You can’t necessarily rely on poker to generate a steady stream of income. In fact, you can’t always expect to turn a profit of any kind. Like all forms of gambling, poker is all about entertainment. Pitting your wits against others, the thrill of the unknown and (hopefully) in some instances pocketing a penny or two.
That said, if you’re in the midst of something of a life-long losing streak, something’s clearly going wrong. Not everyone can be the next World Series of Poker champion, but there’s always something you can do to improve your skills. What’s more, if you genuinely suck at poker, you’re the only person that can do anything about it.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to memorise a rulebook the size of a telephone directory to improve your poker skills. Realistically, it’s simply a case of acknowledging a few simple yet hugely effective tips from the pros.
So for the terminally terrible poker player who’d like to nudge things in the right direction, here are five useful tips for becoming a better poker player starting right now:
- Play poker more often
Right at the top of the table, the number one rule for becoming a better poker player is to simply play poker more often. You can read all the manuals and tutorials in the world, but nothing makes up for practical experience. Irrespective of whether this means organising poker games at home or playing online, you need to ensure you are playing as much poker as possible. Not to such an extent that it becomes a chore, but regularly enough to develop better poker skills.
Just for the record, it’s worth noting that playing online for free isn’t quite the same as playing in real life for money. In fact, it’s a completely different experience entirely. What are the kinds of stakes you normally play for around the poker table? These are the stakes you should be playing for online. After all, if there’s nothing on the line, how can you be expected to make realistic decisions?
- Stop waiting for epic hands
Once you’ve got to grips with the full range of hands you can end up with in poker, it’s tempting to hold out for something that’s practically unbeatable. When it happens, fantastic – you’ll probably win. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t going to happen on a regular basis. While waiting for the kind of hand that comes your way once in every 50, you could well have missed the opportunity to clean house.
What’s important to remember is that however mediocre your hand is, there a strong chance it’s better than those of your opponents. The actual odds of being dealt a great hand are low, so you don’t always need to wait for something outstanding to win. Consider upping the aggression a little and get into the habit of getting into the game more often, not only when you believe you absolutely cannot lose.
- Forget about strategies
For the time being, the only strategy you really need to think about is bankroll management. That and the level to which you are willing to take risks. Poker strategy is something that can be left until further down the line, which only stands to complicate things for now. Once you’ve mastered the basics of poker, you simply need to get into the habit of making logical decisions at the right time.
Whichever way you look at it, poker is a game of pure logic and mathematics. Not superstitions or sixth-sense predictions, but playing the odds. There are no hard and fast rules that say “if this player does X, then I need to do Y” and so on. You need to use your judgement at the time to work out whether or not it’s worth carrying on. Let your logic, common sense and intuition guide your decisions, never the kinds of strategies others swear by (that probably don’t work).
- Start taking tournaments seriously
Online poker tournaments can be great for instilling a certain amount of discipline in poker players. Once you’ve bought in, you’re sitting on a fixed a stack of chips you can do whatever you want with. The tendency with most novice players being to go hell-for-leather and blow their wad in minutes, or guard their chips like gold and never really get into the game.
Online poker tournaments have a tendency to get seriously aggressive and competitive – precisely why it pays to be cool, calm and rational. Best of all, online poker tournaments can be a great way of stretching your bankroll to the max, given that a relatively modest buy-in could lead to hours of epic poker action.
- Get your emotions in check
Last but not least, there’s a reason the world’s most successful poker players typically look borderline uninterested at the table. It’s because they know exactly how to keep their emotions under control, basing their decisions on logic rather than impulse. Poker never has been and never will be the right game for everyone. If you’re the kind of person who’s prone to throwing tantrums and getting emotional at the drop of a hat, you probably won’t have a very good time at the table. The more your emotions take hold of you, the more difficult it becomes to make rational decisions.
If possible, therefore, you need to think carefully about the extent to which your emotions affect your game. If you face a heavy loss early on, can you carry on regardless with a smile on your face? If you find yourself on a losing streak, are you inclined to attempt to chase your losses? Do you find yourself letting anger and frustration cloud your judgment? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you really need to think about getting your emotions in check. Do so and you’ll find it much easier to make the right decisions at the right time.
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