Poker Smarts: Three Rules To Live By

H2H Helmet2Helmet.netContributor IMay 21, 2010

Most know that poker is nothing new.

With the advent of televised poker in the late 1990s, what was once a game that was limited to casinos, back rooms, and friends who have penny jars, has turned into a game (or sport in some people's minds) that is heavy in the mainstream of American culture.

Now poker, along with any sport, has its' own "professional" and "amateur" ranks.

The difference between poker and other sports is that there is no clear line that defines who is a "professional" and who is an "amateur."

The major poker tournaments in the world are typically open to whoever can pay the entry fee and make their way to the table to play.

A person can literally make their way to the "Main Event" at the World Series of Poker without paying a dime out of their own pocket.

As I begin writing this, there are over 40,000 people playing on one of the major (free) poker sites.

There are literally hundreds of poker websites that exist and thousands of public venues across the United States where poker can be played at any time of the day.

The availability of the game and its' relative inexpensive nature produces an environment where even the most seasoned poker player can play against the most novice poker player at any time.

You can also turn on your television and find a broadcast of a poker game at nearly every hour of the day. As long as poker has this availability and visibility, you'll be able to find players of any skill level and rank ready to join you at a table and take your chips.

One of the most entertaining and interesting aspects of poker today is the chat box you find on almost all Internet poker sites. While the chat display is typically meant to inform you of results and changes during the game you're currently engaged in (as well as providing a social outlet to those playing,) you also will see plenty of complaints and arguments about the skills of certain players at almost any table you sit down at.

Names like "calling-station", "donkey", "professional suck out", and "Hellmuth Jr." are tossed around all of the time. My goal today is to not only help you find a strategy to beat these nicknamed players, but also to help you maximize not only your poker profit, but your fun at the table.



Poker Rules of Thumb


Regardless of the skill of the other players at the table, I've developed THREE rules that I try to always follow while I'm playing.

These rules help me keep myself mentally ready to play the game regardless of the stakes, situation, or opponents I'm facing at any given time.



Rule 1.  Keep Your Head


Poker is a game of ups and downs. You may find yourself on the losing end of many hands that you were confident you were going to win. You may find your bankroll to be a lot smaller than you started with. You may find yourself with a small chip stack in a tournament. Your spouse may interrupt you during a game and cause you to make a hasty decision that turns out to not help you very well.

Regardless of the situation, you must remember that poker is a mental game as well as a physical game. If you lose your head, that will lead to more bad decisions. If you get angry, you can find yourself physically not able to compete in long tournaments or games. To be successful, you have to be calm and collected. Don't forget to breathe and relax as many times as you can during a game. This will help you in the long run.



Rule 2. Know Your Process


Many successful blackjack players will tell you that there are rules to their actions. The same is true in poker. Now, I'm not saying that every time you have pocket aces you will make the same play. However, you will evaluate the situation in the same manner.

You will need to look at your cards and the potential of the other players. You will need to evaluate your chip stack and how your betting pattern will affect your stack. You will need to evaluate the community cards (if necessary) to determine not only your odds, but the odds of your opponents. In tournaments you will sometimes need to even evaluate the amount of chips you have versus the rest of the field to decide if you should alter your style of play.

During every hand, you should essentially have a mental flow chart that you use to determine your next action. Keep in mind, this does not always mean that you would raise the amount of the pot if you have a pocket pair while on the button, it just means that you will give yourself the opportunity to rationally take in all the necessary information at your disposal before you make your final decision.



Rule 3. Take It Slow


Regardless of how fast poker players seem to make decisions on television, you have every right to take it as slow as you need to. In actuality, the action is so condensed on television; you don't see the length of time that it actually takes when some players make a decision.


I had the opportunity to watch a final table at a WSOP event a few years back, right after I started getting into poker. The biggest lesson I learned from that trip to Las Vegas and watching that event was that I was not taking my time to think things through sometimes. I had the tendency to make bad decisions because I did not take deep breath and look at every part of the situation at hand.

You may have players that will complain when you take your time. However, this will always work to your advantage. Not only will it allow you to follow your process fully, but it can also cause others to make hasty decisions.

In my next installment I will discuss various methodologies of amateur players and specific strategies to exploit their weakness and beat them.


Written by H2H Member Antony Nation