7 Tips to Take Your Poker Game From "Meh" to Amazing
Table Of Contents
Are you struggling to turn a decent profit at the poker tables on a consistent basis? Are your results best described as "somewhere around break-even"?
First off, don't worry because you are not alone. This describes the results of the majority of poker players.
Often, however, it is just a few small poker strategy adjustments that can take your game from mediocre to amazing — from break-even to crushing it.
In this article, I am going to provide you with seven subtle but highly effective poker tips to take your game to the next level.
While I can't promise you'll win a lot of money with these beginner tips, you should add everything you find on this guide to your poker strategy if you really want to improve your poker games.
Continue reading to discover poker tips like:
- What does it mean to 'think in ranges'
- How your favourite hands can damage you
- What are the best free poker games for beginners
I've also added something about pocket aces because you should be always careful when you get them. I have seen so many people play them the wrong way...
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If choosing to begin your poker journey at a real-money poker room, we recommend that you start with some beginner poker training at the lowest stakes because that's where you will find most amateur poker players. Then, work your way up the ladder and use all these strategy tips until you reach the level you like.
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1. Think About Ranges, Not Hands
It doesn't matter what type of casino poker you play: one of the easiest ways to spot average and beginner poker players is to look at how they think about what their opponent has.
- Beginner poker players try and put somebody on a specific poker hand.
- Advanced poker players think in terms of ranges. This type of thinking that can be extremely important when calculating pot odds.
A range is the entire spectrum of poker hands somebody can have in a specific situation. For example, player X can have a flush, top pair, middle pair, bottom pair, a draw, ace-high or a complete air-ball bluff.
Good players who have already gone through a few poker strategy articles understand that player X will show up with this entire range of hands with various frequencies. They don't focus on identifying a single winning hand, but they try and figure out those frequencies and then make the best play.
Average players try to put an opponent on exactly (or some other specific hand) because that's "what their gut tells them."
If there's one thing you need to know when you learn the game, this is that poker strategy tips and 'gut feeling' don't go well together. Basing your tournament strategy or cash game play on what you 'feel' is never a good idea.
In the first video of this beginner's guide to poker tips for beginners, poker pro Jason Wheeler explains how uses every possible information available to understand his opponent's cards and choose his play.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Be Realistic
Don't put your opponent on a single hand but think about ranges. Nobody has a specific hand in poker — they only have a range.
If you are in still the process of learning the game and you need some help, have a look at the complete poker hands ranking.
2. Ditch Your Favorite Hand
A lot of people have a favourite hand. I know that every time I get dealt the old -suited my eyes light up and I want to play it so bad!
However, in reality, I know that -suited is a mediocre hand. Definitely not one of the best starting hands you can hey in a game of Texas hold em.
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It makes sense to play it in some spots — late position, for instance, in an unopened pot. But it should almost always be folded in early position.
If you currently have some favourite starting hands, that's fine — most people do. But don't give them preferential treatment and make bad plays with it.
Winning poker is about math and cold hard logic, not superstition.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Be Smart
Playing too many hands is a widespread mistake (see: Five Common Mistakes New Poker Players Make).
One of the best ways to avoid it is to introduce range-based thinking in your reads.
3. Adopt a Consistent Strategy
Another big key to becoming a great poker player (and perhaps one of the most important poker tips on this strategy guide) is to consistently apply a winning strategy.
It is not okay suddenly to change things up (e.g. to open with -suited from early position or turn yourself into a calling station) just because you are bored or tilted.
All of your learning, experience and study over the years has given you a body of knowledge telling you how to play Texas Hold 'Em.
But your poker strategy only actually matters if you apply it at the poker tables all the time. Every hand counts and every session counts.
The best poker players, those ones who know how to win at poker, apply the same winning strategy over and over again, no matter how they feel or what their recent results have been.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Be Consistent
Poker is a long-term game. You need time to build your bankroll and find the right cash game or poker tournament strategy that works for you.
You should not change your strategy after a big win or a big loss (here's why).
If you really feel like your approach needs to change, make sure you read this article on Handling the Ups and Downs of Low Stakes Poker first.
4. Always Have a Reason
Big-time winning poker players will sometimes break from their standard, successful strategies, but always for obvious reasons.
An average player might start raising -suited in early position because he is bored or wants to make something happen.
An elite poker player will raise with this hand in this position on occasion because he notices the table is playing passively and there are a couple of recreational players in the blinds.
There is a clear reason then to believe that raising -suited in early position (typically a fold under normal circumstances) might be a profitable play in this situation.
If you can produce a well-reasoned argument why deviating from your regular strategy might be more profitable, then it is okay. It is the "because I feel like it" or "I am bored" reasoning that has to go.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Be Reasonable
Think. Use your experience to analyse the situations, and then understand 'why' you would take one road and not another.
If you don't have enough experience to evaluate different situations yet, you better go back to the free games and grind.
5. Know When to Fold Your Aces
Another clear difference between average poker players and great poker players is the ability to fold an overpair.
Do you know that little sick feeling you get when you have and a tight opponent raises all-in on the turn? You make the so-called "crying call", and he turns over the set yet again.
Playing online poker for free is the best way to hone your poker skills and practice with no risk.
You need to start paying attention to that feeling a little bit more often.
Certain patterns are easily recognizable at the lower stakes — especially when you play online poker — where it is 100 per cent the correct play to fold your overpair.
Good players can let go of any emotional attachment to their pretty-looking hands. Average players get married to their aces or kings instead, and can't let them go even when they know they are beat.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Aces Lose Too
Starting with the best of all poker hands isn't enough to guarantee you a winning hand.
Ask anyone for good poker pro tip, and they will all tell you the same thing: sometimes, you'll need to fold those Aces.
For more info on this specific topic, have a look at this article on How to Play Pocket Aces.
6. Realize Tilt Only Hurts You
Tilt is a destroyer of bankrolls, dreams, and poker careers.
I can't tell you how often I receive emails or comments from people who describe to me how they've tilted vast amounts of their bankroll away when things went badly at the poker tables.
The reality of poker is that sometimes things will go badly for you, and there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it.
This is what you sign up for every time you sit down to play card games.
There's always the possibility you might run terribly. You might run lights out as well, though.
When you allow yourself to lose control of your emotions and throw your strategy out the window, the only person you are hurting is yourself.
All those hours you've spent trying to learn and improve your game were basically wasted because you decided to choose your emotions over reason when it mattered.
Respect the work that you have done. You owe it to yourself to maintain more composure and stop throwing away money when the cards go south.
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Relax
The psychological side of poker can be overwhelming, and you need to be ready to deal with it.
Swings happen and bad beats will come. If you don't know how do deal with this, have a look at the poker tips Italy's poker pro Rocco Palumbo shared with PokerNews at the PokerStars Championship in Prague.
If these poker tips work for Palumbo, they may as well work for you!
7. Don't Play Bad Games
One more way beginner poker players can sabotage their poker results is by stubbornly playing in games that are full of decent-to-good regulars.
If you can't find somebody at the table who is playing very poorly, then you have to ask yourself why it is that you are even there.
If you only play poker for the mental challenge or recreation or pleasure, then this is fine. This poker tip doesn't necessarily apply to you.
Use this guide to set up your next home game online and play online poker with your friends for free or real money.
But if winning real money or chips is at all a priority for you, then you need to remember you don't turn a significant profit in poker by pushing tiny edges against good poker players.
You win big by playing against players who are making significant fundamental errors and giving away their money over the long term.
As the classic movie Rounders reminds us, "If you can't spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker."
Poker Tip Key Takeaway: Choose the Right Games
Don't sit with the pros if you can't beat them. Selecting the right games is key to your successes in poker — one wrong move, and you are out.
Again, there's no shame in playing free poker games or in looking for the best freeroll poker tournaments to play online if that's what you need.
The divide between break-even beginner players and big-time winners is not as wide as many people think.
It is often just a few simple little adjustments you can learn over time that can carry you over to enable you to start winning at a higher clip.
A lot of it has to do with starting to view the game in a much more cold, detached, mathematical, and logical way than you presently do.
Emotional and/or superstitious poker players almost always lose or struggle to remain even.
Elite poker players, meanwhile, know they are in it for the long haul and don't get overly wrapped up in each hand or moment. They continue to make the most profitable play again and again, no matter what.
Playing online poker for free is the best way to hone your poker skills and practice with no risk.
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.
This article was originally published on Feb. 13, 2017. Last update: Oct. 12, 2020.