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Iceni Magazine | December 15, 2019

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How to Stay on Top of Your Live Poker Game

How to Stay on Top of Your Live Poker Game

poker cards

There’s much more to poker than getting good cards.

We already did an article on the three best places to gamble in Norfolk. Now, it’s time to help you better your poker skills so you leave casinos with your chin held up high. These tips apply to all forms of play: cash games, tournaments and online. Listed from easy to hard, the further you go, the more time you’ll need to apply them, but all are worth the patience.

Don’t Play UI

Alcohol and money games don’t mix well.

The easiest way to get an edge over your opponents is to abstain from alcohol and heavy meals before the game. These substances (alcohol, carbs, fat) alter your physical and cognitive condition. In fact, alcohol makes you irrational, aggressive and sluggish while overeating causes your organism to focus on digestion instead of on your brain. So, leave the alcohol and binge-eating for after you win the game. Before that, stick to water and light meals.

Being under the influence also has to do with your mental state sans-alcohol. Are you going through a bad breakup? Did you get a long-awaited promotion? Either moods, grief and euphoria, will take their toll on your mental state and make you illogical. Before sitting at the poker table, take the time to resolve your pressing problems and calm down. Blowing away money will only impact your situation negatively. Why overshadow a good thing by losing a bunch of money?

Manage Your Bankroll

Be mindful of your poker budget and don’t buy-in with all your money.

Do you know what separates sensible players from inadequate ones? The former knows how to manage their money. To have a confident play, stick to the “20 buy-ins” rule. Meaning, before joining a game, you should have prepared enough quids for 20 buy-ins. If you are entering a £20 buy-in game, it means that you should have prepared £400. Doing so will ensure that you’ll have enough play money, which will give you peace of mind. But don’t get too comfortable as in cocky. Confidence is a winner; overconfidence is a loser.

Scout the tables and note the buy-ins and betting stacks. Calculate how much is “buy-in x20” and consider which tables you can afford. Afford means that the money you are ready to put into your bankroll is not money that you need for anything else like food, rent and utility bills. Note that you must not buy-in with your entire bankroll. Only enter with what’s necessary and leave the rest in case you need it.

Know Thy Enemy and Thyself

When deciphering body language, think in context and clusters.

Reading body language is one thing, learning how to do it properly is another. To make sense of your opponents’ body signals, you need to take the time to learn and practice. Read telltale gestures in clusters – pay attention to all signs, not only one. Also, don’t read too much into it. A scratch might only be that. If it occurs regularly, though, pay attention to what triggers it. Is it a specific community card, betting action or something else? ‘Lie to Me’, starring Tim Roth, is a good place to get you started on body language and micro-expressions.

When paying attention to your opponents, consider yourself as one, too. Be mindful of unintentional changes in your game flow. Did you subconsciously become more aggressive or cautious with betting? Think about what has triggered such behaviour. Always keep in mind that the best player in the world is ‘tilt’. Nothing causes poker players to lose more money as emotions-first gameplay. If you are on a losing streak, sit out for some time to assess the damage and quit if necessary.

Educate Yourself

Knowing the odds of getting a winning hand can keep you from making pointless bets.

Indeed, there are excellent resources online on how to play poker well. But if you want to go deeper, you also need some long-form literature. It’ll teach you various strategies on how to vary your style to keep your opponents guessing. Also, you’ll learn proper play on where you sit at the table. For in-depth tips on playing poker, you can turn to the following — all of which are authored by poker legends and have passed the tests of time.

  • ‘Harrington on Cash Games: How to Win at No-Limit Hold ‘em Money Games’
  • ‘Doyle Brunson’s Super System: A Course in Power Poker’
  • ‘Caro’s Book of Poker Tells: The Body Language and Psychology of Poker’

And to go even further in your preparation, learn preflop hand strengths. These refer to the chances that you have of winning with your hole cards. Note that such probabilities are dynamic and change depending on your seating in relation to the big/small blinds. While making use of them requires a good memory and some mathematics, you’ll get the hang of it the more you play. Beware that these ranges don’t account for other variables, such as your opponent’s skills and their hole cards. Still, they are an excellent place to start if you are beginning your poker education.

Get Fit

Regular workouts will help with your physical and mental health.

We already know that heavy food and alcohol are a poker player’s enemy. If you are serious about your game, you need to make healthy choices part of your lifestyle. Eating foods with adequate levels of protein, vitamins and minerals will feed your brain and help with concentration and memory. Other things to watch are alcohol and caffeine. While a drink might relax you and a cup of coffee will make you more alert, drink them in moderation. Many of the top poker pros follow regimens as if they were elite athletes — from being mindful of what they put in their bodies to exercising regularly.

Yes, many professional poker players regularly hit the gym. It’s common knowledge that keeping a good physical shape also boosts cognitive performance. Workouts also release endorphins, which are among the happiness hormones. If you are not the gym type, you can start small — even a 10-minute walk is better than not having one at all. Plus, by staying in shape, you’ll command more respect among your opponents.

Indeed, there are a ton more tips on how to play better poker. But all of them come to one thing: mentality. Keeping a healthy mind will help you adopt successful strategies and tactics and give you an advantage over most recreational players who never thought about poker as a game of skills. This article is only to get you started, but apply the principles laid out here, and you’ll already have an advantage over many players at your local casino.


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