Whether you are playing poker online or at the casino, the following tips will help you to play your Texas Holdem hand like a pro. Poker is both a game of chance and a game of skill and mental strategy. Only in poker can you lose it all with a winning hand, or win it all with a losing hand. Learn the weaknesses in others, be willing to recognize the weaknesses in yourself and you'll go far.
Selecting the right game:
Whether online or in person, take the time to read the table you are considering. Also take into account your own skill level and available funds. Are there more experienced players or higher stakes than you feel comfortable with? If so, you may want to move on to an easier table. It's better to be the best player at an easier table than the loser at a harder one.
Practice, Practice, Practice:
Another person can teach you the rules and give you some helpful insights, but in order to truly learn the art of poker, you will need to practice. Poker involves:
- Self discipline
- The ability to manage your emotions
- The ability to stay calm under pressure
- Critical thinking skills
- The ability to read and recognize weakness in your opponent
Don't be fooled into thinking that you'll have to play for decades before you can acquire the skill necessary to be a professional. Jerry Yang, a recent World Series of Poker winner, had fewer than two years of game experience under his belt when he earned his winnings. The same opportunity for success applies to you. Practice often and constantly observe the other players, even when you have folded. Poker is a game that involves constant learning.
What is a poker tell? A tell includes any type of behavior, habit, or reaction that can reveal possible information about the other player's hand. Tells are psychological and apply to both novice or advanced players. Keep in mind, there are many inconsistencies and exceptions to tells. Nothing is a sure thing. Experienced players will also give you false tells in order to throw you off track.
Traditionally, tells have involved body language, the eyes, glancing at chips, boasting, or anxiety. Now that poker has moved to the online world, there are certain tells that can be observed even though you cannot physically see your opponent. Online tells can include stalls, deviations from normal betting patterns, and the size of the bet.
Chats and rants are also an excellent way to spot an immature player who is likely to go on a tilt and foolishly go all-in when they shouldn't. A player who boasts or complains in the chat box should be a prime target for you to psychologically analyze. Look at every sign of emotionalism as an opportunity to overcome your opponent. If you remain calm and calculating, it is highly likely that you will recognize the opportunity to strike.
Betting involves a series of decisions which include the initial amount, the call or check, the raise, the possible bluff, and more. During the events that involve the bets you will be able to observe your opponent's mannerisms, betting patterns, tells, and hopefully recognize opportunities to outwit them, regardless of whether the cards have been dealt in your favor or not.
Bluffing is the art of using personal boldness to gain what you may be unable to earn with the reality of your card value. It will take some time to develop this skill.
Be careful when bluffing, but certainly don't avoid it all together. It should be part of your psychological strategy. There will be times that you will bluff in order to win a hand that you actually don't have the cards for, and there should be times that you bluff in order to simply mix up your betting pattern in order to keep your edge.
You'll learn to become more skilled at bluffing if you keep a mental calculator of your own betting habits and the way you appear to others. Falling into safe betting patterns or developing obvious "tells" can be broken by using a bluff as part of your strategy.
Look for Opportunities
Even the worst hand has the opportunity to become a winning hand if you are playing your best. Of course, you won't always win. But, if you are always open to learn from your mistakes, study the game, keep your emotions in check, and always play your best, you will separate yourself from ¾ of the rest of the poker players.
Play within your bankroll
A large bankroll is not an excuse for sloppy or loose playing. If you are going to continue to win, you'll need to stay on top of your game, even when you feel that you can afford to lose. Players with huge bankrolls are often targeted by more experienced players and can be goaded into giving it all away.
Don't be afraid to fold
Folding is often your best option. Don't feel like you have to play every hand. The player who never folds is another easy target for the seasoned professional. If you are dealt a poor hand, don't stick with it hoping for it to improve. Part ways with your hand and wait for the next round.
A word about starting hand charts
Using a starting hand chart is like riding a bike with training wheels. Sure, you may become a halfway decent player, since most players play so poorly, but you'll miss out on those exhilarating moments that teach you how to think through the complexities of the game.
Poker is not just a round, a tournament, or a game of the moment. When you are playing with regular opponents, you should be laying the groundwork for the moments and days that lie ahead.Starting hand charts prevent you from this type of analytical thinking.
Poker may be a game of cards, but it is certainly a game about people. Training wheels may prevent a few scrapes, but those scrapes will help you in the long run.
Finally, be a humble winner and a graceful loser
No one likes to play with a show-off, or a poor loser. Maintain a good attitude, and have fun. There is always next time.