Get Real About Your Poker Game by Examining These 9 Key Areas

Aces on the Left and a Serious looking Man Sitting Behind a Poker Table with a Stack of Chips

The poker room is one of the final bastions to the wild west when gunslingers and cattlemen would gather around small tables after a long day and play card games to break up the monotony of grueling daily life.

The romance of poker is still alive and well, much like it has been for centuries. But sometimes, players need to take off the rose-colored glasses and see things in more natural light.

If you’re a serious poker player that’s trying to improve or make a living at the poker tables, reality will be your best friend along the way. Get real about your poker game by examining these key 9 areas.

What Are You Doing to Prepare for Sessions?

You may never consider it, but in many ways, you’ve already won or lost before you buy into a game. Before tournament seating ever comes out, you’re either positioned to make a run and the cash or go home a loser.

It all begins with how you’re preparing for sessions. If you’re ignoring the upcoming poker session, you shouldn’t expect to compete.

Your diet and exercise routine should be at the forefront of your mind, and you should follow a reliable sleep pattern. Taking proper care of your body is paramount to a successful poker career, but it’s not enough.

Playing out scenarios ahead of time and having a general plan to cope when things go wrong can save you in the poker room.

Take an honest look at how you prepare for sessions and make the necessary adjustments. If your pregame is a six-pack of beer and nachos, you’re probably not seeing much success in the poker room.

Are You Accounting for Luck or Counting on Luck?

I won’t say that I believe in luck. However, I think chance exists as a completely random occurrence one way or another.

For example, I’ve seen players with 2/7 push all-in and catch a pair of sevens on the flop to beat a player with A/A. It happens, and there’s no way to see luck coming.

It would be best if you always accounted for luck when gambling. There are times that the numbers fall in the other direction causing you to lose. In the long-term, you should see an equal number of these hands go in your favor.

Pai Gow Poker Table

Still, there’s a big difference between accounting for luck and counting on luck. Players that count on luck will push all-in with 2/7 and lose 85% of the time.

But these same players will take the lone win as a sign that they should be playing more aggressively. Luck will fail you more than you can afford to lose.

It has always amazed me how the better players seem to get lucky way more than the rest of us, though.

How Much Time Are You Devoting to Practice/Improvement?

There’s no substitute for practice and working to improve as a poker player. How much time do you spend focusing on getting better?

If you’re a bottom rung or mid-level player that’s spending more time playing in cash games than improving, you’re probably sitting at the peak of your poker career.

Successful poker players spend years honing their craft behind the scenes. The task of developing a winning poker strategy takes hard work and patience; you can’t play your way to reaching the top.

For starters, that strategy would have you living in a near-constant state of bankruptcy. Find someone willing to teach you the game and become a sponge.

Depending on your goals and your mentor’s level of success, you should be running their errands to get every morsel of poker information in their brain.

Instead of taking that intel to the casino and experimenting with trial by fire, try practicing online or with a group of like-minded enthusiasts. Then you’ll be more confident in your newfound skills and be able to execute more efficiently.

Practice and learning are the shortest paths to success, but they can be challenging roads to follow.

Do Your Online Poker Results Deviate from What You Experience in Live Games?

The new breed of poker players seems to transition seamlessly between online games and the poker room. These players are cold and calculated, playing only by the numbers.

The robot act works well online, and it’s good enough to smack around the fish in live games. But when you take an online pro and put them at a table against live players, my money is on the field.

Poker Room Inside Aria Casino, Aria Casino Logo

Regardless of which direction you go, something tends to get lost in translation. Is this true for your poker game?

If you’re seeing better results in one area of the game than the other, it’s a good idea to focus on that. Simultaneously, it would help if you took steps to improve your game to show equally positive results online and in person.

What Are Your Expectations as a Poker Player?

Expectations can lead to disappointment. Someone once told me that expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

I see some truth in that, but the reality is that our brains are hardwired to have expectations.

In the poker room, expectations will often depend on the situation. Yet, it’s a good idea to address these expectations before you ever sit down to a game.

For example, if you buy in and expect to play perfectly, there’s a good chance the wheels will start to come loose as you lose another hand that you stayed in way too long.

Even the best players on the planet make mistakes. They aren’t planning for them, but they have realistic expectations.

That allows them to bounce back and continue to play at a high level. Don’t expect to be a better player than you’ve shown in the past.

Do You Have Your Own Playing Style, or Does Every Move Mimic Better Players?

Playing poker requires creativity to be a winner. I watch a lot of amateur players do their best to mimic pros, and it costs them a lot of money.

If your poker game is predicated on playing specific hands the same way you saw your favorite professional play the cards, you’re going to go broke. First of all, I can think of dozens of different ways a pro may play a hand.

Poker Hand on Table with Chips

In reality, the pro likely played the same hand entirely differently in another situation. A good poker player has played every hand available in every way possible while winning and losing.

The poker stars have something you may be lacking, imagination. Don’t play so rigid that you get lost trying to play copycat.

What Are Ways You Could Become a Stronger Poker Threat?

One of the best ways to grow in life is through deep introspection and reviewing your poker sessions. Taking a long and honest look at your abilities is one of the most valuable ways to spend time as a poker player.

When you’re constantly looking for areas of improvement, you’ll spot weaknesses that your competitors miss. That will lead to you gaining an advantage over other players, which is precisely how you become a profitable poker player.

This process of spotting weaknesses and becoming a more potent threat should never end. I can assure you the best players in the world are constantly looking for ways to become an even more dominant force.

How Far Away Are You from Realizing Your Goals?

A high number of successful poker players are goal-oriented. Setting goals gives you benchmarks to your success and acts as a carrot dangling in front of you to continue pushing.

How far away are you from realizing your goals?

Your goal may be to win a regional poker tournament within the next three years. What are you doing today to obtain that victory?

If you’re dedicating several hours per week to poker and are seeing more consistent results, you’re drawing closer to your goal by the day.

Poker Room at Derby Lane

These are much easier to gauge because there is a definitive mark of your goal and what you’ve won. Whatever your goals are, take regular stock of your progress and make new goals as they become necessary.

What Will it Take to Breakthrough to the Level You Desire to Be?

It’s hard for amateur poker players to understand what it will take to break into a new plane of poker skills. But by asking the question, you are going to start finding some of the answers.

Here is another area where having a poker mentor or coach is valuable. The more experienced player can evaluate your game and share their experience on breaking through to better poker play.

In Summary

If you want to be a better poker player, you need to get real about your poker skills. By examining these key areas, you’ll spot opportunities to improve.

How far you take the journey is entirely up to you. The more you put into becoming a better player, the more you’ll be rewarded at the tables.