Everyone wants to know the secrets behind successful poker players. They think that if they can just find the secrets, they can have poker success too. This is the same with most successful people. Others think they have access to poker secrets that normal people don’t have.
Do successful poker players know things that you don’t know?
It’s possible that they know some things that you don’t, but the truth is usually not as exciting as most people think. You can learn some secrets of poker success. I’ve identified seven secrets of poker success and cover them below.
I can’t guarantee that you’re going to like these secrets, but I can guarantee that if you use them, your game will improve.
1 – Work Harder Than You’ve Ever Worked Before
I’m sorry to have to disappoint you, but poker secrets start at the same place that the secrets of most things start. The best poker players work harder at being a good poker player than everyone else.
They might not look like they have to work hard, but what you often don’t see are the thousands of hours they’ve put in studying and playing to build their skills.
You can find a few shortcuts to help you reach poker success faster, but they don’t work if you aren’t putting in the time and effort to improve. Plus, every trick and shortcut you learn works even better when you’re constantly working on your game and finding ways to improve.
Every winning player has a unique path from beginner to breaking even to winning. But they all have to work hard to get over the hump. Here’s a list of things you should be considering to improve your game.
- Read the best poker books you can find.
- Study how the best players play
- Watch instructional poker videos on sites like YouTube
- Play as many hands as you can
- Track all of your play and constantly look for mistakes and fix them
- Find a mentor who’s already a winning poker player
- Hire a poker coach to improve your results faster
One of the things that keep most poker players from becoming winning players is they don’t recognize their mistakes. If you can’t recognize when you make a mistake, it’s impossible to correct the mistake.
The biggest trap in not recognizing your mistakes is focusing on the results of a single hand instead of focusing on playing the particular hand correctly. If you win a hand but played it wrong, then if you keep playing it the same way, it’s going to cost you money in the long run.
Here’s an example.
You’re playing no limit Texas hold’em and have four to a flush after the turn. The pot has $100 in it, and your opponent bets $200. You call the bet and hit your flush on the river. You win a nice pot and feel good about your decision to call.
The problem is that the correct play was to fold. You weren’t getting the correct pot odds to make the call profitable. Here’s why this is a bad call.
If you want to know if a call is profitable or not in the long run, create a scenario where you run the hand the same number of times as unseen cards. In this example, you’ve seen the value of six cards, leaving 46 cards.
Running this hand 46 times, you have to call $200 times 46 to see the river each time. This is a total of $9,200. You win nine times when you complete your flush and lose the other 37 times. When you win, you receive your $200 back and the $300 in the pot, for a total of $500. Nine wins times $500 equals $4,500.
Subtract the $4,500 you get back from the total cost of $9,200, and you see that you lose $4,700 over the 46 hands. If you divide the loss of $4,700 by 46 hands, it shows you that on average you lose $102.17 every time you call in this situation.
Losing players celebrate their good luck when they win in this situation and curse their bad luck when they lose. They never try to determine if they made the correct play, so they can’t correct their mistake.
The next section deals with the importance of using math in poker, but the key is working hard enough to learn what you need to learn and to never stop trying to find your mistakes.
If you aren’t willing to work at poker harder than you’ve ever worked on anything else in your life, the odds are good that you’re never going to be a winning poker player.
2 – Conquer the Math
I know that I started with an unpleasant topic in the opening section, but if you hope that the next section of poker tips is better, you’re probably going to be disappointed again. Not only do you need to work hard at becoming a winning poker player, but you also have to embrace and conquer the math of poker.
The only way to maximize your results playing poker is to have a complete understanding of how the game is dictated by math. Every single decision and outcome at the poker table is 100% dictated by math. You have to embrace this and learn how to use it to reach your maximum potential as a poker player.
The end result of understanding and using math while playing poker is using pot odds and expected value whenever possible and using math to make every decision from entering a pot to making a call on the river in a tight situation.
Most poker players never learn how to use anything more than the most simple math calculations at the table. It’s easier to just go by your gut and say that everything that happens is luck. But the truth is that nothing that happens at the poker table has anything to do with luck.
If you don’t use math to play poker, the thought of figuring out how to use pot odds and expected value may seem daunting. And the truth is that it can be frustrating to try to think of everything that you need to learn.
This frustration can make you want to give up, and this is why many poker players never improve their game.
The secret to learning everything you need to know about math and poker strategy is to start with a couple simple things. Once you master them, you can add a couple more things. Eventually, you learn everything you need to know.
Everything you need to know about poker math won’t fit on this page. You can buy several books about poker math, so it’s a deep subject. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a few tips to get started. Here’s a list of things you need to learn to get started.
- Learn how to count outs for popular hands like flushes and straights
- Learn how to count possible outs for every possible hand
- Learn how outs work with pot odds, and then run pot odds for popular draws
- Start using pot odds calculations for every possible scenario
- Learn what expected value is and how to use it in popular situations
- Learn how to use expected value to make every decision at the table
Expected value is the closest thing to a big secret you can learn about poker. When you get good at determining expected value, it comes into play in every decision. You can use expected value to determine if you should enter the pot, if you should limp or raise, and even use it to decide which table to join.
Some expected value computations are fairly simple, like the one in the example in the last section. I put it forth as a pot odds example, but when I determined the average loss per hand, it was really an expected value solution.
Winning poker players put themselves in as many positive expectation situations as possible and try to minimize the negative expected value situations.
Some decisions you face are hard to solve using expected value because you don’t have all of the information you need. You don’t know exactly what cards your opponents hold, so you have to make some assumptions when you make decisions.
This doesn’t change the fact that expected value is king; it just means that you have to learn how to determine it in some situations with experience.
If you’re willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked and to dedicate yourself to conquering the math that runs poker, you’re going to quickly advance to the point where you’re a winning poker player.
These are the two biggest poker tips you need to know. But there are a few other things that can help you improve your game more.
3 – Build Your People Skills
You might be wondering what people skills have to do with poker success. How important is it to be able to deal with other people if you already communicate well enough to play poker?
While the truth is that you don’t have to develop great people skills to be a winning poker player, if you do improve your skills in the people department, it can help your poker results improve.
When you play live poker, you’re dealing face to face with other people. You can give information away to your opponents by the way you talk, the way you act, and by the way you allow your face and body to react during a hand. The good news is that your opponents can give you information the same way.
In the last section, I explained that in some situations, you have to use incomplete information to make expected value decisions.
Poker is challenging because no one ever has all of the information. This means that if you can gather more information than your opponents, it gives you an advantage.
Having more information than your opponents happens by doing one of two things or both things at the same time.
The first way is to get more information than they have. This is common sense, but most players don’t even try to gather more information. Instead of letting your mind wander and ignoring the play on hands that you’re not involved with, watch the players involved in the hand to learn more about how they play and the decisions they make.
Always be looking for ways to gather information that you can use later.
The second way to get an information advantage is to keep as much information from your opponents as possible. Most players don’t think about this at all, but you need to train yourself to hide information.
Focus on playing the same all the time. Try to make all your decisions at the table in roughly the same amount of time so you don’t give away the strength of your hand. Train yourself to keep the same posture and facial expression whether you have a strong hand or are bluffing.
Focusing on your people skills involves working on your own mannerisms and the mannerisms of your opponents. The more you can hide and the more you can learn, the more you can earn in the long run.
4 – Goal, Plan, Action
Any important thing you want to accomplish in your life requires some effort. While you might be able to accomplish some things without thinking too much about them, the important things require a process.
Becoming a winning poker player is the same.
I like to call this process the goal, plan, action process. You can find details about it in books about success and reaching your goals, but it’s fairly simple. You just need three things to start improving your poker strategy and results.
The first thing you need is a specific goal. In order to set specific goals, you need to know where you’re starting from. If you don’t know how much you’re losing every hour playing poker, you need to start tracking your results so that you do know. Once you know, you can set a specific goal that you want to reach.
It’s not enough to say that you want to win money playing poker. You need to develop a goal that says exactly how much you want to win. If you’re losing $5 an hour playing now, your first goal might be that you want to be a break-even player. This means that you need to improve enough so that you don’t lose money playing.
I believe in setting higher goals than just breaking even. Instead of trying to improve from losing $5 an hour to break even, set a goal of making $5 an hour. Once you reach that goal, you can set a new one — possibly $20 an hour.
Once you have a specific goal, the next step is to develop a plan that accomplishes your goal. The secret is developing a plan that has a high chance of success as long as you work your plan. Setting a goal without developing a realistic plan usually doesn’t work.
In this case, your plan should include a set number of hours every day, every week, and every month that you’re going to use to work on your game. It should include reading about poker strategy, tracking your play so you can identify mistakes, fixing every mistake you identify, and practicing a minimum number of hours.
A good goal is to learn at least one thing that helps you improve your game every day. If you don’t know how to use pot odds, the first thing you need to do is study how they work. Once you learn how they work, start running hands to see how pot odds relate to specific situations.
Keep running pot odds every day until you master them. Then start learning about expected value. It doesn’t matter where you are now, as long as you make consistent progress toward your goal every day.
The final ingredient is action. You need to start working your plan immediately because no goal and plan can help you if you don’t take action.
5 – Never Give Up
Once you make a decision to have a poker strategy, the only thing standing in your way is you. I’ve given you four concrete poker secrets you can use to improve your play above.
If you follow the advice above, your game will improve. This isn’t a guess; it’s a fact.
Before you start, you should make sure that you truly want to have poker success. It’s easy to say that you want to be a winning poker player, but this isn’t enough. You need to back up your desire with a 100% commitment to reaching your goal.
A big part of this is the mindset that you’re going to do whatever it takes and that you’re never going to give up.
You need to make this decision before you start. Determine to become a successful poker player no matter what, and develop the mindset that you’re never going to give up. By making this decision before you start, you have a better chance to stick with it when things get tough.
If you know that failure isn’t an option, it’s easier to push through the rough spots. You don’t have to think about quitting because you’ve already decided that you’re not quitting.
6 – Never Go on Tilt
Going on tilt is when something happens at the poker table or in your life that leads to you making decisions at the poker table based on emotions instead of math. Many players get upset when one of their good hands doesn’t hold up. When they get upset, they start playing hands they shouldn’t and betting and raising when they should be folding, checking, or calling.
You have to learn how to control your emotions at all times at the poker table. This isn’t always easy, but if you work on it, you can learn how to do it. Any time you start making emotional poker decisions instead of rational ones, stop playing immediately. Walk away from the table until you calm down.
Once you master your emotions, you can use them as a weapon against your opponents. You can act like you’re on tilt after a bad beat and lure your opponents into a trap.
7 – Value Your Bankroll Like You Value Your Life
Your poker bankroll is the life of your poker career. Even if you don’t play poker full time, your bankroll is just as important as anything else you do involving poker.
If you run out of money, you don’t have the opportunity to win. Instead of doing what most poker players do, which is use their regular money to play when they can, set aside a specific amount that you only use to play poker.
This makes it easier to track your results because you know exactly how much you start with and how much you have after each playing session.
Once you set your bankroll aside, you can use it to determine at what buy-in or limit level you should be playing. Most poker players play well over their bankroll level. This is dangerous and leads to poor play at times.
You can’t use bankroll management to win, but you can use it to make sure that you have enough money to ride out short-term losses. Every poker player, both winning and losing ones, has short periods where they win and short periods where they lose.
By making sure you have enough money in your bankroll compared to the level you’re playing, you don’t ever have to worry about how much you have. You can concentrate on the important things like expected value.
Now that you know the seven poker secrets to success, are you going to take the next step and start using them? They really aren’t exciting, but if you’re willing to learn how to use them, your poker game will start improving quickly.
The first secret is really the biggest one, and if you aren’t willing to use it, you might as well skip the others.
The other six secrets will help you a great deal, but the key that unlocks all of them is the first secret on the list.