Winning poker players use any trick they can to improve their chances to win.
Most of them play hundreds of hours per month, study the game, read books to improve, and are willing to try anything that can increase their profit even a small percentage.
This even goes so far as using tricks to help them play better.
I’ve put together 5 ways to trick yourself into playing better poker. These tips are aimed at the beginning to intermediate poker player, but even if you break even or are winning you might be able to find the extra trick that pushes you over the top.
1 – Only Play 19% of Your Starting Hands
Did you notice what I did there?
Didn’t 19% catch your eye more than a nice round 20% would have?
The truth is 20% or 21% would work just as well as 19%, but the fact is if you play fewer hands your overall winning percentage will go up unless you go below 15% or so in most games.
On average, the player who enters the pot with the best hand wins more often than the player with the weaker hand. If you continue with this logic, the way to enter the pot with a better hand on average than your opponent is to play fewer hands than she does.
You’ll find 169 starting hand possibilities in Texas holdem, so 19% is around 32 starting hands. The issue is you can play more hands from late position than early position.
From early position you probably should only play around 10 different starting hands but from late position you can play up to 50 in some games. Don’t forget that the 19% includes all the hands you check in the big blind, so you won’t willingly enter the pot with 19% of your hands.
Here’s the main point you need to get from this trick. Unless you’re already a winning poker player, you’re playing too many hands. Set a smaller number of starting hands to play and it’ll instantly trick you into playing better poker.
2 – Don’t Play Unless the Competition Is Poor
Don’t just join the first game available. Take a look at the competition first.
Find games where many players aren’t as good as you. If you don’t know how good the other players are take a few minutes to watch them play.
If you play the same place often start keeping notes about the other poker players.
Some of the best poker players in the world win simply because they’re good at finding games filled with players who aren’t as good as they are.
Take a minute and think about this. If you always play with bad poker players and you aren’t a bad player, what will your long term results be? Will you win or lose in the long run?
It makes perfect sense when you see it like that, but most poker players don’t even think about the competition before they start playing.
The great thing about this trick is it doesn’t matter how good of a poker player you are. The only thing that matters is how bad the other players are in comparison to your ability.
3 – Fold the Blinds Unless You’d Play the Hand from Early Position
After the first betting round the blinds are the worst position at the table. It would seem to make sense that players wouldn’t want to play hands in such a poor position for the rest of the hand, but most players complete the bet from the small blind or call a small raise from the big blind no matter what they hold. They think it’s just a small amount so why not take a chance?
From now on don’t put another penny in the pot from the blinds unless you’d play the hand from early position. This trick alone will save you a great deal of money in the long run.
4 – Stop Bluffing
I realize many poker players get as much joy out of running a successful bluff as anything at the table, but the next 10 times you play poker don’t bluff.
When you have the best hand bet and when you don’t check or call.
Eventually you’ll need to start bluffing occasionally while playing poker, but for the short term try this trick. If you track your results I bet you’ll find an improvement in your results.
Most players bluff too much instead of not bluffing enough.
5 – Stop Playing Longer Than Two Hours Per Session
I know many poker players can play 8 hours or longer in a poker session, but sitting in one place that long can be unhealthy and make your thought process fuzzy.
You don’t have to quit for the day after two hours, but take at least a 30 minute break after two hours of play. Get a snack or take a walk outside to get a breath of fresh air. Let your mind have a small break from the table.
You should feel refreshed and play a sharper game after you get back. As you continue you may be able to reduce your breaks to 15 minutes between sessions, but don’t push yourself too hard.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read was poker is a lifelong gaming session. You might play a few hours today and an hour next week, but it’s all one long game.
The only time you should break this trick is if you’re in a game where you’re the best player at the table and dominating the game. You don’t want to take the chance of losing opportunities like this because they don’t come around often.
Just don’t lie to yourself about being better than you really are just to keep playing.
Playing winning poker requires dedication, hard work, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get better. Even if you have to set rules and trick yourself into winning habits, it’ll be worth it in the long run.