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When I started playing poker at 18, I was terrible. I don’t want to put my hard earned money in the pot until I’m absolutely sure I’m crazy. Eventually I learned that waiting for this situation is a great way to go broke.
Unless you’re a successful poker player, there are glaring gaps in your strategy, like I did when I first started. Before describing the steps you can take to master poker, I will discuss some common mistakes amateurs make.
Many players think they are better at poker than they are. This may be because most people who have played poker for a long time have achieved some level of success. Very few people keep playing after losing money on the first try. These players give up and pursue another hobby.
The ones who achieve immediate and short-term success are the ones who keep playing indefinitely. Good initial results make most amateurs rely too much on their technique. Instead of trying to improve their technique, they think they might be good at the sport.
If you want to be a good player, you should realize that you need to pay close attention to the time you spend at the table. When you’re off the ball, you should study every aspect of the game.
Most casual players develop some sort of default strategy based on what they’re familiar with. They don’t look for alternatives in their careers. This results in these players bluffing often, or almost never. Their strategy is based on clear concepts such as “I always call top pair”, “I will call because I will hit a draw” or “I will win hands my opponent always bluffs”. This kind of thinking can lead to big mistakes because calling top pair isn’t always right, you can’t find your draw when you want it, and aggressive opponents don’t always bluff. Good players avoid these mistakes by always thinking about the correct way to play at a given moment rather than based on past situations.
Another common mistake amateurs make is playing a game that is too big for their budget. Most pros who play MTTs know that at least 100 buy-ins are okay. That means when they book an event with a $500 buy-in, they have a balance of at least $50,000. On the other hand, many casual players keep relatively small bankrolls for poker. This raises major concerns about the level of tournament spending. When you have $2,500 in your bankroll and risk $500, the stress can be overwhelming. When you spend $500 out of a $50,000 bankroll, you can think clearly and make good decisions without letting emotions overwhelm you.
The sooner you stop emotionally thinking about poker, the better. Players have been known to tend to perform worse when they have non-gaming issues, such as fights with their spouse, family financial problems, or other needs that require attention. Those who take their opponent’s actions personally will get worse results than competitors who do their best in every situation. When you face opponents who keep raising the ante, instead of getting angry and showing them who’s boss, implement the best strategy to take advantage of their aggression. Don’t think of poker as a “manly” game.
Always evaluate your decisions, especially if they don’t lead to the results you want. If you want to make money playing poker but lose money in the long run, then something needs to change.