One way to become a better poker player is to identify the traits that good poker players possess and then work on developing those traits in yourself. Some of the traits that good poker players exhibit include:
If you're impatient, then you'll play hands that you should fold, just so you can stay in action. Developing patience will help you pick spots where you have an advantage. Good poker is all about taking advantage of situations where you have an advantage over the other players.
How do you develop patience? Practice being patient. Next time you're in traffic waiting for someone at a light, practice not getting upset. Act as if you're patient, and the trait will develop.
Meditation and breathing exercises can develop patience too.
It takes self discipline to quit playing poker when you're too tired to make good decisions. It takes self discipline to stay within your bankroll, or to go down in stakes if your bankroll gets small because of a losing streak. Self discipline is an integrity issue; it involves keeping promises that you make to yourself.
Stephen Covey talks about keeping your promises to yourself as if it were a muscle. The only way to strengthen a muscle is to use it, and if the muscle is weak to begin with, then you'll have to use a relatively small amount of weight. If you lack self discipline and want to develop more self discipline, then start by making and keeping small promises to yourself.
For example, you might decide to set a specific time to get up in the morning. Then follow through on that promise to yourself. Or you might commit to exercising for 20 minutes three times this week. Follow through on that promise.
The better you get at keeping your promises to yourself, the more self discipline you'll possess.
Bankroll management is a superb example of how self discipline can improve your poker game. Knowing your bankroll and controlling how much you bet is critical to winning at poker.
Understanding pot odds and implied odds is useless if you don't have the self discipline to bet and/or fold accordingly.
If you are trying to become a better tournament poker player, then you want to understand how your chip stack compares to other players' chip stacks. This will help you understand when should you make a move.
But knowing when to make a move and when not to make a move is useless if you lack the self discipline to follow through appropriately.
Controlling your emotions and not giving off any tells in poker is a great way to become a better poker player, and it's an obvious function of possessing self-discipline.
Having a stone cold poker face is critical when you are at an offline poker game. Other players pick up on your emotions and start seeing the patterns that you develop. This could end up costing you pots and money.
The trick to developing aggression as a poker player is to remember that mindless aggression isn't winning poker play; selective aggression is. To become a more aggressive poker player involves making more raises, but raising indiscriminately is a losing poker strategy.
Like any other skill, practice will improve your aggression muscle. Next time you go to the local cardroom to play, sit in a game that's significantly lower than your regular limits. Then pretend that the ability to call has been removed from the menu. Your only choices are to raise or fold.
This isn't a winning poker strategy; that's why you sat down at a lower stakes table. But it's a great strategy for improving your aggression levels. (And in some games, this kind of aggression can be a winning strategy.)
Just keep in mind that you should still be playing tight. Fold a lot, but when you do play, drive the car. Don't let your opponents drive.
Attentiveness just means the ability to focus on one thing. If you're an online poker player, and you check email and read poker blogs while you're playing poker, then you're not an attentive player. And that lack of attention is costing you money.
Almost any life skill can be improved by increased attentiveness. I offer a couple of tips to improve your attentiveness. The first is to read the excellent book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher. Your perspective on attentiveness will change after a close reading of this book.
The other tip about improving attentiveness is to learn how to meditate. Meditation is nothing more than the practice of attentiveness. And if you can learn to meditate by focusing on a mantra or a candle flame, then you can learn to pay attention to what's going on in whatever poker game you're playing in.
Good poker players develop the skill of constant curiosity. This keeps poker players in a constant learning mode, which is a requirement for good poker player. By-the-book poker doesn't win in the long-term; being able to adjust to different situations does. Being curious is the first step in becoming a constant learner.
How do you become more curious? Ask yourself more questions. When a player makes a move at the poker table, ask yourself why he did that. When you read a poker article, ask yourself if the tactics discussed therein can be applied to your personal game. If you have a winning night, ask yourself what you did right. If you have a losing night, ask yourself what you did wrong.
Good poker players are constantly in learning mode.
You need to have enough curiosity about poker to learn the math of the game.You can’t become better at poker without taking the math part of poker seriously.
Be able to estimate your chances of winning a hand at all times. Understand how many outs you have and what the pot odds and implied odds are.
These are things most casual poker players don’t consider, but if you want to become a better poker player, be curious enough to learn and study poker math.
Discernment is similar to curiosity, but it's not exactly the same quality. Discernment is the ability to notice things and distinguish them from other things. A poker player who is discerning can distinguish between a juicy game full of fish and a tough game full of tight aggressive players.
A discerning poker player can distinguish between a drunken maniac and a tight aggressive player who's putting on an act. A discerning poker player can distinguish between a bluff and a real hand.
Developing discernment is similar to developing attentiveness and curiosity. Pay attention and ask yourself questions. Notice things. Then think about them. That's how you become a discerning poker player.
Knowing and reading your opponents is a function of discernment. Take notes about the players you play against. Over time, you'll run into same players and those notes will help you decide how to adjust your game.
Discerning whether your opponents are aggressive or passive can help you decide whether or not to make a tough call some day.
A flexible poker player will switch to an Omaha 8 game if the Texas holdem game is too tough. A flexible poker player will adjust to other players' tendencies, instead of playing by-the-book, ABC poker.
Being flexible can be a function of having some of these other traits. For example, if you're not curious about becoming a better Omaha 8 player, then you probably won't be flexible enough to ever switch games.
If you can't discern whether an opponent is tight aggressive or loose passive, then you won't adjust to their playing style.
Flexibility in poker requires the right attitude, but it also requires discernment and knowledge.
This page about how to become a better poker player and how to improve your poker game was last updated on November 9, 2011.