You understand the power of position, you are able to fold a good hand based on the action and you are comfortable playing speculative hands like suited connectors and small pairs. Basically, you have mastered the basics of poker and are now ready to take your game to the next level.
Ask any professional poker player and they will tell you your skill level has very little to do with what cards you are holding and more to do with what’s happening around you. Here are some tips that may seem basic at first, but are critical to transitioning from a beginning player to one that is in control of the table.
Success in poker relies on understanding how your opponents play and looking for opportunities to exploit them. There is no reason to get creative or bluff an opponent if they will call you down with bottom pair.
If your opponent plays a loose game, you should be tightening up. On the other hand, if your opponent plays tight, then you need to widen your range and apply pressure to collect chips when they fail to hit their hand.
Put Your Opponent on a Range
Recreational players tend to concentrate on their own hand and play it against the cards that come. Be observant; a few well-timed bets and raises can provide insight into where your opponent stands, and even help you decide whether to continue or fold. Pay attention to how your opponents are playing and consider what hands they could be holding.
Once you understand your opponents’ tendencies, you need to assess their holdings. You don’t need the best hand to win a pot, you just need to be perceived as having the best hand. You have to tell a story and you can use the information you’ve gathered through your observations to create one of strength.
Make Better Decisions
Poker is a game a variance; it is impossible to have a winning session every time you play. The focus should not be on winning but on making the best decisions with the information you have. If you can do that, the winning will take care of itself over time.
Try not to focus on results. It is not an easy thing to do because no one leaves a losing session feeling great. Instead of focusing on the actual loss, focus on how you played. Would you have made the same decisions if you could do it again?
Rate your session performance. A high score doesn’t necessarily mean you had a winning day and low score doesn’t necessarily mean you had a losing one. You should rate your day on how you played overall.
Some questions to ask when you are evaluating a session:
– Did you make good decisions?
– Did you adjust your play?
– Did you take calculated risks when appropriate?
Use Scare Cards to Bluff
With the information you have been gathering, you will be a prime position to use scare cards to represent a strong hand. For instance, if the flop comes with two cards in one suit, you may choose to call a flop bet hoping for a third card in that suit to come. Then you can proceed to represent the flush in hopes of taking the pot away from your opponent. Be careful not to represent the hand your opponent is holding.
And Finally … Stop Defending Your Blinds
One of the biggest mistakes new players make is always defending their blinds. There is a mentality that because they put chips in the pot, they have the odds to play. In some cases that may be true but playing a weak hand out of position is difficult and the best players avoid this.
Poker is less a game of cards and more a game of information. Sure, cards are important and it is often one card that will ship the pot. But in order to take your game to the next level, you must gather information and consistently apply it to how you make decisions.