The Poker Chronicles Volume 2: 3 Tips to being a better poker player

Some tips for playing at the poker rooms. Photo by Eric Sandler

1) Find the right game

Just like anything else in the gambling world, to be successful over time a poker player must exercise bankroll management. If you are playing over your means, making calls becomes more of a stress than a confidence play. When buying into a cash game, know what type of buy-in best suits your play. If you want to buy-in, for what is considered a "full" stack, 100 big blinds is usually a good starting point. In what seems to be the most popular game, $1-3$ no limit, $300 will get you to a comfortable spot. If you short buy depending on the table minimum, starting with 30-50 big blinds leaves you with a completely different strategy. The fewer chips you have, the tighter your range of starting hands should be. When playing short stacked, big Aces and premium pocket pairs are the only things you should be looking to play. When you have the luxury of 100 big blinds, you can afford to gamble in different spots, enabling you to limp in for 3-5BB raises here and there trying to catch a flop.

2) Know the competition

When you go to your favorite poker rooms, you tend to know what players play looser than others. But what if you walk into a new room? How do you approach your hands to begin with? For starters, always play your hands the same regarding whether you just sat down or not. Sitting down and being timid with a monster hand and not capitalizing and maximizing your profits leaves the door open for opposing players to see your betting pattern without paying the appropriate prices. I preferably like my first hand I show to be a strong starting one. Even if I go down to the river and have to muck, I have no problem showing an early hand to the table, signifying I'm here to play strong hands. Now that they think they know you, get to know them, observe a few things:
*Who is involved in the most pots/ least pots?
*Who tends to raise often in late action to "steal blinds?"
*Who knows how to play position?
*Who limps, who raises?
Identifying the tight from loose players will be key for you to pick what spots you can jump in and out of and what price it will cost you to see the next community card.

3) Understand the button and play your position

Using the dealer button and understanding your position is critical in dictating what you can do on the table. When in early betting position, your range of hands should be smaller as there are various players that follow you. Being able to limp in with smaller hands such as suited connectors from an early position can get you in trouble and over committed to pots. Also, lessons #1 and 2# tie back into this in a few ways:

A) If you have a short stack, you're unable to limp into pots since risking a big percentage of your stack on a mediocre hand isn't optimal. First, if you limp early, and think you can slide in for the big blind, usually thats not the case. Next, someone makes a standard raise of 3x-4x times the blinds and gets a few callers. Now the action is back to you with the short stack, do you call risking 4-5 of your 40-50 total blinds? If you do, whats your next move? When the flop comes out the action is to you again as you are still out of position. Now you are sitting with a headache if you played a 10-J suited and you hit top pair. The pot with the raiser and two callers is in the 16-20BB range. Now you have committed the initial five blinds preflop, and a pot bet would essentially mean you are gambling about half of your entire stack with top pair and a medium kicker. Furthermore, the ability to push draws to fold is gone with the small chip stack behind you and opposing players knowing they can draw for small percentages of their chips.
B) Knowing your opponents as we spoke about is necessary in that identifying opponent betting patterns will enable you to sneak in and out of situations. If a player that rarely raises pre-flop acts after you, then limping in can be beneficial with the chances of him raising preflop being minimal. If an aggressive preflop player is behind you, then limping in is virtually throwing money away if your intentions are not to call a raise. You limp, he raises, clockwork stealing blinds for experienced players.

Let's assume you're short stacked and play that same 10-J suited in late position, on the button per say. So action goes around with no raises to you...
A) Limp in and see a cheap flop with only a few players acting after you.
B) With no raises in front of you, a raise can front you a bigger hand then what you hold. You either take blinds and limpers or you get callers but still hold the best betting position post flop. Now, the small chip stack behind you is dangerous knowing your opponents didn't raise, so there probably aren't huge hands involved. With the last action, you can now represent a big ace or large pocket pair depending on what comes out. If your opponents called you with a marginal hand preflop, a pot bet before it comes back to you leaves them knowing they will have to call off the rest of your stack as they will be pot committed if you indeed hold a made hand. Now, let's suppose one of the opponents comes out raising, he is telling you he's trying to protect his made hand from an early position. If the raise is substantial, you can easily get away having lost the minimal amount of chips. Aggressive play in this position can really pay off if you pick the right spots.

Again, it's knowing your opponents and being comfortable enough to make plays in certain situations. Poker is broken down into different situations and hands can be played in infinite ways. My goal is to start with some of these basics and then give you my perspective from hands I personally am involved in. Want to know how to trap players? Want to know how to stop an aggressive player that raises every pot? These are things I'll be teaching and giving you pointers on how to handle. Every player has their own style, the tactics I speak of are what have worked for me over time. We will jump into more complex strategies in the future,;keep reading for more!

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.

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