Poker is a tough sport, although it can appear like a game of chance, it’s no coincidence that it’s the same players that end up at the final table. It’s the skill component that separates the pros from the amateurs. Master these 4 skills and you’ll find yourself at the final table!
1. Practice Discipline
Patience and discipline go hand in hand. You can go hours waiting for the cards to go your way…and they still won’t come. Wonder how the good players manage to stick around during these games? It’s called patience. Patience means having the discipline to wait around and not go off-tilt when it seems like you haven’t been dealt a decent hand all game.
To be successful you have to wait for good hands, and be disciplined enough to not play garbage hands in hopes of hitting on the flop–that can be hard to do when you’ve been inactive the whole game. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Know when to fold and you’ll minimize your losses by simply not limping in on too many hands hoping to get lucky.
2. Know Your Math
You won’t go far in this game if you don’t understand general poker probabilities. For instance, do you know the chances of hitting a set when you’ve got a pocket pair? What about the odds of getting a flush by the river after you flopped a flush draw? A good player will know these odds and use them to understand the pot odds and the number of outs they left.
Pros will know the odds in their heads and they’ll put their math skills to good use by figuring out if they’re getting good value by calling certain hands. Amateurs will go in guns blazing and crossing their fingers while good players will use their wits. Guess who wins these battles?
3. Read Your Opponent
Empathize with your opponents. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they think. Ask why they make the decisions they make. What cards would make me bet pre-flop in this situation? What does everyone at the table think I have? You can get clues to these questions by reading your opponent’s body language and their emotions. Next time you get a hand, don’t pick up your cards until it’s your turn to act. Use that time to focus on each opponent and watch their gestures and facial emotions. You may notice reactions that may give away their hands!
Keep track of your opponents’ cards and see if your reads are correct. Remember to note who’s watching you and keep everyone at the table guessing by bluffing, slow playing, and fast playing hands to keep them scratching their heads while they guess your next move.
4. Manage Your Money
Play within your means. Even if you’re a good player you can still lose by not being a good money manager and keeping poor control of your cash flow. Don’t jump limits and play big games if you don’t have the money. Chance is still a large component of poker and if you don’t have sufficient bankroll to compensate for losses you will find yourself broke. A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of 300 times the big blind amount before you play a game. You need enough money set aside to offset the inevitable swings in fortune or else you’ll be flat broke.