One thing about Hold’em to remember is that the better player you are, the more fun it is (not to mention the more you can win, if that’s your aim). People have different approaches to improving their skills, but two things are essential: one, never stop learning, and two, learn from your mistakes.
On the other hand, once you gain some experience and confidence, a winning basic strategy is simply to decrease your errors. That may sound simplistic, but in truth applying concerted effort to stamping out all your more neglectful or lazy bad habits is an easy way to leap up a few notches in skill.
When you have cleaned up your game so that you almost never make stupid mistakes, that means you are in a position to take advantage of the ways other players do commit errors. The following are some places to start.
1. Overconfidence or Loose Play
Playing too boldly in early rounds for whatever reason is a waste of energy and it endangers your pot and your reputation at table (unless you are trying to mislead opponents). The pros advise us to start out conservatively, playing tight, and focus on being observant.
Playing tight means being selective about hands you choose to fund. Think of each hand as a potential investment; invest in the best bets. Whenever you are dealt some muck, throw it away and then enjoy the time sitting back and observing the show.
Everything you observe keenly is an advantage. In fact, how else can you simply watch your opponents so freely? Then later in the game, make your moves, using what you have learned, having kept your bankroll intact, thoroughly loosened up.
2. Being a Spendthrift
Playing outside your bankroll always is a bad idea, which is more likely when you have a big budget or you are sitting on some winnings. The reason is that there could be experienced hawks who know how to trick you into losing your cash when your guard is down. No matter how flush you are, just play as if you’re still in a modest position.
Everybody has those times when they have had a good streak, or they feel very sharp and effective, or they have some real fish at the table who are paying dearly for their learning curves! At those times, the best way to enjoy the moment is to not squander your gains with reckless betting.
3. Failing to Spot the Nuts
Seems simple enough that you should always acknowledge when you have the strongest hand, but usually people tend only to register that the hand is good in isolation. To know your hand is the ‘nuts’, the real deal, the best cards, requires that you also understand the probability of other great hands in play, as well as the skill levels of your opponents.
Also, when you are very good at knowing the full significance of your best hands, at those times you can muster the poise not to let the cat out of the bag. When you have the best hand, it is a time to give all your attention to strategic play and limiting your tells.
4. Not Folding Enough
Part and parcel with being able to play tight is having the discipline and patience to fold whenever you have bad cards, or you have a sense that somebody else’s hand is superior. Players have a lot of reasons for following bad hands into the action, including an understandable desire for experience.
Just keep this in mind: the rounds that you sit out, having folded, are not a waste of your time. Those are the second half of your Hold’em educational process: being able to use this opportunity to watch and study the game will give you benefits in that session, and with respect to poker itself. Learn to relish folding!
5. Not Reading the Board Cards
Amateurish players only will be able to manage calculating their own hands and odds, without studying the implications that community cards can reveal. That is, the up cards can tell the story of hands that are not possible for anybody, and hence supply the missing details for players to assess the strength of their own hands.
This is related to the more advanced skill of calculating your odds in every round, based upon your own cards, the number of players and the quality of community cards. When you see certain cards there, you also know which winning hands may come up in that game.
Although it is one of the more challenging tasks involved in Hold’em, examining probabilities in your mind is a huge advantage. It is one of those things that will take more effort, time and mental power. Failing to master this is a huge mistake.