Although it might not be one of the most complicated games to play, poker is widely regarded as one of the most challenging. With some of the biggest and best liars, tricksters and card players throughout the world taking to poker as their favorite go-to – it’s not exactly hard to see why the game can be so difficult, especially when on the world stage. 

But even the Daniel Negreanus, Phil Hellmuths and Doyle Brunsons of this world had to start out somewhere, and by using the same tactics that they and other pros used to get ahead of the rest, you too could improve your game. So, if you’re looking to give your game a lift, or simply get some practice in, then read on; our 10 IDEAL steps to improving your poker game today.

PLAY FEWER HANDS

Perhaps the most important advice of all, and something all amateur poker players can benefit from, is to pay careful consideration to the number of hands that you’re playing. 

When a player is brand-new to the game, they’ll often play through a high percentage of hands, just to get a little seat time in the game. Although it’s not exactly going to ruin your game off the bat, it’s not going to win you any either. In short, tight and aggressive wins the game, so it might be time to start folding that 4-8.

AVOID BEING THE FIRST PLAYER TO LIMP 

Limping (calling the big blind preflop) is one of the biggest faults that no players commit when entering a pot. By calling the big blind pre-flop, players won’t be able to win the bot before the flop (like they would be able to if they had raised) and give the behind players enticing pot odds, so you’ll be facing more players in the pot. More players mean a lower chance of winning and that’s not what we want. So, avoid limping first, as you don’t win by being a passenger. 

FAST-PLAY YOUR STRONG HANDS

One of the biggest and most popular tells in poker is the long pause of consideration for the raise when a player has a good hand. This is one of the most basic tells in the game that can be used to identify strong hands and create bluffs against strong players, so it pays to avoid the long delays when you’re onto a winning hand. Keep it fast and aggressive, as that’s where the money will be. 

FOLD WHEN YOU’RE UNCERTAIN 

One of the biggest differences between a bad player and a good player? A good player can throw away a good hand when they think they’re beat. So, if you think that you’re beat but feel like you’re too far gone, it’s important to remember that there’s nothing stopping you from folding and saving the rest of your bankroll. Sometimes a little damage limitation can go a long way.

STUDY THE TELLS AND TARGET THEM

Want to play the people rather than the cards? You’re going to need to study the main poker tells and get to grips with identifying them. There’s plenty to take into account, whether you’re playing online or in person, and it takes a good player to know them all, as they will differ from person to person significantly. That said, some tells are universal, and shared by many players, so it’s always good to know what you’re looking for. 

GO FOR THE KILL WHEN PLAYERS SHOW WEAKNESS

Noticing a player that you’re seeing on-tilt? Now’s your time to strike. Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, states: “When a player starts betting with their emotions in the game of poker, they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot! In other words, when there’s someone obviously in a poor mood with aggressive betting patterns – they’re a sitting duck at the table’’. Whilst a fully blown psychological assessment is neither possible or ethical, it pays to recognise tilt in both other players and yourself. 

FOCUS ON SOLID POKER IN TOURNAMENTS

When playing in a poker tournament, it can be too easy to adopt a survival mentality, but in the end, it’s good poker that wins out. There’s a time and a place for stack preservation, but when you’re in the early stages of a poker tournament, that isn’t it. Instead of playing defensively and “surviving”, it’s best to adopt an aggressive style and focus on solid poker. Because let’s face it, that’s how hands are won. 

BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS

If you’re looking to play poker and win, you’re going to need to play against those that aren’t quite as good as yourself. If you can’t spot the poor player within the first half-hour at the table, it might be time to look in the mirror. You should always opt for tables with players that aren’t quite as good as you, that way you can make a little profit. 

GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP 

Something often overlooked in the game of poker are the physical and mental factors surrounding the game. At the end of the day, poker isn’t just a game of cards, it’s much more demanding, with both a physical and mental strain put on the players in the room. If you’re playing a high-stakes game, tournament, or just want to get the best out of yourself – it’s best to get a good night’s sleep and be in a sharp, sober frame of mind when taking a seat at the table.

By making sure that you’re the best you can be physically and mentally, you give yourself the best chance of optimal performance. Check out our 5 IDEAL steps to the perfect bedtime routine over here for some great tips on setting yourself up for a night of Zzzeds.

ONLY PLAY WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MOOD TO 

Last but not least, when playing poker, you should only ever play when you’re in the mood to. If you’re not really into the game, keep getting distracted, playing on autopilot or just don’t want to be in the room, then head home. It’s better to not play at all than to play in a bad mood, as that’s when tilt takes over.