We spoke to poker superstar Danny 'Kid Poker' Negreanu to get his guide to winning play at the poker table
Not everyone can be a great poker player – instincts and card sense are either something you have or you don’t. But anyone can learn to be a winning poker player. It’s like when you go to school and study. There are plenty of bad poker players in the world who aren’t prepared to study and really aren’t trying to improve their game, so you should take full advantage.
1. How to cope with tilt
Experience is the number-one factor in staving off tilt. Number two is emotional stability – it just gets easier with time. Getting a ‘bad beat’ is never a good moment. You should try to focus on whether or not you made the right decision. If I go all-in with Kings against 10s and a 10 hits, I’m not going to get upset about that – as long as it wasn’t my fault, I’m okay with it.
2. To show or not to show
There’s a theory that you shouldn’t show your hand when you play. Against top players, maybe that’s true – you don’t want to give them any more information. But if I’m playing against an average player, against a player that I can manipulate, then I like to plant seeds. I may show them a hand, so that later in the same situation they might think, ‘Is he bluffing again?’ In fact, they should probably not look at the cards when I show them. I’m only planning to screw with their heads later.
3. Be more self-aware
I use television replays, in much the same way that an NFLcoach will watch his opponents as well as his own team. I look for my own tells, and think to myself, ‘If I’m seeing this, others might be seeing it too’. [Online you can also get an edge by following your hand history.] If you’re not in a situation where you can see yourself on screen, just try to stay focused. After seven or eight hours, you might get sloppy without even realising it. Think about how you’re playing your hand, the speed with which you’re betting and tell yourself, ‘Whoah, everybody’s watching all the time.’
4. Get out of your comfort zone
You’ll find that a leopard never changes his spots. By that I mean if you’re a conservative person by nature, you’re probably going to play poker similarly. That doesn’t mean you can’t have success though. Try a technique called ‘nutbar’. It’s where you raise every single hand before the flop and keep raising and re-raising after the cards have come down. It’s not easy, but it will teach you how to control the table. Of course, do it in a much smaller limit game – your confidence will be at an all-time high.
5. Play more heads-up
It’s about a lot more than the cards. You shouldn’t just be sitting there waiting for Aces and Kings to come along. You have to get in there, making well thought out decisions on a regular basis. It’s about figuring out your specific opponent. It’s unique in that each time you play, the circumstances are completely different. So you constantly have to keep switching gears – the player who does that the best is the one who’s going to win in the long run.
6. Open your mouth
I usually make my decisions pretty quickly, but I want to wait people out. I want to ask them a question: ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘What do you have?’ I like to use the physical element that you lose in online play.
7. Use music to your advantage
I like to listen to massage music in the early levels of a tournament. The oceans, birds chirping – I’m dead serious! Later, when it’s time to start moving, I’ll throw in some hardcore hip-hop.