Top 10 Secrets of Winning at Poker

Shhhh. Don't tell the other guy. Since I have next to no chance of ever playing you, here are some freebies. Keep in mind, some nights the cards aren't going to break your way, and some nights you will get very lucky. It's easier to decide on those nights, but they are rarer than the normal nights.

It's the good players that can ride out the bad runs and pounce when the moment is right. Experience, just like in everything else, is a huge edge. You have to pay to learn. There are many axioms associated with poker, at least one of which is mentioned here.
The Top Ten
1 Throw in your cards the second you believe you can't win / play your "position" on the hand

Chuck them. Get a better hand, or wait to set up a bluff. Don't go out playing a loser. If you can't win or bluff, these cards are truly worthless. Protect your chips and risk them judiciously. Minimize your losses.

Wait until it is your turn to fold. Your position in the hand is important. For instance, if you are early to make a commitment, remember there are many behind you who could have better hands. If you are later to commit in the hand, it's an advantage to have watched what has transpired before you.

2 Get to know your opponents playing style

If it's a home game amongst friends, you already have a good idea of the different mannerisms of each player. If it's at a casino, you will see many players again and again. If it's an unfamiliar table, take the time to know as much as possible about each player.

There is no more valuable commodity than information. Gain it and bank it. When another player is bluffing, you can often pick up differences in their mannerisms and use that information against them. Read the person, not the cards at first. If you're smart enough to hang around, I guarantee it will come back to help you.

3 Spot the fish

There are those that don't take the game seriously. That's their choice, and they should not have sat down to play without considering their options. It's a game. Choose to play it well and take advantage of those that do not. Don't try to crush them though. Let them risk what they will. It's been said you can shear a sheep many times, but only skin them once.

Many fish have "tells," a mannerism or a nervous tic, or a form of speech that gives away much. Look for these tells with each player.

4 Give away nothing of your own playing style

It is, of course, inevitable that others will be trying to read you. Switch up your playing style. Bluff when last time you played this or a similar hand straight. Give them nothing to go off of. Be unpredictable.

Over time, it's also inevitable that others will see some "tells" in your game. Just buck the system every once in a while to keep them guessing.

5 When you think you have a winning hand, or can successfully bluff the hand, get in as many chips as you're willing to risk

It would seem obvious, but make sure you like your odds before making a large commitment. If there are "up" cards, you can read the up cards to imagine what others might have. Remember which up cards were discarded through folded hands.

6 Set traps

If you've got a monster, don't sell it as such. Bet lightly and let the following players tell you how serious they are by their bets. There are many traps you can set, and read the other players to get your best guess of where you stand. You can also set a trap with no intention of actually winning the hand, but to collect invaluable information from your opponent(s).

7 Keep an even keel / keep your wits about you

There are many opportunities to celebrate victories, or mourn losses, but save that for after the game. Leave your emotions, and ego, checked at the door. You think better when your mind is free of such emotional swings. Keep things in perspective.

8 Attack when opponents show weakness

Absolutely. You'll find your odds of winning increase when following this mindset. It's all about the odds and using them to your advantage. Thanks for adding this important angle.

9 Play the swings wisely

There are obviously swings where you're getting some good cards and then you are not. Plan on this. It's a certainty. Take it in stride. Play them as they come.

10 When you have a lot of chips in front of you, use that advantage to "lean" on weaker players

Anyone with a small amount of chips is obviously going to play hands that they normally wouldn't. They are essentially on "tilt," and they realize they are on their way out. If you've got a middling hand, it's a good idea to get into a hand against such players, as your chip risk is minimized by their short stack. They may have gotten lucky and hooked a strong hand, but the odds are in your favor that they did not. If you lose to such a player, try it again, and eventually, you will send them packing.

The Contenders
11 When you win a hand by all others folding, don't show your hole cards

This is a generality. On almost every hand, you'll want to keep them guessing. Occasionally you may want to show that you bluffed someone to keep the illusion alive that you bluff more than you actually do. A successful bluff reaps many benefits, and you may want to take advantage of it in this regard as well. Otherwise, I prefer to keep things close to the vest.

12 Watch the movie "Rounders"

Other than the ridiculously whopper hands these guys are getting, the movie is a very good representation of the game of Texas Hold 'em. But you can apply many of the same principles to dealer's choice poker.

13 If there is a player that's better than you, grab a seat behind them in the order

The deal rotates, and the cards come out to the left of the dealer. If you have a house dealer, the same order applies. You may not have the option to choose your seat, but when you do, and you know there is a player you struggle against, get to the left of them. Then you can wait and watch what they do much of the time. As the deal rotates, you will be in front of them in the order but only until you are the first to receive cards on any given hand.

A good player will obviously realize after a while that you are doing this, so use that time in between to maximize your study of this player.

14 Do not show your hole cards while the hand is incomplete

It's just common courtesy. If you expose your hole cards while the hand is still active, you risk telling a player who is still involved that a card they need is out of circulation.

15 Don't make a handshake deal with another player to cheat
16 Evolve your game

When you lose a hand, don't go down the road of believing it was bad luck. Reflect on what happened and learn from it. Grow as a poker player. Always learn and adjust.

17 Create a table persona

Over time, create a table persona that your opponents will come to rely on. However, fully intend to break out of that perception when you need it most. Deception is a huge part of poker.

Make them believe something that is not true. Make them comfortable believing they have figured something out about you when in reality, it is you that has planted that perception in them.

18 Don't get distracted

Many will try to distract you. If you are playing at a casino, you'll notice there are many things to be distracted by. Keep your head in the game. Don't drink alcohol in excess or use any substance that could cloud your judgment.

19 Learn the rules

You can, and should be, penalized for breaking the rules. The opportunities to learn the rules are abundant when you are learning the game, so don't be afraid to ask questions. Read a rule book.

20 Play a lot of hands

Once you've gained experience, it's a good idea to play more hands. This gives you two major advantages.

It clearly sends the message that you play a wider range of hands, giving your opponent a harder time locking you into a certain set of hands you like. It also gives you more opportunities to win, naturally. You can still be careful not to go too far by folding later in the hand, and you would have seen more cards. Generally, the bets grow the later you get in a hand. If you can see more cards, especially at a low cost, it's a good idea. In a game like No-Limit Texas Hold 'em, you want to see those flops as much as possible.

21 Be clear in what you say
22 Play within your bankroll
23 Engage light conversation
24 Don't be so cautious that you are sitting back waiting to hit a big hand
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