Poker is possibly the most competitive it’s ever been. Even if you find a chair at the low limits table, you’re likely to run into other highly-skilled players.
So, how can you find an edge when everywhere you look, there are players either on your level or above it?
Not to worry! We’re here to teach you a thing or two about how professionals play the game. Here are seven ways real money poker pros play the game better than you.
Consistent Poker Strategy
Developing a solid poker strategy takes time and patience. You’ll have to endure countless tournaments, low-limit tables, and even local cash games on your journey.
Poker is a long-term game, and this long road to the peak is the optimal time to fine-tune your strategy. It’s also time that you should be using to build a bankroll that’s healthy enough to endure bad swings or get you into the high-limit games.
Once you develop a winning poker strategy, consistently applying that strategy to your poker sessions is the single most important of improving. Look, it’s easy to become complacent at the poker table. You get extended runs of mediocre cards, or other players seemingly fold every time you make a bet.
I believe human nature is to become bored during these periods. But boredom is not an excuse to suddenly stray from the strategy it’s taken years to craft. Keep on playing your game for as long as it takes for other players to break and make a bad play. This is when you can strike, not when you’re tired of picking up blinds.
You should take whatever measures necessary to ensure that you avoid going on tilt, also. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have been there ourselves. We suffer a bad beat, and boom! The lights go red, and we’re lost in our own head.
Learn to fight those urges to become reckless or complacent, and you’ll walk away from the tables with a much larger chip stack.
Slow Play Preflop
I consistently see the poker pros trip up their competitors by slow-playing big hands preflop. A casual call or check with a huge hand can send your opponents reeling for the remainder of the game.
Be warned that this strategy can backfire if your opponent catches a flush or a set on the flop. However, more often than not, your stronger hand is going to hold up.
You’ll find that many players will just fold and let you have it, but occasionally, you’ll get an opponent that’s on tilt, and you can rake in a small fortune.
Slow playing big hands only once in a while makes it much more difficult to put you on a hand. In fact, mix in a single all-out bluff, and they’ll be hard-pressed even to get you within a range.
Knowing When to Fold
One of the most glaring differences between poker pros and average Joe’s is their ability to fold big hands. Knowing when you’re beat is one of the most difficult realities to face in all of gambling. Yet, you’ll consistently see the pros folding A-K when a tight opponent raises after the flop.
Being able to emotionally detach from the cards in front of you is a skill that very few average players can embrace. Don’t get starry-eyed when you finally catch a great hand. Kenny Rogers said it best, “You’ve got to know when to fold’em.”
Become an Expert on Poker
Every time I’m sitting around talking to my poker buddies, I’m amazed by the number of variations they try to master. We have one regular at our poker game that is constantly talking about Omaha variants or Stud games. He’s always working out a new strategy for the month.
Unsurprisingly, he’s usually out of the game early in the night. I suppose that’s what frees him up to spend so much time learning a variety of games. Unfortunately, he doesn’t fare too well in any of those either. He’s plenty capable and is incredibly intelligent. So, why can’t he seem to have it click?
I have a theory, and I’ll use the poker pros’ approach as my example. Poker pros can sit down at any game on the planet and wipe the floor with amateur players. However, they focus on one discipline at a time.
Daniel Negreanu didn’t become just “okay” at Texas Hold’em then take up Omaha. No, he became a master of his craft, and only then did he become a master at another.
I’m not saying you should only play one game. Actually, I think it’s imperative to be proficient at multiple games. I am trying to stress the importance of becoming an expert at your go-to game first before bouncing to another.
Focus on the game that you’re going to be playing the most from the get-go. Then, only after you’ve become an expert, should you move on to another variation.
Vary Your Betting Range
Amateur players have a tendency to only raise the flop when they have a decent hand. Popular hands that amateur players raise are two pairs or a set. Poker pros confuse their opponents by varying their raising range on the flop.
You may lose a few small pots by doing so, but you’ll also win some. Most importantly, it will make your opponent guess at a wider range of hands.
Poker pros use this strategy constantly in cash games because they know that the amateurs around the table play them scared. Vary your range on the flop, and you’ll become a poker shark in no time.
Playing the Right Poker Games
What do I mean by the right games? It’s simple; you want to play in games where you’re the best player at the table.
To make a decent profit at poker, you need to be head and shoulders better than your competition. Think about it, if you’re sitting at a table where all eight of you are about the same skill level, it’s going to be extremely difficult to make a profit.
Sure, there may be a matchup where someone misplays a hand or gets a lucky card and takes a huge pot. However, in the long run, these breaks should largely even out.
Look for games where the competition doesn’t stand a chance and systematically break them down one by one. There’s a reason poker pros love high-stakes cash games. They know that they are superior to most of their opponents in every aspect of the game.
Keep Detailed Logs of Poker Sessions
When was the last time you made a record of your poker session? I’ll guess that you have probably never done this.
Don’t stress; most players don’t keep any log of how a session went.
Poker pros keep detailed records of their time at the table and make thorough notes to reference in the future.
Start a gambling journal of your time at the poker table, and you’ll quickly be able to diagnose weak points in your game. You’ll also enjoy looking back and seeing how far you’ve come in your poker journey.
Poker is one of the most amazing gambling games of all time. It has a rich history and a language of its own.
Use these seven ways poker pros play the game better than you to take your game to the next level. Focus on one aspect of the game at a time, and as it becomes ingrained in the fabric of your game, begin adding in other elements that you may need to work on until you master your favorite poker variation. Only then should you move onto another.