Quick Ways to Better Your Hold'em Game
article originally appeared in Card
hours before dawn are bad times for the sleepless. I had played
poker too long, so I drove home, turned on the television,
and started channel surfing, but all I could find were infomercials
and bad prints of old movies - the kind in which the sound
is nearly unintelligible and the once-shimmering black-and-white
tones have long since faded to mottled gray. The infomercials
weren't much either, but at least they were watchable, and
when you can't sleep, that's good enough.
infomercials all had one thing in common: They promised instant
results. Wanna lose 15 unwanted pounds, build abs of steel,
get rid of that ugly cellulite? Never mind what the problem
might be, each product promised results instantly. If it's
good enough for late-night television, I figure it's good
enough for me. If you want to improve your Hold'em game in
a New York minute, here are five ways that will jump-start
your game and improve your play.
1 Read the newsgroup: If you don't have a computer,
now is the time to go out and buy one. When you get that box
home, connect to the Internet and read the discussions and
poker news on the Internet's rec.gambling.poker
(RGP) newsgroup. While you'll find lots of social chatter
and collateral postings, the Internet is the source of some
incredibly creative ideas about poker.
ideas, for the most part, are not circulated outside the newsgroup.
It's not out of secrecy, mind you, it's just that RGP attracts
very bright, creative, and insightful folks who enjoy talking
poker. As a result, it's fertile ground for new ideas and
concepts. Ideas are posted, and comments are swiftly fed back
to the author. It's information at warp speed: That's what
the Internet is all about. You can follow the growth and development
of ideas as they are molded and shaped by some of the poker
community's brightest thinkers and theorists. The Internet
is a medium that you cannot ignore if you are serious about
keeping up with the game's most current critical thinking
I learned about Morton's Theorem
on RGP. I witnessed its birth, saw it grow and develop, and
made some adjustments to my game because of it. Only Andy
Morton's untimely death led me to write a piece for Card
Player about it. Andy was a friend, and the best way I
knew to celebrate his life was to bring his ideas to an even
wider audience. If Andy were alive, his theorem still would
be known to RGPers, but probably not to the general poker-playing
Practice with computerized software: No matter how many
hands you play at the table, using Wilson
Software's Turbo Texas Hold'em to practice against lifelike
opponents and run simulations that will test your own theories
is almost a requirement if you want to jump-start your game.
Computers can do things that we never can, simply because
simulations run so much faster than real games can be played.
I've run experiments in which I've simulated a lifetime of
Hold'em. I suppose that I could have tested a hypothesis or
two by playing eight hours a day, five days a week, for 30
years, but what good would the knowledge have been to me when
I concluded my research? It might be helpful, I suppose, if
poker is played in the afterlife, but I'm more concerned with
earthly uses for my know-how. Wilson's software is simply
terrific, and using it will improve your play. If you are
not using this product to better your game, someone else is
- and he's gaining an edge as a result.
Read all of the books: I hear players eschew books all
the time at the poker table. "I've played 20 years," they
grumble, "and I don't need books to teach me about the game."
Yet, it's these very players who think that a deck change
is going to improve their luck, or that a certain dealer has
it in for them. Sheeesh! These guys have been making the same
mistakes for the past 20 years, and their know-nothing attitude
ensures that they will repeat this unproductive, mindless
behavior for the next two decades. There are lots of good
poker books out there - mine
among them - and I'd suggest that you read them all. If you
get just one good idea from a book, it will return the cost
of its purchase many times over. Poker books are not an expense,
they are an investment - one that's absolutely critical for
improving your game.
Think about the game: Think when you're at the table,
away from the table, and whenever you're not involved in a
hand. Watch your opponents. Remember what kinds of hands they
are willing to enter pots with in early, middle, and late
position. See if they are calling stations or are susceptible
to bluffing. Learn their proclivities and patterns, and plan
your strategy accordingly. You won't be very successful bluffing
someone who calls all the time, and you only hurt yourself
if you fail to bet for value against someone who calls far
too often with weak hands.
Think about your own play, too. Review hands that you've won
and hands that you've lost. Determine whether there were alternative
plays that would have resulted in a bigger win, or saved a
bet or two if you lost. The line between winning or losing
one big bet per hour is a fine one. Concentration may be all
that's required to become a winning player. After all, I'm
thinking at the table, and so are most of the other winning
players you'll encounter.
Focus on things that matter: If you pay attention to the
wrong things, the very best you can hope for is to get lucky.
Getting a deck change won't help you win. It won't cause you
to lose, either, but why concentrate on something that is
of absolutely no value at all?
tables are full of bad-beat stories. By now, you've probably
heard them all. Why waste time grousing about the fact that
your opponent got lucky? We all take turns getting lucky.
That's not the point. Instead, think about what you might
have done to knock him out of the pot so that he wouldn't
have had a chance to draw out on you. That matters!
So, your opponent took the worst of it and got lucky - so
what? In the long run, you'll take his money most of the time.
Don't fret. Think about how you played, and think about what
you might have done differently to influence the outcome.
Thinking about luck, a deck change, or a dealer who's always
bad news for you is completely unproductive. It's like howling
at the moon. It may feel good to do it, but ultimately, it's
silly and self-indulgent, and it won't help you win.
Face it, nothing will make you an expert overnight, but there
are a number of shortcuts along the road to poker excellence.
Some of them require investments. Computers, software, books
- none of them come cheaply. But you will lose much more than
you would ever invest in your own skill-building and development
if you fail to invest in these tools. If poker matters to
you - if you really want to become a winning player, and not
just wish you were - you owe it to yourself to take the steps
to Articles Index