Entire books have been written about using proper poker strategy, and you should read as many as possible to learn everything you possibly can about strategy. But using strategy is only going to take you so far. You also need to use several things that aren’t covered under the strategic umbrella in order to win as much as possible.
I’ve put together the top seven tactics you need to use as a poker player in addition to strategy. Combining good strategy with these seven tactics is going to put you in the top ranks of the poker talent wherever you play. These things can be the difference between winning and losing play.
Study Your Poker Opponents
When you’re playing poker for real money you should always study your opponents. Watch how they play and what they do in different situations. What are they doing when they enter the pot, when they raise, and when they fold?
I play in a semi regular game against a guy who plays the same way on every hand he plays. He always calls when he’s chasing, and he always bets and raises when he has a made hand. This is more a playing tendency than anything else, which I cover in the next section. But if you don’t watch how he plays then you’re never going to learn this about him.
Some players give signals about the strength if their hand. These are usually called tells. As you study your opponents, see how they look and act when they’re involved in a hand. Do they act differently when they have a big hand or when they’re bluffing?
Sometimes, a single tell can be the difference between a winning and losing poker session.
I mentioned the guy a play against in the first section and his poker tendencies. Imagine how profitable it is for me knowing exactly how he plays. He almost never bluffs, so it’s easy to play against him.
When you’re watching other players, look for tendencies that they have. Some players tend to bluff too much. Other players only raise when they have a big starting hand. And others always limp and try to trap.
The hardest poker players to compete against are the ones that don’t have any real tendencies. They usually play straightforward poker, but they mix things up enough to make sure you can’t put them on a hand for sure.
Of course, if you mix things up too much you start making too many unprofitable plays, so you have to be careful.
Spend all of your free time at the table studying your opponents and identifying what types of poker players they are. The more tendencies you can recognize, the more ammunition you have to make profitable decisions in the future.
Master Your Emotions
The poker table is no place for emotions. You can’t afford to get too excited when you’re doing well or to get upset when things aren’t going your way. When you let emotions come to the surface when you’re playing poker it leads to mistakes.
The most dangerous emotions can make you go on tilt, and this almost always costs you money. Never make a poker decision if you’re angry or frustrated. It might work out a few times, but in the long run, it’s going to create too many losses.
Learn How to Win Without Bluffing First
Bluffing is a costly thing that most losing poker players do too much. They get a thrill from winning a pot without the best hand. They might even show other players when they win a big hand on a bluff.
But when you bluff too often, you start losing money. Smart players who pay attention quickly learn that you bluff too much and start calling you more often.
Most losing poker players can improve their results if they simply stop bluffing until they start winning more money. The guy I mentioned earlier doesn’t really do bad overall, because he bets when he has a good hand and he gets paid off most of the time.
But the fact that he doesn’t bluff is something that I use against him sometimes. He’s learned how to do pretty well without bluffing, and if he added an occasional bluff, it would likely improve his game a little bit.
Learn how to win without bluffing first. Once you learn how to do this, you can then start bluffing a very small amount of the time. Don’t be tempted to bluff too much, because it’s more costly than never bluffing.
Become a Position Master
Position is one of the most misunderstood poker concepts gamblers should know. Few players understand that position has anything to do with winning, and even fewer actually use position correctly when they play.
It took me over 10 years of playing poker before I really understood position. But once I started using position the right way, it instantly improved my results.
The odds of completely understanding position after reading this short section are low, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to learn more about it.
The reason having position is important is because you get more information before you have to make a decision on the hand. Other players have to check, bet, or raise before you have to decide what to do. This is valuable information that can help you make more profit.
Play With the Worst Poker Players You Can Find
This isn’t used by many poker players, but the ones that do use it are all making a profit. Let that sentence sink in for a minute. If everyone that uses this tactic is making a profit, don’t you think that you should be using it, too?
The premise is simple; when you play poker against players who are worse than you, you’re going to make a profit. When you play poker against players that are better than you, you’re going to lose money.
This means that if you want to make more money playing poker, you need to start finding bad poker players to compete against.
Most poker players try to improve their game so they can be better than their current opponents. This is a good idea, but they never think about replacing their current opponents with bad players.
Avoid Questionable Situations
Some of the most profitable poker games I’ve ever played have been private games. These games are held in private homes or private clubs. I’ve also done ok playing poker in regular poker rooms and playing online, but in my experience, it’s easier to find bad poker players in home poker games rather than in a casino.
I have a few tips to help you in this area. The first thing you need to do is find out as much as you can about where you’re playing and who you’re playing against. If you don’t have a good feeling or a safe feeling, don’t play.
The next tip is to only take the minimum amount of cash you need to play and never take anything else of value. This way if the worst comes to worst, hopefully, all you lose is your money.
If you want to be a profitable poker player, you have to learn how to use strategy. And you have to learn how to use strategy better than most other players. But you also have to use some tactics that don’t have anything to do with strategy.
You can use strategy or these tactics separately, but it’s going to be difficult to win money this way. It’s much smarter and more profitable to incorporate both into your gameplay.
Neither strategy nor the tactics listed on this page are easy to master, but all of these things are worth mastering. It’s the only way to maximize your profits playing poker.