10 Things You Can Start Doing TODAY to Improve Your Poker Game

In this blog post, I will list and explain 10 things you can start doing today that will improve your poker game. Even if you only apply one of the tips listed below, you will increase your win rate. There is never a better time to start improving than today.

Also, at the bottom of this post, I will tell you how you can get access to a FREE instructional poker video I released today.

1. Start reraising with a polarized range.

poled2_miniBefore the flop, the vast majority of amateur poker players reraise with one of two ranges.

Most amateurs simply reraise with their premium hands. This is an awful strategy because it turns all of their premium hands face up, allowing their opponents to call when getting the proper implied odds or fold when they are not getting the proper implied odds. If you turn your hand face up, you allow your opponents to make perfect decisions, costing you a ton of money.

Once someone becomes aware that reraising with only premium hands is a losing strategy, they usually shift to reraising with a linear range, meaning they reraise with both their premium hands and hands they perceive as strong, such as A-J and 7-7. While this can be a great strategy against players who call reraises with hands that are easily dominated, such as A-9 or K-T, it is not a good strategy against players who only call reraises with premium hands and hands that do well against a linear range, such as 2-2 or 6s-5s. You will find very few thinking players opt to call reraises before the flop with hands that do poorly against a linear range because they recognize how detrimental it is to be dominated on a regular basis.

Most of the time, the ideal reraising range will be polarized. This means the range consists of the best hands, such as A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-K, as well as hands that are not quite good enough to call a raise with, such as Ac-9d, Kd-5d, and 9s-6s. Notice that by calling instead of reraising with most of your good, but not amazing, hands, such as A-J, K-Q, and Ts-9s, you get to see if you flop well before investing a significant amount of money.

Reraising before the flop with a polarized range also allows you to play a wider range in an aggressive manner, drastically increasing the profitability of your premium hands. If your opponents are unsure if you have the nuts or nothing, they will have a terribly difficult time playing against you, forcing them to make costly mistakes.

2. Start continuation betting more in heads up pots.

Continuation-BetWhile most amateur players know to continuation bet on the flop when their hand improves, they often fail to continuation bet when they totally miss the flop. When against only one opponent, especially on flops that should be good for your range and bad for your opponent’s range, you should continuation bet almost every time.

For example, if you make a preflop raise from early position and only the big blind calls, if the flop comes A-7-3, K-Q-2, or 8-4-2, you should continuation bet every time. Flops you should consider checking behind on include 8d-7d-2s and 6c-5c-4c because, on average, those should be much better for your opponent’s range than for yours. That being said, if you raise from all positions with a decently wide range, as I suggest in my books, you can get away with continuation betting on almost all boards a high percentage of the time because any flop could conceivably connect with your hand. Notice if you only raise with a tight range from a specific position, you should continuation bet less often on certain flops because it will occasionally be clear that the flop is terrible for your range.

3. Start two barreling more.

While many players have become somewhat comfortable with continuation betting on most flops, they have yet to realize that they should often be firing again on the turn, even when they have nothing. As the continuation bet has become more main stream, observant players have started calling or raising them with a wider range. To combat your opponents calling your continuation bets with a wide range, you should continue betting the turn with a wide range, at least until they make additional adjustments.

Also, make a point to almost always bet again on the turn when the board drastically changes, such as when an obvious draw completes, or when you pick up additional equity, such as when you turn a flush draw, assuming you do not expect to get check-raised. You will be surprised at how often a turn bet will steal the pot.

free-poker-river-play4. Start getting comfortable postflop.

As you move up to higher stakes, you will find that most of the large pots occur due to betting after the flop. The problem with this, at least for most amateurs, is that they only have experience playing before the flop. This is because most local casinos have a goal of getting tournaments over quickly so the players can hop into cash games.

If you want to move up in the tournament poker world, you must get comfortable with not getting all of your money in before the flop. While this creates more situations where you are uncertain about the relative strength of your hand, you will find that, with practice, the turn and river become where you want to invest most of your money.

5. Start putting your opponents on a range of hands.

If you are not putting your opponents on a range of hands during every hand of poker you witness, you are not playing correctly. If you only pay attention when you are involved in a pot, you will fail to develop vital reads on your opponents, costing you a ton of equity whenever you enter a pot. By failing to pay attention, you also miss out on time spent learning how to put players on ranges. If you make a point to mindfully practice whenever you are at the poker table, your skills will improve. If you don’t pay attention, expect to lose in the long run.

6. Start practicing other forms of poker.

badugi-poker-variantsEspecially if you want to play poker tournaments, I strongly suggest you learn to play both short handed and heads up. The vast majority of amateur poker players are deathly afraid of playing against only a few opponents because they are forced to play hands they view as weak. In reality, they don’t understand how hand values change. This causes them to either over adjust or under adjust, leading to huge errors.

While this lack of understanding is not much of a problem if you constantly play at a full table, in tournaments you are forced to play short handed when most of the money is on the line. If you don’t know how to play short handed, you will be at a huge disadvantage.

Cash game players are not exempt from this concept. The most profitable opportunities in cash games often arise when you can start a game with only a few other players or late at night when the table is about to break. This allows you to play many more hands than normal against the weakest players at the table, allowing you to have a huge win rate. If you refuse to play short handed, you will miss out on these prime earning opportunities.

I also suggest you learn to play other games besides no-limit hold’em. Learning other games will force you to break free from any sort of default thinking you may have about standard poker strategy. That being said, don’t spend too much time on the other games because most of your time should be focused on the game you expect to be the most profitable in the long run.

This is not me, but it is close enough.

This is not me, but it is close enough.

7. Start getting in shape.

Most amateur poker players think poker is only played on the felt. Most players at the very top of the game perform the technical aspects of poker amazingly well. What separates them is their mental and physical conditioning. If one player can play well for 8 hours and another can play well for 12 hours, the player who can play well for 12 hours will almost certainly win more money in the long run. Being in excellent physical shape will allow you to play longer hours without losing mental focus or emotional control.

The most obvious way to get in better shape is to exercise regularly. If you are just starting to work out, don’t push yourself too hard. There is nothing wrong with starting slowly and gradually progressing to a more strenuous routine. If you are clueless about where to start, hire a trainer or study the subject online. I suggest you work out moderately before each of your poker sessions. This will help you get in the zone, allowing you to think more clearly.

While working out is obvious to most people, eating right is often ignored. You must become aware that what you put into your mouth will directly alter your physical condition and mindset. If you constantly eat pasta and ice cream, you should expect to have cloudy judgment and be overweight. If you eat lean meat and vegetables, you will think clearly and be in shape. Going from eating total crap to eating a healthy diet has changed my life. I strongly suggest you look into it.

8. Start sleeping right.

sleepI know that if I do not sleep for at least 7 hours per night, I will not play my best poker the next day. It is as simple as that. I make getting at least 7 hours of sleep my highest priority when I know I will play poker the next day. If my friends want to hang out late at night or there is a business issue that demands my attention, I ignore them and go to sleep. I much prefer thinking with a clear mind. If I am tired at the poker table, it means I made a severe error the previous night.

9. Start writing down and reviewing your hands.

If you do not review your play at the end of most of your sessions, you are missing out on lots of valuable educational time. I suggest you carry a notebook with you and write down every significant hand of poker you play for the rest of your life. You will be shocked how your memory will fail you if you try to remember all of your hands. I have created a free video explaining exactly how I have recorded all of my hands at the poker table for the last few years.

Once you have your hands recorded, you can then discuss them with your friends and poker coach. You can also review them at the end of the day to see if you made any clear errors. On most days, I am usually unhappy with a few hands I played. I make a point to figure out where I went wrong and adjust accordingly. Over time, you should hopefully see your errors decrease and your win rate increase.

10. Start studying poker.

If you spend most of your time dedicated to poker actually sitting at the poker table, you are not studying enough. Before I ever played a hand of poker for real money, I diligently read over 10 poker books. By studying before I played, I had a huge advantage over my competition who learned primarily through experience.  Once I started playing, I became excellent at the game by spending around half of my time studying and the other half playing.

Today, you can easily learn by watching training videos and reading books from the best players in the world. I have published a number of books as well as a training site, FloatTheTurn.com where I post poker training videos on a regular basis. Of course, I suggest you study from other world class players as well. I am a member of several training sites and I study poker training videos on a regular basis.

Check out my training videos

Check out my training videos

I have discovered that live webinars are a much better learning tool than either books or standard training videos because they allow for a high amount of interaction between the audience and the instructor. Interaction is the key. I host a monthly Q&A webinar for all FloatTheTurn.com members and I also produce a webinar about once per month where I discuss a specific subject in great detail. Going into a high amount of detail on a specific subject is an excellent way to learn, especially for advanced players who have already mastered the basic fundamentals of the game. For information on my past webinars, check out my product page. For information about my future live webinars, sign up for my email list.

Be sure to check out FloatTheTurn!

Be sure to check out FloatTheTurn!

If you have the resources, I strongly suggest you hire a poker coach. You will find that the most cost-effective way to do this is usually to hire someone who plays slightly higher stakes than you play. If you normally play $2/$5 at your local casino, hire someone who beats the $5/$10 games. If you play $1,000 tournaments, hire someone who does well in the $3,500 tournaments on a regular basis. If you find you do not work well with a particular coach, find someone else. As the customer, you should make a point to get everything you desire from a poker training experience. I have provided a coaching page at FloatTheTurn that lists a few coaches who I know do an excellent job at varying price points.

 

I hope you have enjoyed these 10 tips to help you improve your poker game.

I recently recorded a FREE video where I discuss 3 situations where I fold that most other players do not. If you study this video, I am confident you will learn something. You can access the video for FREE here: http://jonathanlittlepoker.com/situationswhereifold

If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know. Thank you for reading!

 

23 Comments

  • Peter Hesse says:

    Great read man. This opened up my eyes a bunch

  • Thomas Weight says:

    I guess I have been listening to you all along. Seven weeks ago I started playing 6-max Hyper Turbo STT. It has really helped my game. I write a note on myself that I open and review throughout my games. The note is a reminder of the “Leak of the week” that I am focusing on. Currently, my leak has to do with exercise. Before I play four games, I get on my Elliptical Tread Mill and get warmed up. I play four games and then back on the tread mill. At the end of the week I take all of the games where I made it to heads up and profile and write notes on my opponents. I am also extracting interesting hands for analysis. I try to put opponents on quantitative ranges pre-flop and qualitative ranges post-flop. I then try to consider various lines and analyze them to see where I could have improved.

    I have found 6-max to be interesting. It requires a lot of short stack play but also involves a lot of post-flop play because of the passive games. Since I used to play mostly 180 man Sit-n-gos, 6-max is a new game for me and I am really seeing a lot of benefit.

    Thank you for all of your help over the past several years.

    • I am glad you have enjoyed the content. I love the idea of working hard to improve on a specific area each week. That seems like a great way to constantly better yourself. Good luck in your games.

  • Mika Hämäläinen says:

    I really need to start looking into this 3-betting thing with a polarized range. It just seems so counter-intuitive that there must be something I’m just not seeing. It seems to me the power of 3-betting goes out the window if about half the time our 3-bets are done with hands that we’d have to fold to a 4-bet, or even to a c-bet post-flop. This of course depends on what our actual 3-betting range is, and do we always assume we are in position. I’m also unclear on why 3-betting with A3s would be better than 3-betting with A8s or ATs, in position of course. I think that very often we are dominated in both cases.
    Also, I’m wondering how often should we be two-barreling on the turn with nothing, or is this just dependent on our opponent?

    • You 3bet with marginal hands because they are too weak to call with. 3betting hands like ATs and KQo is also +EV but calling with likely more +EV. I imagine that, especially against somewhat weak competition that folds too often, you should actually 3bet most of your marginal hands and call with your premium hands, forcing your opponents to fold when you have junk and stay in the pot when you have the effective nuts. You mention that we would have to fold to a flop continuation bet but your opponent cannot continuation bet when you 3bet preflop because you are the aggressor. As for two barreling, it depends on the opponents and the board. When the board drastically changes, barreling is usually good. I strongly suggest you check out Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker as I go into all of this in-depth.

  • Sonny says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    This is a great read. For the last several years I have been writing each and every hand. Including position and if I called raises etc. I just started to review them recently when I started to get back into it. I realized a lot. Specifically that I play too many hands (tilt: usually after having a few bad beats, and time. I notice that after 4 hours I start to get tired and make some big mistakes. )

    Also that I call way too many raises. The day I fold AQ or say 76s (year I was born) under a raise is the day I become a great poker player. It is hard though but I am getting better. Anyway thanks for adding to the poker lexicon. Hopefully one day I can do the same. I do limit poker and I write screenplays. Cheers

  • Billy Montesclaros says:

    Thank you Jonathan for all of your insite. You have helped me look at Poker from a larger view point…Now it’s just implementing..

  • Jack McGiffin says:

    Hi,
    I am interested but I play live NLH poker at my local poker room. I do not have hand histories to send for review, as I have not played online poker.
    Can you suggest how I could benefit from coaching?

    • I typically ask my students to write down hands that give them problems. I detail an easy way to take notes at the table at jonathanlittlepoker.com/notes. I then go through those hands and find any leaks. We also go through my hands to ensure the student has a similar thought process to me.

  • Guillaume says:

    Im a big cash game tag. Im a big shark but my brain is full of thc. Do you have any sick tips on how to play marinal hands that shares the nutzers like j9 q10 k9 etc… Im really conscious about the types of palyers at my table and would like to know in exactly which situations should i raise them or call them to have the max imply on higher stackers which i made sure to had the position on when i came at the table

    • Hands like J9 and QT should either be raised or folded for the most part. They do not flop well against someone who raises in front of you because that player will often have big cards, which means you will be dominated a decent amount of the time. When everyone folds to you, from early and middle position, fold these hands but raising them from late position is fine. Good luck!

    • Andrew Kayan says:

      You seem to already know the answer to your questions.. You say “but” my brain is full of thc, meaning maybe your already conscious that it can be holding you back. I believe it is doing exactly that, and i’m not one of those goody kids preaching drugs are bad. I’m one whose been there, playing poker while intoxicated, but also living intoxicated through most of my past days.. I’m only 19 years old, but i am a kid who’s seen and been through a lot. Thc was my drug of choice, and listening to people say its only a plant got me in a heap of trouble. But all other “artificial” enhancers are included, even alcohol. Treating my mind like S***, lead to one day having a mental reaction and out came severe depression and anxiety.. Leading to dropping out of school, weekly therapy, and inpatient.. It lasted years, until this day I’ve got back on my feet. I am just here to say that I have a whole new perspective on life now, and hoping to pass it on to others. Treat your mind and body right, and the opportunities and happiness life brings you will be overwhelming. Your game will be so much clearer and improved with this big change.. Life will improve so greatly for you, in every aspect you can imagine. That is a promise, to all.. All those people who are looking for answers, and feel stuck in any ways, not even just poker.. This is the perfect place to start to get those answers, and keep the wheels turning. Purify your life in every way possible, you can positively effect yourself and everyone around you.

      Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

      Thank you,
      Andrew

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences. Keeping the mind in good shape is vitally important for mental games like poker. Good luck in the future!

  • Andrew Kayan says:

    Hi, My names Andrew and i’m 19 years old. About 2 years ago, my love for poker greatly increased when I won $1 in a freeroll. I haven’t looked back since then, with today’s highest total of $2200. I received my first real check about a week ago for $1000. Things just got very real, and i’m now more motivated than ever. Through this long “freeroll” journey, I was playing only out of experience, off instincts, and haven’t read one full poker book to this day. I haven’t yet discussed poker strategy with anyone but myself. I feel at a crossroads now, and reading this ignited a fire in me to work on my game in other ways. Thank you for this very insightful article, I will be adding each aspect of it into my life. I’m very excited to see where poker will take me!

  • John Woolley says:

    Hey Jonathan, question for you? I am definitely not one to think I know it all but I also have racked up a lot of experience in the last few years. My current problem is usually never at the table ( although I do make mistakes) but when I’m away from the table. I continually will build a large sum of money from scratch, let’s say 20,000 to 100,000 and with a few bad decisions will lose it all in less then 24 hours. Not to poker but to stupidity like playing blackjack when I know not to. Do you have any advice for me?

    • You have to become significantly more disciplined and understand that your poker bankroll can only be used at the poker table. I suggest you check out my book Positive Poker. It sounds like you likely have a gambling problem and may need to seek professional help. Good luck!

  • F A says:

    Hi there Jonathan. I’m about to do #10 (Start studying Poker). I just ordered 6 of your books, the secrets v1,2, and 3, the cash game books part 1 and 2, and the excelling at holdem books. I’m a recreational player who has been playing since the start of the moneymaker poker boom. I mainly play at the local casinos near my place of residence and do okay playing the $230 buyin to $550 buyin MTTs. I’d say I win about 3 to 4 times per year on average so nothing really big moneywise but I score enough times to keep me playing MTTs without too much stress on my MTT bankroll . I feel like I have an okay MTT game but I need a lot of help on cash games. I play $2-5 (200 bb) game and get either crushed or win big on my sessions. I give a lot of action and I’m hoping your books can improve my game overall.

  • Greg Martin says:

    Thank you for the tips. I am going to make a note of these points. I am reading a lot of expert blogs like your’s to learn some good skills. Hope i’ll utilize them to win some good prizes.

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