My top ten poker tips aim to help players with their poker strategy, approach and continued enjoyment of both online poker and live poker games. The poker tips are not listed in any particular order of importance except perhaps the first.
1. Bankroll level
Play at a buy-in level that suits your bankroll and attitude to risk. Never play with more than you can afford to lose. If paying the rent depends upon the result of a tournament or a single hand, you may find the pressure leads to poor decision making and a disproportionate reaction to the bad beats all poker players endure.
2. Do not chase your losses
If you lose a major portion of your table stake in one or several large pots, do not try to recoup your losses in a ‘do or die’ fashion. Stick to your sound, proven poker strategy; wait for your next playable hand and look to recover your losses over the longer term.
Similarly, if you take a big hit to your poker bankroll in one or several sessions, do not move up to a higher buy-in level thinking, ‘one good win and I’m back to where I started.’ Often you will play the higher buy-in level with a too loose or too tight attitude, neither of which is natural to your game.
No matter if you are playing $0.25/0.50 or $25/50; if you have lost 80% of your buy-in for any reason, do not throw the rest away. That remaining 20% (if you walk away with it) should be thought of as profit; because if you don’t, it is a loss.
If you take a big hit to a previously healthy tournament stack; re-evaluate your options for the amount of chips you have left and make the best use of them.
3. Do not play too many hands
Avoid playing too many hands especially the marginal ones unless you need to; more often, play the hands which have a better chance of winning.
Remember, when folding pre-flop, you are playing your cards. The reason to fold can be various including, too many players already in the hand, you are out of position, the price is too high or the cards dealt are just plain rubbish. The reason to enter the hand must be equally clear.
Online poker pocket cards are dealt to each computer simultaneously; effectively everyone sees their starting hand at the same time. Players can consider their options before it is their turn to act and may tolerantly follow through with their decision, regardless of the table action. Before you decide to play or fold; consider what has happened before you in the betting round and what may happen after your action.
4. Recognise trends
There are two trends to understand; table trends and player trends.
Observe a cash table and make a reasoned assessment of its character before taking your seat or getting heavily involved in the action. Adapt your game to one that best suits allowing you to profit. The common thought of ‘if a table is loose, play tight and vice versa’ often applies. Do not be put off if a cash table is more passive or more aggressive than you would like, provided you can adapt your game to suit the condition. However at times, it may be prudent to find another table, sit out or even leave one where the action is far from that with which you are comfortable.
In a tournament you take what you are given but remember, changes in the players seated and the blind/chip stack ratio, means the table character will fluctuate.
Playing any table should not necessitate you making drastic strategy changes; generally you should consider subtle adjustments to what is already your standard profitable game.
Recognise the LAG, TAG, LP and TP players at your table and have a strategy in mind to compete with them.
You may find a player who will always raise from the button or in the small blind if the table folds to that seat, regardless of the cards they hold. Others may play any Ace they are dealt. While you cannot tell exactly what cards a player is holding, you may gain an advantage in a number of hands.
Do not look for trends that are not there when playing online. If a player takes a long time to come to a betting decision, it may be they are playing several tables at once, rather than hatching a cunning plan.
5. Mix your play style
Mixing your play style and changing gears are important tools for a successful poker player.
There is no hard and fast rule as to when and how to mix up your play; it is a feel thing best developed by practice and is most useful for the tight aggressive player (the looser player will already be playing a wide range of hands). If playing tight at a full table, begin in your common style, then occasionally throw a spanner in the works.
Do not completely abandon your regular game or commit your chip stack to a one-off hand; just do enough to keep others guessing. That little extra fun keeps your opponents on their toes and will help you to stay fresh and alert during a long session or tournament.
Mixing also means changing up or down the gears in accordance with tournament conditions and your chip stack. Around the bubble some players will tighten their game waiting to get paid, others will loosen hoping to pick up easy chips. When fewer players are seated, the range of hands you play should widen.
6. Avoid going on tilt
It is easy to say ‘avoid going on tilt’ although harder to do at times. However consider this; the only person who can put you on tilt is yourself.
Take a bad beat like a man… or a woman. We have all seen some poor calls but only a small portion of them really are bad beats. It can be discouraging to have out played a player and have luck out play you, but that is poker and bad beats are part of the fun.
And if you do go on tilt; leave your casino seat, log off (if online), make a cup of tea, pick your nose or go for a walk… do anything other than play poker.
Be aware of other players who may be tilting. If you enter a pot with them, they may pose an awkward question or two.
7. Recognise your emotion
Be in the right frame of mind before you sit down to play. Do not take things personally and do not bring personal conditions to the table. Getting irritated or distressed will lessen your enjoyment of the game and may lead to poor decision making.
If you think your emotions are dictating your play, take some time out to regain your composure, rather than losing more of your hard earned cash which may compound the reasons to be upset.
If you are multi-tabling, do not let a mistake (by you or another player) on one table affect the way you play on another table.
Do not play drunk; just don’t. Players make poor choices when feeling loose and play accordingly. Drunkenness can also loosen your perception of the acceptable table talk used which may result in a card room or online poker site ban.
No matter if you are trying to earn a few dollars or just playing for the experience, poker should be enjoyable. It is not worth getting infuriated at a $5 or $500 loss when playing within your bankroll.
8. Learn to play correctly
A little knowledge is useful, but if not combined with intelligence, that knowledge can lead to some costly mistakes.
‘Correct play’ varies according to the situation. If you find an area of your game that you feel needs improving, seek out useful poker strategy information. Do not be too proud to seek advice at any stage in your poker career. Many resources are available in bookstores and online (there are a number of articles on this site).
Take a few minutes regularly to read something, anything which may improve your game.
In all events;
- Pay attention to the cards on the table as well as your fellow players actions and reactions. Information may still be gained even when you have folded your hand.
- Understand how table position affects decision making; how you may and how others do act from any table position.
- Do not be afraid to commit to the pot. If you have a very good hand, you should not be afraid of getting your chips into the middle.
- Be smart with your betting; base your actions (including a fold) on the board cards, other players’ actions and styles, as well as the blind/stack ratio. Your smart betting must be clear in your mind and hopefully clear to the table.
- Use pot odds as a method of advice not as a guarantee of success. Here is a link to a know-poker page explaining pot odds.
9. Learn from the mistakes of others and your own
It is valuable to learn from another’s mistake because hopefully it will have cost them and not you. By taking notes based on their play you may find a trend which you can later exploit.
Learning by your own mistakes can only be valuable if you are completely honest with yourself.
If you look closely at a poker play that initially seems a mistake, you may see reason for the action. A mistake may be a simple misread of a hands strength or may have been encouraged by a players’ deceptive skills. Mistakes may also be in a general play style or play pattern. Whatever the case, look and learn.
In all events;
- Do not slow-play a hand with insufficient strength that you should be check raising with. Here is a link to a know-poker page explaining slow-playing and check raising.
- Do not assume that because a player has played one or several poor starting hands out of position, that they are a poor player or that they never hold a good hand.
- Do not bluff too often. An Internet fact (so it is as reliable as 7-2 off suit) says; bluffing 11% of the time is correct. However what counts as a bluff to one player will be a positional bet to others, or a semi-bluff to anyone else.
- If you want your opponents to fold when you bluff, the frequency should be rare and the bets convincing when you do.
- Know when to fold; do not throw good money after bad. If a hand takes a nasty turn and you consider that you are beaten, and do not think a bluff will be successful, muck it and move on. Good players will recognize the strength in that play.
- Do not call just to keep another player ‘honest.’ Call if you think you have a better hand or better still raise. Otherwise you are calling with what you think is the worst hand and that is clearly not good economics.
- Do not spread yourself too thin; Multi-table play limits the attention a player may give to each table and will not benefit a new player’s learning curve. Multi-table play suits experienced players capable of quickly understanding other players, the board cards and game state.
10. Know your own game
Whether you are an aggressive, passive, tight or loose player, understand what you do best and work at improving it.
Recognize the type of game and betting format that best suits your play style. Some players will prefer single-table or multi-table tournaments, while others veer towards cash tables.
When you find a game and betting format you like and are successful at, exploit it.
Be cool and let the good times roll.