Poker is a hugely popular game that millions of people play daily all around the world, both online and off. According to Statista, as of spring 2010, 22.2 million people play online poker for money. The figures increased from just 20.8 million in spring 2009, showing an increase in those who want to up the stakes.
Many of those playing – even those who only play for fun – have aspirations of becoming one of the most successful poker players around. They’ve heard of the big poker winnings achieved by major names such as Phil Helmuth (the current record holder for the number of World Series of Poker bracelets), Doyle Brunson (known as the “Godfather of Poker”), and Phil Ivey, who is regarded by many as the greater player of his generation.
But how many people are stuck at the amateur level? Unfortunately for those trying to hit the big time, they are tripped up by many amateur mistakes, making rookie errors that will keep them in low stakes games. In order to become a better poker player, amateur players must address these.
Playing On a Tilt
If you’re new to the world of poker – or new to the world of gaming in general – then you may not have come across the concept of tilt before. The term “tilt” in the games industry typically refers to a player who is emotionally off-balance or off-kilter, letting their negative emotions impact their gameplay. For example, if you lose several games in a row, it may put you in a foul mood and you may begin to make errors because you aren’t thinking with a clear head.
Given how competitive a game like poker can be, you are going to be especially susceptible to tilt. If you play late at night and if you have other stresses impacting you, you’re going to be even more likely to end up “tilted.” But, when you feel the tilt coming on, it’s important to take a step back, reassessing and calming down so that you can play more accurately without making silly mistakes.
Not Knowing How Much to Raise
Another skill that you learn as you increase your poker experience is knowing how much to raise. You don’t want to raise too much because then you’ll be significantly out of pocket but if you raise too little, your opponents may realize that your hand is rather weak and feel more confident as a result. On a basic level, you just might not know when you can raise and what options are available to you.
If you don’t have much poker playing experience under your belt or if you’re still very unsure of how much to raise, there are some simple tips for figuring it out. According to online poker pro Adam Jones, calculating a pot-sized raise in games with pot-limit betting structures such as Pot-Limit-Omaha relies upon imagining that you have called the bet and you know what the pot size is; that pot size is what you raise by. There are also handy formulas to calculate your raise, as a minimum raise has to be equal in size to the previous raise size, which may be different to the previous bet size.
When a situation is predictable, you can respond to it better. For example, if you see a vase balancing on the edge of a table or surface, you can “predict” that it will get knocked off in an accident and so you place it back to a safer position. If you’re playing a video game and the music suddenly becomes ominous and you see the autosave icon, you can “predict” that a wave of enemies or a tricky boss is about to spawn. But while predictability is useful in these situations, in the game of poker it is anything but.
The problem with predictability in poker is that it allows your opponents to guess your move, allowing them to move as such. They may be able to counteract you and taunt or goad you into calling or raising your bet and this is an issue that may impact you across all poker variants including Omaha, Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold’Em. In short, becoming predictable can be a massive weakness in the game of poker; you always want to leave your opponents second-guessing you and scrambling to figure out what you will do next.
Allowing Tells Into Your Game
The fourth and final piece of invaluable advice on this list is not to let tells thwarts your game. Every guide about being a pro poker player will tell you this; don’t allow your opponents to psychologically assess you and figure out what you’re going to do (this ties into becoming predictable). When you reveal your “tells” to your opponents, your strategies will become crystal clear to them and it gives them another opportunity to play against you, beating you every time.
Positively, stamping out your tells is easy enough. You may want to play practice games of poker against your friends with a low-stakes offering or even just play for fun. Task them with pointing out your tells after the game so that you can do your best to drop them from your poker playing for when you try more high-stakes leagues. You may also want to try and figure out their tells, as figuring out your opponents’ quirks and behaviours will also help you to succeed, whether you’re playing against friends or against competitive players.
By all means, becoming a skilled poker player isn’t so simple for everyone. The most well-paid players in the poker industry didn’t get there by chance or even on a whim; they got there by studying the game and persevering even when their strategies failed, their tells were obvious, and their opponents seemed incredibly tough. They kept on playing even when they got on a losing streak and wondered if they’d ever play a successful hand again. If you employ that same willpower and that same drive for learning the game and taking into account the rookie mistakes listed above, you too may be able to become a solid poker player rather than a lowly amateur.