How to improve your poker game
What do you do when you are away from the poker table?
Do you spend any time studying poker strategy, discussing poker hands with your friends or analyzing your results? A little bit of time spent working on your poker game away from the table will improve your results tremendously.
Much has been written about poker strategy, analyzing each facet of the game. You can find books about Limit Hold'em, No Limit Hold'em, Stud, Omaha and even Pineapple. There are books dedicated to bluffing, tells and psychology.
Some are written for beginner to intermediate players, and some detail very advanced strategies.
In fact, there are so many books on poker these days that it can be overwhelming to try to pick one. Some of them are written better than others. Some even have bad advice. Read reviews or talk to a well-read friend before investing blindly in a poker book.
Don't have any friends? Swing by my office, and I'll help you find a book that will help you with an aspect of your game that you want to work on.
If you haven't cracked a book since high school, there are other ways to learn. Open the Internet on your computer or phone and search for poker strategy. You will find forums where people discuss the game, videos to improve your play and even podcasts that you can download and listen to while you work out or drive.
Almost all poker players tell bad-beat stories Usually, these stories focus on the miracle card that our opponent caught and not on our thought process or actions. When you talk about poker with a friend, don't waste time looking for sympathy — look for a lesson that you can take away.
When you break down a hand with a friend, make sure to include as much information as possible. How many players were at the table? What game and limit were you playing? What was the action pre-flop? What was your position relative to your opponents'? What action did each player take on each betting round? Based on this information, what did you think your opponents hand ranges were?
If the story involves a No Limit or Pot Limit game, there are extra details that need to be mentioned. What were the stack sizes of the players involved in the hand? How big were the bets on each round, relative to the size of the pot? Were any players all-in? If so, how much was in the side pot?
Often times, when you analyze a poker hand using as much detail as possible, a mistake that you made will stick out.
Did you check when you should have bet? Call when you should have raised? Call when you should have folded? You may not have lost the pot or may have lost less if you had taken a different action at some point in the hand.
Even hands that you won should be analyzed. Did you make as much money on your winning hands as you could have? You aren't going to win every hand you play, so you want to get maximum value from the ones you do win.
So, you won a huge pot. Did your opponent still have chips left after the hand? If you had made a bigger bet on the turn, could you have gotten him to put all his chips in on the river?
Breaking down hands can help you to find small leaks in your game that may be making a big difference in your long-term results.
Your short-term results are always going to have variance, so knowledgeable players keep records of their sessions so that they can examine their profitability over the long haul.
Most poker players don't keep records of their play. Assuming that you would like to play more profitably and that you aren't a statistician, the easy thing to do is download an application to your computer or smart phone that will track your results.
Whether you are keeping a log by hand or using a program, things you want to keep track of are: game played, limit, day of the week, time of day, length of session, location, buy-in amount and cash-out amount.
When you hit a jackpot or bonus hand, include that amount in your cash-out. In most casinos, every hand that you win has a dollar taken out of it for a promotional fund. If you win six pots in a session, you have contributed $6 to the fund.
When you hit a straight flush and receive a $2,000 bonus, you are getting money back that you have contributed over time.
Using some simple math or the reports tab on your application, you can find out how much you win or lose per hour in a particular game. You might be surprised to find out that you have better long-term results on weekdays than weekends, even though the games seem so much better on Saturday night.
Maybe you have a better hourly rate playing $6-12 limit than you do playing $1-2 No Limit, even though you think of yourself as a No Limit player.
Once you have a decent sample size of data to draw conclusions from, game selection becomes much easier. Use your data to tell you which casino to play at, what limit to play, and how long to play.
Spend a little time away from the poker table studying the game. Don't just tell bad-beat stories — analyze your hands. Keep some simple records and look through them once in a while. If you aren't doing these things, your opponents may be.
I hope to see you at a poker table soon.