You want to be a winning poker player, and you have read all the poker tips out there on how to do it, but to no avail. There is a reason for that, you know? If everyone is reading and applying the poker tips, then how the heck are they going to get an edge?
You can look at the game two ways. You can either do “what you’re supposed to do” and follow the poker basics or you can do what gives you the best chance to win. What you’re about to read might sound like an unconventional poker strategy, and truth be told, that is the case, but it’s also effective.
Why do you think the best players in the world are all seen as unique? Phil Ivey is known for fearlessness, Daniel Negreanu is known for reading ability, and Tom Dwan is known for uber-aggression. I’m not in that category, but let me give you one example of what makes me different.
For instance, if the chip leader at my table is running and feeling good, we’re midway through a tournament, and he bets out when pot odds are against me with a flush draw, I’m going to call despite those pot odds being against me. That’s exactly the reason I’m going to call.
If I hit by the river and show what I was calling with based on the amounts he was betting, he’s going to go to the moon (not in a good way). I have done this on many occasions. On almost every occasion, that chip leader has lost all his chips within 30 minutes.
I play the player more than anything else. As a former street-baller (basketball) for 17 years, I have some experience getting people off their games by using subtle tactics. Keep that in mind when you read the 21 poker tips below. However, to put your mind at ease, it should also be noted that very well-known Vegas pros believe that my approach is next-level thinking, and that the standard pro can’t grasp it.
They believe there is no sense in revealing my strategies and ways of thinking because it will only be met with resistance or used against me. Those are valid points, but I don’t care about the opinions of players who have earned $356, and I can always switch my strategy based on what believe someone knows about me.
By the way, if I miss the flush in the aforementioned situation, I fold and no one has a clue what I was playing. To understand my method of thinking on Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments, read the information below.
21 Awesome Poker Tips
Poker Tip #1. Practice, Practice, Practice
This should be obvious, but it’s often overlooked. It took me many years to become a profitable poker player, and that only happened because I played a lot. Just like in business, there is no substitute for experience. When Phil Ivey is asked how he’s so good, he often replies with something along the lines of, “I’ve just seen so many hands that I know what’s going on.”
If you play a lot, your skills become somewhat intangible. Also, don’t confuse online play with live poker play. The latter requires a lot more skills. If you’re an online superstar, that’s great, but stay there. Live poker is a different animal. Whatever you’re good at, keep doing it. If you’re not good, play in the arena that interests you most and tighten up. By tightening up, you will see more hands. Even if you’re not involved, this is the best education you can get. Actually being there is more valuable than watching poker videos.
Poker Tip #2. Get in Shape & Sleep Well
If any of the poker tips listed here is undervalued, it’s this one. I spend an enormous amount of time staying in shape. When I’m not playing poker, I hit the gym twice per day. I lift weights in the morning and do cardio in the evening. By moving my body twice per day, it keeps my mind sharp. It also allows me to feel good. I’m not in perfect shape, but I’m in decent shape.
When you feel good, it gives you a psychological advantage over everyone in that room. You don’t have to be the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but if you truly kill it in the gym, you know you’re going to be the hardest worker in that room. Even if you’re not looking for those kinds of advantages, simply exercising is going to be good for your health because poker players tend to sit around for hours and hours at a time, sometimes even days. If you’re playing Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments, then you’re likely sitting down between 10 and 16 hours per day.
As far as sleeping well goes, that’s the case for most people, and it used to be the case for me as well, but that eventually changed. You eventually get to a point where decisions are conditioning. You understand each player, the board texture, and the betting patterns with ease. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had eight or three hours of sleep. It takes a while to get to this point, so it is recommended that you sleep well prior to playing.
Poker Tip #3. Know the Rules of the Game
Out of all the poker tips this one is paramount. The last thing you want to do in a tournament is make a rookie move, such as taking change from your big blind before the dealer has a chance to do so or making an illegal bet. Make sure you know all the rules prior to sitting down in a poker tournament. If you’re not sure what to do, do nothing. The dealer will take care of it. If someone says something, you can just say, “Oh. Sorry. I was daydreaming.” That’s much better than doing something completely out of the ordinary and letting your opponents know you’re a fish.
Poker Tip #4. Pick the Right Game for Your Bankroll & Skill Level
As poker tips go this one is vital to protecting your bankroll. Do not, under any circumstances, jump from a 1/2 No Limit game to a 5/10 No Limit game. Many poker players have tried to make this jump, and almost all of them have been sent packing with their tails tucked between their legs.
The general rule for a cash game is to have a bankroll that’s 100 times the size of the big blind. For a tournament, there is no general rule, but you should use common sense. For example, if your poker bankroll is $500, you shouldn’t be playing in a $400 WSOP bracelet event. That might be tempting, but remember that lower buy-in tournaments usually equates to lower-skilled players/softer fields.
This is where you build your bankroll! You don’t need the big $1 million prize right away. Instead of just one shot at that big prize, wouldn’t you like to have 7-10 shots at it? You can do that by playing in smaller Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments and earning $500-$5,000 when you play and run good.
Poker Tip #5. Pay Attention. Be Observant. Analyze Players
I have somehow gotten to the point where I usually know what a player is all about before they play a hand. For instance, if someone keeps talking about how they recently won big in poker before the tournament even starts, they’re already trying to make themselves look good because they’re insecure.
The same can be applied to people who shuffle their chips constantly. They might be good players, but they’re usually not great poker players. They’re doing that in an effort to intimidate you. On the other hand, if the dealer asks a player for change and that player casually grabs the correct amount of chips without having to count them first, red alert! Stay away from that player. This shows he/she has played a ton of poker.
Also pay attention to what your opponents are wearing. If they’re wearing a Rolex watch, then they’re not in it for the money and more likely to call draws. They’re wearing a sweatshirt with a hole in it, they’re likely playing with scared money, which means it’s time to steamroll them. If you’re savvy, you can ask them what they do for a living. The answer will provide a lot of information. If they’re a teacher, they’re probably going to be cautious. If they own their own business, they’re more likely to be a risk-taker. Play accordingly based on the information you have obtained.
Poker Tip #6. Become a Master at Reading the Board
This will come easy to you after a while. Without realizing it, each opponent has patterns. If you pay attention, you will subconsciously pick up on those patterns. When you have those betting patterns memorized in your brain, it will be much easier for you to read the board. In other words, you will have a very good idea of what your opponent is holding.
Let’s take a standard player as an example, and let’s assume the blinds are 1,000/2,000. Your opponent has 50,000 chips and raises to 5,000 pre-flop from the button. You’re in the big blind and call to defend with 10h 8h. You’re the only caller. The flop: Ah 10c 5s. You’re wise, you bet here to see where you stand. If he raises, he’s likely holding AK, AQ, AJ, or AT. If he had a set of aces, he would have checked, and he wouldn’t be betting out with a set of tens or a set of fives (unless he’s super crafty).
Two pair is out of the question because none of those hands make sense. This is a fold situation. If you try to go hero with a raise to represent two pair or a set, it’s –EV (negative expected value). In these situations, it’s better to wait for a better spot. Remember, ego will mess you up, so don’t mess with ego.
Poker Tip #7. Know Everything about Poker Position
The tricky thing about poker position is that you don’t want to underrate or overrate it. If you have position on a weak player, then it’s an easy decision; you want to call to see a flop. If it’s a strong opponent, then it would be wise not to overvalue position. This tends to happen more often in bigger buy-in tournaments.
Someone will think they have to call with a hand like 97-off because they have position, not realizing that they’re way behind and up against a strong player. It’s usually best to fold in these spots. In fact, this would be a good time to mention what will make you the most money in poker tournaments. It might sound backward, but it’s true, and it can be explained in one word: Fold.
Poker Tip #8. Know Everything about Poker Ranges
That player in Seat 1 has played three hands in seven hours and has only shown AA and AK. We don’t know his specific range, but we have a pretty good idea. If he’s involved in a hand that was raised pre-flop and the board comes: 765, you can be sure he doesn’t have a piece of it, which allows you to bet out and take it down.
One of the most important poker tips is that while it’s important to play tight, you don’t want to play too tight. That will allow your opponent to know where you’re at all the time. This, of course, is a bad poker strategy. There is a fine line, and as a poker player, it’s your job to figure out that fine line. I can’t tell you that fine line because every poker table is different.
There is one specific poker strategy for playing your own range, which is SPATS. The following is what I came up with to avoid poker tilt. I was only allowed to play Suited connectors, Pairs, Ax-suited, Ten-or-higher hands (both cards ten or higher), and Suited one-gappers. Yes, I came up with that, but I’m mentioning it because it’s highly effective, especially if you’re playing low- and mid-level poker.
Poker Tip #9. Play Your Opponent, Not Just Your Cards
I touched on this above, but to elaborate, every situation is different, which depends on the player. If Seat 5 has raised pre-flop five hands in a row and I’m sitting with A8-off in position, I’m calling. If Seat 5 had only raised one of his past five hands, it would be a fold, but he lost my respect, and I can get away from the hand easily if I miss. More times than not, when someone is raising this much, they’re emotional and on tilt. It’s a good stacking opportunity.
Poker Tip #10. Learn to Be Patient
This one of those essential poker tips you must learn to be successful. I have a friend who has the patience of a monk. All of his opponents that he plays with make fun of him for being a NIT. That might sound terrible, but he has been the highest earner where he plays for three consecutive years. Why? Because he’s patient.
A lot of people think that patience is weak, but that’s not the case at all. Even if you have a tight image (not super tight), an opponent is usually going to call you when they have a second-best hand and you jam. My friend (and hopefully myself) would not call with the second-best hand because we’re patient (and hopefully because we have good reading ability, which stems from experience and paying attention).
Poker Tip #11. Learn to Fold
This is one of most important poker tips on this list. You know that feeling when you know you’re beat but you’re not 100% sure? What do you usually do in that situation? You usually call, don’t you? Don’t worry, you’re just like 99% of the poker playing population. The difference between you and them is that you’re reading these poker tips, and from this day forward, you’re going to start folding in those spots.
Listen, you have to understand something. When you’re in those spots, part of your brain tells you that you might not find a better spot, but in the back of your mind, you know with absolute certainty that if you’re patient, you will indeed find a better spot. When you start folding in these questionable situations, you start winning. It might be the #1 factor between winning and losing for Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments.
Poker Tip #12. Narrow the Field by Betting or Raising
When you see a soft/passive table and you want to take control of that table, isolate as much as you can. Since most people will miss the flop the majority of the time, you can bet out and take it down. And sometimes you will actually hit the flop. By taking this approach, it will appear to the others players that you’re a beast. This isn’t really true because you’re isolating almost every time, and heads-up poker is all about aggression. It’s the perception that counts.
Your opponents will begin to fear you, which means you will get more folds. That, in turn, means more easy chips for you. Keep grinding, but use caution when someone smooth-calls you. This usually means danger because they’re attempting to trap the aggressor. Do not fall for this trick! This is one of those poker tips that you must remember: Play fast at a passive tables, but know when to slow down. Your opponents will give you the answers by attempting to trap. They’re only calling for one reason.
Poker Tip #13. Don’t Bluff Too Much
When you bluff too much, you lose. It’s as simple as that. Two years ago, I watched the entire Main Event at the WSOP and tallied made hands and bluffs on the river (only for what was televised). It turned out that poker players who bet on the river were only bluffing 30% of the time. This means they had the winner 70% of the time.
If you continue to bluff into people with made hands, you’re going to lose. Personally, I don’t bluff big on the river. It’s just not me. I prefer to bluff smaller on the flop and turn. I ask myself how much I can risk without risking too much. In other words, what’s the least amount I can get away with to pull off an effective bluff?
On the other hand, you can’t be readable with draws. Sometimes, you have to semi-bluff on the flop or turn with a draw. This will keep your opponents guessing. Even if you fail, it’s okay. Remain unpredictable, but only use these approaches sparingly. Otherwise, you’re –EV. If this approach works and you hit your hand, they probably won’t see it coming because a raise on the flop is usually an attempt to protect top pair.
Poker Tip #14. Play TAG
The only poker players that remain in the game are those who play TAG (Tight-Aggressive). The LAG (Loose-Aggressive) will steal the spotlight for a while, but they’re almost always a flash in the pan. There is a difference between looking good and winning, and if you want to win, then you need adopt a TAG poker strategy.
Poker Tip #15. Smile & Enjoy Yourself
This is important, but only to a certain extent. Yes, you want to be friendly to everyone, and that’s one of the most important poker tips out there because it can lead to networking and staking opportunities. However, you don’t want to be the conversationalist at the table either. This takes away your mystique and makes you appear less intimidating.
Poker Tip #16. Listen to Bad Beat Stories, but Never Tell Them
You want to listen to bad beat stories because you’re polite, but you never want to tell them. The only reason people tell bad beat stories is to prove to themselves and others that they’re not bad players and they just got unlucky. Do you really want to be that guy? Not telling bad beat stories is also one of the most important poker tips from an etiquette standpoint.
Poker Tip #17. Review Hands You Lost
At first, nothing seems worse than going over a poker hand that you misplayed and lost. What you don’t realize at the time is that you’re actually learning and becoming stronger. If you won all the time, you would never learn and grow. By reviewing what went wrong, you’re planning for the same situation in the future so you make a correction. That’s called growth and become a stronger player.
Poker Tip #18. Stick With One Poker Game and Master It
This is one of the poker tips that I cannot emphasize enough. If you’re passionate about NL, don’t switch to PLO. This will only ruin your NL game if you choose to go back and forth. Instead, become a specialist at one game. Some people will frown upon this, but that’s only because they like to mix it up. Trust me; they don’t truly care about your best interests. This is all part of playing poker off the felt. You need to understand people and their true intentions. Once you have that, you become a very dangerous opponent.
Poker Tip #19. Win & Lose with Class
This is one of my favorite poker tips on the list, if not my favorite. It doesn’t matter what level you play at, when you lose, say, “Good game” and walk away from the table. When you win, say, “Good game” to whoever lost and move on. If you’re not comfortable saying anything when you bust someone because you think they might not appreciate it, at least nod your head or tap the table. That said, the way you lose says a lot more about you than the way you win and is much more important.
Poker Tip #20. Learn How to Handle Chips
Don’t be one of those show-offs that like to play with their chips in fascinating ways. I never see these players at the final table. If you want to really scare your opponents, learn to count chip stacks without having to touch them. From there, learn to grab the correct amount of chips from a stack without having to count them. After that, learn to grab the correct amount of chips from a stack without even having to look at the stack.
Poker Tip #21. Tilt Hurts
Avoiding tilt is one of the most popular poker tips out there, and for good reason. Tilt simply refers to emotion. Therefore, it’s imperative that you don’t get emotional at the poker table. If you do tend to get emotional, then walk away from the table every single time you sense it coming. This will save you a lot of chips. If you’re not comfortable with that, then promise yourself that you will fold ten hands in a row unless you see AQ-suited or better. That will give you time to calm down.
Bonus Poker Tip: Know When to Fold Your Aces
This is one of those poker tips that you must learn to become a consistent winner. If you raise big pre-flop with Ac Ah, get more than one caller, the flop is 876-two diamonds, and it’s three-bet before it gets to you, get the heck out of there! AA is an amazing starting hand, but things can change fast in this game, and your opponents are usually giving you the answers; you just have to listen to them.
Only a real pro can fold aces in a spot like that. Do you want to make the standard play and call there? Then tell a bad beat story to your friends? Or do you want to fold there, play like a poker pro, and start making money in the game you love so much? Hey … it’s on you. Use these poker tips to rule the competition. See you at the WSOP!
Poker Tips – FAQs
A: If you’re a beginner, then I would highly recommend reading the poker book The Perfect Range. I’m not just saying that because I wrote it. That book is what led me to where I am for a reason.
A: Poker can definitely be profitable, but you need to be very disciplined. Half of this game is played off the felt, but very few people realize that.
A: Nobody wins every time. It’s impossible. Too much variance. The key is to minimize losses and maximize wins, but minimizing losses is the key.
A: If you’re playing with people of the same skill level, it’s mostly luck. If you’re playing with people of a higher or lower skill level, it’s mostly skill.
Subscribe to Poker Journal on YouTube