When playing online poker, even the best players find that luck is sometimes just not on their side. This is why enjoying poker is not about winning every game but about improving your overall poker win rate. Let’s explore six ways to improve your poker win rate that you can incorporate into your online poker tournament strategy or casual online poker play.
1. Find the right “table”
Whether you’re playing in person or at online poker sites, you’ll want to find the best table for you to play against the right opponents. If you want to win more often, you need to assess whether the people at the table are below, equal or above your skill level. Players who are less skilled than you will mean easier games and the opportunity to increase your number of wins overall.
2. Identify the fish
Even if everyone in a poker game is less skilled than you are, there’s still going to be someone who’s “the fish.” This term describes someone who is simply not very good at the game. For example, they make mistakes like misjudging the strength of their hand and raising far too much; or they become too predictable so that more skilled players can read them more easily. These players have done little or no research into how to play the game, not even reading the most popular books on poker strategy.
Once you’ve identified the fish, be sure to pressure them to help you win some easy pots or lay some traps for them so they think you’re the fish… and then take them for all they’re worth!
3. Stop investing so much in mediocre hands
You don’t need to read an online poker guide to know that some hands are better than others. Even though many players know which hands are weak and which ones are strong, players often overestimate the value of mediocre hands. You might be tricked into thinking these are good hands or that you should play them often. Here are a few examples of mediocre Texas Hold’em poker hands:
- Offsuit A, 10: Experienced players consider this to be a trap hand. While these hold cards can seem incredibly powerful owing to the cards’ high value, they still leave a gap where you can be beaten by an AK, AQ, AJ and other high-value pairs. It can be a deceptive hand to start with.
- Offsuit A, 2: Many players fall into the trap of thinking that this is a good starting hand when in reality, it can be a double-edged sword. It’s a good setup for a lower straight – but not only can this hand be beaten by a higher straight, but it will leave you in an incredibly weak position if you miss it.
- Offsuit K, J: This hand has a similar problem to the A,10 in that it has individually high-value cards but is otherwise too weak a hand to raise with when challenged.
- Small-value pocket pairs: A pair of low-value hole cards (generally a pair of twos up to a pair of sixes) may seem like a good starting hand, but it’s too easy to lose to other combinations on the flop.
- Small- to middle-value suited connectors: These cards are only worthwhile if you hit a straight or flush. This kind of hand is another double-edged sword with high implied odds: great if you get their full value; a complete waste if you don’t.
These and many other hands have value in that they can help you avoid being predictable. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t rely on these mediocre hands – and your necessary dose of great luck when the community cards drop – to increase your win rate in the long run.
4. Ensure you aren’t easy to predict
Being unpredictable is undoubtedly one of the most important skills that separate the best from the rest. A player who only acts on strong hands will result in every other moderately decent player folding every time they – they’ll tag you as a tight player. On the other hand, if you occasionally go into showdowns with weak hands, people will constantly be second-guessing your wild and unpredictable play style.
5. Learn how to manage tilt
Even if you’ve got a solid theoretical foundation of poker, none of it will matter if you are prone to tilting. For those new to the game, tilt is a negative emotional state such as anger, irritation or confusion that causes you to make poor decisions. This state of mind can occur when playing both live poker online or offline.
If you plan on playing in serious events like online poker tournaments, tilt is something you need to learn to avoid or at least manage. Unfortunately, doing so is not easy, and even the best players can fall prey to their emotions from time to time while playing at the felt. While you’ll definitely need to do some more reading on the subject, here are a few quick and easy tips to help you avoid this negative state of mind:
- Recognize that you can play a perfect game in poker and still lose if luck favors another player
- Try to frame losing as a learning experience, and use it to figure out what you did wrong or if you just got unlucky
- If you are having a bad run and feel as if you’re getting angry or frustrated, take a few deep breaths and, if possible, take an immediate break from the game to calm down before returning to the felt. (That may even mean giving it a rest for a few days, weeks or months, depending on how much bad energy you need to clear.)
6. Practice, practice, practice
There’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned experience. The only way you can achieve that is through practice. By getting enough games under your belt and paying attention when you play, you’ll be able to learn what works and what doesn’t, improving your long-term performance when you play poker. However, you’ll need to be fully switched on: simply playing hundreds or thousands of hands without any focus on what you’re doing won’t get you anywhere (and it will burn through your bankroll like no tomorrow!)
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