No matter if you’re brand new to the game or you’ve been a crusher for years, it always helps to continually work on your poker game.
While a lot of gains can be found in the details, there are some overarching concepts critical to success, no matter what variation of poker you play.
Today, we want to put on our “big-picture” hat and look at five poker strategy tips that can help you grow no matter where you are in your real money poker journey.
1. Complacency Kills
If you’ve ever served in the military or talked to someone who has, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this cliché—complacency kills.
Complacency refers to the process of getting relaxed with where you are and comfortable with your surroundings. While this might give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, it can cause a lot of problems.
In combat, complacency can get you killed. You might relax on your training a little bit, start to cut corners, or even just approach your job with a little bit less focus. This can give the enemy just the edge they need to get a leg up on you and your soldiers.
Don’t ever get comfortable with where you are in your poker career. Just because you start winning doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the gas. Even if you’re able to keep winning while you’re complacent, other players are working hard to beat you. The players that continue to thrive and survive in the industry are the ones that refuse to get comfortable.
- Continually dedicate time each week to study and improve your game.
- Always conduct honest and accurate assessments of your progress.
- Discuss hands with other reputable players on a regular basis.
- Avoid falling into a groove where you feel like you’re just clicking buttons.
- Play regularly. Poker is a perishable skill.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Blaze Your Own Trail
Learning from the best players in the world is a great way to become a good player. But what happens when you have a strategy that you think is better than the industry norm? Well, for most players, they assume it has to be wrong and revert to what everyone else is doing.
While this can be smart some of the time, don’t be afraid to challenge the norm. I remember the days when you saw someone min-raise in a tournament, and you knew they were a fish.
I’m not saying to run out and do every crazy move you’ve ever thought of. I’m also not saying to get out there and try and prove math wrong. But if you want to be truly great, don’t be scared to try out what you think is best. You may discover something that works.
The optimal strategies in poker now are not the same as they were in the past. Expect them to change continually, and accept that there is nothing wrong with you being on the cutting edge of that.
3. Check Your Ego
I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times and probably just brush it off at this point. However, I invite you to take a minute and really make sure you’re doing this. When ego gets involved in poker, it can spell disaster. When you start to think you’re bigger than your britches, you stop learning, and you stop honestly assessing your successes and failures.
There are a few strategies that may help. First, ask people you trust that aren’t scared to be honest with you. If you don’t have any friends that fit this bill, that’s probably a rough sign.
The second way you can go about checking if you have an ego problem is to ask yourself a few questions.
- How many times have you lost recently and admitted you did something wrong? If it’s always a bad beat and never your fault, you may have an issue.
- How often do you admit a play you made was less than ideal? If you think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and everything you do is perfect, that’s a red flag.
- How do you react to criticism from good players? Do you always start explaining how what you did was right, or are you occasionally admitting you were wrong?
- How do your long-term results look? If you’re not top 10 in the world in results over longer than a six-month period, you’ve got room to improve. If you can’t admit that, though, you’ve got an ego problem.
4. Don’t Be Too Cool for Game Selecting
Yes, it’s fun to challenge yourself against the best in the world or at least the best in your area. However, if you play poker to make money, this is not the best strategy. The best in the world know how to game select and put themselves in situations where they are more likely to succeed.
If you’re unfamiliar with game selection, it’s something you need to learn. Game selecting is the process of only playing in poker games where you know you have an edge. So, if you play online, this could mean checking out a new online poker site once in a while. If you play in person, this could mean picking different days and times to play. In all situations, though, it means having the foresight to realize when you’re in a game that’s too tough and having the discipline to get up and leave.
Better players may try and goad you into staying, but that’s just them trying to increase their edge. Oh, and if your response to this tip is that you’re the best in the world and you have no need to game select, I recommend re-reading number three on the list.
5. Motivated Moderation
It’s tempting to play poker 15 hours a day and seven days a week, especially when you’re winning. Add in the time you’re spending studying, though, and you’re now basically living, breathing, eating, and sleeping poker 24/7.
Include other things in your life that make you happy and keep you healthy outside of poker. While it might seem like you’re leaving money on the table in the short run, it’s actually setting you up to make way more in the long run.