Most people want to get better at poker. If not for the money, than just to be good enough so that you’re not called a “fish” every time you play a hand.
Fortunately, becoming a better poker player isn’t that difficult to do. It does take time and effort, but I would argue that nearly anyone willing to put in both can become a winning poker player.
Below I cover a few steps you can take to accomplish that.
12-Steps to Becoming a Better Poker Player
Here are 12 different steps that you can take to become a better player. I’ve done all of these personally, so I know they work. One word of advice — the more of these you do, the better the results you’ll see. These are in no particular order.
1. Get a Coach
The benefit to hiring a poker coach is that they’ve already been where you are, and they’re where you want to end up. They’ll put you on the fast track to success by helping you avoid common mistakes like mismanaging your bankroll, tilting, moving up too soon and making beginner strategy errors. A good poker coach is worth his weight in gold. They’re not cheap though; expect to pay a minimum of $25 per hour, and as much as $500 per hour.
2. Post Hands to Forums
Posting individual hands to forums is a great way to improve because you’ll get feedback from all kinds of players with all kinds of skill sets. This will help you in multiple ways. For one thing, you learn how to look at hands from different angles. You also learn how others think.
Many players are scared to post their hands, probably to save face. Don’t be one of these players and I’m sure you’ll improve fast.
3. Review Your Hand Histories
You should always review your hand histories, but more so in the beginning. It’s more important in the beginning because you want to make sure the right strategies are sticking while at the same time eliminating costly leaks. The trick to reviewing your own hand histories is remaining unbiased. If that’s not possible find someone that you can pay to review your hand histories for you.
4. Join Training Sites
Training sites are a good way to learn because it’s kind of like coaching, but you can replay spots/videos over and over again. Many training sites have a variety of videos between theory and in-game, so there’s something for every type of learner. Poker training sites are more cost effective than one-on-one coaching, too.
5. Hands On Experience
Nothing will ever trump first-hand experience. The more you play poker, the more situations you’ll find yourself in that you need to figure out. So despite my claim that you need to review your hands and spend time in forums, make sure you strike a good balance between those resources and actually playing, implementing every strategy you’ve learned.
6. Join Skype Chats
Skype groups are similar to forums, except that you can keep out the trolls and people you don’t like. So you’re surrounded by players that are like you or better. It’s motivating. You can share hands, talk theory and more. One thing to keep in mind, though — make sure you avoid Skype chats where guys post bad beats. It’s annoying, for one thing, and it can be demoralizing long term.
7. Read Books
Another way to get better at poker is to read books. You can find recommendations in forum threads, Amazon or even your local bookstore. Just make sure that you stick to books that teach only what you need to know (to avoid information overload) and that the books are current. You don’t want to read advice for live tournament strategies from 10 years ago when you want to know how to play deep stack tournaments online to play this weekend.
8. Question All of Your Hands (Good or Bad)
You should question every hand you play. Ask yourself, did I make the most (or lose the least) with this hand? What could I have done differently? Asking yourself questions forces you to consider new possibilities, which can lead to new strategies or improving current ones.
9. Have Reasons for Each Play
Before you make a play you should ask yourself, Why am I doing this? If you can’t come up with an answer you should reconsider your play. A lot of players would benefit from this exercise when it comes to playing specific hands, betting and raising. If you don’t follow the basics you might as just as yourself, Why do I suck at poker?
10. Use Tools
In the technology age there is no reason not to use the tools and resources available. This could mean using tools like HUD’s (Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker), hotkey programs or equity calculator tools like SNG Wizard and PokerStove. When combined with other suggestions these tools can help make you a better poker player.
11. Think Outside the Box
One of the key things that will separate you from your competition is your ability to think outside the box. Do the opposite of what your opponents think you will. Raise when most will call. Shove when most people will fold. It’s doing things like this that will find you new angles to exploit.
12. Think for Yourself
To go along with think outside the box, you should also think for yourself. If your coach tells you to shove, you should obviously listen, as well as learn why. But don’t let that stop you from asking if there is a better way. Maybe folding is better, or min-raising. Always question the strategies you’re using, learn to spot tells and don’t be afraid to try new ideas to see if you can find a better way to play a hand, approach a situation or exploit an opponent.