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How to Give Yourself the Best Chance of Success with Poker

2,427 Views on 2/7/19

This guide aims to hammer home a few points to hopefully ingrain some patience into improving players

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There are many different things we can do to maximise our chances of success when aiming to improve our game. For more than two decades we have seen patterns emerge from impatient players who follow flawed advice and continue to destroy their chances of reaching their potential.

This guide aims to hammer home a few points to hopefully ingrain some patience into improving players heading down the wrong path.

The Rakeback Trap and Burnout

Ever since online poker real money sites started to hand out free cash to their customers, beginners and intermediate players have behaved like moths to the light. Instead of concentrating on reaching their potential they have been chasing rakeback as if it’s the most important thing.

Days with many thousands of hands contributes little towards improvement. Not only that but extreme tiredness cannot be avoided indefinitely. Even though the rakeback will eventually build up for a winning player, they are almost certainly destroying their win rate in the process.

Bonus money should be treated as exactly that - a bonus. A player’s focus should be squarely targeted on their win rate. This way they will be able to move up the stakes ladder at the fastest possible rate.

Concentrating on growth will always give a player the fastest route to success.

Playing too Many Tables

This point is as old as online poker itself. Simply put, new players are almost always too impatient. It looks straightforward enough on the surface - play more tables and make more money - but this attitude comes at a price and still people are not listening.

This is still worth going over because in 2019 we find ourselves playing online in a world with many experienced players, as well as the others who are just impatient. If everyone else is playing 12 tables then why shouldn’t I?

The answer is that a player will only reinforce their current knowledge rather than implementing anything new. Improvement takes deliberate focus. And similar to playing too many hands in a day chasing rakeback, playing a lot of tables will lead quickly to a tired state of mind unable to perform at its peak. Anymore than six reg tables will lead to autopiloting and a hit to the win rate. Many players shouldn’t even be considering more than four.

In terms of “fast fold” tables, many experienced players admit they are not playing their best with four tables open.

Neglecting Study Time

In many sports and games we will see players improve massively through only partaking. Poker is unlike this though. To reach our potential we must follow a dedicated study program

In technological sports, such as Formula One, we often hear the cliche if you stand still you move backwards. This is particularly true for poker players. If everyone else is working hard, and we are doing nothing but grind, then it is obvious that we will be overtaken by players who were previously worse than us.

Although it depends on what point in a player’s development we are talking about, a mixture of coaching, watching training videos and studying articles is mandatory if improvement is any kind of goal. How much work we should aim to do is far less clear a problem.

Answers will vary from 25% to 100% of the time spent playing, but the point is never to neglect our study time.

Worrying About Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Strategy

GTO poker talk is everywhere we look these days, but should we even be worrying about it if we are not high-stakes players? Probably not once we accept that most profit comes from players making big mistakes. And this applies all the way up through mid-stakes.

Once a player reaches a certain level of proficiency, knowing what the GTO solution to a spot looks like can help with the overall understanding of what is a mistake and what isn’t. For micro-stakes players looking to complete their grounding in basic strategy getting bogged down with knowledge that won’t improve their win rate is pretty much a waste of time.

Learning what the most common mistakes are at each level and how to exploit them is the key to smashing your way up to the mid-stakle arena.

Bankroll Management

This is yet another piece of advice that is ignored by so many players. They think that aggressively taking shots is the fastest way forward. Aggressive is indeed the best way, but knowing where to draw the line is key to survival. Poker can be a lifelong passion and hobby/career - it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Research what the most current up to date wisdom is and implement the strategy.

Game Selection

While game selection has always been advised, it doesn’t look to be as key as it once was when a great number of tables would be heavily populated by whales. Regs can also be expected to be found on most tables. 

That said, practicing heavy game selection is still going to help achieve the best possible win rate.


Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More


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