What are the 6 Most Important Poker Skills?
In order to achieve your poker goals, you need to develop your poker skills. Sounds pretty simple right? So, if you’re struggling to win at poker, this list of the top six tips could help turn things around.
Learning and improving your skills is the first step to becoming a better player. Here are some more specific suggestions:
1. You Should Play Fewer Hands and More Aggressively
If you try to play too many hands in No Limit Texas Hold’em, even the world’s best players will eventually lose their chips.
By developing a reliable preflop poker strategy, your overall winnings will improve greatly. Although it’s not complicated to develop such a strategy (you can find plenty of helpful resources online), maintaining the discipline to stick with that strategy is more challenging. It’s important not to get impatient and play a hand that isn’t worth playing just because you’re impatient.
The most effective strategy is to only play a tight range of strong hands, and when you do play them, bet aggressively. When you do this, your opponents won’t be able to tell if you have a great hand like A-A or A-K, or a more speculative one such as 7-6. This makes it very difficult for your opposers because they can never be sure what kind of cards you’re holding. Playing Tight and aggressively is the best way to win!
2. Make Sure You Don’t Limp First
There are primary reasons why limping (just calling the big blind preflop) as the first player to enter a pot should be avoided:
By not raising the pot, you’re essentially giving other players better odds of winning when the flop comes around. Consequently, this makes it more likely that you’ll face multiple opponents and less likely that you’ll win overall. This method is very common while playing strip poker because it makes the game last longer.
The only time it’s okay to limp is when someone else has already limped. This strategy is called over-limping, and while it might not seem like the best play, you’re more likely to hit something good on the flop because of the pot odds.
3. Make Sure Your Big Blind is Protected
The big blind is a unique position because you’re already invested in the pot. Because of this, you will have more favorable pot odds to call than other positions when confronted with a raise while sitting in the big blind – think of it as a sale. This method became famous after the movie “Rounders”, in which the character Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) says “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
With your discount and position as the last person to act pre-flop, you can call with many more profitable hands than if you were sitting in another position. This does not mean that you should call raises will all trash hands like 9♠ 5♦, but rather more borderline playable hands become like K♣ 9♦ and Q♥ 6♥ become playable in most situations.
- The width of your defense depends on many things, but here are the four primary factors:
- How early in the game the raiser is (players should be tighter against those who raise early and looser against those who raise late).
- The number of players remaining in the hand (if one or more players have already called the raise, play tighter and only call with hands that do well in multiway pots).
- The size of the raise (the larger the bet sizing, the tighter you should play, and vice versa).
- Stack sizes (when short stacked, play fewer speculative hands and prioritize high card strength)
4. When in Doubt, Fold
The main distinction between a mediocre player and a professional one is that the former knows when to hold ’em, even if they think they are beaten.
Though it might seem easy, this is difficult to execute due in part to how our brains are wired. We’re innately curious and always want to come out on top; when we fold, we give up the chance at the pot and lose potential satisfaction from indulging our curiosity by learning what cards our opponent has.
5. Take Advantage of Your Opponent’s Weakness
Players should check with hands that can call multiple bets more frequently. This means that, when they do check, they usually have a stronger hand which is less likely to fold if faced with multiple bets. As alluded to before, this is the “bluffing with nothing” situation.
When your opponent is displaying weakness in a heads-up pot, you can capitalize on their timidness by employing an aggressive bluffing strategy. Not only should you bet with the semi-bluffs you usually go for, but also make some bluffs with completely nothing hands – preferably ones that have good blocker effects. One of the well-known celebrities, Dan Bilzerian, is notorious for his audacious bluffs.
6. Make a Solid Start in a Tournament and Don’t Worry About Survival
Though many people misinterpret it, stack preservation is not a priority at the beginning of poker tournaments.
In order to have a chance at placing in the top three and winning money, you’re going to need to nearly triple your chips from the starting amount. Instead of playing it safe, switch to an aggressive play style so that you can increase your chances later on.
Use a survival-based playing style only if you’re running low on chips and are close to the money bubble or another pay increase.
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