Discipline – wait for the right opportunities
Discipline is probably the most important poker skill of all, without it your game is likely to collapse. In poker, discipline equals patience. It’s crucial that you have the patience to wait for a favorable game, a strong hand and good opportunities to make big bets or raises. It’s your discipline that keeps you from playing in bad games and wasting money on trap hands. You’re discipline is actually tested even before you start playing – never play drunk, never play when your tired, never play when your emotionally troubled. Consequently, discipline is crucial when it comes to money management. If you regularly go on tilt you will never be a long term winner.
Observation – watch the other players
You should always be observant at the poker table, when you’ve folded your hand as well as when you’re in with the action. Study your opponents and use the information you gather against them. How do they play their hands, what do their checks, calls, bets and raises mean? If your observations are accurate you will always have a pretty good idea about what cards the other players are holding and that will obviously be very valuable in tight situations. You must also remember to listen to what the other players say. Many players will tell you what kind of hand they folded or why they played in a certain way. This will further help you to evaluate their strength at any given time.
Your own table image is just as important. What tells are you giving away? When you spot a tell in an opponent, you should consider whether or not you are displaying the same one. However, some players hardly observe the game at all and to that kind of player your table image is virtually non-existent.
Flexibility – change gears at the right moments
Timing is extremely important in poker. If you make an unexpected move at he right time the pay off can be great. Your table image is crucial in these situations. If your opponents think of you as a tight player you will have good opportunities to make successful bluffs. If your opponents think of you as a loose player, you might win big when you actually hit a hand. You should also adjust your game to your rivals playing styles. When they are playing tight, you should loosen up, when they are loose, you have to play tighter. These changes of gear will give you a great edge over your opponents.
Another way to achieve unpredictability is making advertising plays. This is when you play a hand in a way you normally wouldn’t and show your actions to the entire table. A tactic like this is the most effective when you know you will be facing the same players for quite some time. In online games it’s less valuable since people normally are not paying very much attention to the game and also because players switch tables a lot.
Money management – keep track of your bankroll
Many skilled poker players go broke because they’re not able to handle their money. There are many things to think about if you don’t want to end up in the same way:
- Never play in games you can’t afford. If you do you will become cautious and hesitant and that will affect your game in a negative way.
- Be aware of how much you’re expected to win in the long run. Unrealistic goals may cause you to go on tilt.
- Have a sufficient bankroll. In Limit Hold’em you should have a bankroll that is 300 times the size of the big bet. If it’s smaller you risk going broke during the inevitable down periods.
- Think of your bankroll as operation capital. If you always cash out or use your earnings for other expenses your bankroll will never grow and you will sooner or later go bankrupt.