How to Improve as a Poker Player

written by: John

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With all of the different resources available to players such as video training sites, books, forums and tracking programs, poker is constantly evolving and players are getting better faster with each passing day. If you want to be able to compete, it's important that you don't become complacent and continue to work and make improvements to your own poker game.

To give you a head start, we have compiled a list of the top 10 tips on how to improve at poker. Included are tips on things you can improve on while at the table and things you can do away from the table. And while these tips are not your traditional, run-of-the-mill bankroll management and anti-tilt tips, we can guarantee that these tips will certainly improve your bottom line as a poker player.  

Top 5 Tips on How to Improve at Poker Away From the Table

1. Admit that you have more to learn as a poker player. Being able to admit you have a problem is usually the first step to recovery.

Ok, all jokes aside, while having more to learn in poker isn't actually a "problem," thinking you know everything there is to know about poker is. Even the best poker players in the world will tell you they don't know everything and that they constantly work on their game in order to improve. It can be safe to assume that if someone like Phil Ivey or Doyle Brunson feels as if they have more to learn in poker, you probably do to. If you don't feel that way, your game will surely suffer.

2. Study. One of the best ways to improve as a poker player away from the felt is to study. This means reviewing hand histories, reading books, sweating other poker players, watching poker on TV or watching training videos. Studying is just as important, if not more so than actually playing as it helps you find areas that you can work and improve in.

3. Consider hiring a coach. Hiring a coach is a great way to improve because it eliminates the process of learning the hard way on your own. Most coaches that are worth hiring will more than likely have been in a similar situation as yours and can provide you with the tools, advice and resources necessary to beat today's games. If you cannot afford a coach than finding a mentor that doesn't mind answering questions about hands or games would work just as well.

4. Discuss hands with friends and at forums. Posting individual hands on forums is an excellent way to improve as a player because in many cases there is more than one way to play a hand. Receiving ideas or advice on how to play a hand will give you insight to how other players think and may even highlight certain aspects or variables that you might've not otherwise considered.

5. Watch, make and criticize poker videos. Watching and making poker videos gives you similar benefits as posting individual hands in forums do. Watching videos made by other poker players will give you an idea of how other players analyze hands and the actions they take given their reads. While you watch videos, be sure to take notes as to what you might do differently and why. Take these notes and discuss them with the creator of the video or someone else who has watched it to get advice on if and/or why your thoughts would or would not work.

Top 5 Tips on How to Improve at Poker at the Tables

1. Be patient. One of the most important things I have ever learned in poker is that a little bit of patience will go a long ways. This means being able to tolerate a string of bad beats or variance, waiting for hands to play or dealing with a table bully. Being patient will definitely save you chips in the long run as opposed to being anxious and getting involved in a hand just for the sake of doing so. 

2. Take frequent breaks. Poker is a mental game that requires a lot of focus and concentration. It can definitely take its toll on someone to the point where they're not playing their "A" game anymore. A simple way to combat fatigue at the tables is to take a break every couple of hours or after a set number of games or hands. Taking a break will enable you to use the bathroom, eat, stretch and just reenergize yourself for your next session.

3. Always have a reason for what you do. A common mistake is to simply act without having any reasoning behind the action itself. Players will bet just to bet, get involved with a hand just to get involved and bluff just to bluff. Without having a reason for an action you are taking, you simply are acting without any goal in mind as to what you want to happen in the hand.

4. Question the plays you make. Players should always be confident in the plays they make otherwise they probably shouldn't be making them. However, to improve, players still need to question whether their actions were the best possible given the situation. You may not always change your mind, but there will be times where you decide that maybe a different line of play was more optimal. Maybe you should've checked instead of bet or maybe fold instead of call. Questioning your plays will give you more options to consider the next time you are in a similar situation.

5. Don't berate the other players. Aside from the fact that you don't want to scare the fish away, berating other players is just bad etiquette. Berating other players generally leads to squabbling in the chat box which takes your attention away from the game. It also makes you like an arrogant ass which can result in many players gunning for you with all kinds of crazy hands. This can lead to tilt which then leads to a substantial hit to your bankroll and just an overall bad session. Just play your game, leave the bad players be and target them with your poker skills when the time is right.