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HOME > > Top 10 winning poker habits

Top 10 winning poker habits

6 November 2023

By Narciso Baldo

Applying pot odds helps determine if a call or fold is profitable.

Applying pot odds helps determine if a call or fold is profitable.

Texas Hold'em is a difficult game to master. There are so many areas to conquer that becoming a consistent winner seems impossible for some. Today, I’ve summarized the top 10 winning habits for you so you can improve your chances of winning regularly.

10. Study time
One of the key winning habits is setting study time. It’s critical to keep learning key poker concepts. Read books, watch videos, analyze your hand histories, register for poker course or discuss strategy with other players. Understanding math, probabilities, opponent tendencies and poker fundamentals takes time and hard work, so schedule study time every week. Choosing the amount of time to study can be tricky with life commitments, but if you start with just one or two hours initially, you can build it up over time. The key to regular study time is actually getting started and making it the norm.

9. Applying pot odds correctly
You have to know the pot odds you're getting on each decision, otherwise you can’t determine if a call or fold is profitable. Pot odds are the ratio of the size of the pot to your potential bet. Recreational players often ignore pot odds completely, while even intermediate players use it incorrectly from time to time. They will divide the pot size by the amount to call, but in fact, you need to add the call to the pot size to determine your pot odds.

For instance on the river, if your opponent bet $20 and the pot is now $80, you’re calling $20 for a pot of $100 ($80 plus your $20 call). Therefore, you are getting 5 to 1, so you need to be good for 20% or more for the call to be profitable. It’s always best to figure it out as a percentage and use the information in the hand to determine if your hand is better than at least that percentage or more. If it’s smaller, make the fold. In the above example, if you believe your hand is best 10% of the time, you have to fold.

8. Avoiding playing at bad times
Sometimes, not playing can be a winning habit as you’re preventing the loss. Avoid playing when tired, distracted, or emotionally compromised. Your decision making suffers when not focused. Also beware of playing for too long as mental fatigue can lead to losses. Schedule sessions when you're fresh and stick to that schedule. This comes natural to the winning player, but not to others as people just think to play in their free time.

7. Learn from experienced players
Seek advice from winning players who've been around poker for years and know how to make money from poker. Ask them questions and discuss hands you’ve played. Their experience gives invaluable perspective on strategy as you can learn things about poker you wouldn’t otherwise. Just be careful not to take advice from players who seem experienced, but in fact lose regularly. Local cardrooms are full of this type of player who profess to know winning ways but lose most months.

6. Practicing bankroll management
Prudently managing your poker bankroll is unescapable if you want to develop good poker habits. Have at least 30 buy-ins for your stakes and follow a strict stop-loss amount per session. Feel free to withdraw sometimes, but stick to a tried-and-tested cash out strategy.
Proper bankroll management minimizes risk of ruin and gives you staying power to ride out downswings. We all know variance can bite us, so you need the bankroll to be able to survive it and come out the other side at the right stakes.

5. Using the HUD properly
Most players today use a Heads-Up Display (HUD), but the majority are using it badly. They focus too much on details that are irrelevant or pay little attention to the fact that the sample size of their opponent is small. You should just focus on reviewing key stats like VPIP, PFR, AF, WTSD, etc. But don’t get lost in the data. Focus on one or two stats at a time and adjust your strategy versus player tendencies. Beware of over-reliance on HUD stats.

4. Honing your mental game
Poker, when broken down, is a mental game. You can’t rely on cold hard math alone. Work on your patience, discipline, and focus. Don't let emotions affect decisions. Be self-aware of mental leaks like tilt and fatigue.
Meditation, positive thinking exercises, and staying healthy physically can improve mental game of any poker players. I recommend using techniques like poker self-talk to improve your psychological side of poker playing.

3. Adapting to trends
Stay current on new poker theories, popular openings and three-bet sizes, and adjust. This isn’t as difficult as it seems, just bookmark popular poker blogs and watch relevant and fresh videos that display the up-to-date poker moves.
Players will often replicate what their favorite celebrity players are doing, so it’s just a case of finding a solution to what they’re doing. If players are tightening up their opening range from the button, reduce your three-bet frequency from the blinds.

2. Getting the max value
Optimizing your value betting strategy is arguably the most important habit to develop. Getting a feel for the maximum amount to get paid is a difficult skill, but can be achieved over time with intuition. Just constantly ask yourself “what is the most I can get from this hand?” and go from there. Soon enough you’ll be thin value betting all over the place and increasing your win rate.

1.Losing the ego
Don't let ego affect decisions. Being results oriented and blaming bad beats leads to chasing and frustration. Focus on making the most +EV poker plays, not short-term wins. Don't try to outplay or bluff skilled opponents every hand. Check your ego when playing and you’ll surely make more money in the long run.

Narciso Baldo
Narciso Baldo was a professional poker player for many years with over $700,000 in online MTT cashes and undocumented success in live cash games.

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