Many poker players, especially those who are losing money, ask the experts how to get better at poker. The answer to that question, however, isn’t quite so simple. Let’s dig in with seven tips that will help you go from zero to hero at the poker table.
1. Play less, study more
There’s no substitute for experience in poker, or any game for that matter. But sometimes you need to step away from the felt to focus more on learning the game. There are numerous training sites out there that will help you get better at poker. There are also dozens of great poker books and an endless supply of YouTube videos from top pros that can help you improve your game.
While it’s important to gain playing experience, there’s much to be learned away from the poker table. Inexperienced players often discover they’ve been making mistakes after doing a bit of studying. Once you’ve picked up on some new concepts, head back to your local poker room to test them out. A continuous cycle of a little study, a little play, and a little more study will help you rapidly improve your game. Even the big pros do it this way. That’s why they’re successful.
2. Find a group of poker friends
Poker might seem like a lonely game at times, and for good reason. When you’re out there playing, it’s you against the other players. No one can help you make decisions or hold your hand as you put up large amounts of money. This isn’t a team game. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get some help along the way.
The best poker players in the world have a group of friends they can rely on to bounce ideas off. Make friends with others at your local card room, especially those who are better poker players than you. Ask them to analyze your play and provide some guidance in your journey. Nobody makes it in this game without mentors and feedback.
3. Focus on your mistakes
One trait all successful poker players have in common is that they aren’t afraid to give themselves an honest assessment after a rough session, or even a winning one. Following a losing day at the poker table, go over the big hands in your head and assess your play in each. Did you miss an opportunity to push your opponent off the hand on the flop before taking a bad beat on the river? Did you make a bad call with a marginal hand that cost you half your stack?
Conversely, give yourself the same assessment following a winning session. Did you earn that win with sound play, or just get lucky? Could you have won more had you played certain hands better? Those are the type of questions you should contemplate each day. If you want to get better at poker, shine a light on your mistakes.
4. Play more poker
This might sound like it contradicts our first pointer. But the best way to get better at poker truly is to gain some experience. Study away from the table regularly, but eventually you have to put your money at risk and go play some cards.
The more you play, in theory, the better you’ll get at poker, and the fewer mistakes you’ll make. Of course, that all depends on how well you learn from your mistakes.
5. Join a poker training site
There are so many great poker training sites out there. Pros such as Doug Polk (Upswing Poker), Chance Kornuth (Chip Leader Coaching), Matt Berkey (Solve for Why), Jonathan Little (Poker Coaching), and others. Like we said earlier, there’s no substitute for experience. But you should also study away from the table, and there is no better way than to learn from the best.
Many of the top pros in the world love to share some of their secrets with others. Of course, they don’t give away much for free. So, be prepared to pay a decent amount to consume the valuable content.
6. Play fewer (or more) hands
Often times, especially in no-limit Texas hold’em, players either play too many hands or not enough . Both strategies are costly. If you play too many hands, there’s a good chance you’ll lose all your money quickly. If you play too tight, you’re missing out on opportunities to win money and are susceptible to a bluff.
That’s why you should play a balanced pre-flop strategy. What that means is that you shouldn’t play too tight or too loose. Mix in the occasional raise with a suited connector, but not always. Three-bet from the small blind with marginal hands once in a while. Just don’t get too carried away playing too many hands. Sometimes, getting better at poker just means dialing-in the number of hands you play.
7. Don’t be a calling station
Stubbornness is a costly trait to have when playing poker. There are going to be certain hands you’ll have to fold because your opponent fires out a big bet that’s too risky to call. At times, you may feel like you have the best hand but aren’t sure. In those situations, if you’re facing a big bet, it’s usually best to fold and wait for a better spot to call.
The mistake so many players make is being too stubborn with marginal hands, calling off big bets in fear of getting bluffed. That mentality will cost you dearly. Even the best players in the world get bluffed from time to time. That’s part of the game.
When you’re wondering how to get better at poker, it all comes down to treating it like anything else you want to learn. Play often, but don’t just blunder around in the dark. Read books, watch videos, take training classes, and get feedback and tips from players who are better than you. Finally, analyze your own play to see what you could do better. Remember, even top pros do these things. The people who assume they’re great already have big egos. But sooner or later they’ll have small bankrolls.
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