Poker is no longer just “know when to hold them, know when to fold them.” The game of poker has evolved into an international competition where the stakes are the highest, your cash. The years of preying on amateurs have passed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tricks to being a better player. Whether you are a rookie player or seasoned veteran on a losing streak and needs to get back to the basics, here are 15 poker secrets the stars wish you would just ignore.
Some of these secrets or tips aren’t brain surgery; however, it’s how you use them. These techniques need to be followed on a consistent basis. Poker players who waver on how they play can expect to lose over time regardless of how well they are doing in the moment. These secrets aren’t for the once a year Vegas player, this is for the player that logs on nightly and is looking for an edge long term.
What didn’t make the list? How about “There Are No Secrets,” now that seems reasonable to not make a list of poker secrets, but there is some validity to it. Everything is right there, in the end the highest ranking hand is the winner. It’s how you get there and knowing the best way to play (secrets) that will make you a winner over time.
Time to deal so here we go… We’ve got when to throw in your cards, when to go with instinct, and the best times to go all in. Check your credit line and let’s get started, here are the 15 secrets poker stars really don’t want you to know.
15 Manage Your Bankroll Accordingly
Knowing what games you can afford to play is important. Sure, it sounds simple, but when you are gambling, eyes get big quick and it’s easy to start thinking about making more than what your bankroll allows. Don’t get yourself in a game where you have no choice but to go all in. It may work once, even twice, but eventually you will be left with nothing. Guys who enter higher stake games than they can afford rarely pull themselves out at the right time. To clarify, that was a poker reference there.
Now, that’s not to say you have to stay at the same stake level. If you are winning there is no problem moving to a higher game or likewise, if you are losing, moving to a lower level stake. That’s how you should play and will keep you in the game much longer which means better chance of winning in the end.
14 Never Call - Only Raise or Fold
This is an old rule, but the important part is consistency. It’s easy to get into games and start calling just because you aren’t “feeling it.” Calling is considered weak, the weakest action. It’s a passive move in a game where the aggressive player has more success in the long run. How do you be the aggressor? “Raise” as much as possible, keep the pressure high. Going back to the previous rule of managing your bankroll should allow you to be aggressive without risking too much.
Rookies players will think that calling is a way to bluff, eventually laying out a dynamite hand that surprises everyone. Well, it’s true they may be surprised, but not for the hand you played. They will wonder why you didn’t raise and create a larger pot. It doesn’t take too long for new players to understand this one. What’s important is to not pick up bad habits and go back to playing passive versus aggressive.
13 Technology Is Your Friend
Don’t be naive and think it’s cheating if there are tools available to assist your online gaming and you are not utilizing them. News flash! The others at your virtual table are totally using them and that’s why you are getting your butt kicked. There is a lot of poker tracker software available and the cost is low considering the benefit they can bring. Simple return on investment calculations will show it’s a no brainer to spend a couple of dollars.
Playing online poker today is intense. It’s quick, competitive, and often complex at times. Use what’s available! I’ve played some online poker and sometimes the game moves so fast that even if I knew some of the cards my opponents were holding I would have made mistakes. If you are using something that isn’t allowed, it’s up to the gaming site to let you know (unless it’s part of their guidelines of course) so don’t sweat it and take any edge you can get.
12 Make Good Decisions Consistently
Poker is frustrating in that no matter how well you play a hand, sometimes you are going to lose, that’s fact. Now what happens to a lot of players is that this hard luck changes the way they play and in turn, start making bad plays, or decisions. Consistency is the key and using what you know to make good decisions is important in the long run. Making inconsistent decisions will only lead to you losing more over the long run. You will hit a run where your good decisions hit bad luck and your bad decisions are, well, bad decisions. You will lose big being inconsistent, that’s a fact.
A good rule of thumb is not to think about the outcome of any one hand; instead, use your experience to make the right decisions. Now, if you consistently lose making what you feel are good decisions then maybe you need to look at what you are basing your decisions on. Hey, poker isn’t for everyone, you could always blog about it. Those who can’t, teach: that’s fact.
11 Check Your Emotions
There’s no crying in baseball and there are no emotions in poker. Keep your focus on what you are there for – to increase your bankroll. Don’t let Jerry from Jersey or some screen name throw you off because they just took you for a big pot. Get back into the game and stay even, playing the game you know will win over the long haul.
Online there are lots of comments and reputations, but at a table it can be even worse. There are cliques, regulars, and lots of sunglasses to compete with. Don’t worry about, in fact, take humor in it and remember you taking shots at someone’s eyewear don’t have to be emotional. This is especially true if someone is wearing any type of eyewear from the eighties like “glacier” sunglasses or the type of glasses Mike D. from the Beastie Boys used to wear. In fact, you really need to call that out…
10 The Art Of The Bluff
Folks, we’re talking about continuation betting. If you don’t make the correct bet it’s a big sign that will be recognized and used to break you. If you don’t have enough continued “bluff” bets, you are seen as passive. However, you don’t want to go overboard either because that will also hurt you in the long run. No one likes someone who always bluffs, but they love someone who is a tentative bluffer. You need to find a balance in your game which most say is around 70 per cent for continuation bets, but it’s really on a player by player basis.
There is also the “tell” or the Oreo cookie, if you will, with bluffing. Don’t giggle, widen your eyes, or lean back unless you do this consistently regardless of whether or not you have the cards. I mean honestly, if you are a bad bluffer you will not do well in poker, ever. In case you haven’t heard, there’s always blogging…
9 Hindsight Is 20/20
You need to take the time to study. Poker is like anything else in that if you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to make them again. Poker stars review hands, both their hands as well as their opponent’s hands to see what happened, as well as uncover leaks where they can exploit (if it’s an opponent’s leak) or fix (their own). There are poker coaches that use this as their primary tool and it makes sense, what better way to learn than review and get better the next time?
We talk a lot about consistency here and this is where you can really establish what plays are best for you over the long run. What are the best decisions to make? Again, they aren’t going to work each time, but over time it’s the right move and you are reviewing the facts to ensure you are on the right path.
8 Position Is God
Specifically for Texas Hold’em Poker, your position matters. If you are in an early position it’s more difficult, but where this applies is if you are sitting in a late position. Here, you need to put pressure on your competitors. It’s especially important because you then become the aggressor. If you miss this opportunity you are giving someone else the opportunity.
Don’t get fooled into thinking your cards aren’t as good. Play your odds and make consistent decisions, but also don’t be afraid to be aggressive with your decisions. Depending on your position should absolutely play into your decision making. If you are first up and have garbage, folding may be the call, but if you are in a late position, this may be the time to see the next card and force the others to up their ante in the process. Who is to say they also don’t have jack?
7 The Value Play
Part of this is experience, part of this is doing your homework and part of this is having a little bit of luck. You need to know when to make a play even if it’s not the right play at other stages of the game or position. Unfortunately there is no easy way to know when a good value play is without studying and understanding the odds of poker based on your hand, position, and number of cards left to play. Unless of course you are Rain Man, then please, carry on Rain Man…
On a side note, let’s take a moment and talk about non-organized games, or back room with your friends’ or coworkers game. There is also a value play here. It’s when everyone starts getting too drunk to make good decisions. A good rule of thumb is to play conservative until after the third or fourth drink is down then bet heavily. Of course there isn’t security to break up a brawl and someone may accuse you of cheating. Alcohol isn’t always so much fun.
6 Unpredictable Is Different Than Inconsistent
So after all the harping on being consistent and making the same decisions during your play, I’m going to throw a monkey wrench into the equation. It’s good to be known as a good, consistent player, but you also don’t want to be predictable. Sometimes you need to mix it up and show a side of you your opponents haven’t seen. This is a good rule in poker as it is in life.
Now I’m not saying go all in with a pair of twos, but maybe you bluff one more round than you typically would, being even more aggressive. You want to keep your opponents on their toes, leading to bigger plays later in the game. Finding the way to be consistent, yet unpredictable, yet successful over the long term is the ultimate goal of a poker star. Of course if you really want to be unpredictable by all means, go all in on a pair of twos. Everyone will think you are crazy! Of course, you will not do well playing poker doing this, but sometimes you just have to say…
5 Understand Site Fees
For online players, there are two ways to lose money: playing poker and the place you decide to deposit your funds. Ensure you fully understand any fees as well as “the rake” associated with these sites. Some entice players with doubling their deposit only to take more over the next two months via fees and “the rake” and that’s not cool. Read reviews and ask others which are the best to play. It’s hard enough to make money playing poker, no need to lose more than necessary off the top when other sites don’t charge the same rates.
I’ll admit it that the hot sexy girls selling gambling perks on websites always catches my interest. DON’T BE FOOLED! The best sites only need semi-hot girls; the super-hot sexy girls are reserved for the sites that are trying to take your money. Of course it’s pretty obvious I’m probably easily swayed and not the best person to ask.
4 Be Confident
Any good poker player needs to believe he is going to win regardless of how the cards are dealt. This confidence shines through and in some cases will leave self-doubt, or best case, break some of his opponents. Confidence is all in your attitude, it doesn’t matter how you walk, how much you are worth, or the clothes you wear – you sit down at the table, feel like you are going to win, and bet (smartly) like you are going to win it’s going to carry over into your results. All long-term poker winners are confident in their game.
No need to confuse confidence with cockiness, which is not going to help your game. Confidence enhances while arrogance can make the game more emotional and lose focus on your plan. Also, don’t confuse cockiness with someone just being a dick. There are a ton of dicks that are successful poker stars, that’s fact.
3 Trust The Gut
Sometimes you just have this feeling. Now this isn’t a first-night playing poker feeling, but over time, especially when playing against the same opponent. If you think someone is bluffing based on his past experience that is the time to exploit and go all in. Could you be wrong? Sure, maybe, but most of the time you will be rewarded by going with your instinct.
One time I was in a game with a guy I’d played with a few times. Whenever he went all in he was always very serious, but this one time he was really nonchalant about it and I was sure he was bluffing. Turns out he wasn’t and I lost. I wanted to take my cigar and put it out in his eye. Of course I do believe trusting my gut in poker has led to more victories than losses, but you always remember the losses.
2 Learn From Your Mistakes
We already covered the hindsight 20/20 rule and studying your past hands. Well, it warrants saying that after a night is over and you didn’t do well you should take inventory and identify the three biggest things that went wrong and try to correct them next time, or at least mitigate these actions from occurring again. Just to be clear, wearing different sunglasses or t-shirt is not correcting any problems…unless they are very lucky glasses and you are that superstitious and these glasses will bring you confidence. Then, by all means, carry on.
My biggest mistakes are always related to where I take my chances, and although sometimes I am able to correct them, too often I fall back into the trap of “going for it” regardless of how strong my hand actually is given the table around me. Yeah, it’s frustrating to know how to play and still play stupid.
1 Know Your Enemies
Sitting down at a table or joining an online game is war. People are trying to win each other’s money. So it’s no surprise that poker is not a place to make friends. It doesn’t take long to see who has picked you as the person they are going to try and take out and the key to this is to realize, let them know you are up for the challenge, and at the same time don’t let emotion impact your game.
What if you can’t spot your enemy? Well here are some clues – it’s the guy that continues to raise his wager when you stay in, daring you to increase your bank roll just to keep up even if you don’t have the cards. It’s also the guy that makes off-hand comments or posts messages related to your play. He is also the guy wearing Mike D style sunglasses. Hopefully next time you’ll be able to spot him right away.