Enjoy the moment of glory but always return to the drawing board
|The thing about winning is that it’s easy to take your foot off the pedal|
Success at last! I have my first significant poker win, after taking down a 60-runner live tournament featuring half of the Hendon Mob, Tony Bloom, Kenna James, Steve Davis, Poker Million V winner Rajesh Modha and, not least, the rest of the PokerPlayer team.
That it came in a boozy media freeroll where business and banter were more important than the actual poker is beside the point – a win’s a win. I got my chips in when I was ahead, read my opponents well, picked my spots and every move I made came off, all the way to the £1,000 first prize.
Now the bad news. Since then I’ve been struggling to win a hand, let alone make any money. The thing about winning is that it’s easy to take your foot off the pedal afterwards – you’ve conquered the game, what more can you possibly learn? Well, the answer, of course, is everything. The game’s top pros say you never stop learning and that’s the beauty of poker. Just because you’ve had a decent win doesn’t mean your game can’t move on to the next level, and the next, and the next.
It’s important to enjoy the success when it comes, but quickly shelve that moment and press on with the neverending journey of poker enrichment. You have to continue to immerse yourself in the game.
Whether that be accepting every home game invitation that comes along, getting stuck in online well past your bedtime, or playing those freebie mobile phone games on the train, it all helps. But wherever you are or whoever you’re playing against make sure you give the game and the other players the respect they deserve, for it’s easy to get overconfident. Pay attention to the game at all times and, hopefully, the right moves and decisions will become like second nature.
So that’s the practical side of it taken care of, but like most things in life a bit of homework is essential. And while there are literally hundreds of strategy books around, in my opinion the best resource is ‘the worldwide, publicly accessible network of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard internet protocol’ (thanks Wikipedia).
The internet is brilliant. It’s been the most vital element in the global explosion of poker, and without it you probably wouldn’t have been introduced to the game. It has made a lot of players and entrepreneurial types very, very rich. And it can do the same for you, too – you just need to know where to look.
So where do you start? There are a whole heap of sites to help you improve your game, such as quick reference ‘Outs’ tables (stick ‘poker outs table’ into your search engine of choice and away you go) or the PokerPlayer odds calulator, which is invaluable for analysing your game.
Make notes during play, then use the calculator to see if calling with that inside straight with two overcards was worth it or not. The cards can change but the numbers never lie. But perhaps the best resource out there is other poker players. If you’re curious about a specific situation at the table, or where you can get a game when on holiday in Bhutan, someone on a forum somewhere will have the answer you’re looking for.
Good ones to check out are Blonde Poker, The Hendon Mob, and Punters Lounge for UK action and Two plus Two and Pocket Fives for all the Stateside gossip. Have a look round to see which flavour is to your fancy and then make your first post. For the most part other forumites will be friendly and welcome you in and, crucially when it comes to poker strategy, you’ll often find a host of different takes on the same situation to go away and think about.
But before you’ve checked out any of that there is, of course, the PokerPlayer website and forum. It has hundreds of strategy articles, from how to play specific hands pre-flop and positional play to the preparation needed for a big tourney and how FBI experts spot tells at the table. The more you get involved the more you’ll get out of the game. It’s that simple.