Poker news | Nov 10, 2022
4 Keys to Always Playing Your Best Poker
By RTR Alex
Poker has always required a great deal of skill to compete with the best. And if you're not on top of your game, then you'll miss out on maximizing your potential winnings.
This is why playing your A-game is so important. After all, making a few mistakes here or there takes a chunk out of your bankroll. So, from the moment you start playing Texas Holdem you want to continue to improve your game - working on everything from your knowledge of starting hands to the basics of pot odds.
But how do you bring your A-game to the table every time? Let's find out by discussing 4 keys that will help you play your best in each session. Here are a few of our long-term poker strategy tips.
1. Only Play when You're Mentally Focused
One of the biggest problems that I had when starting out in poker was playing any time I was in the mood. It didn't matter if I was happy, sad, distracted, or angry about something because I'd sit down at the felt regardless.
This is fine if you're playing 1/2NL and don't care about losing a few dollars. But serious poker players need to make sure that they’re in the right state of mind before sitting down at a poker table (or strapping in for an online poker session).
You need as close to 100% concentration as possible when you're playing. This helps you avoid leaks and better analyze opponents. There's nothing worse than blowing a string of winning hands because you're not paying attention.
Of course, you're not always going to feel perfectly prepared before every session. This is when it helps to have a routine that relaxes you and gets you ready to play poker. Here are some different things that you can do to get yourself in the right mindset:
- Light exercise.
- Meditate for 5-10 minutes.
- Study strategy for half an hour.
2. Get Sleep and Eat Right
The mental side can only do so much to help you reach your potential. The other big part of this is making sure that you lead a healthy lifestyle, which involves getting enough sleep and eating right. Of course, we all understand those restless nights after a terrible bad beat, but you need to make sure you're treating your body and mind right as often as you can.
This sounds cliché because you'll perform better in anything when you have the right nutrition and sleep. However, many players ignore these concepts because poker isn’t a physical sport. But try playing your best poker when you’ve had 10 beers and 4 hours of sleep the night before, and eaten McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Essentially, you should treat yourself like a pro athlete in how you approach your physical lifestyle. Obviously nobody expects a poker player to have the fitness of an elite football or basketball player. But it's always nice to overshoot your goal.
Long story short, you should be eating a well-balanced diet that’s void of processed sugars and trans-fats. You also want to get as close to eight hours of sleep per night as you can.
3. Don't Focus on Results – Focus on Your Play
Everybody suffers downswings in poker no matter how good they are. This is why it's a bad idea to judge success by how you do money-wise in a single session.
The better idea is to focus on how well you're playing. Are you properly reading opponents? Are your bet sizes correct? Do you fold at the right times?
These are just a few questions that you want to ask yourself during and after a session. You can't always control the short-term results. But what you can control is how well you play and if you're mentally in the game. So don't be afraid to forget about that big prize pool waiting for you at the final table. Simply think about using those strong hands as best you can, and folding when the time is right.
You also want to be mindful of any strategies that you’re sketchy on during a session. If you run into tough spots, then do some research/analysis afterward to find out how you could've played the hand better.
4. Remain Confident at All Times
As long as you follow the first three points in this post, you should feel better about your play. But it also helps to carry high confidence at all times because poker can be a rough game.
Everybody’s confidence will be shaken at times, especially when they're suffering a downswing that's lasted several thousand hands. But when you put the work into the game beforehand, you're more likely to have high confidence and feel that you’re superior to opponents.
Not to mention, you can land some pretty nice bluffs when the whole table is convinced that you're better than you actually are. Big hand or not, confidence can sometimes be more useful than the cards you're dealt.
Of course, the goal is to become a good enough player to where you always feel like you're the best at the table. And while this may not always be true, you should attempt to make it so by studying strategy and properly preparing, giving you confidence even when the cards don't go your way.
Gaining confidence isn't all about winning, whether it's cash games, tournaments or the WSOP, your losses can teach you just as much as taking home that first place prize. So, don't worry about folding 10 hands in a row, patience and confidence is key. You'd never see someone nervously attempt a bluff at the main event final table, would you? Fooling yourself and your opponents that you're the best player there, is what it's all about.
Poker may be a card game, but you can definitely land some victories when you make it a mind game too.
Conclusion on Playing Your Best Poker
The best place to begin with poker success is by getting the mental and physical side down. This is especially true when considering that the majority of poker players don't care much about their diet, sleeping patterns, or preparation.
I'm not saying that you can’t still be a good player if you lack sleep. But why make the game tougher on yourself?
You'll also do well to focus on how you play each session, rather than worrying about short-term results. Make it a priority to be on your A-game every time you come to the table. Do this and you'll quickly improve in poker and win more money.