Poker is a game that has been around for centuries. However, it wasn’t until fairly recently that the game experienced a resurgence, with millions of people now playing both live and online versions of the game.
Poker has even become quite the spectator sport for the tension and skill that is involved in the game. In fact, it’s hard to flip through the television channels without seeing the game being played tournament-style, with thousands and even millions of dollars in prize money at stake.
If all this poker coverage has got your attention and made you curious about the game, or if you are a player just starting without poker, there are several things you can do to get better at the game.
To illustrate this point, in the article below we have listed and described several basic and fundamental strategies for improving your overall poker game—strategies that will help you win more money at every poker session you play and, more importantly, lose less money than you normally would when playing against more experienced players.
Watch the Table Before Sitting Down to Play
Whether you are at a casino, card room or just your friend’s bachelor party, you can learn about the players you will be competing against simply by watching the action for a while before actually sitting down.
By watching the table you can learn many things, such as a given player’s tendency to bluff when he has absolutely nothing, the hand, body and eye movements of someone who has the best hand, and just the overall playing strategy of each player in the game.
This strategy will allow you to pick up some very valuable clues and information before you even wager a dollar in the hand.
Fold More Often (Don’t Play Every Hand)
One of the great things about poker is that every player gets to see at least two cards before ever putting any money into the pot. However, once you see your first two cards you will be forced with a decision to either play the hand—and match the current bet—or fold the hand and risk nothing whatsoever.
Perhaps the number one mistake that many novice poker players make is that they play too many hands and have a tendency not to fold enough. Although your lucky senses may be telling you that your 7/2 off-suit is a good enough hand to risk a play, the odds of poker say the opposite—to lay the hand down and wait for the next one.
As a novice poker player you may be tempted to play more hands than you should just to remain in the action. After all, poker is far less exciting when you are merely watching other players compete for the pot.
However, you must be patient to be a good poker player. Most of the very best poker players in the world typically play about one out of every 10 hands.
They save their chips for when they actually have the goods and a better chance to win the pot. In other words, playing more pots does not translate to winning more money.
Of course, there will be times when you “get on a roll” and the cards you get seem to always be winning cards. This eventuality, however, is very rare.
So instead of donating your stack around the table by playing every sub-par hand just to be in the action, try to keep in mind that folding is a very important part of a successful poker strategy. If you find you are staying in the game on half or more of the hands you are dealt, you probably need to upgrade your starting hand requirements.
Sober Poker Is Winning Poker
Believe it or not, there is a reason why casinos offer gamers free drinks, and it’s not because they want to ensure everyone has a good time. Simply put, drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions and causes you to take risks that you normally would not engage in when completely sober.
Casinos collectively make billions of dollars each year from the pockets of tipsy players. This alone should serve as a huge warning sign that playing when inebriated is better for the house (and other players) than it is for you.
Of course, if you are merely playing a home game with friends and family, drinking a little alcohol while you play is certainly okay, as most of the other players in the game will also be drinking. However, when you are playing in a casino or playing poker in a tournament it is best to leave the alcohol alone so your brain can function normally.
Players in casinos and tournament action can be sharks and if they spot you are drunk or getting drunk they will stop at nothing to take all of your chips. The truth is, while you may be more relaxed after a couple beers or a glass of wine, this consumption may lead to you playing looser and less sharply, even if you’re not fully drunk.
As you sit down at your next poker table, chances are you will notice that very few players at the table are imbibing at all. This should be your first clue that poker really isn’t a game to play when you have dulled your senses with alcohol.
Watch the Bluffing
If you are new to poker you may have the tendency to bluff far more often than you really should. Naturally, bluffing is part of a good “overall” poker strategy, but when you bluff a lot the other players in the game will begin to notice your tendency to do so, causing you to lose far more pots than you win.
The best way to win at poker is to play good cards and to play them intelligently. Keep in mind that there is no set rule that one must bluff a certain amount of times to be successful, and some successful players very rarely bluff at all.
However, for some reason or another, many novice players do not think they’ve really won at poker until they have bluffed another player out of a pot. This can be a mistake that costs you all your chips and a shot at the final table of a tournament.
In poker, bluffs only work in certain situations and against certain people. Moreover, when playing low-level games bluffing very rarely works because most people are inclined to call the bet all the way down to the showdown.
By being smart and picking your spots when bluffing you’ll be able to preserve your chips and use them to call down another bluffer who dared to tempt your resolve.
Don’t Remain in a Hand Just Because You Are Already in It
So here is a situation: There are five people left in the hand and you called the action with your pair of Jacks, which is usually a pretty good starting hand. However, the flop comes down K-K-Q, the other four players bet or raise their hand and the action is now up to you.
What do you do now?
Novice players will usually pony up the money and stay in the hand, even though their chances of winning are very low. All it takes is for one person at the table to have a K a Q or even a pair of Aces and you lose.
As hard as it can be to give up what looked like a good hand initially, the proper move in this situation is to fold your cards—and live to fight another day.
Many beginner players will think, “Well, I’ve already put X number of chips in the pot, so I have to stay in now.” This is not only untrue it is very unwise.
You cannot win a good pot just by throwing money at it, especially when it appears that you might be holding third or fourth-place cards. While there may be cases when the pot odds warrant a call, if you are sure you are beaten based on the board and the odds, and there’s no way your hand can improve to be the best hand, you should fold right away.
Unfortunately, the money you’ve already put into the pot isn’t yours anymore, and you can’t get it back just by playing a hand all the way to the end—this is why it is called “gambling.”. You can, however, fold your hand and prevent yourself from losing any more chips on an obvious loser.
Never Let Your Emotions Dictate Play
The final tip for getting better at poker is to never let your emotions dictate your next move. Emotions can often run high during a poker session or tournament, and the chances are pretty good that one or more players will try to get under your skin.
But however you may feel about this individual, it is never a good idea to change your winning strategy just for a chance to show him up. Playing cards that you wouldn’t normally play and/or raising or calling when it is not advisable can all be products of emotion.
Instead of giving in to this emotion, stand up for a while and take a walk around the card room until you are no longer heated or steamed. This will give you the necessary time to clear your head and prevent you from losing your chips just for a chance to get even with someone.