Enjoy Your Victories!
Enjoy your wins! Everybody talks about their bad beats. Just as in life people tend to focus on the negative. Learn from past play mistakes but take the time to remember and bask in your wins and successes.
Play With Better Players Without Overplaying Your Bank Roll
If you want to improve your game you are going to have to play with some players who are better than you. Of course you want to win but in the long run you will win even more if you can advance your game. You can usually do this in a low limit home game or online. Be careful though not to play beyond your bank roll. Use prudent financial judgment.
It’s Not a Sin to Get Caught Bluffing!
You want to bluff the right people at the right time but no matter how well you plan the bluff sometimes you will get caught. That is okay. If you played the hand correctly and were bluffing then sometimes you will still get your hand caught in the cookie jar.
It’s not the worst thing in the world as it lets other players know that you don’t only play with the best hand and that will get you more action which will be just what you want when you do have a big hand. Remember the keys to choosing your moment to bluff – position, the other playing patterns of those still in the hand, still in the hand, (loose or tight) your chips stack, your table image.
Afraid to Bluff? Force Yourself
Many beginners are afraid to bluff. They are not confident with the process. If you are in this camp, plan a bluff. Say to yourself next time I have position I will put in a bet (assuming no one raised before you) no matter what 2 cards you have. Try it when the stakes and blinds are low and you are in a late position. It gets easier every time you do it so practice when it makes sense.
The Best Player Does Not Always Win
The big debate in poker is how much of winning is luck and how much is skill. Well both matter. Skill will win out over time but no matter how good you are if someone is on a lucky streak you better be cautious. Keep getting rivered by the same person? Does your boat get beaten by quads? Time for a dinner break. Yes, sometimes luck trumps skill. Just as it does in life.
Be Wary of Limpers in Poker
When you see a player is just calling (limping) into a pot you need to be suspicious. This is especially true if they are usually an aggressive bettor. Sometimes they are on a draw but they may also have the nuts and just be letting you do the betting for them. If they were in the big blind they may have gotten a big blind special so pay attention and take a little extra time to try and figure out what they would be calling you with. Don’t keep betting into them blindly.
When you are in a hand against another player and you make it to the river, it is best to turn over your hand if you have called the bet so you can be sure you are beat. Just the other night a beginning player went to muck her cards because she thought the other person had a higher pair when SHE had a flush! She did not notice it. Had she just thrown in her hand she would not have known because cards speak. Even if you do not see a winning hand , others will if the cards are turned up.
It is Harder to Protect Your Hand in a Limit Game
When Playing Limit Texas Hold’em versus No Limit it is much harder to protect your hand than it is in no limit. This is especially true in a low limit game. It is very easy to get rivered with people chasing straights and flushes. Someone will call you for a few bucks so you need better hands to stay in a limit game versus a no limit. You need to adjust your play based on the game you play.
Talking at the Table is a Huge Tell
Some people engage you in conversation to be friendly but many do it to see if they can pick up a tell. Just saw it happen with two pros on TV. Don’t talk during the hand. You may be giving something away and not even know it.
Beware of the Re-Buy Tournament
When you play in a re-buy tournament, it is much harder to bluff and push people off of their hands. Unless you are willing to do a lot of re-buying yourself, play tighter as people will tend to chase hands since they know they can always buy more chips. This is especially true at a charity event where people have a few drinks and chalk it up to the money going to a good cause.
I found that out in a recent charity event with a very high buy-in. If people seem to be very loose with their money, stick to playing quality hands.
Be Careful of Ace with Low Kicker at a Full Table
In a 10 handed game there is a 75% chance that someone else holds an Ace. If you have a low kicker, be very careful especially if there has been a raise or you are in early position. If an Ace flops you can wind up putting a lot of money into a pot where you will be out kicked.
Playing a Short Stack in a Cash Game
If you are playing in a low level cash game like a $1-$2 no limit many casinos have a maximum buy-in. However if someone has been winning at the table for hours they may have a significantly higher number of chips than the maximum buy. Many people are afraid to come in with a short stack of say $100 when many of the players at the table have 5x’s that amount.
While it is true that in some ways you are at a disadvantage with the short stack, if you are disciplined and getting cards it can be a good opportunity to win a lot of chips with a smaller downside. This is not the time to do a lot of bluffing nor is it suggested that you call small bets and whittle away your stack.
You are best off waiting for good cards and then making bold moves. If you are not getting hands you really have to be folding but if the cards are coming your way with a lot of chips on the table you have a good chance of having a nice win even starting with the small stack.
Picking Up Tells on the Flop
When the flop is being dealt you should be looking at the other players faces and body language not at the flop. See if they make a facial expression that indicates strength or weakness or notice if they move toward grabbing their chips. If they reach towards chips they likely have a hand.
Additionally, players who look away from the flop generally have a strong hand. They want to seem disinterested so they look away. Players that stare at the flop often have nothing. Remember this is a game about reading people and you need to pay attention to the non-verbal cues if you want to be a winner.
This skill will also be a big help to you professionally. Sometimes you learn a lot more from actions than you do from words.
Don’t Feel Pressure to Chop the Pot in a Poker Tournament
If you are fortunate enough to make it to the final 2, 3 or 4 in a tournament, you may be asked to chop the pot. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes people are tired, or they want to play in another Tourney or they are the short stack. It is perfectly acceptable to chop and move on but by no means are you required to do it. Unless all participants agree, play will continue and there will be no chop. Push back if you do not want to chop.
Don’t Overvalue Survival in a Tournament
If a 100 person tournament pays the top 10 people it does not matter if you come in 11th or 99th. You can’t just try to stick around because you don’t want to be out too early. Play to get all the chips. You must play to win as opposed to avoid losing. It’s no fun to be out in the first hour but it is a waste of time to just linger without going for the big win.
In a Showdown Do Not Muck Your Hand Until You See Your Opponents Cards
Sometimes after a showdown your opponent will declare that they have a better hand then they actually have to get you to muck your cards and then when they turn their cards over “pretend: to have misread their hand. This is a growing form of cheating. Make sure you see their cards BEFORE you muck.
Calling an All In Requires a Much Better Hand Than Moving All In
Many beginners think when they are short stacked that they should call an all in bet with any decent hand. What they should be doing instead is moving all in first to put pressure on the other players. Calling an all in with Q8 is very different from moving all in with the same hand with a small stack. The all -in bettor will likely have something that you have to beat. Be the leader.
If You Have Too Many Tells Practice Counting to Ten
A client was telling us that she had a long way to go before perfecting her poker face and was riddled with tells. One thing you can start to practice right away is counting to 10 or 20 before you make any move whether it be bet, raise or fold. The consistency of action time will make it harder for people to read you.
Staring at one spot on the wall can also make you harder to read. Try to refrain from engaging in chit chat while in the hand. Your voice can give away a lot! A good pair of sunglasses can help also.
Try to Pick Up Tells on the Flop
When the flop is being dealt you should be looking at the other players faces and body language not at the flop. See if they make a facial expression that indicates strength or weakness or notice if they move toward grabbing their chips. If they reach towards chips they likely have a hand. Additionally, players who look away from the flop generally have a strong hand. They want to seem disinterested so they look away. Players that stare at the flop often have nothing. Remember this is a game about reading people and you need to pay attention to the non-verbal cues (“tells”) if you want to be a winner.
Do Not Discount the Short Stack
Yes they may be light in chips but they have nothing to lose so it is harder to tell if they are making a move with rags or the nuts. If you have a big chip stack you may want to try to take them down but if your stack is middle of the road or marginal and there are several players left to act don’t try to be the hero unless you have the right cards or pot odds especially if you are close to making it into the money.
Watch Others at the Table as They are Watching You
You have to pay attention to what is going on at the table if you want to make it deep into a tourney.
When out of the hand, spend your time looking at the players and their actions rather than texting and tweeting. You can pick up a lot of information by observing the betting, tells and other behavior. Are they nervous, acting fast? Do they suddenly stop talking? You can be sure that the serious players are watching you.
Who Has to Show Their Cards in a Showdown?
In a heads up game, if someone bets and you call, you paid to see their cards and they have to show them to you. You do not have to show your hand if you don’t beat them and typically should not as it gives the other players information.
Your competitor can request that you show but doing so on a frequent basis is not encouraged. In fact some card rooms do not permit it.
In a multi-handed showdown usually the last player to take action by either betting or raising is the first to show the hand. In the case where everyone checks (or is all-in) on the last round of betting, then the first player to the left of the dealer button is the first to show their hand.
It’s Okay to Change Your Seat or Your Table
There are numerous reasons that can make a seat or table change a good move. If you have a very aggressive player to your left who is raising every hand and you never get to see a flop it may be time for a switch. If someone is abusive or too drunk you may want to get up too. If you crave action and you are playing with a very tight crew move to a more aggressive table. It is your right to move and you should do it if you feel the need.
A word of caution. In some instances in a Casino card room if the tables are too short they may not let you move as they want to keep the players per table at an equal level. Casinos and players don’t want 5 people at one table and 9 at another but it certainly cannot hurt to ask.
It is important to bluff and switch up your game a little but you have to pick the right time to do it. It’s tough to bluff the chip leader or a person who always calls. Pay attention to the player’s habits. Also if you bluff pre- and post- flop and someone keeps calling or raising, cut your losses and get out of the hand on the next bet. Sometimes you just can’t get away with it.