Become a Winning Poker Player with These 14 Tips
So, you want some tips, huh?
Well, my first thought was to barrage you with tips that have been repeated since Doyle Brunson was in diapers. But, some of those tips are outdated. Others won’t do you any good without context.
And, we don’t even know what you play, or what you suck at. Maybe we’re not even qualified to give you advice?!
So, we figured the next best thing is to give you tips based on our experience playing. Advice that, we think, will help all kinds of players, regardless of their experience, game or stakes.
Then let’s get started.
1. Question All Advice and/or Test it Yourself
Poker is a dynamic game. A dynamic profession. There are few absolutes.
That Includes everything you read here. And if you read something you want to follow, then do yourself a favor and test it first. Try it out to see if it works for you.
Maybe you think the advice sucks. It doesn’t work for you because it doesn’t fit your playing style, the games you play, or life goals.
Or, maybe you find the advice works, makes you money, and is in line with how you want to live your life.
Who knows. But we’d never take anything we’re told at face value. Not until we test it.
And we suggest you do the same …but obviously you should test this out for yourself.
2. Choose one Game and Master It
One of the best things we did early on was learn how to play one game – Texas Hold’em – and one tournament variation – the turbo 18-man SNGs on PokerStars.
The reason you stick to one game is so you can learn it fast. What are it’s nuances? What strategies do you need to beat it? You’ll never answer those questions bouncing from one game to the next, let alone get any good at any of them.
Once you’re consistently winning you can start playing other games. The easiest thing to do is make a small pivot and play a similar game or variation. The only adjustments you need to make are small ones.
For example, once we were pretty good at the 18-mans, we started to play the turbo 45 and 180-man SNGs. We needed to make some adjustments, sure, but only minor things like opening hands and shoving ranges. We were able to hop right in, play and make money.
When you approach poker like this you’ll find that you’re still learning and getting better, but doing so at a moderate pace you can stick to, and without losing your shirt.
3. Review Your Hands
When you first start playing (seriously) you should spend the same amount of time studying your hands as you do playing.
What do you review? Everything.
- What hands to you play? Why?
- Who do you play hands against? Why?
- How do you play these hands in different spots? Why?
- What could you have done instead? Would it have been better? Why or why not?
If it helps, you can get a coach or friend to review hands with you. That way you remove all bias from the equation so you can review each hand objectively.
As you get better you can spend more time playing than reviewing hands. Maybe only focus on reviewing difficult hands or spots.
But there’s nothing wrong with reviewing full tournaments or sessions. We can honestly tell you that you’ll never regret doing it.
4. Get a Coach or Mentor: Then Become a Coach Yourself
One of the best things we ever did was get a coach. In fact, we were a part of a stable where we had access to several coaches – all of whom specialized in different games and formats.
If you ask anyone who’s been successful in anything, they’ll tell you one of the reasons – if not the reason behind their success, is because they got coaching or mentoring from someone more experienced than them.
With coaching you’ll have someone call you out on your BS. They’ll help you navigate pitfalls, whether it’s in playing professionally, paying taxes, or getting backing. They’ll help you with strategy. They’ll help you get better. They’ll help you with your mindset.
The list goes on and on.
If you want to leapfrog your competition and become a better, more profitable poker player – fast – you need to hire a coach.
Start with a coach that plays the games you do, or used to. They don’t have to be super expensive. And you can always move up in coaches as needed. In fact, you may need to.
Once you have some experience under your belt, and have moved up in limits, pay it forward – start coaching other players. Not only will you help others, but it also forces you to think about what you’re saying, doing and the advice you’re offering. It also helps cement everything you’re learning and doing.
5. Play Fewer Tables
Playing 20+ tables is great if you’re making $1/game, but what if you could play 10 tables at $2 a game? Wouldn’t that make more sense? You’ll have less stress, more focus and you’ll actually improve. Plus, you’ll move up in stakes faster where less volume is needed to make good money.
6. Treat Poker Like a Job
At least if you plan to take poker seriously. This includes doing things like:
- Setting a schedule (and sticking to it). Not only for playing, but for taking breaks, going to bed, getting up in the morning, and so on.
- Set targets and hit them. This includes number of hands or tournaments played.
- Get an accountant. Make sure to talk to them about how you’ll pay your taxes.
- Set aside money for taxes.
- Keep enough money to keep you bankrolled through variance.
- Set aside and keep enough money in your savings so you can pay bills even if you hit some rough patches.
It’s a big shift in thinking, going from playing poker as a hobby to treating it like a business. But we guarantee you’ll see better results, and you’ll save/make more money once you do it.
7. Don’t Grind Away Your Life
One thing I noticed that’s very easy to do is to let poker consume you. During every waking hour you’re doing something poker related. That could be playing poker, talking poker, reading about poker, and so on.
But what about your health? What about your relationships? What about balance?
We don’t even remember a lot of what we did outside of poker during the time we played. It’s sad, really, because those years are just gone. You’ll never get them back.
If anything, that should be incentive enough to take a business-like approach to poker.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Health
There’s nothing healthy about playing poker, online or off. You’re sitting all day, which is bad for you. In fact, people who sit all day or at a MUCH bigger risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems than those that don’t.
And sitting all day playing sessions non-stop doesn’t give you much incentive to make your own meals or eat well, either. So you’ll eat whatever’s handy, which is usually junk food and take out.
That goes for exercise too.
The bottom line is if you’re going to sit all day and play poker, you owe it to yourself to exercise regularly.
In fact, with the rise of standing desks and walking treadmills, we would definitely recommend getting one of those for when you play. Then make sure to get 30-60 mins of exercise each day on top of that. Preferably more.
But keeping up with your health isn’t just for looking better. It’ll keep you more refreshed, clear headed, and thinking better. You won’t be exhausted or spent from all day thinking.
In other words, staying healthy will mean that you play better poker, and make more money while you’re at it.
9. Focus on the Process
One mistake people make, whether it’s poker or not, is they focus on the results.
How much weight they lost. How much money they made. How many hands or games they played. And so on.
They focus on the outcome, instead of what got them there. But we’re telling you that the process is far more important. For one thing, results or goals don’t come around so often. You get fewer chances to congratulate yourself.
And the way you achieved those results may not be the best. For example, you can win pots with 72o, but that doesn’t mean you should play them. Just because you won a pot slow playing aces, doesn’t mean it’s the optimal way of playing them.
And just because you lost 50 pounds drinking nothing but water and eating nothing but rice cakes, doesn’t mean you should or that it’s good for you.
You get what I’m saying?
What’s more important is the process. How you’re doing something. How you exercise, how you eat, how you play hands, and so on.
When you focus on the process, you can pat yourself on the back whenever you follow through on it. Which is every day – sometimes multiple times per day.
It also reinforces doing the right thing, even if you don’t get the results you’re after. Which is often the case (and needed) for poker players.
10. Get the Basics Down, Then Start Thinking For Yourself
This goes for anything from learning what hands to play, what positions to play in, when to shove, when to take deals, and so on.
It’s great to learn these things from others because, usually, it’s better advice than the decisions you would’ve made on your own.
But, again, poker is dynamic. There’s few situations where you can apply a one size fits all approach. So, you need to be able to think for yourself. That means:
- Choosing hands to play based on game, opponents, your image, stack sizes, and so on.
- Choosing tournaments based on your schedule, bank roll, the blind and payout structure.
- Choosing to make a deal based on your skill set and tournament equity.
- Choosing to play poker for a living or to play for fun.
- Choosing to become a millionaire poker player or striking a balance between family life, health and making some money to pay the bills and live a comfortable, yet fun life.
Learn from others until you get to a point to where you can think and do things for yourself. Then do it.
11. Learn Basic Math
You need to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide. And do it fast. Poker players use these basic skills all day, every day.
12. Get Backing (if you need it) and If You Get Backing, Get Everything in Writing
Staking can be a great thing. You play, and sometimes learn on someone else’s dime.
This is great if you’re not properly rolled yourself, as it can keep you from playing your ‘A’ game. It also makes it easier to separate your home money from your bankroll (as you don’t need to worry about the bankroll).
Plus, if you’re any good – and you’re honest – getting more money to play with if you ever bust your roll won’t be hard to do.
But things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.
These are contractual obligations where you’ll be required to play so many hands or games per month, until you’re done. During that time, you’ll have to split your winnings, after resetting your bankroll, based on a percentage you agree on beforehand.
If you’re not very good, you’ll usually start at 50-60% (in the backer’s favor). But whatever the case, make sure you get it in writing that you can renegotiate later.
In fact, get everything in writing. It wouldn’t hurt to have a lawyer look things over either.
Last thing – hold up your end of the deal. End things amicably. Always communicate with your backer. Your name – literally – is on the line here. Do a good job and you’ll have friends and a bankroll for life.
13. Remove Yourself Emotionally
We’re referring to ‘tilt’. But we don’t just want to tell you to take a break or chill out when something bad happens.
What you need to do instead is view poker objectively – to remove yourself emotionally from the game. So, when bad or good things happen, you don’t let it affect you and your decisions.
Easier said than done, we know, but this is one of the best skills you can learn. In fact, it’d benefit you in day to day life.
Have you ever got mad at someone for cutting you off? Flipping you the bird? Calling you a dumbass?
Instead of getting mad, having your blood pressure go through the roof, and possibly retaliating (which will benefit no one, if not make the problem worse), why not just shrug it off – maybe even laugh?
14. Want Some Strategy Tips? Here Are the Most Important Concepts
We know, most of these tips are general life tips more than they’re poker strategy tips. So to wrap this up, here are the topics we suggest you learn more about next:
- Position – It’s always more beneficial to be the last person to act in a round than it is to be first. You get information from the way people play their hands and bet.
- Bluffing – It’s not as common or as necessary as you think. In fact, when first starting out you could probably make more/do better by not bluffing at all.
- Play fewer hands – You might be a losing player, but I guarantee you’ll lose money slower the fewer hands you play.
- Hand ranges – This is huge when you combine it with position, stack sizes, type of game/format, and your specific opponent. This is how you ‘read hands’ and making logical and rational decisions, as opposed to putting your opponent(s) on individual hands like many beginners make the mistake of doing.
Get those things down, while focusing on a specific game, and you’ll do just fine. Everything else you’ll pick up as you play.
We know, these aren’t all tips that teach you how to 3-bet shove with 10 big blinds under the gun in $500 6-max MTT. But, we think these are more helpful.
Strategies change. Tactics change. The game continues to evolve at breakneck speeds. But these tips are evergreen. They’ll always be helpful. And we’re confident if you read and test them, you’ll become a more successful poker player.