10 Steps to Becoming a Better Poker Player

I assume that most people that play poker want to get better at it. Who wouldn’t, right, when that could mean making an additional income or improving your chances to win a huge tournament? And for a lot of players, it wouldn’t take but a tweak or two to their strategy to turn their games around to get to that point.

Would you be willing to learn or try a couple of new things to give yourself a chance to earn money while playing poker?

I would (and have), and it’s not even close. If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you are too. So with that in mind, what you’ll find below is a list of things you can do that will improve your games. These all come from personal experience, so I’m confident that they will help.

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1. Review Your Hand Histories

One of the first steps that I took to improve as a poker player is reviewing my hand histories. In fact, when I first started playing I spent just as much time, if not more, reviewing my games than I did playing. As I got better I spent less and less time reviewing, and more time playing.

The reason why reviewing your hand histories is so helpful is that it gives you the chance to catch any leaks that you have. Do you overplay AK? Are you not shoving wide enough with a 6bb stack in your 180-man SNGs? These are the questions you can answer while reviewing your hand histories.

What’s more is that once you identify the leaks in your game, you should review your hand histories to make sure you’re plugging them up.

2. Get Poker Coaching

Another step to propel your game to another level is to find a poker coach. A poker coach can teach you things that they’ve learned so that you make less mistakes and move up in stakes faster. They can also take a step back and give you regular unbiased assessments of how you’re doing.

A poker coach isn’t cheap by any means, at the rate of $50-$600 per hour. But depending on the stakes that you play and how serious you are to improve, you should expect to see a return on your investment quickly — sometimes just after a session or two.

3. Have a Reason For Every Action

I think many players just do something like raise, bet or fold without really thinking about why. This leads to lots of mistakes and dollars lost.

For every action you should have a reason for that action. Why are you raising? Is there a hand to get value from? Are you bluffing because you think you can fold a better hand, or are you bluffing because you don’t think you can win at showdown? They might sound the same, but they’re not and understanding what and why you’re doing something will make that clear to you, as well as the action you should take.

4. Don’t Be Results Oriented

Results oriented thinking is a fast way to stunt your growth. Instead of looking at the process that lead you to your results, you just look at the results.

The problem with just looking at the results is that they’re not consistent. For example, pocket aces is the best hand to have preflop, but you’re not going to win 100% of the time in an all-in situation. On average you’ll only win 80% of the time. So if you go 10 times without winning with that hand, that has nothing (necessarily) to do with the hand itself, or even your opponent. But if you played it poorly, such as maybe limping it preflop and playing it multi-way, than that’s what matters — the process.

Always look at what you did and why, not the results.

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5. Participate in Forums

Participating in forums is a great way to improve your skill set. You can post your own hands, comment on others and get involved in discussions on theory.

Where I think many players go wrong in forums is that they’re afraid of speaking out. They don’t want to be wrong or be flamed for saying what other players think is dumb. So they don’t even try.

However, forums aren’t usually that bad, especially smaller ones. And by being afraid to post, you’re not taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge that the other players have and are willing to share with you.

6. Experiment With New Strategies

I think the biggest mistake that you can make is take someone’s advice word for word on how to play a hand or approach a situation and never explore experimenting with your own ideas.

Coming up with your own strategies will set you apart from all the players that do the “standard” moves. You’ll keep your opponents always guessing and if you find something that works well, you could see a boost in your ROI.

Keep in mind that experimenting doesn’t always work out, and that you might take several mini-losses along the way. However, once you find something that works well, the profits you make should more than make up for it.

7. Learn and Understand the Basics to the Game You Play

An easy way to become a better player is to not go at the games you play blind. In other words, take the time to learn the basic strategies.

For example, the game that I chose to specialize in was sit and goes. A basic strategy in those games is to learn how to push or fold. Without the strategy I struggled a lot starting out. Once I learned the basics though, I couldn’t stop winning. I literally crushed the micro stakes and I moved up very quickly afterwards.

The basics could really be anything. It could be learning position, how to size your bets, how to read hands or how to put players on hands. All of these things will take you game to another level.

8. Choose One Game and Variation to Start

As the saying goes, jack of all trades, a master of none. When first starting out you’re much better off learning one game. Become a master of the strategies, regular players and nuances. You’ll get better and make more money faster this way compared to trying to learn 3 different games across 4 different variations.

As you get better you can (and should) branch out. You’ll find that with some experience under your belt that it’s easier to do, too.

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9. Play Against Better Players

Although the majority of your money will be made from weaker players, you don’t stand to learn much from these guys. They have nothing to teach that you don’t already know, thus the reason why you’re taking their money.

So what you might consider doing every once in a while is sitting down with players better than you. You probably won’t have any edge, and might even lose some money, but so long as you walk away with a new skill or strategy, it’ll be worth it.

10. Keep Track of Your Progress

Here’s another phrase for you — what gets measured, gets managed.

What this means for you is that without keeping track of the games you play, the buy-ins, your winnings, the common positions you cash in (sit n goes and tournaments), the times you play, how often you play, etc, that you can’t improve. You won’t know what to improve on.

Keeping track of this information gives you the ability to make small, educated tweaks in your game that will help you lose less, or win more. And putting more money in your pocket is more than good enough reason to take the time to track your progress.