If online poker ever begins to feel like a chore here are eight ways to help keep your game fresh
Six months of 2009 has come and gone already, so if you made a poker resolution back on January 1 and it’s still intact, congratulations! If, however, you’re treading the same well-worn path of last year and needing a fresh challenge, then help is at hand.
There are myriad ways to spice up your poker life if, dare I say it, you feel like the game’s getting a bit dull. However, variety not variance is your friend in poker, so we’re not suggesting you ditch your current routine forever (especially if it’s a profitable one), more that if you ever feel that poker itch again you’ve got a few more ways to scratch it.
Over the next few pages we’ve come up with some strategies, concepts and games to try out when boredom, indifference, or even a cold run, is kicking in. We don’t want to see your bankrolls suddenly bleed out though, so before you take one of the suggestions on board, make sure you seriously drop your stakes to compensate for the fact you’ll be entering a brave new world…
1. Cover your hole cards
It’s a simple enough theory – cover your hole cards with a Post-It note or similar, practise playing position, attack at the slightest sign of weakness, win the tournament and see your bankroll soar! That’s exactly what Annette ‘Annette_15’ Obrestad did, and you should try the same. Okay, she had a number of failed attempts and peeked at her cards once, but there’s no denying that winning a 180-man tournament effectively blind might just be the greatest online poker achievement ever.
Even if you can’t replicate her success (and we wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t) covering your hole cards for a one-off experiment can help your game immensely, in that it takes the old adage ‘play the player not the cards’ to its extreme. It will also help you understand the importance of position, stack sizes, opponents’ tendencies, betting patterns, board texture and much much more. Put simply, by losing one sense the others become stronger.
Play a low stakes sit-and-go or tournament at least once – if you like it and it helps your game, play a few more.
2. Learn a new poker variant
If you’re tired of playing Texas Fold’em and are after a bit of action then why not give pot-limit Omaha a try. As the LAG once said to the TAG, ‘If you were playing pot-limit Omaha and I was playing Hold’em I’d still play more hands.’ In short, PLO is an action game, and while getting twice as many cards doesn’t mean you should play twice as many hands, you’ll certainly receive more playable hands and as such see more flops. It’s a fun game to learn and is currently the game of choice among the high stakes heroes. But why stop at PLO?
Many sites now run H.O.R.S.E. tournaments and other mixed games, or you can play the individual games in tournaments, cash games or even sit-and-go format. With the edge of even the best no-limit Hold’em players slowly diminishing, there’s never been a better time to give Badugi a bash or learn Triple Draw, Stud or Five-card Draw.
Hit the micro stakes cash tables and play a session in each of the different variants to discover which game you like most.
3. No calling allowed
If you were only going to do one thing today to improve your game what would it be? That’s right, call less! Most poker players call too much, and often because it’s the laziest or easiest option. You think you’re beat and should fold, but make the call because you might be good; or you think you’re ahead, but because you’re not certain you call instead of raising. One way to really drum home just how much you call, and why it’s often the worst option of those available to you, is to ban yourself from doing it.
Next time you start up a tournament, sit-and-go, or cash game, only allow yourself to raise, fold or check. It’s harder than it sounds but it really is good for your game as it forces you to analyse the situation and make a decision as to whether your hand is good or not. Sure, it sucks that you can’t set-mine, or slow-play monster hands, but you’ll soon discover that you’re playing a much more tight-aggressive game and your opponents will have difficulty handling your play.
Register for a multi-table tournament and pretend to be Chris Ferguson in the 2000 WSOP – the year he became world champ – when he only folded or raised every hand preflop.
4. Join a training site
If you’re anything like the members of PokerPlayer then you probably spend more time playing than learning about poker. Most lunchtimes without fail we fire up some tables, but rarely do we take the time to learn from those better than us when we should. If you feel you’ve reached a plateau in your poker evolution and can’t face the prospect of reading through another strategy poker book, then joining a training site is the logical next step.
There are many reputable and established sites in cyberspace, covering all disciplines of poker, so whatever your poker leanings you’ll be able to find one that will suit your needs. The sign-up fee can be offputting, but believe us when we say it’s a small price to pay for the content you get access to. A few minor tweaks or some new weapons in your arsenal can repay that initial outlay many times over.
At DeucesCracked.com if you join the site on a monthly basis and cancel membership in the first seven days you can download tons of DRM-free content before the seven-day trial finishes and keep it forever.
5. Learn a new type of poker
Okay, this may be treading on the toes of ‘learn a new poker variant’, but like a Venn diagram there’s only a small amount of overlap. At the popular poker forum Two Plus Two, there are separate and distinct boards for posting on sit-and-gos, cash games and tournaments. The obvious reason for this is that the strategies to succeed at each format are different, although there’s obviously some crossover. The benefit to your ‘overall’ poker game is that by mastering a new form of poker you make it collectively stronger.
For instance, playing a lot of heads-up poker can make you more adept at playing hands out of position when you play six-max and full ring games. Likewise, if you’re a tournament specialist then playing cash can improve your early tournament game, as you’ll become used to playing with deep stacks on a regular basis. Finally, playing sit-and-gos can be great practice for replicating the dynamic of a tournament final table.
If you play cash games, switch to solely playing MTTs or sit-and-gos for a month, or vice versa. Who knows, you might even prefer the other format and/or find it more profitable.
6. Set a realistic goal
Approximately 73%* of poker players’ New Year’s resolutions revolve around winning the World Series of Poker Main Event. While it’s good to shoot for the moon, winning the Main Event is a tough ask. But setting yourself a realistic target as a motivational tool can be a good idea should your poker-playing lose its spark.
It’s also worth noting at this point that setting targets can also be detrimental. For example, if you set yourself an amount you’d like to win each month, or a number of hands to play in a timespan, it’s possible you may play too much or for too long to reach your goals. Therefore a tangible target is what you need to be looking at. For instance, an aim to move up a level when your bankroll reaches ‘x’ amount of buy-ins, coupled with a pledge to increase the number of games you play in a month is one such example. Setting yourself the target of winning a tournament before you’re allowed to sleep again, while admirable, is not.
* Obviously a made-up statistic
You have 30 buy-ins ($ 1,500) at $ 0.25/$ 0.50 no-limit Hold’em, and when your bankroll reaches $ 2,000 you’re allowed to move up to play $ 0.50/$ 1 NLHE with a 20 buy-in roll.
7. Treat poker like a job
Instead of getting in from work, logging online and randomly buying into a few tourneys, try and treat poker like a second job. We suggest keeping track of all your buy-ins, profits and losses for the different types of games you play and how long you’ve played for each session. From that you can work out ‘fascinating’ stats such as your hourly rate, how long you actually devote to your hobby each month, what your best and worst games are (over an appropriate sample size of course) and perhaps also if playing drunk/tired/on Monday nights really does affect your overall results. Oh, and don’t forget to pay yourself a monthly wage to ensure you reap the rewards of your hard work.
Plan out your sessions each week and dedicate your time entirely to your play in that period. Work out what you’re going to play in advance and put all your results into a database to see how much money you’re making per session/week/month.
8. Play more live poker
While this is a guide about how to keep your online poker game fresh, playing live is still a good way to do just that, despite involving no pixels and having to subject yourself to the slower form of the game.
However, playing live does have its advantages – you get to meet real people for one. Also, the overwhelming consensus is that at comparable stakes live games are much softer than their online equivalent meaning you can expect a greater ROI% even if it’s at a lower hourly rate. However, you can use that spare time in between hands to focus completely on the table you’re at. Sometimes it’s good to leave the multi-tabling and the monitor at home and leave the house. And, hey, a few card clubs, Dusk Till Dawn for example, even have internet terminals should you really have to play online.
Find out where your local cardroom is and pop down with a mate or on your own. Buy in to a small tourney and chat to one or two other players – you never know who might help your game in future.
For more great ways to improve your poker game try reading PokerPlayer magazine HERE