40 tips for making more money from poker

May 2, 2017

Poker is one of the greatest games I know. What makes poker special is the hidden layers of complexity which need to be mastered before you will feel you have a certain level of control over the outcome of the game. It is for this reason that so many players, often with many many years of experience, are still losing money month after month, year after year.

Experience is not enough to beat this game. What is really needed is the mastery of numerous skill sets across many disciplines. Once you’ve put all the pieces of the puzzle together you start making money consistently.

In this post I share 40 of my top tips for making more money from poker. This is a long post so I’ve added an index below in order to made it easier for you to find the sections which interest you the most.

Just click on the tip that you’d like to read and you’ll be taken straight to it.

Table of contents

Psychology, game theory, and endurance

  1. Stay hydrated during long sessions
  2. Get up, walk around and stretch
  3. Focus on your breathing during a hand to help you relax and limit your tells
  4. Avoid eating a big meal before the session
  5. Remember the 1000x rule to control tilt
  6. Avoid talking about your bankroll and number of buyins during the session
  7. Over call more often against someone who is stuck big in the game
  8. Play the discipline game to deal with being card dead
  9. Before going to a game you aren’t familiar with, find out the relevant information
  10. Rank the players in your sessions either as better, equal or worse than you
  11. If you don’t feel comfortable in the game, get up and leave
  12. Wear comfortable clothes to a game
  13. Don’t play if you are angry, hungry or too tired
  14. Understand that there is etiquette in poker and you should fight to uphold the expected norms
  15. Tilt is a weakness that all players have and one you should exploit

Poker Strategy & Training

  1. Limit how often you are bluffing in games where you have a big edge
  2. Give credit to position, even against weak players
  3. Add onto your stack when the game gets bigger
  4. Stick to one game type until you feel you have master it (AKA one-trick pony)
  5. It is your responsibility to protect your cards
  6. Don’t tap on the fishbowl
  7. Pocket pairs will only flop a set one out of 8 times
  8. AK is a drawing hand
  9. AK vs QQ is the most common big flip you will experience
  10. Consider running boards more than once to limit variance
  11. 4bet weak players for value
  12. Don’t always 4 bet with AA and KK, especially versus a strong player
  13. Try your best to put your opponent on a range
  14. Suited connectors are better in multi-way pots
  15. Have a more balanced 3 betting range in position
  16. Consider how sticky your opponent is and bet accordingly
  17. Join an online training site
  18. Use Pokerstove to calculate your odds versus certain ranges
  19. Learn how to play the different hand groupings
  20. Understand that most hands will cost you money in the long-run

Bankroll Management

  1. Set an amount you want to invest in the session and only take enough to cover it
  2. Invest a set amount each month from your paycheck into your bankroll
  3. Games with higher variance will result in bigger swings in your bankroll
  4. Don’t be too conservative but also know when to move back down
  5. You should look at your poker bankroll similar to how a business treats its bank account

 

 

Psychology, game theory, and endurance

Stay hydrated during long sessions

There are numerous studies which have succeeded in finding dehydration as a root cause of fatigue. Fatigue is a catalyst to bad decision making and tilt. I recommend that you drink a liter of water before starting any session and make it a habit of getting up to drink some water every hour or so. This will help you regather your thoughts, stretch your legs and stay hydrated. Alcohol does not count, in actual fact alcohol dehydrates the body.

Get up, walk around and stretch

As I mentioned above you should make it a habit during your sessions to get up and walk around a bit. During these 5 minute breaks you should stretch your lower back, upper back, shoulders, and hamstrings. You might look weird doing it at the table so if you’re in a home game go to the bathroom and perform your stretches there. Depending on how you’re feeling you should leave the house to get some fresh aim. If you are in a casino then leave the poker table and walk out the casino to get some fresh air and then perform your stretches.

The bottom line is you want to disconnect yourself from the environment and regather your thoughts and allow your body to stretch. Sitting at poker tables have done nothing positive for my body, that’s for sure.

One thing to be careful of is you might end up pumping yourself up during these short breaks which may lead to over aggressive play when you get back to the table. Just be aware of this and keep to your strategy.

You should make it a habit of taking these short breaks once every hour or two. It will do wonders for your game.

Focus on your breathing during a hand to help you relax and limit your tells

During big hands I have a great way of hiding my tells from my opponents. I pick a spot at the table and I stair at it. While staring at the spot at the table I think of something relaxing like being on a sandy beach. I was recently in Mexico on vacation so the next time I’m in this situation I’m going to picture the beautiful beach that belonged to the resort I was staying at. While staring at the spot and thinking about the beach I focus on my breathing. One of the most common physical tells that people give off is very heavy breathing. Since I’m usually very calm in a hand if I’m now breathing like a 100 meter runner after a race I’m not doing myself any favors.

You want to make sure you are behaving the same, no matter if you have the hand or not. If you really struggle with this then fold your hands on the table in front of you and bury your hand in your arms. Not that if you haven’t done this before at the table it will send alarms off so perhaps do it when you have the hand the first time you try it. Keep in mind that if you are doing this movement every single time you are in a hand it will irritate the players which might hurt your chances of being invited to the next game. I usually don’t like to think about things like that too much but its a factor you want to consider.

Avoid eating a big meal before the session

You want to avoid eating a big meal before a poker session for the same reasons you should avoid a big meal before a date, a sports match you’re taking part in, or any activity where you want to be sharp and focused. You should try and eat something lean and plain before your session so your blood sugar is stable during the session and you are energized. Eating spicy food isn’t a good idea for obvious reasons.

Remember the 1000x rule to control tilt

The 1000x rule is my favorite tilt fighting mental trick. I wrote a dedicated post on my favorite ways to combat tilt which I recommend you check out. Tilt is a poker players #1 enemy.

In short the trick is to imagine the same spot where you just lost while miles a head of your opponent 1,000 times and imagine all the money you would make in that spot. Usually this helps to remind the player that you are playing poker for the long-run and in the end of the day all you can do is make good decisions.

Avoid talking about your bankroll and number of buyins during the session

Astute poker players will pick up on the fact that you only came to the game with one bullet in your gun and put you to the knife more often than you’d like. Try to avoid talking about how much money you’ve won or lost recently, and never reveal how much money you want to invest in the session. Once that information is out it can be used to your disadvantage. You want to give off the impression that you are in the game to have fun and want to play. You don’t want to give off the impression that you are treating the game like a business (even though you definitely should be). Most amateurs are not calculating things like number of buyins they want to invest in a session, they just come with money to spend. You want to blend in when you can.

Over call more often against someone who is stuck big in the game

I’ve seen it time and time again. The big loser in first hour or two in the session will either pack it up and leave or fight tooth and nail to get back his investment. These bad players will try and push their luck and rely on luck to win 2 – 3 big pots to get back in it. Against these players you should a) trap them more often because they are going to try and bloat pots, and 2) call them down more lightly.

Don’t make the mistake of continuing this approach if they manage to get some of their losses back. These players will also pick up that people are calling them lighter and once they have a stack in front of them will try and catch someone. Obviously you need to take each situation as it comes but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the losing players can’t adjust based on their stack sizes. If you aren’t sure and think its a high variance play which is unnecessary at that point in the session then fold your hand and wait for this weak player to donate their money to you in a much more favorable spot.

Play the discipline game to deal with being card dead

Every now and then you will hit a spot where you can’t catch a hand or flop to save your life. It is one of the toughest things to deal with as a poker player, especially in live poker. I remember one period where I went 3 8 hour sessions without flopping a set, or making a straight or flush. It was hard to take but I developed a little trick a long time ago which helps me deal with this situation.

The first part of the trick is to realize the reality of the situation. Since the distribution of hands is random but normalizes itself over a large enough sample, when you are card dead, it just means that you are going through the negative end of the distribution. We are quick to remember when we aren’t dealt aces or kings for 3 sessions but quick to forget the sessions when we are dealt aces and kings 5 times in a single session. It evens itself out eventually.

Since you’ve now accepted this reality it just means you need to push through it. Similar to having to push through waiting in lines and going through security on your way to a vacation. No one likes it but you just got to push through it.

To help you push through it you can should play the discipline game. The way the game works is as follows; start out by picking a specific range of hands. It should be a narrow range, something like A10 suited+ and pocket pairs. You should set a timer, say two hours. During the next two hours you should fold absolutely everything but the range you decided on. In spots where it is obvious you should call like in a multi-way pot with you in position with a suited connected, then sure, make the call but you should fold everything else but your range.

The reason this game works so well is when most players become card dead they start to tilt and open up their calling ranges. This results in bleeding of chips and compounded mistakes which ends up costing the player a ton of money. This has been one of my biggest weaknesses and I’m still not great at combating it but my little game does help.

By being self aware of the situation and making it a game to play really tight you will fight the urge to over call and bleed off your stack. The reality is that you generally don’t need to win more than 3 – 5 decent sized pots hands during a session to turn a nice profit.

Before going to a game you aren’t familiar with, find out the relevant information

I personally like to know all I can about a game before I go to it. This usually involves understanding the size of the game, starting stacks, if there is a rake, and who are the players in the game. There are a few players out there who I wont sit down at a table with anymore because of their bad etiquette. Home games with rake are usually a no-no for me, and games which play too big I’ll also skip.

Rank the players in your sessions either as better, equal or worse than you

If you are fortunate to know the lineup of the game before you step into it then you can do your best to rank the players in the game based on how good they are compared to you. If you are in a game with players which are new to you then within the first hour (sometimes you need more than an hour) you should have a good general idea if these guys know what they are doing.

The idea is you want to know as quick as you can if this is a game which will likely make you money, or cost you money. If it is break even then it is probably costing you money, especially if you are in a casino and can switch tables, or have another home game you can jump to (look up opportunity cost).

If you don’t feel comfortable in the game, get up and leave

Do you remember that Full Tilt poker video with Gus Hansen who said at the end that there is always another hand? Well, he was right, there will always be another game, but you won’t always have your bankroll. If you make it a habit of staying in games where you just don’t feel comfortable then you won’t be playing your A game and this will mean less profit (remember opportunity cost), or worse, you will go from being a winning to a losing player in the game. One bad session can cost you 6 months worth of grinding so its just not worth staying in a game where you don’t feel comfortable and can play your best.

If you feel uncomfortable in most of your sessions then take some time to analyze the situation. Perhaps your poker circle is full of shady people you don’t trust, or you just don’t have the confidence to play in these games and you should look for other games.

Bottom line, if you aren’t feeling comfortable in the game, get up and leave.

Wear comfortable clothes to a game

There are a lot of small things you can do to maximize the likelihood that you will be able to play your poker A game. One of them is going to the home game or casino in comfortable clothing. My live poker sessions never last less than 4 hours so I always want to be comfortable since I know I will be sitting for long periods of time and need to worry about the game and not my belt, uncomfortable shoes, or anything else related to the clothes I’m wearing.

Bring a coat or hoodie to stay warm in case the weather changes and the game is outside or if the session is at the casino.

Don’t play if you are angry, hungry or too tired

This was a great tip I learnt many years ago from an online pro who use to make training videos (I forget his name). He emphasized that these three things (being hungry, tired or angry) makes it much more easier to start tilting. I’ve found that he is 100% correct here and it is something that all players should be aware of. Being a strong poker player comes down to many things. One of those things is self awareness. You need to be able to stop and identify your emotional state at any moment and realize that if you’ve just had a fight with your girlfriend, mother or dog, that you won’t be in the optimal mindset to make tough decisions in a poker game.

Being tired or hungry means that your mind is not on the game but rather on your most basic needs as a human being. Drink a lot of water and make sure you have some food in you before a session. If that isn’t possible then make yourself a sandwich or order in something like during the session.

In some home games the host will organize snacks like crisps, chocolates and biscuits. Eating this kind of food will spike your blood sugar which will result in a crash shortly after which will mean you will need another sugary snack or some other stimulant to get you back to where you were 30 minutes early. This is not a healthy cycle in general and should be avoided.

There have been times where I passed on great games because I realized I was just too emotional and/or tired in order to compete at the level I needed to. Remember, there is always another game.

Understand that there is etiquette in poker and you should fight to uphold the expected norms

Poker, like all competitive games, has its rules and basic etiquette. If you are very new to the game you won’t know all of the little rules of etiquette so take out a more experienced friend out for a beer and ask him to cover them with you. Once you know the etiquette you should do your absolute best to uphold these rules, no matter how tilted you may be. In the end of the day if the players in the game are not upholding the expected behavioral norms then the game will get unbearable and will implode. Most players are at the game to have a good time and if they are constantly being slow rolled, irritated for no reason, and treated badly by others in the game then they will stop playing. This is bad for everyone so you should encourage good behavior at the table.

Don’t be the asshole who is riling up people for no reason and causing unnecessary harm to the atmosphere of the game.

Tilt is a weakness that all players have and one you should exploit

Tilt is a very fascinating aspect of poker. I see tilt in two fundamentally different ways. The first is a weakness within myself which I need to combat just like a bad habit which does me harm. I’m always looking for ways to fight off tilt. Tilt is like this black hole which all players have which appears every now and then and just sucks up profits. The more I can fight off this black hole the more money I will make, thus being good at fighting off tilt is similar to a competitive advantage which a company has the competition in the market.

The second way that I look at tilt is how it affects other players in real time. What I mean by this is how can I leverage the fact that one of my opponents in a game are currently in tilt. If I happen to be in a hand with a very strong holding against someone who is on tilt I’m more likely to over bet or even shove because I know my opponent is emotional at the time and may find it very difficult to fold his hand. “How can I be this unlucky” will be going through his mind and since he is not considering all the variables in the hand, but rather giving into his emotions, I’m more likely to get the maximum if I play my hand really fast. This is obviously player and situation dependent but I think you get the idea.

Below is a video I produced which touches on the aspect of over betting versus a very weak player to gain the maximum in a hand.

Poker Strategy & Training

Limit how often you are bluffing in games where you have a big edge

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a game where you clearly have a huge edge on the table then you should limit the number of times you try fancy plays and bluffs. Weak players typically don’t like to fold so bluffing goes from being a profitable strategy to one which can cost you a huge amount of money.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try and pull the occasional bluff against the right opponent but in games where the players are loose and looking for action you should go with a more standard TAG (tight aggressive) style and look to punish the weak players who are too sticky for their own good.

One big bluff which doesn’t go your way will result in you sitting with a much smaller stack which means the next time you flop top pair and one of the players just doesn’t believe you, you will end up making less than you would of if you waited for the spot.

I’ve made this mistake myself and trust me, it is very costly. Even a well thought out and implemented bluff against the wrong player should be considered a mistake. Don’t convince yourself that you did the right thing but just got unlucky. A major factor in deciding to bluff needs to be who you are bluffing.

Give credit to position, even against weak players

Position is still king in poker and even if you are up against a lot of weak players in a game you should still respect position. Against weaker players you should call more out of position than against stronger opponents but you should still be aware that you will have less moves at your disposal because of position.

One tip when out of position against weaker opponents is to lead into them more often. The reason for this is because weaker players still treat a check raise as very strong but will often call a flop lead because they just don’t like to fold. You should lead for value though, limit the times you are doing it as a bluff.

You should also up your 3 betting size against weaker players when you are out of position. From my experience weaker players play their hands and don’t think too much about raise sizing so you should take advantage of this fact and build a pot pre-flop when 3 betting for value.

Add onto your stack when the game gets bigger

One of the most common mistakes I see in the live cash games I play in are players that will say bring $500 to a game and start with $50 and continue to buyin for $50 even 4 hours into the session when everyone except them has $2000 in front of them.

The correct strategy is to add onto your stack so that you are at least above the average stack size. The main reason you want to have enough chips in front of you is so that you can win a very large pot if the right circumstances present themselves.

Lets say you have $200 in front of you and everyone else at the table has $2,000 and you are dealt aces versus kings. The most you will win in that hand is $200 (assuming you end up heads up).

Now lets say you are sitting with $2,000 in the same spot. Well now there is a very good chance you will double up to a $4,000 stack. You want to give yourself this opportunity by making sure you always have enough in front of you.

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • If the game is playing much larger than usual then you don’t want to add on more than you feel comfortable doing.
  • You need to feel confident with playing with a big stack. One of the only ways to do this is by adding onto your stack and learning how to play small ball and how to control the size of the pot. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the size of the game then don’t add on and play a tighter style to compensate.

Stick to one game type until you feel you have mastered it (AKA one-trick pony)

There are numerous variations of poker with their own rules, strategies and popularity. My advice is to stick with one game type until you’ve mastered it to the level where you are extremely confident with your abilities and have played at least two years as a professional. At this point you are in a position where you can start considering working on beating a new variant of poker like Razz, Omaha or Stud. Since each variant of poker takes a huge amount of effort to master there really is no reason to try and spread yourself too thin and try to work on two or more games at once.

Be a one-trick pony.

It is your responsibility to protect your cards

In the end of the day if the dealer folds your hand by mistake, it is your fault. It is the players responsibility to protect his hand so don’t explode on the dealer if he makes an error and folds your hand while you are still in the hand. Invest $1 in a card protector or keep your cards as close to you as you can (the further the cards are away from the dealer and other players the less likely it is for mistakes to happen).

You don’t want a situation where you flop top set and then have your hand folded. One mistake like this can cost you hundreds of dollars so protect your cards.

Don’t tap on the fishbowl

Avoid educating bad players during sessions on how they should have player certain hands. One of the most frustrating things in poker is when a bad player makes a horrendous call and catches that 4 outer on the river to clean you out for 200 big blinds. The natural response is to berate the player and help him understand why he played that hand so badly. But here is the thing. You want him to make that same mistake next time so that the math corrects itself and you win a big pot. By educating the player on his mistake there is less of a chance that he will make that mistake next time. Some players also hate the negativity so may just fold their hand to avoid your outburst if they win the hand.

Tapping the fishbowl is one of the worst things you can do for your bottom line as a poker player. It is also very irritating to the other players in the game who know what they are doing since you are indirectly costing them money as well.

Pocket pairs will only flop a set one out of 8 times

Most amateur poker players over play pocket pairs. Certain pocket pairs (10s+) have inherent value, meaning that they have a lot of value without needing any help from the flop. These hands you should play aggressively since the flop is often irrelevant to the hand.

Pairs smaller than 10s are much more problematic because the flop will have a direct effect on how you should play the hand. The chances of an over card hitting on the flop when you hold 9s or smaller is extremely high so you are really relying on flopping a set. The challenge is that this will only happen once out of every 7.5 times which is around 13% of the time. This means that 87% of the time you will need to navigate a flop which will contain an over card the vast majority of the time. More often than not you will be forced to check fold your pair or try a bluff with almost no equity (not a good idea usually).

You should break the habit of always calling with small pocket pairs in order to try and spike that set. You want to limit the bleeding so that you have chips when you are the dealt the monster and the steaming fish to your left decides to over play his AJ.

AK is a drawing hand, doesn’t play well multi-way, and is a great shoving hand

AK is one of those hands which gets your heart racing when you look down and see it. It is also one of the strongest poker hands and in the long-run will make you a lot of money, especially if you know how to play it.

The problem with AK is that it is a drawing hand which means that you are relying on it hitting a pair or better by the river in order to realize its inherent value. You are only expected to flop a pair around 30% of the time so you can experience long stretches where your AK is bricking the flop and you are forced to muck this premium hand.

AK is best played either hyper aggressively or for trapping a single opponent. AK plays purely versus 3 or more opponents and if you over play it pre-flop you can also find yourself in a lot of trouble. Players that are looking to lower their variance will find AK a very tough hand to play because some opponents are happy to get their stacks in with medium pocket pairs which will give them a slight edge against AK when all in pre-flop. AK should still be used as a 3 and 4 betting hand since these same opponents will also get their money in with A10, AJ and AQ on occasion.

For more info on how to play AK profitably check out the videos below.

 

 

 

AK vs QQ is the most common big flip you will come across

Getting it all in with AK versus QQ or QQ versus AK is the most common all in pre-flop flip that you will experience in both cash game and tournament poker. This spot falls very much in the gray zone of “oh well” and you shouldn’t over think these spots too often, especially in cash games. In tournaments its more complicated because of ICM and table, structure and player dynamics but in cash games, especially if you have a short or medium stack, you should get your money in and live with the results.

One thing to keep in mind is if you are holding QQ and face a 4 bet raise against another solid player then you should consider their raise carefully. If you have no reason to believe the player is stepping out of line then you should put them on a typical 4 betting range which is roughly AQ+, JJ+. Against this range you are crushed against KK and AA, flipping against AK and a big favorite against AQ (unlikely since you are holding 2 of the 4 queens) and JJ. If you run the numbers you are about break even here which means if you go with the hand for a large number of blinds you are maximizing your variance and this might not be a smart move.

It can be tough to lay down queens and its something you should do rarely but there are spots when you should just through the ladies away and maintain your stack for a more favorable situation.

Consider running boards more than once to limit variance

A common practice in many home games, and even in casinos, is to run entire boards or parts of the board, more than once. This practice became popular after millions of poker players saw it happen in the famous High Stakes Poker series on tv many years ago.

There have been times I was very against running it more than once because I usually play in very loose games where players will chase draws at almost any cost. I wanted to punish these players instead of giving them 6 cards to hit their flushes but today I’m more likely to run it more than once since I want to lower my variance.

The idea is that if you are in a big pot and say your opponent has 20% to win the hand. If you run it once then he may improve and win the entire pot. If you run it 3 times then your opponent has a 20% chance of winning a third of the pot 3 separate times. The chances of him winning all three runs is the equivalent of you asking a friend to pick a random number between 1 and 5 and you correctly guessing that number three times in a row.

One big advantage of running it once is that if your opponent knows that you run it only once he has to risk everything to chase that draw and you end up having a better table image because of it. Once you have a bankroll that can handle the swings of your game then I recommend shifting to running it once. Keep in mind that if you are the only one in the game who runs it once you may end up becoming an outcast. If you think this is likely then just do whatever your opponent would like. In the end of the day running it more than once won’t have  a major impact on the results as long as you are adequately  bankrolled for the game you are playing in.

4bet weak players for value

Weak poker players generally don’t like to fold. I’ve learnt the hard way more than once that bluffing sticky players is a bad strategy. These players don’t know how to adjust so when you have it you can just bet and you will make money. It is that simple at times.

When a weak player 3 bets (something most weak players do rarely), and you happen to have a strong hand (JJ+) you should 4bet for value the vast majority of the time. The main reason for this is that they will struggle to get rid of their AJ and you can build a big pot pre-flop with huge equity which is one of the most profitable things you can do in poker. By building a large pot you increase your chances of getting in the remainder of your stack by the river which will mean you’re maximizing the situation. Avoid trying to be too clever, especially post flop. You want to bet and put pressure on your opponent so you can make similar moves versus thinking players in the game.

If you rarely 4 bet then you essentially eliminate this move from your arsenal except when betting for value. In a game made up mostly of fish this is fine but generally you want to balance your 4 betting range a bit so that you can get away with the 4 bet bluff every now and then.

Don’t always 4 bet with AA and KK, especially versus a strong player

AA is by far my favorite hand because against one opponent there are so many ways you can play it. Since it is the strongest hand you rarely need to worry about losing when in a 3 bet single-way pot.

There is also a really cool statistical situation which comes up with AA which is unique to the hand. The situation I’m talking about is when there is a low or medium pair on the flop like in an example of Q 3 3 rainbow. If you are holding AA in that spot you are almost always dodging 2 outers or less. Say your opponent in this spot has KQ, 1010, JJ or AK. In all of these situations the player needs to either hit a 2 outer or running three of a kind to scoop the pot. This means that you statistically a huge favorite to win the pot and you can afford to give a free card in the hope that your opponent bluffs the pot or improves to a single pair.

For more on why you shouldn’t always 4 bet with AA and KK check out this detailed article on how to maximize your winnings with AA and KK in a 3 bet pot.

Try your best to put your opponents on ranges

As you improve as a poker player you will get better at putting your opponents on a specific range of hands. This can be a challenge against weaker opponents who are playing 60%+ of their hands but it is still a good practice to try and put your opponents on a specific range of hands.

A good tip for doing this is to calculate the different actions your opponents are making post flop to start eliminating hands from their range. Since you “know” what they don’t hold you can start calculating what they do actually hold.

Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say you hold pocket 9s and face a raise by a decent, tight player on the button. You decide to just call since your hand has a lot of value and your opponent typically raises with a strong range. The flop comes 2 5 Q and you check.

Your opponent puts out a c-bet which you expect him to do with 100% of his range. At this point we put our opponent on all pocket pairs, KQ, KJ, QJ, 10J suited, A10+ and perhaps some suited As and suited connectors. Since this flop only hits a small portion of that range (KQ, AQ, QJ, 22, 55) we can’t just fold. We call looking to get to showdown.

The turn is another 5 and we check and our opponent checks. At this point we are feeling much better about the situation and can comfortably eliminate AA, KK, KQ, QJ and AQ from our opponents range. It is also unlikely he has 22, 55 or QQ but might try to trap us on the river with his made hand. It is now much more likely that our opponent has a hand like 77,88, 1010, JJ, AJ, A10, 109 or a weak A hand. The river pairs the Q and its on us.

In this spot I like to make a smallish raise to try and get some value from a frustrated AK, AJ, 77, or 88s. Yes, sometimes your opponent will call with his JJ or 1010 but other times he will fold these hands expecting you to have a Q here a lot of the time (even though this is a small part of your range in this spot).

Did you notice that throughout the hand we were able to eliminate certain hands from our opponents range. If instead of checking on the turn our opponent bet again into us then we can now eliminate his hand even further by putting him on a value range (unless he is the kind of player that likes to double barrel).

Against players which play almost any two cards it gets tougher to put them on a range. If such a player is also a calling station then it becomes almost impossible because they will call with any pair, straight, flush or gut shot draw. Against players like this you should focus on their betting patterns and bet big to punish them for chasing their draws.

Typically against such players you should also bet top pair, weak two pairs and big draws very aggressively since they will be drawing with very little equity and you can compound their pre-flop looseness to maximize your profits.

Suited connectors are better in multi-way pots

Suited connectors are some of the funnest hands to play in poker but many players over play them and cost themselves a small fortune. Suited connectors are great hands in a multi-way, small pot because of their drawing power. In raised pots they become very weak since you won’t be flopping strong enough often enough to justify the pre-flop call.

Another important fact to know about suited connectors is the higher they are the stronger they become. This might seem obvious but most players from my experience put just as much weight into playing 3 4 of hearts as they do with 9 10 of spades.

Another issue with suited connectors is the likelihood of them giving you a strong hand which is deceivingly weak, especially in multi-way pots. The chances of you getting flush over flush and losing with a hand like 3 4 of hearts is much more likely than with a hand like J 10 of hearts. Since most players struggle to fold flushes and lower-end straights, these hands can end up costing weak players a lot of money.

If you struggle to win with suited connectors then do the following:

  • Cut out the bottom range of suited connectors (2 3, 3 4, 5 6). Just fold these every time or only play them when in a limped pot on the button or cutoff.
  • When you find yourself in a multi-way pot with a bad draw and a lot of action, simply fold and wait for a better spot.

To learn more about how to play suited connectors optimally, check out the great video below.

 

Have a more balanced 3 betting range in position

If you are an aggressive player that likes to 3 bet then consider increasing your 3 betting range while in position. Many aggressive players don’t consider position enough before making a light 3 bet. Experiment with folding more frequently out of position and 3 betting more in position with hands which play well post flop like quality suited connectors and ace rag hands. I’m confident you will see an immediate improvement to your results by making this adjustment.

One of the big advantages of 3 betting lighter while in position is it helps you balance your 3 betting range (if you only 3 bet with your premium hands then you are making it easy for your opponents to play against you in 3 bet pots). By trying to balance your 3 betting range in position you are more likely to win hands without showdown which will make it tougher for your opponents to learn that you are 3 betting them light while in position.

The one disadvantage of this strategy is that some players may pick up that you are not 3 betting light out of position but realistically it is rare for a player to be 3 betting light out of position so this is not a major disadvantage. You may want to pick one player at the table who folds to 3 bets very frequently and 3 bet them lighter while out of position to help balance your 3 betting while out of position range.

Consider how sticky your opponent is and bet accordingly

One of the best ways to start making more money from your made hands is to consider the elasticity of your opponents calling. This is a fancy way of saying that you should consider the likelihood that your opponent will call a large raise versus the raise you were going to make.

Some opponents play their hands straight up and don’t take into account pot odds, betting sizes and other important economic factors when playing poker. I’ve seen players that will happily commit 300 big blinds or more with an open ended straight draw, medium flush draw or bottom two pair no matter the action in the hand or the opponents that are with them in the hand.

Once you have identified that your opponent is just as likely to call a huge bet compared to the more standard 60-80% of pot then you should over bet. There are also spots where your opponent has nothing or a big hand. If you think you have him and he is a weak player then why not go for the maximum? The one time out of the 5 that your opponent will call it off versus the 3 out of the 5 times they will call the $30 value bet will result in you making more money, do wonders for your image (you can use this same move as a bluff if it makes sense as a move), and allow you to mix up your play which is both enjoyable and a stronger strategy.

Join an online training site

The single most impactful thing I did to go from a losing to a winning poker player was joining an online training site. The site I joined has since closed down but there are numerous sites out there which have great content and more importantly, show you how winning players think. It is having the right mindset which is key to going from a losing to winning player and joining a training site is one of the best ways to start changing your mindset.

I’m not affiliated with any training sites so I honestly don’t have one to recommend. If you are using a training site then write in the comments section to let me and my readers know.

Use Pokerstove to calculate your odds versus certain ranges

Pokerstove is one of my favorite poker tools and it is entirely free. Pokerstove is an equity calculator similar to the calculators I mentioned above but instead of plugging in your hand versus your opponents hands, with Pokerstove you compare the equity of ranges.

Since it’s very difficult to put your opponent on a single hand you are almost always comparing your hand to a range of hands. With Pokerstove you can calculate how your hand shapes up against a specific range of hands.

In the example in the screenshot below we see that KQ suited has around 34% equity versus a range which consists of AKs, KJs, J10s, AKo, KJo and J10o on a board of Ac 7h jc 5s.

This is extremely helpful to help you understand if you are over or underplaying a certain hand in certain spots. It will also help you better understand the strength of certain hands and this will help you play them more correctly versus certain opponents.

You can download Pokerstove here.

Pokerstove odds calculator

Learn how to play the different hand groupings

There are 169 different combinations of poker hands (when looking at suited and unsuited) but thankfully we don’t need to remember different stats on all 169 combos. What we do need to do is understand the dynamics of the different hand groupings. There is a ton of good content online which can help you learn how the different hand groupings play but my favorite are a serious of videos by James “SplitSuit” Sweeney. James produces some of the best strategy videos I’ve found on YouTube and I highly recommend that you add him to your list of top poker teachers.

To make it easy for you guys I’ve embedded Jame’s hand grouping videos below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understand that most hands will cost you money in the long-run

Back in 2014 I wrote a blog post which covered what I had learnt playing over 500k hands of online poker on Pokerstars. One of the most interesting findings was that even though I was a profitable player I was only profitable with 23% of my hands. That means that 77% of the hands I was dealt resulted in me losing money.

Some players noted that this calculation isn’t exactly correct because I may have lost more money with some of these hand combos if I just folded them every time. I agree with that but the principle is still the same. A winning players profits come from a minority of hands and once you accept this reality it will do wonders for your game.

Below is the image from the 500k hands post showing which combos were profitable and unprofitable.

breakdown of poker hands by strength

Bankroll Management

Set an amount you want to invest in the session and only take enough to cover it

One of the best tips for staying disciplined with your bankroll management is to determine before you leave your house to play in a poker game your maximum investment for that session. Say you are going to a soft 5/10 game and you are comfortable investing a maximum of $3,000 in that game then make sure you have no more than $3,200 in your wallet before heading out to that game (the $200 is for emergencies like if your lift bails on you and you need to get a cab home).

By only taking the maximum amount you want to invest in the game with you, you are less likely to over invest in a game when you are tilting.

It can be tough to stick to this plan if the game allows for borrowing from the house or other players in the game. In the end of the day you have to be disciplined with yourself. Remember, there is always another hand.

Invest a set amount each month from your paycheck into your bankroll

If you are like me and see poker as a business then I recommend that you set a side a percentage of your paycheck each month that you invest in your bankroll. You should do this until you have grown your bankroll to a size that allows you to pull out a percentage each month to use for your living expenses, or to improve your lifestyle.

There will be times when you are going through a break even streak. By still putting some money into your bankroll each month, you will still be growing your bankroll even without being able to add to it from your profits.

Once your bankroll is large enough that you can start taking shots at higher stakes then the investment in growing your roll over the months and years will start to pay high dividends.

See the $200 to $1,000 that you can put a side each month as an investment in your financial freedom.

Remember, if you are a losing player than it doesn’t matter how much you put a side each month, you will end up losing it all. Bankroll management is only part of the complex puzzle that is beating the game of poker.

Games with higher variance will result in bigger swings in your bankroll

If you are struggling to grow your bankroll you may be playing in games which have very high variance. High variance games can result in huge swings in your bankroll which can be very discouraging.

If the game is within your comfort level then consider your style in the game and implement a more patient strategy to help reduce the swings.

If the game plays larger than you’re use to then consider dropping the game and focusing on games which have a lower total average investment amount. If the large games are very soft then I recommend playing in them but then you need to implement a lower variance style and accept that you will see big swings in your bankroll. Not everyone has the mental fortitude to handle huge swings in their bankroll so you need to know where you sit on that spectrum and adjust your poker strategy and goals accordingly.

Don’t be too conservative but also know when to move back down

There are numerous traps which could be preventing you from growing your poker bankroll. One of those traps is taking a very conservative approach to moving up in stakes. Players which are risk averse prefer to stick to the games they know and limit shot taking.

My advice is to take a smart, calculated approach to moving up in stakes so that you are still giving yourself the chance to move up and thus allowing yourself the chance of increasing your hourly win rate, but at the same time not risking your bankroll reaching zero. I advise that once you have 30 to 40 buyins at a certain level that you invest a maximum of ten buyins to moving up in stakes. So say you usually play 2/5 games at the casino and your bankroll is $20k (40 buyins at $2/5) then you can comfortably invest $10k to take a shot at 5/10. This represents 10 buyins at 5/10 and 50% of your bankroll but since you’re a winning player at 2/5 then having a bankroll of 20 buyins is fine. If after 5 sessions of 5/10 you have lost the 10k then you move back down to 2/5. It sucks having to drop back down but you are playing for the long run and your goal should be to climb up in stakes so you are making more per hour than you are right now.

Assume you went on a heater at 5/10 and quickly grew your bankroll to 35k should you take a shot at 10/20? My advice would be to stick at 5/10 until you have enough hours invested to know where you really stand at those stakes. If you take a shot at 10/20 and it backfires, and then the math evens itself out at 5/10, you may have to drop down two levels in a short period of time which will be devastating. You should only consider moving up in stakes if you feel very comfortable at your limit, and you have the bankroll to support taking a shot at higher stakes.

You should look at your poker bankroll similar to how a business treats its bank account

The purpose of having money in a bank account as a business is to lower the risk that the business will need to be shut down if something unexpected happens. If you own a restaurant and have no money in the bank then a single incident like a fire in the kitchen or a lawsuit by a disgruntled former employee will be enough to force the business to declare bankruptcy.

In poker there is always the risk that you will go on a crazy downswing or your profitable game dries up. By having a healthy bankroll which has a cushion, you will be able to survive unexpected situations and increase your chances of playing poker for the long term.

For more tips on bankroll management and how to treat your poker game like a business check out my eBook on how to grow your bankroll from $0 to $1,000 with no risk of ruin.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and learnt a few tips for making more money from this game we love. If you enjoyed the post and want to get more like it then subscribe to me via email by entering your email in the form below.

Good luck at the tables.

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Justin Butlion

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Welcome to my blog. My name's Justin Butlion and I'm the owner of The Great Grind. At The Great Grind I share my thoughts on beating the game of poker. The blog covers poker strategy, game theory, poker related statistics and the psychology needed to grind out consistent profit at micro and low stakes online poker.
  • https://habitpokerblog.com/ habitpokerblog.com

    what a great post 😀
    I did not yet find the time to read everything but i definetly am looking forward.
    keep up the great work man!

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

      Thanks so much!

      • https://habitpokerblog.com/ habitpokerblog.com

        so I finally found the time to complete all of it but the videos (will start with them in the evening and am very thankful that you even sourced out valueable information from other people). This is great work!
        keep up the god work justin

  • http://www.blackrain79.com/ Nathan Williams

    Incredible job Justin. A lot of great information in this post!

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

      Thanks Nathan, much appreciated. Which tip or tips are your favorite?