Everyone likes the occasional poker game, but it’s a lot more fun if you know how to win. Despite what some assume, the game isn’t completely left to chance; if you want to get to the next level, you can actually develop some winning strategies of your own. Here, we’ll give you five specific tips on how to improve your poker game (and beat your friends!).
1. Read some guides
Usually, the rules of any poker game are simple. Mastering the game and its strategies is a completely different story, however. You won’t get there overnight, but reading some guides (often in the form of poker books) can help. The book “No-Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice” is a good starting point if you want to hone in on Texas Hold’em (which is the most popular variety of poker). But there are also plenty of more general poker and card games books that will help you to learn different tips and tricks that’ll up your game. As you read your preferred guide, you can also take notes and/or print out some of your favorite tips onto a reference card to keep with you on the table when you play. This will help you nail down strategies more completely.
2. Practice short-handed and heads-up
Many players find themselves at a disadvantage when they play in small groups, especially if they’re beginners. Short-handed poker requires each player to be a little more aggressive, so it’s a good idea to practice now –– before you end up at a short table with two other players at 2AM in some casino!. Similarly, “heads-up” poke refers to a one-on-one showdown. Games seldom start this way, but if you’re looking to win a table, it will come down to you and one opponent at some point. Having a bit of knowledge in your back pocket about how to alter your strategy for these situations can only help.
3. Avoid watching poker movies
It might seem like a good idea to watch a movie that incorporates poker; you get to learn a little and enjoy yourself on the way. However, movies and tv shows aren’t exactly following the rules in this genre, for the most part. Rounders is arguably the most famous of all poker movies, and places an outrageous emphasis on “tells” that seldom play major roles in big games. Casino Royale successfully rejuvenated the James Bond franchise in part through poker scenes –– but as CinemaBlend posted about in detail, some poker experts have serious issues with how the game is portrayed. In short, the movies convey the drama well, but aren’t usually teaching the game very effectively. They are not where you want to turn if you want to improve your game. (That said, by all means watch them for entertainment services –– they’re great fun!)
4. Check out some live tournaments
Unlike Hollywood movies, live tournaments are the real deal. And for starters, it certainly can’t ever hurt to tune in to the poker world’s biggest event! The 2021 World Series of Poker has actually just wrapped up, meaning you can’t tune in this year. But the event will be back next summer, and in the meantime there are plenty of WSOP clips from tournaments past that can be found on the internet. Take some time to watch the pros, make note of their strategies (and even how they handle tense situations emotionally), and try to learn from their mistakes. You won’t turn into Daniel Negreanu or Jennifer Harman overnight, but you’ll likely pick up some valuable ideas.
5. Stay well rested
This might sound like a strange one, but we’ve all been there: disoriented, grumpy, and prone to mistakes due to a lack of rest. Naturally, this sort of state can have dire consequences where your poker game is concerned! Take a pro’s word for it: Per an article on the BBC, when an amateur online player trained by pros won a big event last May, pro coach Philipp Kiefel’s first words to her were, “See what happens when you play rested and with focus?” Indeed, it seems that same old advice we all got from teachers (and parents) growing up applies in real life as well! Sleep makes you sharper. In the context of poker it helps you to be completely aware of your own hand, the possibilities of everyone else’s hands, and when you need to apply different strategies. Too tight or loose, and your hard-earned bankroll is going in someone else’s pocket.
Poker isn’t the easiest hobby to master, but it’s well worth the effort. And as is the case with so many hobbies and practices –– as in fact we stated in the piece “The Secret To Becoming A Great Singer” –– anyone can learn. When you do, you’ll have more fun playing, as well as more potential to earn some winnings here and there! Just remember that if you don’t know your stuff, it can cost you, too.