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Learn How to Play Poker

Poker is a complex game. People spend their entire lives trying to learn how to play poker, exploring its intricacies, and they still go to the grave admitting that they could have learned more. Even world series poker champions will tell you they have a heck of a lot more to learn about poker. Despite this, anyone can bring their game above average with some serious study and application of poker techniques used by the pros. Here we’ll go over some of the key things that can help you learn how to play poker at a level above the average Joe sitting at the card table.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Rational thinking is pretty damn important when you’re playing poker, assuming your rational thinking process is focused on using correct strategic information. But even if your logic is top form and you are using the best strategic information, it will do you little good if your play is polluted by your egocentric mind.

Imagine this. You’re in a game. The low card opens for $5, but the next five players all fold. You now raise without a raising hand, even though you shouldn’t. You’re trying to steal the ante and low-card money. The low card knows you’re ante stealing, however, and he doesn’t like that – not one bit. His ego shoots up and quickly says “I’m not letting you get away with that!” He raises, even though he has a terrible hand. Then your ego chimes in, and even though you have just as bad of a hand you raise him back. Finally, he decides to show a bit of sanity and just call you.

Now, what happens next is based totally on luck. Whoever gets lucky is going to be raking in a nice pot and congratulating themselves on the good play they made, when in reality they made no such thing. Either player could land in this position, but with rational thinking, the loss of the losing player could have been minimized and the potential tilt in funds could have been avoided.

This doesn’t mean you should let someone just steal the ante, only that you should do it when you actually have some kind of outs as opposed to the worst poker hand imaginable.

Another Thing About Ego

If you don’t like someone, you’ll tend to overestimate or underestimate the value of their hand. Evaluate the hand and their abilities, not the person! Play the positive expectation of your hand as opposed to the negative evaluation of the other player.

Envy No One

Envy has always played its part in poker, especially for players that are just learning to play the game. When someone wins a pot with cards you needed, you’ll always wish you had those cards. Even successful poker players often face issues rooted in envy. But many players really let envy take hold. They hate to see winning players win. This may cause them to re-raise a winning player simply because they can’t stand their success. They’ll take their hands too far just because they can’t stand the idea of their envy enemy winning.

Winning players have enough challenges to deal with and they can’t bother to waste their time on the results of other players. Weaker players, however, are mentally sloppy and unfocused or just too lazy to do the work that is required to become a winning player. Without this extra effort, they can waste their energy on trivial concerns, so they put that time and effort to use desperately trying to beat winning players and taking unwise risks instead of trying to play their best. Winning players use this envy to their advantage, as they are extremely astute in such matters. So get off Envy Lane and join the winner’s circle in the here and now.

Learn From the Past

Another important thing most winning players do is keep track of their play. This is espeically important if you want to learn how to play poker like the pros. They take notes of each poker session while it is fresh in their minds. For each day you play poker, you should have a log of the games you played that includes the details of the game, notable hands, how much you won or lost, how many players there were, etc. Players who take notes like this will often begin to notice patterns in their play and they’ll be able to figure out which games they do best in, on what days, with how many players and with what type of players. They’ll become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and they’ll be able to keep track of their progress as a poker player.

Change Your Mind

Good poker players know when to reassess their hands, no matter how good they are on the deal and no matter how far they’ve gone in the betting round. A bad player, however, may be dealt rolled-up aces and refuse to go down without a fight. They might be too busy calculating the amount of money in the pot to even notice that another player’s hand has a good chance of being better than theirs. This type of player will never learn how to play poker effectively.

A good trader knows that your ability to divest when things go wrong is what allows you to have the money to invest in the future. A good trader won’t invest another $10,000 into a company with an uncertain future just because they’ve already invested $100,000. A common mistake at the poker table, however, is to follow this very line of reasoning. Many a player thinks “I’ve already gone this far, I might as well keep going!”

This logic is totally faulty. If you think about a hand of poker like a good trader thinks about business, you will maintain a better perspective. The next time you know you’re beat, do the smart thing and fold.

Everyone is Different

When you’re first learning how to play poker, or first getting serious about the game, you may end up making some friends who have been playing the game for some time and feel the need to dispense advice to you. The thing you have to remember though, is that everyone is different. Their strategy may simply not be applicable to you based on a number of factors. One of the major factors is table image. If you’re a well kempt, attractive young woman people will simply not assume you are as aggressive of a player as if you are a disheveled mid-forties man with a crazed look in his eyes. This fact can certainly be capitalized upon in deciding whether or not to play aggressively in a particular hand or not. If you carefully try to read how other players perceive you you’ll notice that they may treat you differently than they treat someone else on the same play. This is not to say that these friends you make may not have some very valuable things to tell you. Just remember to be wary if they insist the best way to play is to be down right aggressive, as this doesn’t always work for everyone.

Go Easy on the Bluffing

You might look at bluffing statistics and conclude that bluffing is most often profitable. The truth is, statistics lie. A large number of bluffs occur when the resulting fold from an opponent was due to them actually having a worse hand than the supposed “bluffer”. Many times, bluffers may think their bluff succeeded, when in reality, their opponents also had bad hands.

So bluffing isn’t as profitable as you might think. Bluffing will lose you money unless you use it selectively or against opponents who go against the trend of calling often. If you are going to bluff, it’s often better to do it when you’re the first one to act. This is because a weaker hand will then not have the chance to first bluff you into folding, and because many players tend to check mostly hands they intend to call or check-raise with. They will bluff with their weakest hands and bet stronger hands, making it a bad play to bluff after they check as they will likely call.

Watch Your Opponents Carefully

Poker isn’t just a game of mathematics. If you aren’t spending as much time observing your opponents as you are calculating odds, you will not likely be successful in the long run. There are many “tells” that players make in the game of poker that can indicate what sort of hand they have or what strategy they are using. In addition, by watching other players closely, you can start to form a picture of any patterns they follow. Here are a few of the tells you can watch for:

A fumbled but recovered bet: If an opponent puts their chips into the pot in a sloppy manner by accident, watch closely. They’ll often know that animated or irregular bets are more likely to cause suspicion in fellow players. A player who is weak or bluffing will be more likely to straighten the bet up, whereas a player with a strong hand is not likely to do any tidying of the carelessly placed chips.

The fidget: People who fidget naturally, in any small way at all, can provide you with an easy tell. When they’re bluffing, they will often be afraid that their fidgeting will give them away, so they stop!

Loud breathers: Loud breathers are the same as fidgeters. When they’re bluffing, they will often quiet their breathing, as they freeze due to their fear of you calling their bluff.

It’s not only important to keep an eye out for other players’ tells. You have to be careful not go give away your own hand with inconsistent behaviors throughout the game.

Well, there you have it, advice from the professionals themselves. If you follow the above advice, you’ll be sure to notice an increase in your winnings, especially as you are first learning how to play poker and playing at the lower limit tables. Be sure to check back for additional tips as they are added!


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