How do the likes of top poker players like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth or Patrik Antonius develop their vast array of skills? Is poker an innate ability that seems to be gifted to a select few, or is it a skill that can be developed over time using the right tools, strategies and experiences to help you make the next step on your poker journey?
Personally, while I think some people may be born with particular skills that makes them predisposed to being better than average at poker, I think the vast majority of skills you require in the game are learned over time. The question is though, what is the best way to do this? How can you develop as a player with enough skill and understanding to develop your own solid poker strategy?
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That is the key question and in this article, we are going to take a look at some potential ways you could develop these skills and of course, you’ll need a platform on which to put them to the test.
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Once you have signed up with a site, you now have somewhere to play, but why would you want to rush to the tables as a novice and risk losing money, when a little preparation beforehand could have you well set to play for cash after a short amount of time?
Here’s my simple steps approach to honing your poker skills before putting your own money at risk.
- Step 1 – Research the game & Poker Strategy
This sounds like a pretty obvious step but there are enough players who ignore the first couple of steps in this process and rush straight into playing for money online. You can often tell these players as they are the ones who come into the room with, say £20 in their account. Go all in on their first half decent hand after a couple of hands, and then retreat from the room with their tail between their legs and their account empty.
The first piece of the jigsaw regarding poker is to understand the game you are going to play. Yes, you may understand the rules of Texas Hold’em poker, but do you understand the intricacies of the game? The strategies that players will use to strengthen their position and undermine yours?
There are a huge number of sites that offer players what amounts to a poker education and they can be extremely useful to the novice player. This is not just about learning the rules of the game, but about the mechanics of play and what you need to know at the most basic level.
It is only once you have this basic level of understanding in good shape, that you can then start to build on your knowledge still further. This is where you can start to get to grips with some of the simpler elements of poker strategy, how to identify what types of players are at the table and to start to look at some of the more skilled elements of the game such as the art of plausible bluffing and how to scale your bets.
You could literally spend years learning about the different aspects of poker and while I would never advocate that, I do feel that a couple of weeks or so learning about the nuances of the game, the skills you need to succeed, the mindset required to play and how to deal with both victory and defeat, will help you make fewer mistakes when you do start to play and put you in a stronger player when you first ante up at a table.
- Step 2 – Put your knowledge and skills to the test with no money at risk
One of the best resources for any poker player, whether you prefer to play in person, or online, is the Internet. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can log in to sites and find poker tables with players sat down and ready to play.
However, you don’t necessarily need to play with money at this point. There are sites that do offer free games of poker for players and I would definitely trial the skills and knowledge you have learned on these sites first to see if your new strategy has the potential to work.
A word of warning though, on these free versions of poker, players behaviour and strategy will differ considerably from when it is real money on the line. It’s very easy to go all in with an offsuit 2 and 5 when you are just wagering 200 online coins that have no actual value to you. However, if it is £200 of your own money, then you may find you decide not to go all in with that hand.
Poker games on social media and similar are not very reflective of how genuine real cash poker games will go. Players are more loose in the social media versions, they will play far more loosely and take far more risks. As such, it is hard to pin down whether your strategy for playing for real money would work in these games alone.
Fortunately, many sites offer players the chance to play in Freeroll events. These are tournaments that are free to enter for players but for which a genuine prize is usually on offer. This can be cash or it can be tickets to play other poker games on the site. These events are a great way to test your strategies out in a more realistic poker environment.
If your strategy seems to be working, then move onto Step three, otherwise, go back and review the literature and see what mistakes you could be making, then try the free games again until you are confident you have the best chance of success.
- Step 3 – Play low risk, low stakes poker
Depending on what type of poker you like to play, the first step when playing for money should be for you to play with a small amount of cash. It doesn’t really matter whether you want to play at a poker table, in a cheap to enter poker tournament, or another version of the game such as Twister Poker, playing these low-cost versions of the game allow you to hone your techniques and, hopefully, earn a little cash along the way.
As with playing the free versions of the game, you do need to review your play and keeping a note of how you are doing in a session is always a good idea. Bet365 does save all your hands of poker, so reviewing your play on these is a great way to learn from your mistakes.
Now comes the grind, you then need to play at these tables consistently to develop your skills. It won’t take you too long to become an average poker player. Becoming a good one will take longer, becoming a fine player takes longer still and becoming one of the very best can take a lifetime.
Not every player will go on to contest the big money tournaments but so long as you can play at the level you want to play at, competently enough so that you can win a bit of cash on occasion, then that is a good benchmark for most players.