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8 Helpful Poker Strategies | How to Win at Poker

Running bad sucks and sometimes it doesn’t matter what poker strategies you use. It makes you want to quit the game of poker. I will soon cover many options on how to win when running bad.

On my end, I have gotten into a situation where I’m locked in to the poker world. I have built the brand too big to turn around at this point. I hope this ends up being a good thing, but you never know.

Are You Really Running Bad?

I can still relate to running bad without brand protection. I have been there many times, and sometimes those run-bad stretches lasted a lot longer than I would have liked or could have imagined. There was one stretch where I lost A TON of money in one year.

Not coincidentally, it was also a year where bad things were happening away from the table. When bad things are happening away from the table, you tend to force the action because you’re subconsciously attempting to get back to a good place. Therefore, you’re not running as bad as you think. You’re also playing bad.

When you bust, you think about the hand that busted you, and you think it relates to running bad. But the truth is that you likely played bad to get to that point. That’s in most situations, not all situations.

If you really think about it, you never have to call with AK for 35 BB. You never have to call that nut flush draw. You could simply wait until you know you’re ahead, build a stack, establish the image that you’re tight as hell, and then use that image to your advantage by stealing the blinds.

That’s if you’re playing in NL Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. You’re not going to steal many blinds in PLO poker tournaments, and there isn’t much point to stealing blinds in low-stakes poker games.

Are You Just Playing Poorly?

When you’re playing bad and forcing the action, you’re going to the game opposed to letting the game come to you. This doesn’t fit into our poker rules for winning. When you’re going to the game, you’re playing too many poker hands, which is immediately bad poker strategy. When you play too many poker hands, you increase variance. It’s like pouring water on a Gremlin. We don’t want to do that.

Let’s assume that you’re not playing bad and that you’re actually running bad. Call it whatever you want. The objective is to implement poker strategies that will get you back in the black. I have included several poker strategies to reverse run-bad below. I would recommend picking one and sticking to it.

8 Ways to Win When Running Bad

#1. Play Down

This is by far one of the best poker strategies for getting back on track. If you’re not sure what it means, it means that if you usually play 2/5 No Limit poker games, then you want to move down to 1/3 NL or 1/2 NL. If you usually play in $400 buy-in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, then you want to start buying-in to $135-$200 buy-in poker tournaments.

You will be taking all the knowledge and experience you have to a lower level of play. In essence, you will become a big fish in a small pond. If that still doesn’t make sense, you will become the favorite. This will allow you to grind your way back. Smart poker pros who hit a downswing have the discipline to play down.

#2. Use SPATS

Poker Strategies - The Perfect Range

SPATS is one of the best low-limit poker strategies you will find. I wrote about it in The Perfect Range. It’s highly effective because I receive messages all the time about how it turned someone’s game around. I love these messages. Sometimes I will receive messages about my The Dark Side of the Felt series as well, which also makes my day. So, please never hesitate to say you enjoyed something. I do appreciate it.

As far as SPATS goes, it’s an acronym for Suited-Connectors, Pairs, Ax-suited, Ten or Higher, and Suited One-Gappers. These are the only hands you’re allowed to play using SPATS unless you’re on the button or in the blinds. But it doesn’t mean you have to play them. It just means they’re the only hands you’re allowed to play.

By having Suited-Connectors and Suited One-Gappers in there, your opponents won’t know what a pre-flop three-bet can mean. It’s a tight approach to the game while remaining unpredictable and keeping yourself from going on tilt. You would obviously gain a lot more from this strategy by reading the book, or by listening to the book, but that’s up to you.

#3. Play Poker Golf

This is one of those poker strategies that nobody else knows about, but it’s simple. However, you must be honest with yourself about mistakes. The goal is to shoot par, but that’s very difficult because that’s the best score possible. Whether you’re playing in poker tournaments or traditional live poker games, you must add a stroke every time you make an error. For example, if you make one error, you’re +1.

I have used Poker Golf to get out of slumps. It works most of the time, but not all of the time. Everything depends on how disciplined I’m feeling that day. I have had many sessions where I have been +1 and +2, which is excellent. Not surprisingly, I won during those sessions. The +1 and +2 are excellent scores because even making a loose pre-flop call counts as a mistake.

I do remember one or two sessions where I was +5. I lost both times. This leads me to a realization. Is it really running bad when you lose? Or is it playing bad? Of course you can run bad for one or two sessions, but if you’re running bad for months, you’re playing bad!

Poker Golf is an excellent tool and one of the best poker tips I can give you for getting out of a slump. This is one of the very few poker strategies that relates to accountability.

#4. Poker Strategy: 19%

Poker Strategies: 19%

I’m currently in the process of writing this book. I’m 39% of the way through it. I know that because I have played 39 of 100 poker tournaments.

Each poker tournament is a chapter. The premise of the book is to only play 19% of poker hands. I keep track of it on my phone by using the following…

Hands Played:

Hands Folded:

So, if I hit 19% over 100 hands, it would look like this…

Hands Played: 81

Hands Folded: 19

I don’t always hit the 19% mark, but I’m finding that I have a much better chance of cashing when I do hit 19% of Hands Played (or less). That’s because I’m staying out of the way.

Even if I’m seen as a tight player, most opponents can’t let go of second- and third-best hands. I can also use my table image to my advantage later in the tournament, and if I raise pre-flop and get all folds, it goes in the Folded category, not the Hands Played category.

The Hands Played category is only for when you see a flop. By playing fewer hands, you are also reducing variance. I will probably change Hands Played to Flop Seen prior to publishing.

#5. Buy-In Very Late

This is one of the crazier poker strategies for turning around your run-bad, but hear me out. It’s crazy because you might only get 15 BB, but when you only have 15 BB in a poker tournament, it means two things.

One, at least half the field will already be gone. You’re closer to the money. This also means you didn’t have to sit around all day and grind it out. While everyone else was playing poker, you were jet skiing, snowboarding, going to a spa, or watching a movie. By doing something away from the poker world, you also prevented re-buys. Firing one bullet is already a small win.

Two, if you get in this late with 15 BB (or so), you don’t have to think about much. You can use a Push/Fold poker strategy. This means you either go all-in pre-flop or you fold. Since the blinds will be super high, I would recommend only looking at your cards in early and middle position. If you’re in late position and everyone folded to you, jam it! Even if you get called, you’re never drawing dead, and you usually won’t get called.

Therefore, you’re accumulating blinds at warp speed, and if you happen to double-up twice, you’re going to be close to the average chip stack. At that point, you can put it on cruise control.

If you have been playing poorly, this removes the over-analysis/fear/passive play/over-aggression (whatever the leak has been) and allows you to put yourself in a position to win with little effort and a little luck. If you cash, your whole poker world will reverse course for the better. Confidence is a powerful thing.

#6. 4-Bet with 97-Off

This is usually a very bad idea, but if you keep trying the same thing and failing, then you’re going to keep getting the same result. It doesn’t need to specifically be 97-off, but 4-bet with a hand that at least has some potential. If you get folds (unlikely), great.

If you get called and win, bingo! But even if you get called and lose, you’re letting your opponents know that you’re fearless and unpredictable. Poker pros love this! You will fit right in.

Even though this seems like the wildest of all poker strategies on this list, you have a backup plan. Either you scoop the pot or you’re playing a more long-term game related to your reputation and table image on the felt.

#7. Switch to PLO For One Tournament

PLO Tournament Sheet

You’re not switching to PLO because PLO presents a better opportunity. You’re switching to PLO to take a breather from Texas Hold’em. After playing a different variation of poker, you’re going to feel refreshed when you go back to Texas Hold’em. Or … it’s possible that you will fall in love with PLO. If that happens, remember that it’s a showdown game. You usually want to be drawing to the nuts, and use caution with straights. They’re not nearly as powerful as you think.

I love PLO, but I love Texas Holde’em more because there is more thinking involved. If you don’t want to play PLO, then at least change the scenery by playing a different variation of poker, such as Crazy Pineapple, All-In or Fold, or anything else different.

#8. Take a Break

I’m a poker player, so I know this isn’t what you want to read. Believe it or not, I have taken two one-year breaks throughout my poker career. I rebuilt my bankroll both times and came back stronger than ever.

If I came back stronger than ever both times, it tells me that simplifying the game leads to the best results. When you’re playing all the time, you start to get a little too creative. I can pinpoint several creative plays that hurt me in poker tournaments. Without those creative plays, I would have had a good chance at cashing, and cashing is the name of the game in poker tournaments.

When you take a break from the game, your mind resets and you come back fresh. For me, I always come back to the game with this mentality:

Gambling led to my downswing. Therefore, I’m not going to gamble. I don’t care what anyone says. I’m only getting my money in the middle when I’m ahead. I’m approaching this game as though I only invest in Blue Chip hands.

KK

Blue Chip stocks win over the long haul in the stock market. They’re not exciting, but they grind out profits. If I apply the same approach to Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, then I should experience the same results.

That approach was highly effective! Therefore, it’s one of the best poker tips I can provide.

Final Thoughts

If you want to reverse your run-bad, there are many poker strategies listed above to consider. It’s imperative that you choose which of these poker strategies you think will fit you best. That fits into our poker rules for winning. Play Good / RunGood!

♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals