In the past twenty years, poker has skyrocketed from a game played by a handful of enthusiasts to a hugely popular pastime. Online poker brought the game to the masses, and nowadays poker tournaments are big business. Fun and easy enough for casual players, but with the potential for high-stakes, thrilling gambling, it’s no wonder that it’s popularity continues to rise. Here are a few tips for taking your game to the next level.
First of all, it is important to know the basics of the game before thinking of poker strategy tips. Familiarise yourself fully with poker hands and different playing styles, and make sure you are clear on all the rules before playing.
This may seem obvious to most players, however many beginners throw themselves into the game thinking they’ll ‘pick it up as they go along’. If you are just playing for fun, this is not a problem, but if you are playing for money – even small sums – this is a waste. There are plenty of beginner’s guides available online, and you can also practice with free online games.
So, you know what you are doing and you are ready to play some poker. You’ll notice that different people have different approaches to the game, which is one of the reasons why it is such a fascinating game to play.
To succeed at the poker table, you have to not only be able to identify what playing styles others are using, but you should know your own. What comes naturally to you? Do you tend to be cautious, or is the risk part of the fun for you? One of the main reasons why it is so important to know this is that other players will be picking up on your style, and making their decisions accordingly. The four main behaviours are:
Knowing your style gives you more control over your play, and also lets you strategically choose to mix it up. It is generally recommended that beginners use a ‘tight-aggressive’ approach, which allows you to make sure you’re not taking too many risks whilst getting you used to aggressive play – an essential skill for high-level poker.
This is a huge problem for players, no matter where you are playing. Casinos are distracting environments, as is getting together with your friends for a game – even online poker has to contend with a world of online distractions. Tournaments in particular may require you being alert for hours, which can be extremely tiring for your brain: however, they are also when the stakes are highest. Poker is a game, and it is important to have fun, but you will not win regularly unless you learn to focus properly. Getting distracted means you may miss other players’ cues, lose track of your odds, or start making poorly thought-out decisions.
Where possible, avoid external distractions. Make sure you are feeling mentally and physically fit: no stomach aches, no fatigue, no stresses from the day weighing you down. Any of these can make you more likely to tilt after some bad moves. Then, give yourself a small number of things to focus on during the game: pick an opponent or two, and analyse their behaviour until you know their quirks and tendencies. Choosing a smaller number of things to focus is more manageable than keeping track of all players at all times, and you are less likely to get overwhelmed. If you get bored, add on more behaviours or people to look out for
An extremely important poker strategy tip for beginners is learning to manage intimidating players, and building your confidence at the table. If you are just starting out, you may not be confident in your decisions, and other more experienced players will spot that. Some may try to intimidate you with their words or – perhaps more disturbingly – with their silence.
Avoid talking too much, keep your game tight, and don’t let yourself be rattled by the scary guy. Remember they’re putting on an act specifically to get you to tilt: don’t give them the satisfaction. Learn to walk away from the table if you are upset, whether due to another player’s actions or a bad series of games: emotional playing will only lead to bad decisions, and you can always come back when you have calmed down.
As with any gambling game, there is a number of natural biases you should be aware of when you are playing. Learn to identify those biases in yourself, and try to spot them in others: this will make you a better, more rational player, and will give you a better idea of others’ weaknesses.
These are just a few poker strategy tips to make your game better. Remember that poker is a game of skill, and that the best way to improve is to keep playing regularly. Be smart, learn from your mistakes, and above all else, don’t forget to have fun!