One thing every poker player should strive to achieve is to continuously improve their game. If you are not attempting to improve your game every time you play, you will not become a winning poker player. With that being said, there are 5 simple things any poker player can do to improve their game.
1. Play Fewer Hands And Be Patient
The biggest mistake players make is they play way too many hands. At least 75% of the hands you will see during a game are not playable, yet players will play them anyway, and lose chips or go broke in the process. It is ok to fold. It’s part of the game. Play premium hands, like high pocket pairs, medium pocket pairs, and over cards like AK, AQ, AJ, and even AT. Suited connectors can be played, but often they are overvalued and overplayed. Hands like KQ, KJ, QJ, and JT fall into the same category. Small pocket pairs also fall into this category. Too often people will go broke playing a hand like 55 with a board no lower than a 6.
Playing good poker does require patience. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in poker. You can’t wait for AA all the time (they only come once every 221 hands) but don’t play a hand like K7 just because its the best hand you’ve seen in a while. Doing so usually costs you chips or your chair. Learning patience is one of the best things you can do to improve your game.
2. Be Aggressive
Now that you’ve been patient and waiting for a hand, you get dealt pocket Queens. What do you do? Play them aggressively. One mistake people make is when they get a good hand they bet the minimum. By doing this you’re encouraging bad players to play bad hands. This is when most of your “bad beats” occur. What you should do when you get a good hand is raise, generally 3-4 times the big blind. By doing this you can get the bad hands out of the hand, and see where everyone stands in regards to their hands. If you pick up the pot right then and there, that’s a good thing. Its better to win a pot than to not win a pot at all.
But lets say you get some callers. When the flop comes out read it carefully. Is there a card on the flop higher than yours? Does your hand beat the flop? If you can beat the board, bet the flop hard. Bet about 2/3 to 3/4 of the pot and you should be able to pick it up right then and there. Can the board beat you? If so, this is the time to do a feeler bet. A feeler bet is a small bet to test the waters, generally 1/4 to 1/3 of the pot. Here are some examples with numbers.
The blinds are 50/100. You are on the button and make it 400 with your QQ and get 2 callers. The pot is 1350. The flop comes J83 rainbow. Action is checked to you. A bet of 800-900 should be enough to win the pot. By betting less you’re encouraging players to call, possibly allowing them to hit for 2 pair or trips.
Now lets say the flop is K83 rainbow. Action is checked to you. The King is a scare card, and a bet of 800-900 may be foolish as someone may have a King and is waiting on you. Here a bet of 400-500 is correct, as a call will indicate if someone has a King. This bet may also be enough to win the pot without risking a lot of chips.
3. Pay Attention
So you’ve been patient, waiting for hands, and aggressive when you do get hands. Now what? Now is the time to pay attention to what’s going on at your table. Are there any short stacks at your table? If so, don’t play with them unless you have a hand that you are prepared to call an all in with, as that may be the next move for the short stack. Is there an ultra loose player at your table? If so, bet your good hands hard as they will likely pay you off by playing inferior hands. Is there someone who is playing ultra tight? If so, avoid them unless you have a really big hand. They are only playing premium hands and playing with them could be trouble for you. Paying attention sounds straight forward, but its one lesson people don’t take advantage of.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
This may seem silly, but practice will only help to improve your game. One of the best ways to practice is by playing online. You can play anytime, anywhere, any game, at any dollar amount. You don’t have to play for real money by any means. Online sites also have play money tournaments. They are played just like real money games, but there is no financial risk on your part. You can play for real money if you like, but that’s up to you.
5. Learn From Other Sources
If you truly want to improve your game, ask your fellow players for advice. Seek out someone who’s game you respect, and ask them for their advice or give them your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to get criticized though. If someone points out a flaw in your game, don’t take it personally. Work on that flaw until it’s no longer a weakness. Every player has a weakness or something they need to improve on, and if someone says otherwise they are just plain lying.
Another thing you can do is simply read a book. Poker books provide a lot of knowledge that players have learned thru years of playing, which you can pick up in just hours of reading. Reading poker books is one thing; You must apply what you have read to your game. Not applying what you read is just wasting your time and money, and not improving your game at all.
If you apply these 5 simple ideas, your game can only get better. And in my opinion, the better you become at poker, the more enjoyable the game is for you and everyone around you..