Nobody can become a professional poker player in an afternoon, but there are several simple tips you can follow to significantly improve your game in only a few minutes. Although these tips are mostly geared towards beginners, even the most veteran player should keep them in mind when heading to the tables.
Play Fewer Hands
The most common mistake that amateur players make is to play too many hands. Unsurprisingly, people who are playing poker want to actually play, and end up playing hands that aren’t strong just to stay in the game. This is a serious mistake because more often than not playing more doesn’t mean that you’ll be winning more, it means that you’ll be spending more time losing. Although you never see it in the movies, a large part of playing poker is folding hand after hand until you get one worth playing. Try to play less than half of the hands you’re dealt, and make sure you have a clear idea of which starting hands are actually worth playing.
Be Consistent With Your Bets
If you’ve got an excellent hand and your opponent has a mediocre one, it can be tempting to make a huge bet and raise the stakes. But beware—if you’ve been making more conservative bets, your opponent is going to see right through you. Instead, make smallish, conservative bets every round, even when you’re bluffing. It’ll make it much more difficult for other players to get a read on your hand if your betting doesn’t vary.
Additionally, decide before you take a seat at the table how much you’re willing to bet in one sitting and plan accordingly. If you don’t want to spend more than $200, don’t keep the entire amount in play. Seasoned poker players agree that small, consistent bets are the way to go.
Beginner poker players tend to have serious misconceptions about bluffing. They understand it’s an important part of poker, but don’t really understand how to do it properly. The trick to bluffing isn’t having a good poker face, or wearing the right pair of shades, but instead figuring out what situations bluffs will work in, and who they work against.
Any time you want to bluff, it’s important to watch how the other people at the table are playing. If one player always calls to the showdown, you will never successfully bluff that player. If you’re playing Hold ‘Em and none of the community cards are threatening, your bluff might be completely transparent to the more experienced players at the table. Overall, you’re better off never bluffing than you are bluffing simply for the sake of doing so.
Don’t Stay in a Hand Too Long
Another very common mistake that amateur players make is to stay in a hand just because they’ve put some money in the pot and don’t want to lose it without a fight. Once you have some skin in the game, it can be hard to let go of your money, but 90% of the time you won’t win a pot just by throwing money at the problem. The pot odds determine whether or not you should call, and the moment you’re certain that you’ve been beaten, you should fold at once. Once the hand you have can no longer be the best hand, whatever money you put in the pot is gone, and you won’t get back just by spending more money to play to the showdown.
Avoid Playing Limits That Are Too High
If you’re having consistent success at a lower limits table, then you have a good reason to consider playing at a higher limits table. Apart from that, there’s really no good reason to play at a higher limits table. Apart from risking more substantial amounts of money, you’re also entering a more competitive environment. The average skill level of the players sitting at the table tends to increase with the size of the limit. Unless you want to be the “fish” playing with the “sharks”, stick to a lower limits table until you have the experience necessary to go up against serious players.