Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master. You have to figure out what cards the other guys are holding in their hands and you have to convince them that you have a weak hand, when you have a strong hand or you have a strong hand when you have a weak hand. And then there’s the luck of which cards you’re dealt. Did I mention money, because that’s what makes it all really interesting. Here are four common mistakes to avoid:
Poker is famous for being a game of incomplete information, which is why computers can beat us at chess but not at poker, yet. The minute you sit down at a table you should be gathering information about your opponents. ’If after the first ten minutes you can’t spot the sucker, then it’s you.’ Is an oft repeated piece of advice and for a good reason. Are the other players at ease, are they making stupid mistakes? Of course, you may get it wrong, you may be fooled, but start building that database the minute you sit down. The best information you’re going to get are the showdown hands. You can see how each player valued a particular hand, those who won’t fold and can’t be bluffed, those who fold on all but the best hands and can be easily bluffed. Don’t drift off into self-recrimination of self-congratulation, gather all the information and use it.
Telling another player that you think they’re playing badly
‘As frustrating as losing to someone’s ridiculous two pair after they have cold-called a four-bet with queen -three is, never berate an opponent for their poor play.’ – Seven Deadly Poker Sins
Anger has no place at the poker table, it’s unpleasant and unnecessary and besides which it puts you off your game. If you’re really unpleasant to someone the chances are they’ll leave the table and you’ve lost your chance to win the money back. Or, they may actually listen to what you are saying and up their game. If they’re playing badly, even though they won the pot, let them go on playing badly. Remember, it’s not about winning the pot it’s about winning the game.
Going on a tilt and convincing yourself that you are still in control
That mug across the table has just won another pot, even though he doesn’t play half as well as you and you’re going to teach him a lesson. At this point you should leave because you are likely to lose a lot of money. If you are playing pots with a certain person just because you want to outplay them then you are on a tilt; if you’re chasing draws in hope of the right card when the odds say you should fold, then you’re on a tilt; if you’re playing for higher and higher stakes then you’re on a tilt. Recognise the signs, every chip you don’t lose is a chip won.
If you don’t do your homework, you’ll never be any good
Knowledge of math and probability is essential; if you don’t know the standard odds for particular hands then go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned them.