10 Small poker tips to help make you a slightly better player
- “Are you folding tonight, are you folding tonight, don’t you play every hand that you get…”
All poker beginners make mistakes. Probably the number one mistake beginning poker players make is that they play far too many hands. As a novice, you sit down at the table and obviously want to play every hand you get. However, playing more doesn’t mean winning more – it usually means losing more. The sooner you comprehend that it will be easier for you to skip hands.
- “’Scuse me, did anyone tell you that you look like a donk…?”
Drinking and playing is never a good idea. Aside from the fact that your judgment is clouded, your table reading will be iffy, your table etiquette is shot. There are times when you’re playing a home game playing for peanuts or at low-stakes games, where the emphasis is fun and the loose atmosphere allows you to be bit looser with the drink. However, if you’re playing at a poker room, real or virtual, you really needs your wits about you, so try to keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum.
- Is that an Ace in your pocket or…?
Bluffing is a part of poker, but it’s an art onto itself and not always necessary, particularly for beginners. There’s no rule stating that a player must bluff at any point in the game. However, many players don’t feel like they need to bluff. Bluffing only works in certain situations and against certain opponents, and if you know a player always calls to the showdown, it is literally impossible to bluff that player. Better to concentrate on learning basic strategy, starting hands, basics of betting, etc.
- ‘I’m committed, therefore I am’
Another common mistake beginners make is to think that “Well, I’ve already put that much in the pot, I have to stay in now.” You don’t stay in a hand just because you’ve put money in it and are a part of it. There may be cases when pot odds warrant a call, but if think there’s a good chance you’re beaten, and there’s no way your hand can improve to be the best hand, you should fold. What you’ve invested in the pot isn’t yours anymore, and you can’t get it back just by playing a hand all the way to the end. It’s a mistake that cost many a poker rookie player a good amount of chips.
- ‘May I see your license and identification, please?’
Don’t call a hand to “Keep Someone Honest!” A lot of rookie players will stubbornly go all the way to the river, saying they want to “keep the other player honest.” It may be worth it to see if a player really has the hand if you’re not sure & you’re gaining information that will help you later on, but if you really feel a player has the hand he’s representing & you’re beat, why give him another pile of your money? Those bets will add up over an evening.
- ‘Hey, don’t make me turn green…!’
Don’t Play When Mad, Sad, or in a Generally Bad Mood
Playing poker should be with a clear mind. If you start out already on tilt – i.e., playing emotionally, not rationally – it will not end well for you or your bankroll. During a game, if you lose a big hand or feel that you’re going on tilt, take a break until you calm down, otherwise your opponents will certainly smell blood and go for the kill.
- ‘Boy, that’s a nice chandelier…what’s the name of this place, anyway?’
Pay attention to the community cards! It’s not enough to concentrate on your pocket cards. Many pros hardly look at their cards at all – they take one peek, and that’s it. Your hole cards are only part of the game – you must pay attention to what’s going on the table and around it. Speaking of which…
- ‘Wait a minute…did you just change shirts?’
Pay attention to your opponents. Cards is only part of the game of poker. Learning to read your opponents is just as, if not more, important. Are they tight-aggressive? Loose-aggressive? You should observe their playing patterns to find out.
For example, if you discover that a certain player always raises in a specific position, or another folds to every re-raise, you can use that information to your advantage.
- ‘A man’s’ got to know his limitations.’
Don’t play at limits that are above your capabilities. It takes many game sessions – that’s hundreds of playing hours to realize what your true playing level is. If you see you’re doing fine in a certain level, by all means climb a bit on the table limits. However, the moment you see you are beaten soundly – step down a rung.
- ‘I’ll take fish for $5, please.’
The differences between, say, $2/4 tables and $5/10 games are huge and it’s not just the sums of money. The games may be faster, the skill level is much higher, and the up/down swings at the higher limits are greater. If you’re doing well in low limits but scuff in higher limits – there’s nothing wrong with that. Keep at it and you will improve.
And remember: poker, in the end, is a game! Relax, and enjoy…