7 Tips To Become A Better Poker Player
Being a newly minted poker player online can seem quite daunting. You have all these experienced players who have played hundreds of thousands of hands of real money poker online playing against you, the guy still trying to figure out things like what the difference between a rebuy and a re-entry is! It feels bad to get owned game after game by better players who you can’t seem to playback at all. As a newbie, it was no different for me, I had just discovered my love for poker and also discovered that it, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to skill and unfortunately does translate to losing money via the dunning-Kruger effect. (what a surprise right?). In those long nights of red bull fueled grinding, there was a senior from my college who helped me understand poker and myself better and refused to take any favors in return, when I asked him why he a fellow philosophy major, said: “The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life”. I was amazed, how articulate!, then I found it was a quote by Rabindranath Tagore. still grateful to him though.
It took me 4 years to understand no-limit hold’em to the point where I can hold my own against most lineups and make a consistent profit playing real money poker online. There’s a lot I learned inefficiently, I had a lot of half-baked knowledge, which is much more dangerous than no knowledge. The tips I will be sharing today are the tips I would give 2017 me if I had a time machine lying around. These are not abstract theoretical ideas, don’t worry. These will immediately add value to your game plan and prevent you from having to reinvent the wheel over and over again. Here’s an ode to giving back.
1) Bankroll Management
- Yes I know you have heard people crying themselves hoarse over the importance of good bankroll management (they are right). Some say you should have a million dollars to play micro-stakes while others say you should shot take 1 crore high-rollers with half your salary because the upside is too high, I am only slightly exaggerating. Let me make it simple for you, not only have I grinded my way up the stakes, I have seen several prodigies do so as well. Here’s all you need.
100 buyins for your average tournament buyin (If you play tournaments exclusively). Do keep in mind, this is if you only play 1 tournament a day If say you play 5 tournaments a day, you need 500 buyins, if you play 10, you need 1000 buyins to be able to ride the downswings and realize your edge, and tournament downswings are unequivocally the most brutal, speaking from both stats and experience. For cash games, you need 50 buyins if you only play on one table at a time, to calculate how many buyins you need for x tables just multiply x*50. Go lower than this and you have the “risk of ruin” and a lot of turbulence. Go higher and you are just letting your money rot. This is the sweet spot you should aim for.
2. Play tight AND aggressive
- You need to play with good hands preflop and play them aggressively on the flop. In no-limit Holdem both players miss the flop most of the times, but the guy who raised preflop has both the initiative and the range advantage, don’t be scared to bet, don’t trap often. When you have strong hands, you want to build big pots with them, this is where the bulk of your poker profits will come from, not random fancy plays. Keep in mind though being tight AND aggressive is important, you can’t just play tight preflop but fold on every second flop and vice versa, don’t give your opponent free checks until you want them to bluff, keep it simple.
3-Defend your big blind but don’t go crazy
- Since you have already invested 1bb in the pot involuntarily, you get to defend with a wide range in the big blind as you are getting really good odds to play. I forbid you to fold any hand higher than J8o in the blind. Start taking dead money, stop giving it away. You can only learn how to play wide ranges by playing them and making mistakes after all.
4-Punish people who don’t defend their blinds well
-If you see someone folding most of their hands in the big blind, anytime you are up against them, it’s bullying time! Depending on how tight they are, you can start betting with two paper napkins and make an automatic profit.
5-Respect position when your opponent has it, weaponize it when you do
- Position matters in poker as much, if not more, than it does in sex and chess, amongst other things.
When your opponent has position over you, err towards conservative play and passivity, respect their aggression, and sometimes even the lack of it more. You want to be cautious as you are at an informational disadvantage and your opponent at an informational advantage.
When you have position, err towards aggression. having position is great for setting up traps and profiting with your premium hands. This is the time to take your opponent to the streets and beat them up with a baseball bat if you have the goods. Position also helps you get out of tricky situations, as now you have the informational advantage and your opponent will either have to respect it or perish.
6) Don’t think about luck, good or bad
- Here’s something for you to ponder. Do you think legends like Tendulkar and Federer win every game they play? No of course not! They can’ control the outcome of one single match no matter how good they are or how hard they practice. But what they could do and did is play to the best of their abilities, show up every day, work on their game and let their passion and perseverance guide them to the lands of unchartered greatness, they might not be able to control what happens in one game but in the long run, not only did they become the GOATs, they also left a legacy so immense, that its standards are what today’s talent is measured by.
The same is true of poker, word for word. Forget downswings, bad luck will always feel bad, but that doesn’t mean you have to ACT like a monkey on tilt, it’s okay to feel bad, but you need to realize even when you feel bad, you are in control of your actions. Forget upswings as well, they will make you giddy with happiness, cause a lot of poor financial decisions and amplify the downswing when it inevitably does come. Skill is immune to luck, luck can only annoy skill like a mosquito, never triumph over it. Keep grinding with passion, do not go gentle into the night.
7- Take care of your mental health, be easy on yourself
- Poker can be the biggest adrenaline rush on the planet at times, at times it can also be so gory and brutal it puts “Game of Thrones” to shame. If you start finding playing poker to be a chore, not only will you not have fun, you will also play suboptimally and not leave any room for creativity in your mind. Perfectionism is just as bad, self-awareness is critical, figuring out the leaks and flaws in your game is crucial, but taking care of your mental health is just as crucial. Walk away when poker starts feeling like a chore, come back when you think you are missing the felts again, poker isn’t going anywhere. Taking care of yourself and go easy on yourself when you make a mistake. Calling yourself a moron neither feels good nor makes you play better, figuring out what to do better does. So why call yourself a moron at all, when you just made a mistake, which by the way, even the best poker players make, every day. Stay hydrated, eat healthily and work out. You will play the best poker of your life when you can’t wait to play poker and feel amazing in your head.
Here’s to hoping you learned something valuable today you can use in your next game and hopefully even life in general. I am elated to see newbies on the felts discovering the beautiful game I fell in love with and happy to assist them in some small capacity to pay it forward. Good luck and happy grinding! If you are ready to start your poker journey, we have some jaw-dropping sign-up bonuses for various poker sites in India for you, take a look here.
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