When some poker players have a big score or cash in a few tournaments, they think they’re unbeatable. This is when the painful downfall begins. Trust me, I know from experience. After an excellent run of cashes in poker tournaments last season, I went to Choctaw, Oklahoma for the WSOP Circuit. Let me rewind for a minute so you know the whole story, then we’ll get to the poker tricks.
Poker Tricks and the WSOP Circuit Impact
The World Series of Poker Circuit travels to different cities around the country, then completes the tour in Las Vegas, where it’s simply referred to as the World Series of Poker. Last year and prior to last year, the tour began in August at Harrah’s Cherokee. It now begins in July at Choctaw.
Last August, I had several deep cashes and accumulated points. I later accumulated more point in November, which was also at Harrah’s Cherokee. At that point, I was one of the Top 50 players in the world. At least on the World Series of Poker. What do you think happened once I started thinking about that?
I felt invincible. Since I already covered this experience in depth in one of my other poker strategy posts, I’ll give you the simple version here. In the first tournament I played in Choctaw in January, I had just made the money and made a loose all-in call with KQ. I lost to AQ. The reason I made the loose call was because I felt I would cash in one of the next few poker tournaments. This was my mindset: Hey, this is easy. I can cash in a poker tournament whenever I want. If I lose this hand, no big deal, I’ll make it up for it really soon.
What do you think happened next? If you guessed that I had zero cashes for the remainder of that week, you are correct. Unfortunately, you don’t win a prize. At least not a physical or monetary prize. Then again, if you look a little deeper, it is a monetary prize in a way because I might have saved you some money, maybe even a lot of money.
The message is clear: Always respect the game. Or, I can put it a better way: Never disrespect the game.
Once you think it’s an easy game to beat, your focus fades, even if you’re not aware of it. When you want to cash so badly that it hurts, you’re in good shape. In these situations, you’re sitting there one hour before you’re in the money, folding poker hands left and right in hopes of others getting knocked out so you can score.
There are rare instances when you must play one of your poker hands because of its strength, or because you sense weakness in an opponent. In these instances, your heart rate increases a little because you have invested so much time (and money) into this event that it would crush you if you were to bust right now, in bubble territory.
Yes, my heart rate will increase a little in these situations. It’s the only time my heart rate will increase at a poker table. This also used to also happen to me when I was dealt AA because I knew I would be fully committed to whatever happened—and with a big advantage—but nowadays my heart rate only increases at the poker table when playing a big hand in bubble territory.
Many “poker pros” will tell you that your heart rate should never increase. They might even say that a real poker pro always controls their heart rate. There are only two possibilities here.
One, this is a wannabe poker pro who likes to talk a big game and doesn’t truly understand the human side of poker.
Two, they are one of the most elite poker players in the world. In regards to the latter, I have watched some of the most elite poker players play poker. I try to watch every move and listen to every word. You can usually see their pulse increase when they have a strong hand.
My point is that even though it might give something away to less than 1% of poker players—someone very unlikely to be your opponent in that hand—it’s a good thing when your heart rate increases when you’re involved in a big hand in bubble territory. It shows how much you care, which also shows your focus.
This has been a longer intro than normal, but that’s because it relates to poker strategy and is so important. I want you to fully understand how important it is to stay on top of your poker game. Some of the poker tricks below are mental, others are physical. Both will help you tremendously. Please do not underestimate their value.
With all that complete, let’s get to the…
Top 10 Poker Tricks to Stay On Top of Your Game
#1. Play Down
I made this number one of all poker tricks to stay on top of your game for a reason. It relates to my experiences, as well as the experiences of so many others. As I have mentioned before, Ego is your biggest enemy. It’s so big of a threat that I’m going to begin capitalizing it from now on. The same goes for your second biggest threat in poker games: Greed.
Think of Ego as a wise, deceitful, and powerful enemy that attacks stealthily, and think of Greed as brute strength who likes to get right in your face and intimidate you while also promising great things. The vast majority of poker players are controlled by Ego without even knowing it, and they bow down to Greed because they desire the path of least resistance with biggest potential reward. We’re going to focus on Greed here.
I have fallen victim to Greed many times in the world of Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. After a big score, I would often think of laddering up. My thought process: Now that I made this much, I can play in a bigger tournament and make that much. That didn’t work, and there are two reasons for that.
One, by playing up, I wasn’t playing my A game because I was thinking about how money I invested in the tournament. This led to overcautious play. Two, the competition was much tougher. When you combine overcautious play with tougher competition, you’re in big trouble. If you’re too cautious at a higher level of play, you will be punished.
One of the simplest yet most effective poker tricks in the world of Texas Hold’em poker tournaments is to play down. By doing so, you’re going to be playing your A game because you won’t be worried about the buy-in. At the same time, you will be playing against softer opponents. When you combine your A game and softer opponents, that’s a recipe for success. Basically, instead of going for that one big score, you’re grinding your way higher. This is how you stay in business in all poker games.
We were focused on Greed there, but it’s possible Ego snuck in and got you. Ego is much sneakier and you must always keep your radar up. If you told yourself that you didn’t want to be seen playing in the lower buy-in poker tournaments with the donkeys/fish, Ego has defeated you. My best advice would be to completely reevaluate your poker rules for winning.
This is obviously one of our physical poker tricks. It’s sad to say that it’s a trick, though. Exercise should be a priority. In fact, despite how much I love poker, my mindset is always: Fitness > Poker. I do this for my health and appearance, because I know that my appearance will lead to more confidence.
When you exercise and truly put the effort in to get fit, your confidence goes through the roof. I know this sounds crazy for a list of poker tricks, but I am telling you that exercising has led to better results at the poker table for me. Even if you’re underestimating yourself in regards to potential appearance, that consistent exercise is going to lead to you having more endurance than almost the entire field. The more fit you are, the more of an advantage you will have. If the average poker player gets fatigued after six hours, you might get fatigued after ten hours.
This is probably the trickiest of all poker tricks I have ever written about. I fear that some readers will misinterpret my intentions. I can only hope that you believe me and get to the gym. I’m so confident in the impact that I will tell you this, and it’s a powerful statement: Without consistent exercise, you will never reach your full potential in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments.
#3. Minimize Buy-Ins
This one is simple. Buy-in to poker tournaments late. This will save you buy-ins, which will keep you in business. I would recommend never buying-in to a poker tournament in the first two hours. My most recent approach is to buy-in at Level 7. I might be shy of the average chip stack, but I will still have plenty to work with, and this is a much more profitable approach than buying-in early.
#4. Go Outside
Every time I’m at a poker series for several days to a week and I go outside, I play better when I reenter the building. This doesn’t mean to go for a short walk right outside the casino. You need to go somewhere between 15 minutes and one hour away. This will truly be getting away. I recommend hiking, seeing a waterfall, fishing on a river, kayaking on a lake, downhill skiing if it’s winter—anything that will invigorate you. By doing this, you will feel like you’re living.
When you’re playing poker in the same room for days at a time, you’re subconscious (or conscious mind) will be asking yourself if you’re a loser. You’re not a loser. You just love the game of poker. In order to greatly increase the odds of feeling like a winner, and actually winning, go outside and do something invigorating, which will recharge you while also allowing your mind to say it’s okay to play poker because you’re balancing.
#5. Get A Massage
When I was playing in the Monster Stack at Harrah’s Cherokee about a year ago, I was approaching the money but not quite there yet. I had a slightly above average stack. The table was relatively tough. I was confident I was the strongest player, but these weren’t pushovers. A massage therapist was walking by. I called her over and ordered a 17-minute massage.
If you’re ever playing in a poker tournament and someone orders a 17-minute massage, that’s me. Say hello. I used to get a 15-minute massage, but at $2/minute, I would always give $40 and figured it’s still a good tip at $40 while getting an extra two minutes of massage.
This anonymous massage therapist went to work. She has incredibly soft hands, which completely relaxed me. I felt like I was on the beach in the Caribbean with a gentle breeze and a cold beer. Yes, I had been transported away from the poker tournament. Because of that, I folded every single handed over the course of those 17 minutes. Bad poker? Heck no! I was in the money, best poker trick yet! Get a massage.
Massages are also a great investment when you’re playing too fast. They will slow you down.
#6. Keep A Poker Journal
This is one of those poker tricks that many poker players are beginning to catch on to. It’s now widely known that the best poker players evaluate their play after every poker session, especially after losing sessions.
When you keep a poker journal, you can look back on what you might have done wrong, then make an adjustment for next time. It will also remind you what players made what plays at what times. If you play in poker tournaments, then you’re going to see a lot of the same people, even if you’re traveling.
#7. 3-Bet With 97-Suited
I don’t recommend doing this often, but if you’re only 3-betting with premium hands, then you’re going to become predictable. Great poker players will see your hands face up, which will allow them to take advantage of you.
Make this move when you have plenty of chips. If you do it this way, you can’t lose. You can lose the hand, but you can’t lose. Allow me to explain.
Either you take it down pre-flop, win the hand (best case scenario), or you get caught. Getting caught here is not bad, not if you’re playing the long game. If your opponents see that you’re willing to 3-bet with 97-suited, you just confused the hell out of them. Well played.
#8. Bet Out Before Flop Hits the Board
Do you like confusing your opponents and keeping them on their toes? If so, bet out before the flop hits the board. This shows incredible strength. Your opponent will only remain involved if they hit the board hard. The only exception is a great poker player who is playing the person opposed to the cards, but there aren’t as many of those as you think.
This also keeps the game fun. You win more when you’re enjoying yourself. Just make sure you don’t get out of control. Think of balance, like work and play.
#9. Call Out Your Opponent’s Hand, But…
Do not do this often. Never want to be That Guy or That Gal. You want to wait for that one moment where you’re 100% sure what your opponent is holding, then casually call out their hand. You can do it like this: “I know you have Ace-Queen.”
Here’s the catch. If you’re correct, everyone is going to look at you as though you’re a genius. Watch how much respect you get going forward when you play any poker games with these people. If you’re incorrect and they table their hand, say, “I just wanted to see what you had.” This little deceptive tactic is what makes it one of the best poker tricks. You’re either intimidating your opponents or gaining information.
Do you really want to win more often? Here it is. It’s the 90% rule. If you’re not at least 90% sure that you have the winning hand, fold.
The 90% Folding Rule is one of the best poker tricks for winning out there yet not many people know about it. If you follow this rule, you’re going to find yourself going deeper in a lot more poker tournaments. There is only one reason you usually want to call in these spots: Ego! We must defeat Ego in order to be successful in the game of poker.
The poker tricks above cover so many aspects of the game that it’s highly recommended you read them over and over again. If you do that, you’re going to improve your poker game tenfold. See you on the felt at the WSOP!
Poker Tricks – FAQ
How do you beat good poker players?
Two options. One, stay out of their way and target the weaker players. Two, jam on them pre-flop, which will take away their skill set.
How do you beat newbie poker players?
It depends if they're tight or loose. If they are tight, steamroll them. If they are loose, wait for a strong hand and trap them (let them bet into you).
What should I do if faced with an all-in bet in poker?
Fold unless you're at least 90% sure you have a better hand. You can always live to fight another day.
How do I budget my money for poker while on vacation?
I would recommend only using 10-15% of your overall vacation budget for poker. This way, if you lose, it won't crush you. If you win, it's a bonus.