I’ve been through all the ups and downs of poker. I just thought I’d share some things with some of the beginners to help them not make mistakes early on. We all make mistakes starting out and I was making the same mistakes over and over and for far too long. These were some of the things I needed to work on to improve my game. Without these things you will not win. There are no exceptions.
1. Bankroll Management. This is by far one of beginner’s biggest mistakes. Without proper management you will always go bust. It doesn’t matter how good you are. If your roll cannot handle variance, you will go broke. In the back of our minds we always know this is true, but some of us for some reason just feel that we would get lucky and build this incredible roll quickly. There may be times when you go on great runs under-rolled but, no matter how big your roll is, when you play out of it you will lose it eventually.
2. Patience. Poker is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. It’s a grind. You play day after day making correct decisions and +EV plays. As long as you are able to do this you will be making money. It may not be at the rate you wish, but when you start at low limits you must make a little money before you can make a lot.
3. Pride. We must all swallow lots of pride and be honest with ourselves. Many have the potential to be good players, but you need to understand that your status as a player is not determined by how much money you have in your roll or the stakes you are playing. It is so much better to be a good player with a $650 roll playing 25NL, than being a player with great potential that loses his roll every couple months because he is playing at stakes he is not rolled for. You are never as good as you think you are.
4. Trusting reads. You will eventually learn (or you should strive to) have the ability to read players both live play through tells and online though betting patterns. Many times when we play we will completely dismiss reads because ‘they could be bluffing.’ Most of the time this happens when you are holding an overpair to the board and know you should lay it down but don’t. These are the plays that save you money. What is the point of putting people on hands and making reads if you don’t trust them?
5. Tilt. This is something that must be controlled in order to be successful. This also is a big reason for poor Bankroll Management. Too many times when we are on tilt, instead of quitting for the day or taking a break, we try to play through it and get money back that we’ve lost. You have to know when to stop and every session you play you must be playing your best. You cannot do this on tilt.
6. Tight/preflop. Start out playing tight, especially preflop. There is no need to be an ‘action junkie.’ Sometimes we feel the need to be in pots to be having fun. I don’t care how cold the cards are or how long you’ve been folding, if your goal is to make money, then keep folding the trash because poker is always more fun when you are winning.
7. Discipline. You must have discipline (and just plain common sense) to follow proper Bankroll Management, and to play tighter preflop. Have a strategy and stick to it every time you play poker. If you are not going to be playing your best poker, then you should not be playing. Sometimes we also play when we shouldn’t (like when we’re tired, etc.) or try to sneak in a quick session for like 15-20 minutes. You will not be playing your best when you do this and I suggest to avoid playing under unfavorable conditions.
8. Blind play. You need to work on your play from the blinds. A lot of people don’t know how much money they are losing when they limp in from the SB because it’s cheap. Too many times we get top pair with a weak kicker from the BB and don’t get away from the hand when we should. We defend blinds too weak when we shouldn’t. I suggest getting some sort of tracking software to see how your blind play measures up.
9. Keeping records. How can you ever know what to work on in your game if you don’t keep good records? Track your play. When you are running bad, you can see why. It could be a bad run of cards or you may have some unplugged leaks in your game. Sometimes, if you are making money at a certain level, you could be making significantly more if you knew what your problems were. Check out Poker Tracker.
10. Importance of poker. Poker is important to us and it’s a part of our lives, but poker is never as important as life. Sometimes poker dictates how our days go. If we have a bad session, then we have a bad day. You can’t let poker influence you this way. When you come to play poker all feelings will stay at the table. Try to not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. This doesn’t mean you don’t get excited or disappointed at results, but know that one hand/session, or whatever, is just a micro portion of your poker career.