Poker is such a complex game that improving your play can be intimidating. It’s not something you can learn one day and effectively put into play the next day while engaged in a game. It just takes time.
Take things slowly
When you study poker in a book or video, you see many new concepts and it seems it would be easy to apply them immediately to wiping out your opponents. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Focus on one topic at a time, making this one topic the only goal of the game. Check your results only after at least a month and continue to zero in on the strategies of play. Don’t approach every game with a big win in mind.
Learn from your mistakes
Mistakes are essential for improving as a player. Mistakes cost you money and frustrate you, but you must step out of your comfort zone knowing that each error is a lesson in itself. The next time you mess up big time, mark the hand and later analyze it instead of beating yourself up for your stupidity.
Choose good resources for learning
There is a vast array of information available on playing poker. Choose from among books, videos, forums and blogs. Use your own stats for self-analysis or hire a coach to see what works best for you. Explore the available options and choose those most effective for your learning style.
To me, books are the best option for the new player. Of the endless selection of books available, I can recommend these from personal experience:
Crushing the Microstakes by Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams
This is the guide to lean on if you’re having a tough time with micros. To improve your odds of beating the lowest stakes, count on this book.
Playing the Player by Ed Miller
While not aimed at beginning players, this will make the most of your win rate and reduce your tendency toward a robotic style. You do need to be comfortable with some basic strategies before diving into this volume.
The Course by Ed Miller
A new book dealing exclusively with live play, the goal of Miller is to educate players on beating live NL. This is a good guide for players up through the intermediate level, even if their only action is small stakes online.
Modern Small Stakes by Nathan “BlackRain 79” Williams
Using countless hand examples, this does a great job of teaching about a variety of different situations you will encounter after leaving the micros behind.
The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler
This consideration of the advantage of having mental control and managing your emotions during a game recognizes the crucial role played by tilt, anxiety, etc. Tendler provides information on techniques to eliminate these issues.
Treat Your Poker Like a Business by Dusty Schmidt
If you want to move your game from the hobby level to a serious endeavor, this book is a must-read. It gives great advice on how to live your life to be a better player.
In addition to books, another great place to address improving your game is the world of videos. By observing the top professional players as they address different situations, you can pick up a lot about their strategies. You will also find that although you may see these pros as all-knowing, they are sometimes just as clueless as everyone else. This can be a great confidence booster.
Besides videos of live play, you can access training videos where explanations of strategies help you make sense of what you see in professional games.
Some of the recommended sites for accessing these videos are:
- “Deuces Cracked” gives you a free 7 day trial so you can experience the fantastic collection of big- name poker pros. This is a site that has a long and admirable history. You’ll find high quality productions that present lots of good information.
- “Tournamentpokeredge” A subscription here will allow you to view over 1,000 recordings and 200 articles, all designed to teach you about tournament poker. The videos are of high quality and will give you an edge in the race to master tournament poker.
Also available as a conduit of information are poker forums. The value of these sites is questionable as they consist of a collection of unknowns who voice their opinions about poker questions. There is no way to sort the good advice and knowledgeable people from the bad, so the forum doesn’t seem to be a reliable source for information. The forums do, however, offer the change to share ideas with other poker fans. A good discussion helps you to refine your own thoughts.
One big mistake that many players make is to be so focused on learning new strategies and concepts that they fail to ensure that they are learning and using them correctly. If you don’t stop periodically to check your basics, you can be constantly reinforcing bad habits. One approach to monitoring your progress and your play is to work with a good poker coach. An expert outside observer can be a great way to take note of your weaknesses and provide corrective advice. While it is a more costly way to work on your game, a coach can be a great help.
In the end, remember that poker is a game. You should be enjoying the time you spend at the table, not stressing yourself. Take things one step at a time. Figure out what combination of the plentiful resources for improvement works best for you. Even if you aim to become a professional competitor, it’s important to remember that people who enjoy their work do it better!