Thursday, December 14, 2017

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Everybody Else

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Others
I get a lot of email from struggling poker players at the micro stakes. Too much sometimes in fact!

But this is because poker is a hard game to truly master and many people find it difficult to achieve consistent success especially when they are first starting out.

I hear a lot of the same struggles and problems over and over again. So much so that I feel like a broken record at times giving the same replies again and again.

So I wanted to write this article to talk about some of the ways that the very best poker players in the world think differently at the poker tables. Because a lot of these issues are a mindset problem in my opinion.

I should mention that I definitely do not consider myself to be one of the best poker players in the world. However, I have been playing the micro stakes online now for over 10 years as a pro and I have written 3 books on these games as well.


Winning Poker is Boring


Winning poker isn't fun. In fact it is downright boring most of the time. There is a reason why we call it "grinding."

But many people first get into this game for the thrills and the excitement, the big all-ins and the crazy bluffs.

This is the ridiculously inaccurate way that Hollywood and heavily edited poker TV shows depict the game after all.

And that's cool. If you want to be a losing poker player like most people are, then by all means go ahead and make all sorts of wild bluffs and undisciplined calls and so on.

But the best players know that the game simply doesn't work this way. Winning poker (especially at the micro stakes) is all about discipline and patience. Sometimes you are going to have to make fold after fold after fold after fold.

Do I like folding 10 hands in a row more than most people? No of course not. Folding sucks. You can't win when you fold. It is a guaranteed loss.

But if it the right thing to do (i.e. a nit raises you on the turn and you only have a one pair hand), then it is the right thing to do!

It doesn't matter how many times you have made a tough laydown already today. It changes absolutely nothing about the present situation.

It is important to remember that every hand in poker is an independent event. Just because you had to fold 10 times in a row before does not have the slightest impact on your decision in the current hand.

Winning poker is boring guys. It also requires near superhuman levels of patience and discipline at times especially at the micros.

The difference between that small group of big winners and everyone else is they are willing to make the right decision each time no matter what.


Endless Ups and Downs


The other thing about poker is that there is definitely no instant gratification in it. As I often say, poker is the exact opposite of a get rich quick scheme.

But people send me their graph all the time when they have one winning session and they are already on cloud 9 telling me how they are going to be crushing the highest stakes games soon.

But it's a completely meaningless sample size and the next day they are just going to send me their losing graph and they are ready to throw in the towel and quit the game again!

Look here's the thing. Poker is an endless rollercoaster and the sooner you learn to at least accept this statement in theory, the better your results will be.

Now it must be said that as long as you are human day to day results are going to get to you. I am not going to lie. I feel good when I have a nice winning day and I feel really frustrated when I have a big losing day. I often head straight to the gym afterwards to get the stress out.

But I also know deep down that these day to day results don't really matter in the end. I know that I am going to win in the long run. And this is how all of the biggest winners think as well.

At the end of the day the entire goal of poker is really just to have more ups than downs.

You are going to lose a lot. You should expect to lose as much as 40% of your sessions if you are a winning cash game player. And you can expect to lose more like 90% of your sessions if you are a winning tournament player.

You really need to learn to make at least some sort of peace with losing in poker because it is going to happen so frequently. And you also need to control your ego when you win as well. You aren't that good when you win and you aren't that bad when you lose.

Poker is all about the endless ups and downs. Learn to enjoy the crazy ride and focus on winning the war, not each battle.


This Isn't a Game


The last way that the best poker players in the world think different than everybody else is that for them this isn't just a game. Poker is serious business. It's a job, a career even.

They aren't in this thing for the quick buck. Poker isn't the flavour of the week hobby for them and then next week they are off to try something else. That's how losing poker players think.

The amount of turnover in poker is insane. I have heard reports before that PokerStars (biggest poker room in the world) has over 50 million accounts yet only about 2 million are active, meaning the account holder logged in within the last month or so.

That is absolutely insane when you think about it.

Most poker players are incredibly fickle. They get super excited for a brief period especially when they are first starting to learn the game.

And then when things don't go their way they drop off the face of the earth. You don't hear from them for months or even years down the line when they catch the "poker bug" again.

You just can't have this hobbyist mentality if you ever want to have success in poker. You have to take the game much more seriously than this. This means that sometimes you will go months or even years until you get the results that you want in poker.

It's not any different in the business world. You wouldn't start a new company and expect to be killing it after a few weeks. Most successful businesses take years and years to build.

If you really want to make it in this poker game then you need to be in it for the long haul. Chances are you won't start making a good consistent profit for at least 6 months.

It is best to be fully prepared to accept this from the get go. It might take some people years. In fact, I can't even guarantee that you will ever be successful in this game at all!

But I can guarantee you one thing. If you quit early like most people do, then you will 100% without a doubt never see if you had what it takes to be one of the best in this game.


Conclusion


I didn't mean to paint an overly gloomy picture of poker in this article but sometimes you just need to say it like it is. As I talked about in my recent 10 years as a pro post, you need to treat poker like a business.

You need to bring the same amount of discipline, patience, finances (bankroll management) and work ethic that you would if you were starting a new business.

Poker is just a game to most people. It's a hobby, something fun to do in their spare time. For the best poker players in the world though it is a passion, an addiction and they have a never-ending drive to become better every single day.

Most people are simply not willing to really put in this kind of effort especially when it gets tough, when they are losing for days, weeks or months on end.

A small amount of people will be willing to keep going though. And they almost invariably end up becoming some of the biggest winners in the game.

You gotta ask yourself if you are going to have what it takes or if this is just another hobby for you. Only you truly know the answer to that question.

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Others

Friday, December 8, 2017

Delayed CBet Strategy - The Definitive Guide

Delayed CBet Strategy
A delayed CBet is a very powerful weapon to have in your poker arsenal no matter what stakes you are playing.

And the reason why is because it balances your betting and bluffing ranges and makes you a more difficult poker player to read and play against.

But many people who are just starting out in the game don't know exactly what a delayed continuation bet even is or how to use it.

So in this article I am going to break it down for you and give you the exact spots where you should be making a delayed CBet. You will also learn why it is so effective which is just as important.

Let's get started!


Delayed CBets Are Highly Effective at the Micros


A continuation bet in poker (CBet) is when you raise before the flop and then continue the aggression with another bet on the flop.

This is a highly effective 1-2 punch in poker because it makes a lot of people fold. It is especially effective against all of the weak/tight nits who you will find at the micros (1c/2c to 25c/50c online and 1/2 to 5/10 live).

So when you make a delayed CBet in poker, it just means that you choose to make the continuation bet on either the turn or the river instead.

As I discuss all the time on this blog and in my books, at the lower stakes you should be playing an exploitative style of poker in order to have maximum success.

And what this means in plain English is that you should be capitalizing on the large glaring errors that most of your opponents will be making at these limits.

So this is why I often talk about why you should just go ahead and bet your strong hands a large amount of the time and avoid any slow-play. And on the flip side, you shouldn't run complex multi-street bluffs very often either.

In other words, just keep things as simple as possible at the micros and you will profit more.

But what about all of those middle of the road spots where you kinda have something decent but not great? This is where a lot of small stakes poker players in particular get themselves in trouble.


I am talking about situations where you have:

  • Top pair - bad kicker
  • Middle pair
  • A weak draw with overcards


These are hands which have plenty of value and are often the best hand right now as well. However, they are also the type of hands where if you get raised, you are often going to be behind.

And that is exactly how a lot of inexperienced players end up getting themselves in tons of trouble again and again by getting involved in bloated pots where they don't know what to do.

The delayed CBet is how you fix this.


Use a Delayed CBet With Your Weak Top Pairs and Middle Pairs


Weak top pairs (bad kicker) and middle pair are excellent hands to consider using a delayed CBet with. This is because they are good but not great hands.

This means that there often isn't a huge amount of upside to betting them, and if you do get action it can end up putting you in some really nasty spots later on in the hand.


The benefits of using a delayed CBet instead are huge though:

1. You provide deception about the real strength of your hand (a good hand would bet the flop right?)

2. You are still going to get that value out of them when you bet the turn and/or river

3. If you happen to be behind right now, you give yourself a chance to catch a lucky card on a later street and make the best hand.


The next time you have one of these middle of the road types of hands considering checking back on the flop instead of just betting out every time.

Because this is one of those classic cases where there isn't a ton of value to be gained by betting (they aren't calling with worse very often). And if you do get action, it is often because you are behind to a better pair or they have a strong draw with plenty of equity.


Use a Delayed CBet With Your Weak Draws and Missed Overs


Another spot where a delayed CBet is highly effective at the micros is when you have a weak draw or you missed the flop completely but still have two strong overs.

And the reason why is for a lot of the same reasons that we just discussed.

These hands have some reasonable value but we aren't going to get called on the flop by worse hands very often. Also when we do get action it is usually because we are behind.

So if I flop a gutshot straight draw for instance with a couple of over cards, this is a great spot for a delayed CBet.

Not only do I disguise the strength of my hand on the flop which has plenty of outs (4 to the gutter and 6 for the overcards = 10 outs), but I can still try and take it down with a bet on the turn or river.

I also give myself a chance to realize my equity by hitting one of my outs on those later streets.


Never Do Anything 100% of the Time in Poker


Now before I say anything else it is important that I point out that you should never do one particular action 100% of the time in poker. This is because it makes you easy to read and highly exploitable.

So you want to go ahead and sometimes just make a CBet with your weak top pairs, middle pairs, weak draws and missed overs as well. This is the "standard play" for a reason after all.

But a decent amount of the time at the micros, you should also consider using a delayed CBet in these marginal situations.

Let's look at a few examples.


Example Hand #1


NL10 - 6max

You raise with AJ from early position

A TAGfish player calls you in the big blind


The flop comes:

QT4


Your opponent checks

What should you do?


This is an excellent spot to use a delayed CBet. We caught a reasonable flop for our hand - gutshot straight draw to the nuts, backdoor nut flush draw and we still have two big cards that could pair up later on too.

A lot of people would opt for a standard continuation bet in this spot. And as I said before, there is nothing wrong with that. You absolutely should just go ahead and make the standard CBet here plenty of the time.

But if you can start mixing in some delayed CBets here it makes you a lot more difficult to play against because they can't put you on a hand quite as easily.

It also gives you all the benefits of pot control, deception value and the ability to realize your equity later on in the hand that we discussed before.


Example Hand #2


NL10 - Full Ring

You raise with T8 from the button

A Nit calls you in the big blind


The flop comes:

5T5


Your opponent checks

What should you do?


Once again, we have an excellent candidate for a delayed CBet in this hand. While we flopped top pair we don't have much of a kicker to go with it. It is pretty unlikely that a tight player like this is ever going to have a worse top pair to call us with.

Also, by checking the flop we create some of that deception value that I discuss a lot in my books. This means that a nitty player like this will often become more willing to call us on the turn and/or river with hands like 99, 88, 77 and 66.

This is because in his mind top pair should always bet the flop. But since we checked the flop, then he will be much more inclined to think that we are bluffing.

Now again, I want to be clear that you should absolutely just go ahead and make the standard CBet here plenty of the time as well. But this is another one of those spots where mixing in some delayed CBets can be highly effective as well.


Example Hand #3


NL10 - 6Max

You raise with KJ from the button

A Fish calls you in the big blind


The flop comes:

AJ4


Your opponent checks

What should you do?


This is another spot where I think it is a great idea to frequently mix in a delayed CBet. This is the old middle pair versus a recreational player type of spot.

The thing about playing against the fish is that they can have nearly anything. Therefore, there is almost no point in even bothering to put them on a range of hands.

They don't play the game according to logic or mathematics or even common sense like we do. This is why it is often so easy to spot the fish at the poker tables.

So versus our opponent's "anything range" here our middle pair with a good kicker is likely to be the best hand. But does this mean that we need to bet it every single time?

No, of course not.

By mixing in a few check/backs here we create some deception value versus a bad player and allow him to make some terrible call-downs on later streets with his worse pairs or bad draws.

We also give ourselves a chance to get lucky and hit trips or two pair on the occasions when he does happen to have the ace and we are behind.

Once again, it is perfectly fine to go ahead and make the standard CBet here. But there are many benefits to learning how to check back here frequently as well.


Final Thoughts


Delayed CBetting is a powerful tool to start mixing into your game no matter what limits you play. But I think it is especially important for beginners and people playing at the micro stakes to learn and understand it.

If you are currently having trouble beating the lower stakes, then this is a great way to start avoiding some of those marginal situations where you are probably losing money right now.

This is because using a delayed CBet more often will immediately keep you out of all those ridiculous spots where you are facing a large bet on the river in a bloated pot with a mediocre hand.

It is also a great way to start learning how to balance your play a bit more and become a more difficult player to play against. This is something that you will need to know how to do more and more as you move up to higher stakes games.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below on continuation bets. Do you use the delayed CBets at the micros very often?

And lastly, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker ebook to learn the complete strategy I used to crush the micros for some of the highest winrates ever recorded.

Delayed CBet Strategy

Monday, December 4, 2017

How to Stop Playing Break Even Poker Once and For All

How to Stop Playing Break Even Poker Once and For All

Are your results in poker basically a flat line? In other words, you aren't losing but you aren't winning yet either?

This means that you are playing break even poker which is a spot that many people find themselves in.

It's not all bad though. Most people actually end up losing at poker in the long run. So break even results means that you are definitely doing some things right.

But I don't play this game to simply get my money back and I bet you don't either. I play this game instead to crush it for the highest win rates possible.

So in this article you are going to learn the strategies to help you stop playing break even poker once and for all.


1. Find Your Leaks and Fix Them


The first thing that you need to do is find out where you are losing money at the poker tables. And what I mean by this is spots where you are not getting enough value (you aren't winning enough).

So the easiest way to do this if you play online is to just go into PokerTracker and search for all of your biggest losing pots.

It's extremely simple to do. Just go to the View Stats and Results tabs, enter the stakes and the date range and it will bring up all of your hands below.

Study your hands in Pokertracker to stop playing break even poker

Sort by the biggest losing hands and start going through them one by one.

Now keep in mind that most of your biggest losing hands (i.e. where you lose your entire stack), are simply going to be coolers and sometimes bad beats.

For instance, you had KK, they had AA, and all the money went in preflop.

There is no point in worrying about a hand like this because everybody goes broke here. This is what we call a "cooler" in poker.

Sometimes you will be on the right end of them and sometimes the wrong end. In the long run it all evens out so there is no point in paying them any attention.

So you instead want to look for those hands where it was possible to get away, or at least to lose less.

For instance, could you have folded that overpair earlier on when your opponent was clearing telling you that they had a set? Or could you have folded your top pair when a tight player raised you on the river?

These are all those little spots (leaks) that are preventing you from becoming a winning poker player. They are why your results are break even.

You have to learn from them and fix them if you want to start showing a profit from poker instead.


2. Don't Leave Money on the Table


But finding the leaks in your losing hands is actually only half the battle. Many people forget that you can also have leaks in your winning hands.

What I mean by this is that you are not getting enough value out of them in a spot where a winning player would get an extra bet.

So the process is very similar. Within PokerTracker you just enter the same parameters that I mentioned above but this time sort for winning hands instead.

Now the same caveats apply. Most of your biggest winning hands where you stacked them are not worth looking at.

You got max value after all. They will often also just be coolers that happened to go your way this time.

So you want to look at all of those smaller pots where perhaps you only got half their stack when you both had an overpair, but you had the better overpair.


Example:

You have AA and they have QQ

Board Run Out: 25589 (no flush possible)


You want to go through hands like this and ask yourself:
  • Why didn't I get their whole stack here?
  • Did I miss a bet or a raise somewhere in this hand?

Leaving money on the table like this (missing bets or raises that they would have called) is another huge reason why your results are currently break even.

If you want to start crushing the games, then you need to make sure that you are never missing these extra bets.


3. Fix Your Tilt Problem Once and For All


Probably one of the biggest reasons of all why some people only get break even results in poker is because they tilt all of their profits away.

What this means is that when they hit a bad run of cards (i.e. lots of coolers and bad beats in succession), they get frustrated and start making bad calls, overly aggressive plays and so on.

In fact, when you go back through some of those losing hands like I suggested above you might find that tilt was indeed the main reason why you lost more than you did in a few of those hands.

Tilt is simply the killer of bankrolls, dreams and entire poker careers. It is something that you have to learn how to correct or you can never be successful in this game.


Some ways to deal with tilt are to:
  • Recognize the signs of when you are tilting and learn to quit
  • Learn how to "rationalize" the situation and inject the logic into bad beats
  • Use meditation or visualization prior to poker sessions. 

I discuss all of these in my new book The Micro Stakes Playbook. And there are many other methods to quit tilting as well. But these are probably the 3 most important ones.

You need to recognize when you are feeling frustrated at the tables and you are on tilt. Your decision making will be greatly diminished at this point and you need to develop the discipline to quit.

However, if you feel like you are not over the edge yet into full blown tilt, then you can use a method I call rationalization in the book to quickly review a hand, inject the logic back into a bad beat and quickly move on to the next hand.

Lastly, meditation and visualization are something that I highly suggest prior to each session. You don't want to be bringing any emotional baggage in from a previous session. You want a completely clear and positive mindset.

Nearly all other professional athletes have pre-game rituals that sometimes last for hours. If you take poker seriously, then I would recommend spending as little as 10 minutes prior to a session mentally preparing for battle as well.


4. Create Strategies to Crush Your Opponents


Perhaps the most important pro-active thing that you can be doing to stop playing break even poker and start crushing the games is to find the optimal strategies to beat your opponents.

Now once again this all comes down to preparation and study. And more specifically, this means game planning versus specific players before you even sit down to play.

If you play online this is once again made easy by simply loading up PokerTracker and analyzing your opponents in detail there.

But I also want to be as efficient as possible with my study time. So I am only going to focus on the players who I play against the very most (i.e. the regulars).

The My Reports tab in PokerTracker is literally ground zero for this. You can search for any player you want and analyze their poker game from top to bottom.

In order to find the exact strategies to crush them I will enter custom stats and then make a note when I find their leaks.

Pokertracker study your opponents to stop playing break even poker

For Example:

Player X continuation bets (CBet) on the flop 80% of the time but only follows it up with another bet on the turn 40% of the the time.

This is an absolutely massive leak and there is a very simple counter strategy to take advantage of it. I am going to float the flop and bet the turn against this player like crazy in the future.

Boom, I have a rock solid strategy to literally start printing money against this player in the future. Rinse and repeat for all of the regs in your games.

Now I know that some of you who are reading this play live or don't use a poker tracking program. The process is still the same though.

You need to be actively thinking about each of your most common opponents and creating strategies to crush them based on their leaks.

Break even poker players play everybody the same. Elite winning poker players have a specific tailor made strategy for every opponent.


5. Increase Your Edge


Probably the easiest way to start changing your results from break even to profit is to simply change who you play against. Or in other words, increase your edge.

Poker is a pretty simple game at the end of the day. Since you are primarily playing against other people (not the house), your results are going to be directly attributable to who you play against.

If you choose to consistently play against tough highly skilled players, it is going to be pretty difficult or even impossible to ever crush those games. This is because no matter how much studying and preparation you do, your opponents simply do not make enough mistakes.

So this is why table selection is so key in today's games whether you play online or live. There needs to always be a clear reason why you are playing at the table.

From extensive research in poker tracking programs over the years I have come to the conclusion that fish (recreational players) lose their money at least 5 times faster than the very worst regs in the long run.

Poker fish lose their money 5 times faster than the regulars.

Therefore, it doesn't take any kind of super genius to figure this one out. If you consistently play against these players, then it is literally a mathematical certainty that your results will improve as well.

People often tell me though, I play on a small site, there are only 5 tables available. Pick another site then!

Play at multiple different sites for increased table selection. There are literally hundreds of places to play poker online.

Here are some of the best ones.

And even if you come from a country where the government has currently restricted where it's citizens can play poker online (America, Australia), there are still plenty of options as well.

Lastly, I am not sure that I have ever seen a live poker game at the lower limits that didn't have at least one completely clueless fish in it, so there isn't even much to say there.

Bottom line, play with the recreational players all the time (not just some of the time) and your results will quickly turn from break even to profit.


Final Thoughts


Many people struggle playing break even poker for years and years on end. But it really doesn't have to be this way.

You can change your results by spending some time away from the tables finding your leaks, both in your losing hands and in your winning hands.

While you are at it, you should also spend some time studying your opponents to find their leaks and how to exploit them.

Lastly, if you really are serious about moving beyond break even poker, then you need to finally fix that tilt problem and make sure that there is always at least one clearly bad recreational player at the table.

Let me know in the comments below how you plan to stop playing break even poker. Or if you already have, feel free to brag a bit about your results.

If you want to know that strategies that I used to create some of the best results in online poker history at the micros, make sure to pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

How to stop playing break even poker once and for all

Friday, December 1, 2017

12 Ways Poker Beginners Sabotage Their Results: Don't Make These Mistakes

Poker beginner mistakes and tips on how to increase your poker winnings
People who are new to the game of poker tend to make a lot of the same mistakes over and over again. And these are mistakes that seem almost silly to more advanced players.

But sadly a lot of these poker newbs end up quitting the game because they can't achieve any success, convinced that either they are the unluckiest person on earth or it is all rigged against them.

However, there is no reason why you need to make these same blunders early on in your poker career as well. That is why I decided to write this article with the top 12 mistakes that poker beginners make. 


1. They Don't Play in the Right Games


Before you even begin playing poker you need to find out which games are right for you. For instance, do you enjoy grinding it out in cash games for a consistent profit or do you prefer to chase the big score in tournaments?

Are you a fan of No Limit Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, Pot Limit Omaha or some other game? Lastly, do you enjoy playing at a full table (9 or 10 players), short-handed (6 players) or heads up (2 people)?

Many people who are new to poker will play in a specific game because their friend told them to or because their favorite poker hero on TV does. This is a serious mistake.

You need to play in the games that you personally enjoy the most because this is what is going to keep you motivated to play and continue improving your game over the long haul even when things aren't going your way.

This is why I always suggest trying out at a bunch of different games at first. Heck, don't even use real money if you don't want, just go mess around in some play money.

Bottom line, find the type of poker game that you enjoy the most. You will never know until you try them all.


2. They Try to Play Everything


After you figure out which game type is right for you, then you need to devote all of your mental energy to that one game. You should be "all-in" with it so to speak.

The reason why is that poker is not always easy these days. Therefore, you can't afford to dabble in 3 different games and think you are going to have big success in all of them. 

It is much better to be a master of one game type than a jack of all trades these days. 

So for me personally, when I first started out I played all games, Limit Hold'em, PLO, tournaments, SNGs. Heck I even played some Stud and Triple Draw!

After awhile I found out that No Limit Hold'em cash games were my favorite though. I then started devoting all of my time to studying those games and playing in those games only.

This allowed me to progress at a much faster rate. And ultimately become one of the best players in the world in them at the lower limits.


3. They Don't Study Poker Enough


So I just mentioned "studying" poker. What on earth is that you might be asking?

Studying poker is simply the process of analyzing your play (and your opponents as well) in order to make improvements in your decision making and ultimately increase your win-rate.

If you want to progress at a faster rate as a poker beginner these days, then you should be taking advantage of the incredible amount of educational material out there, a fair amount of which is completely free.

Sure, you could just play a couple million hands like I did and learn through trial and error. But this is really an incredible waste of time.

With the resources available today online it makes no sense not to learn from the mistakes that others have already made and to get top level instruction from the pros as well.

In fact, I believe that poker beginners should be spending around 50% of their time studying the game as opposed to playing it.

poker beginner tips

So what does studying the game actually mean? 

It means reading beginner level poker books and studying beginner level training videos. Please note the emphasis on "beginner level" here.

You should absolutely NOT be studying advanced mathematical theory if you are just learning the game or if you still play at low stakes like NL2 - NL50 online or 1/2 and 2/5 live.

It also means reviewing your own hands (and your opponents) in a poker tracking program like PokerTracker. Here is a recent guide that I wrote showing you exactly how to do that.

You can also learn from the multitude of Youtube videos and Twitch streams out there. Obviously some are better than others. After all, anybody can upload a video or a stream online these days. But most of the popular video producers and streamers are solid and sometimes even pros.

And lastly, studying poker means posting your hands on forums (2+2 or CardsChat for instance) and discussing your hands with other winning poker players on a regular basis.

You can take this a step further by creating a private study or discussion group with other winning players using Facebook or Skype for instance. 


4. They Don't Learn the Right Strategy


The most important part of winning at poker is having the right strategy. And for people who are just starting out in poker, the best strategy to learn (and it really isn't even close), is TAG. This stands for tight and aggressive.

This style of play essentially means that you are highly selective about which hands you choose to play and from what positions. It also means that when you do choose to play a hand that you are typically playing it very aggressively.

I still see poker beginners all the time though trying to do it on their own playing way too many hands, not betting and raising enough, not understanding the power of position and so on. 

If you are brand new to poker, focus on learning the fundamentals of TAG strategy first, even if you think that you already know them. 

There are tons of free resources out there to get you started. I always just recommend reading my free poker ebook. It's a quick read (30 minutes) and has everything you need to learn the basics. 


5. They Don't Play Against Weak Players


This one will probably seem really obvious to most advanced poker players and especially any pros out there who might be reading this article. But to most poker newbies, it is not.

You have to play against bad poker players in order to win.

Poker is a unique type of gambling game because you are essentially playing against other people, not the house. Therefore, your results in poker will be directly attributable to who you choose to play against.

poker beginner strategy

However, I see poker beginners consistently making the mistake of sitting down in reg (regular) filled games where there is no apparent soft spot (weak/bad player) at the table. 

As the character Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) famously stated at the beginning of the movie Rounders:

"If you can't spot the fish in your first 30 minutes at the table, then you ARE the fish."

There should always be at least one clearly bad recreational player at your poker table at all times. And if someone were to ask you, then you should be able to point out that player immediately. 

You can increase your chances of this considerably by simply choosing to play at the poker sites which are known to have the most fish.


6. They Don't Leave a Bad Poker Table


Remember playing musical chairs when you were a kid? This is the game where there is always one less chair than there are people. When the music stops the person who doesn't find an empty chair is eliminated.

Winning poker is a lot like that. You need to be constantly on the move and looking for the best seat.

A lot of people just want to sit down at one table and play for a couple hours. I get that and I totally understand that. But winning poker players know that this just isn't a good strategy for success especially these days.

And the reason why is because if there is no clearly bad recreational player at the table, then they they are just wasting their time and possibly even losing money.

You don't make money in poker by trying to outwit other equally skilled players or those who are better than you. And when you are just starting out in poker it is even worse because literally everybody (besides the fish) will be either at your level or above it. 

Advanced poker players and poker pros simply do not stay at a table where there isn't a clear soft spot. They leave and join a new one. 

Now I know this can be a pain. Everybody would like to just sit down at the first table with an open seat and proceed to print money. But this just isn't how it works in today's games whether live or on the internet.

If you only remember one thing from this entire article a year from now let it be this:

If you cannot immediately point to the reason why you are at a poker table, then you should not be playing at that poker table.


7. They Don't Have the Killer Instinct


Learning how to play an aggressive style of poker is something that is difficult for a lot of people to do. I know because it certainly took me quite a while to learn.

After all, it is much more natural for most people to just check or call a bet rather than taking the confrontational approach of betting or raising, especially when you don't have a strong hand.

But winning poker players know that in order to profit big you need to scrap this mentality ASAP. While there is certainly a time and a place for calling and slow-play, you absolutely have to be aggressive on many occasions as well because good hands just don't come around that often.

A huge part of success in poker is simply winning more than your fair share of all those little pots when nobody really has anything good. This is also called your red line or non-showdown winnings.

Now it should be noted that if you frequently play an aggressive style of poker some people won't like it. In fact some of them will even be resentful about it. 

The recreational players in particular will really hate it. They will call you a "bully" and other mean names perhaps.

After all, you are wrecking their fun little game where everybody limps into the pot, chases every draw, and we see who winds up having the best hand at the end.

Legendary poker player Doyle Brunson explains that poker is not a game, it is war

But look here's the thing:

We don't play poker in order to make friends. If you want social hour go to a coffee shop, a bar or have a chat on Facebook.

Poker is none of these. Poker is business. Poker is war.

My job at the poker table is very simple. I am there to get everyone else's chips, period. I don't care what they think of me. Believe me, I have been called every name in the book over the years.

Oh well.

All top pros know that aggressive poker is winning poker. You need to be betting, raising and re-raising them again and again. Put them on tilt. Do whatever it takes to win their money.


8. They Play at Stakes That are Too High


The next mistake that I see poker beginners making all the time is playing at stakes above their current skill level.

I know how hard it can be especially if you come from a live poker playing background to sit down at a table online where the buyin is only $2 or $5.

It seems like you are playing with peanuts or monopoly money!

But the problem is that many of the so called "real money" games online where you buyin for say $50 or $100 actually have a lot of good players in them these days, some are even pros.

This means that these games typically require an advanced level of poker knowledge and experience in order to beat them.

This is why I always recommend just starting at the very lowest stakes online which for cash games is usually NL2 ($2 max buyin) or NL5 ($5 max buyin).

Because here's the thing.

Even if you think that these games are below you, just do yourself a favor and play them for a week or two anyways. Prove it to yourself that you can crush these games and then move on to bigger and better things.

There is absolutely no big rush to get to the top in poker. The higher stakes games aren't going anywhere. Start small and build up the right way.


9. They Don't Have the Funds


The next common problem that I often see poker beginners making is not being properly bankrolled for the games that they play in.

My recommendation these days is that you have at least 30 buyins for any cash game you decide to play in. And quite frankly 40 or 50 is even better.

So that NL2 game that I just talked about. You should have $60 in your bankroll in order to sit down in this game. And you should have $150 if you play NL5.

Bankroll requirements for poker beginners playing NL2 or NL5 online

Why so much you might ask?

Because variance in poker, which is a technical term for the standard ups and downs that everybody goes through, is well known to be very intense these days even at low stakes.

It is not uncommon for a solid winning player to have a 10 buyin or even a 20 buyin downswing in micro stakes cash games these days.

So if you only had 10 or 20 buyins in your entire bankroll, then you can probably already guess the result. That's right, say goodbye to your bankroll.

Not only is it a pain to reload but it is also damaging from a psychological perspective to go broke. There are so many other things to worry about in poker. Going completely busto should never be one of them.

My advice is to start your poker career the right way the first time and deposit a proper amount. This means 30 buyins minimum if you play cash and 100+ if you play tournaments.

I personally use even more than this and that is why I have never gone broke even once.


10. They Don't Have the Patience


A lot of people get into poker because of the money. And while this game might become highly lucrative for you one day, poker is actually the exact opposite of a "get rich quick scheme."

If you are the type of person who is looking to make a quick $50 or $100 a day, then you would be best served to just quit poker right now and go find some other guru on the internet that will promise you millions.

Here on my website I always prefer to keep it real with people instead. And that is why I always tell beginners in particular that the path to success in poker is often long and hard, and it is not even guaranteed at all.

I have been playing this game now for over 10 years now as a pro. And in that time I have gone through countless downswings (meaning that I made no money or even lost money) that lasted for weeks and even months on end in a few cases.

If you are new to poker then you need to know that one day really doesn't mean anything, neither does a week or even a month sometimes. You really have to be in this thing for the long haul, always be improving, and have a near superhuman level of patience at times.

If all you see are dollar signs and you are looking for a quick buck, then this game probably won't turn out very well for you.


11. They Are Too Superstitious


The crazy things that you will eventually see in this game like losing with quads, getting bad beated right before the final table again and again are enough to make some people go crazy.

Just look at this ridiculous hand from a few years ago at the WSOP. Given the magnitude of the situation (millions and millions of dollars on the line), I think this is actually the worst bad beat in poker history ever to be shown on television.


And yes you guessed it! The guy who delivered the bad beat in this hand went on to win the tournament for close to $9 million USD.

Poker isn't fair sometimes. It is brutally unfair at times in fact. One hand can even change your entire life sometimes as the hand above shows.

So when stuff like this happens beginners in particular tend to get highly superstitious. They will change how they play. They will even come up with crazy hair brained theories like you should never re-raise with AK or you should fold your KK every time an ace comes on the flop.

The problem with all of this psychobabble is that at the end of the day poker is really just cold hard mathematics and statistics. It doesn't care about your favorite lucky hand or your tin-foil hat theories.

It is extremely important in poker that you always stick to the program no matter what. Sometimes the cards will not fall your way, even at the most inopportune of times. But what you can always control is how you choose to play the game.

Whether you have been crushing the poker tables beyond belief for weeks on end or getting absolutely destroyed, you need to play the exact same way. That is, consistently getting your money in with the best of it.

This is a very hard thing to do all of the time, I am not going to sugar coat it. But this is one of the biggest differences that separates the pros from everybody else.


12. They Take Poker Too Seriously


The last mistake that poker beginners make is taking the game way too seriously.

Honestly, you are going to suffer so many crazy bad beats and see so many ridiculous plays that you really can't waste your time fretting over each and every one or you are going to drive yourself insane.

You really have to learn how to just laugh more sometimes, even make fun of yourself when you make mistakes, which you absolutely will.

I think one of the quickest ways to burn yourself out in poker is to take the game too seriously. There is a short term luck element that you simply cannot remove from this game.

There will be many days where there is absolutely nothing on earth that you can do to win. Let Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey play your exact same cards. Trust me, they will lose too.

What's the point in getting all angry or frustrated about it? This is especially the case if you are well bankrolled for the games that you are playing in like I suggested above.

But believe me I get it. Learning how to let go like this is probably the hardest skill to master in poker because I don't know anybody who is a big winner who isn't insanely competitive as well.

I know for me personally it hurts bad to lose, every single time. It is especially hard to take when you lose to some drunk idiots at the lower stakes.

But you have to always remember that we don't play this game for one day or even one week. We play for months and years.

Let them have the last laugh today. If you consistently play with the right strategy and keep your emotions in check, then you will have the last laugh over the long run, when it actually matters.


Final Thoughts


Poker is a hard game to learn and even harder to master. Believe me, none of us really have all the answers or have it all figured out.

In fact, one of the biggest distinguishing features of top poker players is that they are always looking to learn more and improve.

But for beginners it can be even harder because the games aren't always a walk in the park these days even at the lower limits. And the amount of information out there on how to win at poker can seem overwhelming at times.

From experience though I can tell you that keeping it simple in every respect is the surest path to success at the micros, NL2 - NL50 online, 1/2 and 2/5 live.

First things first, play in the games that you enjoy the most and start at the lowest stakes with a well funded bankroll. Employ a simple tight and aggressive strategy while making sure that you are always playing in games with at least one clear fish at the table.

Make sure that you consistently use the same strategy no matter what your current results are. And if you find yourself getting too frustrated, just walk away for the day. Let them win the battle while you win the war.

Let me know in the comments below what mistakes you see poker beginners make. Do you have anything that you would add to this list?

Poker beginner mistakes and tips on how to play better and increase your poker winnings

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Why HUDs are at the Center of a Philosophical Online Poker Civil War

Philosophical debate about using HUDs in online poker


This is a guest post by Ivan Potocki of BeatTheFish.com

Heads Up Displays, or HUDs as they are commonly referred to in the poker community, are among the most useful and most powerful tools serious poker players (grinders) have at their disposal.

While the exact setup and the on-screen appearance of a HUD can vary greatly, all of them have the same common goal: gather relevant information on your opponents and then use that information to adjust your overall game plan and in-game decisions.

For the most part, this information is gathered as you play, so you get the data from the hands you actually play. However, some players have been known to buy large databases containing hundreds of thousands of hands to create more reliable and relevant statistical samples.

From the moment HUDs became popular to the point where most professional players started using them, the discussion about how fair, ethical, and generally good for poker they are has been a battle without a victor.

Let’s try to look into the issue from both sides of the argument and see if we can come up with a reasonable conclusion to this never-ending argument.


Tools to improve the online poker edge were inevitable


The moment people realized that online poker could be used as a serious and reliable source of income, it stopped being just a game. Wherever there is money to be won based on the information acquired, there are people willing to go the extra mile to get that information.

The stock market is a perfect example of this mentality, where brokers will do whatever is legally possible (and sometimes even beyond legal) to get the data before others and get that extra edge.

In that light, HUDs like Hold’em Manager and PokerTracker were inevitable.

pokertracker and holdem manager heads up display

If poker is a game of odds, numbers, and precise calculations, the more input data one has to work with, the better their results are bound to be. This is especially true for those who have the necessary skills to interpret this information and translate it into concrete actions.


Do HUDs create an unfair advantage for online poker players?


The problem many recreational players have with HUDs is they believe it gives an unfair advantage to those who opt to use them.

From their point of view, this isn’t something that online poker rooms make readily available, so it isn’t fair to use the HUD information against players who don’t have the access to the same tools. Mobile-only players are specifically handicapped, as they have no HUD option even if they wanted to use one.

However, HUDs are still readily available to anyone who wants to use them. They aren’t hidden in some mysterious depths of the online poker community, given out only to select individuals who earn the right to use these almighty tools.

Software like PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager is out there and it isn’t even expensive – especially for those playing anything above NL20. Plus, there are quite a few HUDs that can be downloaded and used completely free of charge.

holdem manager hud

Still, some argue that not everyone is aware these HUDs even exist. Additionally, even if some casual players know about HUDs, they don’t have the time or the will required to install, set up, and learn how the software operates.

Recreational players just want to enjoy the game and play it in an environment that’s similar to the one found in a live casino. Nobody can stop anyone from taking notes and keeping track of certain players, but using software to do it on a mass scale just doesn’t sit right with many casual players.


The skill vs. luck argument on a micro level


When talking about HUDs, it’s hard not to touch on the whole skill vs. luck argument. After all, if HUDs are available to everyone, it means that there’s nothing nefarious about them. It’s just that those who take time to learn how to put them to best use will fare better than those who refuse to spend their time doing the same.

It’s hard to find a good comparison in live poker, but those players using HUDs are just taking advantage of tools available to them while not breaking any rules. Up until recently, most online rooms fully supported the use of HUDs and there was nothing in the rules prohibiting it.


Appeasing recreational players is essential for online poker’s survival


All that’s been said in favor of the HUDs, however, doesn’t really mean that much if recreational players feel they are being cheated in some way, shape, or form. The fact of the matter is, for online poker to survive and thrive, the economy needs professional players and casual players alike.

In fact, there is some sense to the argument that the economy could survive without professionals, but it certainly couldn’t without recreational players.

So, the issue of HUDs has become one that had to be dealt with in some way. At least that’s the stance most online poker rooms have started to take as of late, feeling they were losing ground with recreational players who rather turned to other pastimes instead of giving away their money in an environment where they feel “cheated.”


Online poker sites fight back against HUDs


In order for the sites to tackle the problem of Head Up Displays, they had to figure out the best way to render them useless. With so many players getting used to HUDs, they knew that simply saying that HUDs are no longer allowed wouldn’t do the trick. Additionally, they wanted to find a solution that would make it clear for the recreational players they are no longer being targeted.

unibet ban poker huds

One solution that sites like Unibet, Bovada, and the Microgaming Poker Network tried to introduce are anonymous tables. At these tables, it’s impossible to track players across sessions because they’re never identified by a consistent screen name. This was a huge 180-turn for the online poker industry, going from perhaps too much available information to almost none whatsoever.


Other sites still embrace them to protect their clientele


Of course, not all the sites out there embraced this philosophy.

pokerstars allow poker huds

The likes of PokerStars and America’s Cardroom continued to support HUDs, largely for fear of driving away their rake-heavy grinder clientele.

After all, rooms like PokerStars were built on the foundations created by grinders, so for them to completely remove HUDs would largely be biting the hand that feeds them.


Anonymous tables kill HUDs, but create a new set of problems


Setting up anonymous tables, as Bovada Poker was the first online poker site to do way back in 2011, was a good solution for the anti-HUD establishment, but at the same time it created a whole new range of issues that came with anonymity.

bovada poker anonymous tables

One of the most prominent problems serious players were quick to warn the poker sites about was the issue of cheating and collusion.

In the past, several big collusion rings were uncovered exactly thanks to grinders gathering statistical information and noticing irregular patterns in the games. The same information that is used to figure out tendencies of regular opponents can also help wash out cheaters.

Anonymous tables can represent a real paradise for the cheaters because there is virtually no way for anyone to recognize their patterns.

With all the information becoming completely useless as soon as they leave the table and people having no clue who they are up against when they sit down to play, cheaters and colluders are given carte blanche to do pretty much whatever they want.


Online poker sites have a poor track record in policing cheaters


So, while recreational players may now feel safer, the fact is that with anonymous tables they are much more exposed to cheaters and those ready to take advantage of them and win at any cost.

This is especially true given the past history of various online poker rooms when dealing with collusion rings, where their actions were less than satisfactory.

In fact, even when warned about likely colluders as Absolute Poker and UltimateBet were during the Super User scandal of 2007, many poker sites are slow to act despite the wealth of information presented to them by the professional community.

Without that information available whatsoever, it isn’t hard to imagine all sorts of cheaters becoming very active.


Conclusion: Are HUDs a Necessary “Evil?”


Heads Up Displays have been a part of online poker for so long that it’s hard to imagine the future without them.

Poker rooms could eliminate the HUD problem by either an outright ban or anonymous tables, but that could potentially lead to much more serious issues and expose players to even greater risks. This is especially true for recreational players who should be benefiting from the ban on HUDs.

When both sides of the coin are looked into, it seems that banning HUDs and the tracking software altogether would be a mistake that could hurt online poker much more than it would help it.

Perhaps players would feel safer to begin with, but many of them could become prey to various cheaters that would straight up rob them out of their money.

So, all in all, it seems that removing HUDs would be a shortsighted move even if it is the one that would currently appeal to recreational players. And those rooms that have done it run a serious risk of becoming meeting places for various collusion rings.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen and maybe everyone will just play by the book and have fun, but the past evidence certainly seems to suggest otherwise.


About the Author

ivan potocki
Ivan Potocki is a columnist and the assistant editor at Beat The Fish, which has been serving the online poker community with uncommonly honest features since 2005.




Over to You!

I want to thank Ivan for writing this highly insightful article on HUD use in online poker and the implications it has for the industry as a whole. This is a very complex subject that will no doubt garner plenty of more fierce debate in the future.

Now I want to know your thoughts below on the subject of HUDs in online poker!

Are you pro-HUD, anti-HUD or somewhere in the middle? What are your thoughts on anonymous tables? Are HUDs necessary to help us police the game from cheaters?

debate about using huds in online poker