the Game
Play in Soft Games
The absolute fastest way to begin winning at poker is to play in an environment where we are one of the best. There is a popular saying in poker –
‘It doesn’t matter if you are the sixth-best poker player in the world if you are at a table with the top 5’.
We also need to think carefully about who’s at our table. Do we expect the game to be profitable for us? Sometimes players let their ego get in the way.
We should not be trying to prove that we are slightly better than a table full of semi-tough regulars.
If two players are of roughly similar ability, they will both end up losing to the rake.
Ideally, we want at least one or two opponents against who we can generate a positive win rate - even after paying the rake.
Use Good Bankroll Management
We might be one of the best players in the world. But if we don’t employ correct bankroll management, progress will be dramatically hindered.
There are two key pitfalls here –
- We are playing games outside of our bankroll, increasing the chances of going broke if we hit a bad run.
- We are playing overly tight with our bankroll. We must play a huge number of hands before we can move up limits.
It’s amazing how common the second issue is. Bankroll management is not just about avoiding going broke. It’s also about making sure we are playing the maximum limit our bankroll can support. That way, we maximize our long-run potential.
Stay Off Tilt
Tilt is a poker term for bad and emotional poker play. Players are often at risk of going on tilt after losing several of stacks during a single session.
It’s quite rare to see strong winning poker players who are overly emotional at the table. We might immediately think of Hellmuth or Matusow for their emotional blow. But these guys are the exception rather than the rule.
In most cases, players who struggle with tilt problems will never make it - even if they are otherwise talented.
The good news is that there are poker books, videos and coaches that can help players reduce the frequency and severity of tilt.
In any regular job, the workers usually have a set time and number of hours to work. Poker should ideally be the same. Good players often schedule exactly how many hours they will play per week and at which times.
The possible drawbacks of not planning volume carefully are as follows -
- A player is always planning to grind ‘later’ and rarely actually gets round to putting in a session. By the end of the month, the number of hands played is extremely underwhelming.
- A player ends up spending most of their waking hours playing and may eventually experience burnout. Certain life and family responsibilities get neglected.
It’s recommended to treat poker like it’s a business (rather than just a game).
Plan our hours at the table carefully.
Study the Game
Known as ‘spending time in the poker lab’, good players are constantly looking to make small improvements.
As one popular book on productivity puts it -
If we get just 1% better at a certain skill every day, we’ll be 37 times better at that skill by the end of the year.
It should be easy to see how a player with regular study habits can surpass players who have been playing for quite some time. If said seasoned players only enter the poker lab very occasionally.
There are many ways of working on our game:
All the above can help us to understand the game at a deeper level.
Make Use of Tools
We live in a modern world. We can’t ignore the fact that the best players are using several tools available.
If our opponents use them, and we don’t, we’ll eventually fall behind the curve.
What types of tools are we talking about?
- Equity Calculators - Allow us to store ranges and run equity calculations on different boards. 888poker offer poker tools such as poker odds calculator and poker timer.
- Solvers - Generate game theory optimal solutions to the game, improving our theoretical understanding of poker.
Any or all these tools should be useful in helping with the previous tip, study the game. Trackers help us to be honest with ourselves and see whether we are winning or losing.
Work with Others
Some lone wolves in the poker industry are extremely successful. However, most winning poker players got that way by working as part of a group or team.
Of course, we don’t mean working together on the tables (which is against the rules). But rather, working together off the table.
Players often form study groups (perhaps on Skype or Discord) to can share hand histories and discuss poker concepts.
If one player learns something interesting about the game or learns about a new poker tool, he shares that with the group.
When minds work together, there is the possibility for progress to be accelerated.
- Perhaps you have friends you could discuss the game with on a more regular basis?
- Or maybe you can join a study group?
- Failing that, why not consider hiring a private coach?
Play Your A-Game
We have already mentioned the importance of staying off tilt. But this concept is not quite the same as playing our A-Game. After all, a player might never tilt but spend a large part of their career playing a solid B-game.
Said player is investing the time at the tables anyway. So, their results could be significantly better if there was a way for him to play his A-game more consistently.
It turns out there is a way. A lot of studies have been run on this area (many outside the context of poker).
Playing your A-game is referred to with terms such as –
- experiencing flow,
- or playing in the zone.
Did you ever feel like you were so absorbed in the action that time slowed down? It made making good decisions feel easy.
If so, you’ve experienced flow. Imagine what your results would look like if every single poker session felt like this.
It can be tempting to play a range of different poker formats. There are many poker variants available online. So, we might feel like jumping between them daily.
This play might be more entertaining on a day to day basis. But it’s not a great way to maximise our chances of long term success.
Our goal should be to focus on one specific poker format long enough to become an above-average player. We should then be able to turn a consistent profit, provided we also choose our opponents carefully.
Most poker players specialise in Hold’em. But good opportunities exist for players who decide to focus on more exotic variants. Games like 5-card Omaha, 6-card Omaha, and 6-plus Hold’em attract quite a few weaker players to the table.
Even games like regular 4-card PLO often offer much softer playing fields than Omaha.
Enjoy the Game
It’s quite common for players to get involved in poker, hoping to make a lot of money without a lot of work. Sure, sometimes these players get lucky. But, in most cases, these players will hit a bad run and decide poker is not for them.
After all, if they are not making any money, poker is failing to live up to what that player’s expectations.
- The players who enjoy the most success, play because they love poker.
- These are the players who are motivated to work on their game and improve every day.
- These players also have the mental fortitude to stick it out through the swings/ They are not purely in it for the money.
So, try and play poker because you love poker, not just for the money.
The money will always eventually come to dedicated poker players.