The One Simple Way to Improve at Poker Instantly!

The Simple Way to Improve at Poker Instantly!

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” - Albert Einstein

Poker is a game of skill, and as with any skill, it takes time and effort to get better at it. But there are better and worse ways to go about it. 

It’s true that poker is an incredibly complex game, but improving your game doesn’t need to be. 

In fact, the best way to improve your poker game is actually to keep things simple.

Sure, you can study a bunch of advanced poker theories with fancy maths, but it’s questionable whether or not this will be most conducive to your development as a poker player.

What you might want to do instead is get back to the basics, and work from there. 

What I advise in this article isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but that’s because it works. And it works instantly. 

So here it is: 

The single best way you can improve your poker game in the very next session is: FOLD MORE. 

1. Playing Less Hands Gives You a Statistical Edge Over Your Opponents

Whether you’re playing live or online poker, chances are you will benefit from being more selective with the hands you play, and not get too attached to those you do decide to play. 

When I advise you to fold more, there are two ways this applies: 

A) choosing to play less hands preflop, i.e. tightening up your ranges, 


B) making more disciplined laydowns postflop, especially on big money streets (i.e. turn and river) when you suspect your hand is no good anymore. 

Let’s talk about preflop first. 

By being more selective with the hands you play, you are automatically putting yourself in better money-making spots than your opponents who play just about any random two cards. 

Poker is all about maths, and when you choose to play better hands than your opponents, you’re already playing with a mathematical advantage, and you can expect to earn more money on average just by this fact alone.
In practice, this means you will make stronger hand combinations than your opponents, like stronger pairs, straights, flushes and so on. 

Your hands will also dominate your opponents’ instead of the other way around.

(A dominated hand is the one that is highly unlikely to win against another. For example, if you hold Ace-King and your opponent holds Ace-Queen, your hand is a clear favourite to win. 

It has roughly 75% equity, meaning you are expected to win 3 out of 4 times).

When you choose to play better starting hands than your opponents, you can expect to win more money on average. 

But the key word here is ON AVERAGE. 

Even if you only play the hands that have a mathematical advantage, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win every time. 

Poker is constructed in a way that it’s rarely the case that you have 100% of equity in a given hand. 

No matter how ahead you are, there’s virtually always some chance of your opponents outdrawing you on future streets. 

When this happens, and it will happen, you have to become comfortable with making disciplined laydowns when you suspect your hand is no good anymore.

For much more on the exact hands you should play see Crushing the Microstakes.

2. Making Disciplined Laydowns Saves You Money

If you followed the previous tip about tightening your ranges preflop, you might have trouble with this one. 

You’ve been making disciplined laydowns for what seems like hours, and now that you actually do get a decent hand you should just fold it? 

What’s the point of waiting around for a decent hand then?

The answer is, you should only play the hand when you can assume you have a reasonable chance of winning. 

The moment this stops to be the case, you should be able to ditch it immediately.

Now I do want to point out that there are a few exceptions to this, for example if you are using the advanced flop floating strategy that Nathan teaches in his latest video.

Making disciplined laydowns is one of the skills that truly separates the pros from amateurs. 

A lot of amateurs tend to get overly attached to their hands, and end up losing way more money than they should, then complain the game is rigged against them. 

They just can’t get away from their precious top pair, top kicker, overpairs, or sets, and will play them to the bitter end.

Don’t make the same mistake.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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In poker, losing as little money as possible when you don’t have the best hand is just as important as winning as much as possible when you do.

Example Hand:

Effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt AA♣
You open-raise to 3x. Villain calls from the Big Blind.

Pot: 6.5 BB

Flop: J♠97♠

Villain Checks. You bet 5 BB. Villain Calls.

Pot 16.5 BB

Turn: Q♠

Villain checks. You bet 9 BB. Villain raises to 27 BB.

You: ???

You should fold.

As much as it hurts to get away from your pocket rockets, losing a whole stack with them hurts even more. 

In the example above, folding on the turn looks like a fairly obvious choice, but you’d be surprised how many players just can’t seem to find the fold button in similar situations.

This is one of the many obvious mistakes that amateurs make all the time.  

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3. Folding More Gives You More Time to Make Informed Decisions

Even though you can’t win if you don’t play, you can still use the time you’re not playing to your advantage. 

If you’re not directly involved in the hand, it doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention to what’s going on. 

In fact, the best way to pick up on tells from your opponents is to observe the action precisely when you’re not directly involved. 

When you’re involved in a hand, there’s a lot of information to pay attention to: your hole cards, the board runout, previous action, betting patterns, odds and outs, your opponent’s perceived range and so on. 

With so many pieces of information to be aware of at the same time, it’s easy to miss out on something.

This is actually one of the main reasons some people fail to win versus bad players. They miss all the obvious tells they give you. 

When you add to the mix all the underlying emotions you’re experiencing when playing like excitement, fear, doubt, etc. it gets increasingly hard to think objectively. 

So when you’re playing a lot of hands, you may feel like you’re in the zone and on top of your game, but chances are that you’re missing out on a lot of valuable details. 

And as you improve your poker game, details get more important.

Now, compare that with the periods where you’re not directly involved in a hand. 

If the primary emotion you’re feeling during these down times is boredom, you’re playing poker wrong. 

Granted, poker is not the most fast-paced and exciting game in the world, and it can be outright boring at times. 

But if you’re playing poker for excitement only, there are far more exhilarating options out there. 

Since you will experience a lot of downtime when sitting at a poker table, you might as well make the most of it. 

The best way to know if you’re actually playing your A game is when the emotion you’re feeling when not playing the hand isn’t boredom, but curiosity. 

And curiosity means asking the right questions, and trying to answer them.

So when you're not directly involved in the hand, don’t let your mind wander off. 

Pay attention to the action, look for betting patterns and tells from your opponents, try to narrow down their range street by street, and make a mental note of any information you pick up on.

Poker is a game of incomplete information, and the player with more information will be the one to eventually come out on top.

If you play online poker, there are also tons of good poker software available these days to help provide you with the information on your opponents that you need.

4. Why Some Players Don’t Like to Fold Then?

At a first glance, not playing 80 percent of the time seems counterintuitive. Not playing most of the time doesn’t sound like a winning recipe. But it’s true nonetheless. 

That’s because in poker, most hands miss most flops. So the more hands you play, the more times you miss, and the more money you lose. 

Think of it this way. You might get lucky from time to time and absolutely smash the flop with some random hand, but the majority of time you are going to miss completely. 

And the times you actually do hit aren't going to cover all the times you missed. 

That’s because even if you do smash the board, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to extract value out of your opponents (meaning it’s not certain they’ll be willing to pay you off). 

So you only want to play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the board in some meaningful way AND get involved in situations where it’s likely your opponents could pay you off with weaker hands.

So why do so many beginner poker players still play so many hands, even though it’s obviously not the best long term winning poker strategy? 

Well, that answer kind of answers itself. It’s BECAUSE they are beginners, and are likely playing for fun, and winning money is not their primary concern. 

If you want to have fun, then by all means, play every hand that’s dealt to you. Just don’t expect to make any money that way. 

Another reason some players don’t like to fold is the faulty belief that the folding is weak. 

This goes hand in hand with the previous misconception that you can’t win if you don’t play. 

That’s technically true, but it’s missing the point. If you never play, you can’t win, but you can’t lose, either. 

And since losing money playing poker is the norm, not losing money is a form of winning. 

It’s like playing the lottery. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never ever going to hit the jackpot because I don’t play. 

But I’m also not going to lose any money buying the tickets. In other words, losing is guaranteed, but winning isn’t. 

That’s not my kind of game. 

When playing poker, on the other hand, I know that I have a reasonable chance of winning, and that’s because I bet when the odds are overwhelmingly in my favour. 

When they aren’t, I just sit there.

You don’t need to swing at everything. The more you swing, the more you miss. 

But it takes some effort to get there, because that kind of thinking goes against our nature. We don’t like standing at the sidelines. 

If there’s action to be had, we want to be a part of it. We don’t want to miss out. 

We also tend to be irrationally optimistic when predicting potential positive outcomes. 

Let’s stick with the lottery analogy once more. The chances of winning a Powerball, for example, are 1 in 292.2 million. 

Our brain is going to interpret this data as: there is SOME chance of winning, rather than “practically no chance whatsoever”, even though the latter is far more accurate. 

Just for context, you are 239 times more likely to get struck by lightning than to win the Powerball. 

So how does this irrational optimism relate to poker? It’s simple. 

Some poker players overestimate their chances, and put in way more money than would be mathematically justifiable.

This is something Daniel Negreanu discusses in a lot more detail in his advanced poker training program.  

In other words, they disregard the risk, and focus too much on the reward. 

That’s why a lot of beginner poker players will play too many hands and stay in them far longer than would be good for them. 

They often don’t even know the chances of certain outcomes occurring, for example what are the chances of their flush draws completing, or what are the chances of flopping a set with a pocket pair. 

They just think that whatever they hope will happen, there is SOME CHANCE of it happening, and that’s good enough for them. 

And since there is almost always SOME CHANCE of something happening, there’s no price too high to pay for it. 

This is obviously a faulty way of thinking, but it’s still fairly prevalent. And it’s no wonder. 

Human beings aren’t exactly cut out to deal with complex maths in an objective manner. 

But this is exactly where your opportunity lies. 

If you start considering the factors others ignore, you can get the odds to work for you, instead of them being stacked against you.

You can also enroll in a good advanced poker training program to quickly improve your odds of winning even more.


Folding more sounds like boring advice, but like most boring advice, it works. 

While applying it isn’t going to be thrilling, it will produce results. And the great thing about it is it actually requires you to do less, not more. 

Folding more means being more selective with the hands you decide to play preflop, and making disciplined laydowns when you think your hand is beat, regardless of how boring and/or painful it might be.

See Modern Small Stakes for 100+ detailed step by step examples of how to play optimally in all preflop and postflop situations by the way.

In poker, losing as little as possible when you don’t have the best hand is just as important as winning as much as possible when you do. 

So only bet when the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour. If that means more downtime, then that’s the price you have to pay. 

This doesn’t mean staring at the ceiling when you’re not actively involved in the hand, though. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. 

When you’re not actively playing, use this time to gather information on your opponents.

Pay attention to the betting patterns, physical and/or timing tells, try to narrow down the ranges and put your opponents on a hand. 

When you do this, you’re much more likely to play in the zone, as opposed to just playing on autopilot and going through the motions.

So instead of hero calling, try hero folding. It might not be as cool, but your bankroll will be better off for it.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

The Simple Way to Improve at Poker Instantly