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Five Ways To Improve Your Game In 2010

The new year typically brings resolutions in your personal, professional, and more importantly, poker life. Many players view the beginning of another year as a fresh start, a time to get rid of bad habits and to begin implementing changes.  Those looking for some guidance are in luck! Below you will find a few helpful ways to insure 2010 is your best year yet.

I’ve compiled five aspects of winning poker players those new to the game would be smart to copy.

Honesty

A lot of players fail in poker because they simply cannot stomach the brutal fact that they are just not good at the game. Everyone is guilty of this at one point or another, blaming bad beats, fishy players, and a poor run of cards on their failures rather than their own ability to make profitable decisions. If you are going to improve, you have to be able to take an honest assessment of your ability and implement changes in your game. This is the first step in becoming a winning poker player, and it is one that 90% of players forget.

It can be difficult to criticize your own game, especially when you are relatively new to poker. This is where online communities such as FlopTurnRiver can come quite in handy.  Poker forums are a great tool as you will be surrounded by fellow players who have assuredly been through everything you are currently experiencing. Other tools to analyze your game include poker software such as Pokerstove, Hold’em Manager, or PokerTracker. These programs allow you to analyze hands played after your sessions are over.  Finally, it can be helpful to have a few friends in poker which gives you the ability to bounce ideas and theories off of other people.

Be Open to New Ideas

One player who I give a lot of credit to my poker advancement always told me “you cannot be afraid to look stupid”. To this day that single sentence has led to more improvement in my poker game than any book, video, or article I have ever read.  Poker players by nature are quite stubborn, they tend to find an approach that works and stick with it until things start going badly.  Unfortunately this is a recipe for disaster. You should always be looking for new ways to play certain hands and situations. Sure, there are going to be times where these new ideas end up being incorrect, but there will also be times of great enlightenment.

From now on, every time you are faced with even the seemingly easiest of decisions, you should take your time and look at every single option available.  There are typically three actions you can take in poker: fold, call, or raise. Sometimes the answer seems obvious, but the obvious solution is not always the correct one. All it takes is a few extra seconds to ask yourself why you are choosing a certain action and what might happen were you to choose the alternative. You will either get confirmation that your preconceived notions were correct or you will conclude there was a better line all along. Either way, your poker game is going to improve.

Patience

There are going to be times in poker where things do not go your way. The key to sustaining a bankroll and moving through stakes is understanding that every day will not go smoothly. Many talented players have failed because of their inability to see the bigger picture. We’ve all been there, a few losing days/sessions in a row and the little devil on your shoulder wants you to move up in stakes, chase your losses, and get even quick. Unfortunately, this has led to the downfall of more poker players than bad beats.

The same can be said for those new to the game who, through a bit of beginner’s luck, turn a nice profit early in their career. Instead of jumping up in stakes it would be wise to take some extra time and beat the micro/small-stakes games over a large sample of hands. This can prove beneficial as players will not only have a better understanding of poker, but they will also have a bigger bankroll to cushion any variance which may come their way at higher stakes games.

Perfection is unattainable

A line from a great move, “Tin Cup”, starring Kevin Costner. Sure, he was referring to the golf swing, but the same can be said for your career as a poker player. Perfection is impossible, and the sooner you realize this the easier you will sleep at night.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to be perfect, but it is impossible. You need to learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Beating yourself up for a poorly played hand is just a waste of time and energy you don’t have.  Instead, briefly remind yourself why your actions were incorrect, think of a different solution, and then put it in the past.

Analyzing your game is a great way to improve. Completely engulfing yourself in poker 24 hours a day is a great way to get burnt out quickly.  Set aside some time to study and make sure to remain focused throughout. However, once you are not playing/studying do your best to get your mind off of poker. You need to have some sort of balance, and I’m not talking about your range here. Whether it’s  a new hobby, family, or friends, finding something that allows you to take your mind off the game is a great way to maintain your passion for poker.  It is imperative to approach each and every session with a fresh mindset free of pessimism and thoughts of past failures. This brings me to my final point.

Remain Optimistic

This is much easier than it sounds. Staying positive during rough times is the key to turning a downswing around. If you find yourself expecting bad things to happen during your sessions, you need to step away from the game. This one tip encompasses everything I’ve discussed so far. If you expect good things to happen it is much easier to remain open to new ideas and stay patient even in the face of adversity. If you are constantly pessimistic, expecting the worst possible outcome, your poker game is going to suffer.  Finally, this type of thinking can easily carry over into your personal/professional life as well, making you quite the “scrooge”. The last thing poker should do is affect how you interact with your family, friends, and co-workers.

Staying positive is much harder than just reciting Stuart Smalley’s  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me” daily affirmation.  Much like in sports, the best defense is a good offense.  Instead of trying to stay positive all the time, start recognizing when your attitude is turning sour and force yourself to step away from the game and regroup.  Remind yourself why you play poker, whether it’s to make money, for fun, or for the competition.  You aren’t playing poker to constantly be in a bad mood and make poor plays, and that is just what will happen if you walk around feeling sorry for yourself all day long.  Staying positive during sessions will enable you to make correct decisions which will lead to bigger profits, more tournament wins, and an overall better attitude away from the table.

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