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Folding up shop can be a good strategy

By Jim Feist


predictabililtyThe growing interest in poker the last decade has been phenomenal—and profitable, if you know when to hold ‘em, fold ‘em and bluff. There is so much to the game, from holding the right cards to the psychological aspect of sizing up your opponents while keeping them guessing at your own stoic “poker face.”

Anything can happen at the card tables when you let lady luck run the show, from getting knocked out early, breaking even and having some fun, to riding a run of hot hands to a big payday. However, not all of us play for fun. Just like in the world of finance, the stock market or sports wagering, there are important steps to understand if you are serious about turning a profit. It can be done, if you know what you’re doing.

You have no control over what cards you’ll be dealt, but you do have complete command over every move you make with those cards, psychological factors and other subtleties. Here are some poker tips to keep in mind if you care less about fun and more about playing to pad your pockets.

Get in a Groove

After a while, even good players fall into a rhythm, which can lead to patterns. They raise with one hand and limp with another. They only play a certain range from late position and a tighter range from early position. If their opponent checks for a second time on the turn, for instance, they may often wager twothirds of the pot. You need to be in tune to what other players at the table are doing to search for tendencies.

At the same time, be cognizant if you are falling into predictable patterns. Because a savvy opponent is also carefully watching your moves—even if you think they might be asleep behind those dark glasses or pulled down visor. After a while, your opponent can pick up on these tendencies and start using them against you. Pick your spots to change up your style every once in a while to keep your opponents guessing. It’s good to get into a feel, or a rhythm, but don’t let predictability get turned against you. Someone else may feel it in your play and you may start to feel it – in your pocket!

In or Out?

A common mistake poker players make is to believe that they have to stay in a round because they’ve already put money in the pot. If you have a bad hand and you stay in hoping the cards will break your way to salvage that weak hand, this is no-no. It’s probably bad strategy in the short term and definitely bad over the long haul.

Worse, you may catch a break and turn a loser into a winner. But this is leaning too much on lady luck and it will be a detriment eventually if you keep pushing bad cards. Don’t feel despair if you drop out of a hand. Successful sports bettors don’t chase lost money and poker players shouldn’t chase bad cards. Getting out early to prevent a bigger loss is money saved, not lost.

Physical and Mental Toughness

I’ve been at the Vegas poker tables for eight to ten hours and it’s extremely demanding, taxing on the mind and the body. At times it can feel like running a marathon (which I’ve done many times) or battling in a 12-round boxing match (which I haven’t had the pleasure).

If you’re serious about being on the top of your poker game in a tournament, you need to treat your body like you’re preparing for a marathon. Eat right beforehand, be well rested, have fluids and healthy snacks, and no alcohol. There’s a reason casinos serve free drinks for slot and card players: it impairs judgment and makes one forget about time. If you want to turn a poker profit, you need to be like a basketball star taking the court: Ready to play and on top of your game.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Thousands of years ago, human beings had terrific memories, passing down oral stories for generations. Since the invention of writing and books, having strong memories has become less necessary, especially with computers, IPADs, texting and instant messaging. In a sense, technology has made human memory almost irrelevant.

But not at the poker table. A good memory is a terrific asset and a great memory is a huge advantage. In seven-card stud, for instance, it helps to pay attention to what’s showing and what people have folded when considering calling your opponents. In Texas hold ‘em, it helps to figure out what the best possible hand could be to fit the flop, as well as making sure you notice any flush and straight possibilities. Putting the odds in your favor is the only way to win consistently in sports wagering and cards. Good luck and may the cards be with you!

5 Tips to Maximizing Your Poker Experience

➤ Tip #1: Play for stakes you can afford. Don’t be fooled by a seemingly small stakes game. Even games with small blind structures can be high-stakes games. Play at a limit that allows you to make good decisions that are not influenced by money.

➤ Tip #2: Buy poker books and study strategy. If you put in the work and dedicate yourself to really learning the game, you’re already ahead of most of your competition. Buying a good poker book may very well be the best gambling investment you will ever make.

➤ Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many online poker forums discuss strategy. If you know someone who is a winning player, ask questions. Most poker players, especially the great ones, are glad to share their insights.

➤ Tip #4: If you’ve never played in a casino before, try online poker first. This allows you to become comfortable with the rules of various games. There are many poker sites where you can even play for free.

➤ Tip #5: Focus on cash games rather than poker tournaments. On average, only about 10 percent of entrants “cash“ in any poker tournament, so the odds are stacked heavily against you. But in a cash game, you can move around or quit anytime you like. Contrary to what you see on television, it’s very difficult to make a living playing tournament poker. —Nolan Dalla



How much money can YOU make playing poker?

According to poker expert and author David Sklansky, one big bet per hour is a winnable rate in most low- to middle-limit poker games. This means $20 per hour is achievable in most $10–20 fixed-limit poker games. Win rates in fixed low-limit games, with many weak players, might be considerably higher than the standard one big bet per hour. However, short-handed games, higher-stakes games and no-limit games are almost impossible to calculate. Your win rate depends mostly on the quality of your competition.


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