Pro Poker: Tips for Success
This article is part of my series 'Poker Culture, Strategy & Commentary'.
There are essentially two main reasons to play the game of poker. One is simply to have fun, and if the goal at the poker table is entertainment, then you don't really need to worry too much about strategy. The second goal should be an obvious one--winning money. There are so many subtleties in poker, and many opportunities to make big mistakes. Let's go through and and comment on some of the classic keys to success.
If you are truly concerned about the bottom line, but don't really have a desire to play high stakes and challenge yourself to try and earn a lot of money, you should stick to poker games in which you have a significant edge. Don't get caught up in an ego trip that makes you want to play bigger and bigger. It's always best to get comfortable in an easy game and do your best to make as much as possible in the game. Also, don't let your ego get in the way when your game becomes tough. You'll easily be able to tell when your opponents are more skilled or playing better than average for the limit you are playing. This means it'll be harder to make the money you normally expect to make, so you are essentially wasting your time. Look for a better game, or just call it a day, because poker will always be there tomorrow.
Another factor that should weight heavily into your game selection is bankroll management. Going broke is no fun; it means you can't even play the game anymore, let alone earn any money. Poker players are games players, they're attracted to the game out of a childlike need to socialize while having fun playing a game. Even when the game is serious and being played for high stakes, players are generally having fun. For the serious winning player it shouldn't be a grind like a 9 to 5 job. It's a game, and it's fun, and if you lose all of your money then you can't have fun anymore. A poker player can become rattled if he recognizes he is in a situation where he could go broke if they kept playing. Perhaps the stakes are too high; maybe the opposition is too strong; the important thing to note is that a player can't play good poker when they have a looming fear of annihilation. Stick to the games you can well afford and you'll avoid two serious pitfalls of poker, stress and going broke.
Always Be A Student
It's been said by many top pros that the best players in the world never stop learning. Poker is like school, you start out like a kindergarten student and it can take a very, very long time before you are all the way at the highest levels of understanding about the game. Not everyone can reach the highest levels, but one thing is for sure, anyone can become a very good, winning player if they spend the necessary time learning about the game.
There are many ways to go about improving your understanding of poker. The simplest one is just to make sure to think about the hands and the sessions you've played after the fact. Individual contemplation of one's game is a fundamental ingredient of success. Next, you need to run your thoughts off of the sounding board of a friend who also plays. Ideally, you should want to associate with players who are at your level or above. Sharing in evolving strategic conversations with these friends will help everyone in the long run. Lastly, you need to study. There are several good magazines you should keep around; training websites; and of course, a library's worth of poker books that share virtually everything you could ever want to know about the game.