Improving Your Game
Everyone's game needs improving at one time or another, even a world champion's. You should want to hone your skills on a regular basis to improve your game. If you do this, then you might find yourself the feared opponent at the virtual poker table.
The first step is to figure out where your weaknesses lie. Weaknesses are not just skills you don't have or a lack of experience; distractions and negative influences can also become weaknesses. When you become aware of something that negatively affects your play, avoid it. Take a break, change games, change tables — do whatever it takes to stop it from affecting your bankroll.
Say you're playing in an offline game and you realize that a particular dealer never pushes you a pot. What do you do, stay and hope today will be different? Or take a walk? Take that walk, just as you'd take a break if someone whose mere presence always seems to negatively affect you has entered your online game.
But what if your problem is medium pocket pairs? You see your opponents winning huge pots with them. But whenever you play them, and play them exactly the same way as your opponents play them, you lose, and big. And since these pairs come around every couple of hundred hands, this can be a problem, especially when you seem to get them even more frequently.
If you are in a limit game and must see the flop with a pair under 10-10, fold if you see one over card, especially if you had to take any raises before the flop. If you're in a no-limit game or tournament, don't allow yourself to get trapped unless the only over card is as big a rag as your two cards. If the flop is 7-5-2, and you have 6-6, you may want to see the turn card if you can see it cheaply. But remember, any action you call can end up being costly because, even if you hit your set of Sixes, someone playing the 8-9 — or worse, 3-4 — has just hit their straight.
Plugging Your Leaks
To find out how big the leaks in your game are, you have to measure how much the leaks cost you. You do this by figuring out how many times you play your hand correctly and lose, versus how often you play it incorrectly and win. But this requires extensive note-taking or an exceptional memory, which many poker players either don't possess or are too lax to care about.
Following are generalized suggestions for plugging leaks that can hurt your game. If you don't take the time to correct chronic weaknesses that have been affecting your game, you will continue to fight to survive.
Do not fall in love with any two cards by cold-calling all pre-flop raises when you know your hand is probably dominated.
If you do not get your hand on the flop fold, don't take one more off because the limit is still low. Fold until your game and/or your luck has changed.
Do not call a bet with your pocket pair when there are over cards on the board.
Tighten up your pre-flop game to play only the starting premium cards.
Know how many outs you still have before making any calls.
Do not raise on the come unless you also have at least a high pair as a backup.
Do not make calls to “keep your opponent honest” when you are pretty sure you are beat. If your gut instincts tell you that you are beat, you usually are!
How will I know when the leaks in my game need my attention?
You know your game needs some fine-tuning when you continue to lose with the same hands that you play correctly, or when you realize your bankroll is decreasing and you're struggling to get back to even.
When you know, in your heart of hearts, that your hand is the table dog, don't take the time to figure out the “what ifs.” Just fold before you find yourself trapped.
Leaks in your game can be costly. So ask yourself what leaks are costing you the most money, then shore them up and continue to be aware of them.
The Virtue of Patience
Some people will say that a lack of patience is the number one problem for most poker players. And without patience, many people can and will end up going on tilt.
If you are the instant gratification type, then developing patience will not come easily. But it's patience that allows you to work around, for example, accepting an unavoidable loss when you did everything right, and not beating yourself up over it. However, no one takes bad beats well, and that holds true for the most patient of players. Possessing patience allows you to react in a more restrained manner versus feeling, and showing, rage and aggression.
Being a patient player means that you are able to wait for the outcome of your hand without experiencing anxiety and inner turmoil, unlike the players who scream at their computer, or at the dealer, for that miracle river card.
When playing online, showing aggression is usually done by going all in, or by jumping out of the game abruptly. Always opt for jumping out of the game versus continuing to gamble. Never allow a bad beat to pull you so far off your game that you begin to lose your concentration. To win consistently you need to remain patient and tighten up your game for a while.
Following are a few suggestions for staying patient and focused:
Be sure you are mentally prepared and psyched before you sit in on any poker game.
Keep your mind open and your eyes on your opponents so you can learn what you will need to know in order to beat them.
Be aware of all your outs after the flop before you act. Then know what you will do if your flop doesn't get there.
Practice in lower limit games to get the feel of winning and losing to help you decide if you can take the pressure of the losses you can experience in higher limit games.
Only play the hands that stand a good chance of winning after the flop.
Learn to be able to fold the majority of your hands, if not pre-flop, then on the flop, when the flop cards don't help your hand and there is action.
The goal when playing in any poker game is to increase your bankroll. To be successful, you will have to be able to fold many of your hands on the flop to avoid further losses and patiently tweak your skills. Anyone can become a great poker player if she is willing to put in the time it will take to study, practice, and play the game.