Poker simultaneously has fairly simple rules and yet has remarkable depth in how players interact with those rules, and with the situations arising from them.
In other words, poker is not as simple as a game like blackjack, but in relative terms the endless complexity of gameplay created by its basic rules is astounding.
Why else would a whole vocabulary be needed to describe the situations that come about during poker games? One might even say that a poker game is some sort of psychological drama reflecting social situations more generally — comparable to the ways that the board game Monopoly echoes business dealings or real estate.
It’ll Psych You Out
Poker is extremely psychological; make no mistake about that. Not only is a player up against one’s own psychological conditions but also the behaviours of others players.
This dual battle, which is both rational and irrational, gives the game much of its texture and challenge. Along those lines, the following aspects are fundamental issues for any player who desires more than just a casual involvement with the game.
1. Decide What You Want
Poker is a game played in casual, friendly, light hearted scenes as well as in international competitions with competitors wearing tough ‘poker faces’. If you want to play very well, and win money, then it will not be a cakewalk.
Success at poker requires both intellectual efforts as well as psychological (emotional) discipline. There must be mastery of information as well as control over one’s feelings towards oneself, others and the game itself. Also, of course, one’s relationship towards the concept luck will be challenged.
So, if you want to be good, ask yourself if you are willing to study, practice and challenge yourself in ways you may not have anticipated. What do you want from poker, anyway?
2. Tell the Truth About Bad Hands
Your starting hand to begin a round of poker is a moment of truth. At this fundamental moment, the first test of your character comes: can you manage your desire to play in light of your luck with the actual cards dealt to you?
Both beginners and experienced players often need reminding that there is little one can do to remedy the situation (let alone recover cash spent to play) after joining a round in spite of bad cards.
On the other hand, poker rewards those players who can obey their own good discretion by giving them a preview of the round with those first two cards before the lose anything. It can be frustrating to have to sit out rounds by folding early, but less frustrating than wasting energy and losing money in the bargain by fighting with a poor hand.
3. Don’t Get So Personal
Just as in business, the game of poker is best approached in an impersonal, analytical, unattached way. You can save your feelings to experience and express after a good win, but during the action you’re better off staying cool and even keeled.
This is so important in poker that it is the basis for the term ‘tilt’ referring to a player who loses the edge of having a balanced, upright bearing toward one’s game. To be tilted by one’s emotions (negative or positive, actually) is to be weaker, vulnerable to others who can exploit it. This aspect is fully within the individual’s control ideally, so the advantage of self control should not be squandered.
4. Study to Win More
A major aspect of good poker is knowledge, as well as experience. Arguably, to grow in skill sooner rather than later it will be necessary to outpace your direct experience with an abundance of knowledge from other sources.
Therefore, it will be necessary to study. Today, since poker has really exploded in popularity, there are more ways to study the game than ever before. One excellent way is to watch great matches that have been televised (with the help of hole-card cameras). Your stiffest opponents probably use the advantages of studying the game, so you better do so as well.
5. Stick to a Budget
Again, along the lines of treating your poker game as a business (and, not playing while intoxicated, of course), you must manage your bankroll wisely. You must decide what your session can spend and do not exceed that mark for any reason.
Regardless of whether you end up having to abide by your own budgetary limit, just the decision to do so will improve your game (and your very thinking). It is a powerful form of discipline, a healthy pressure you place upon yourself that can bring out your potential.