A checklist for the struggling and aspiring online poker player
Know the rules and hand rankings
Familiarize yourself with the rules of the game you play and the poker hand rankings to such an extent that they are second nature to you. This helps to prevent you from mistaking your hand value and it enables you to be aware of strategic concepts that revolve around (relative) hand strength.
Know and understand the basic poker strategy fundamentals
Know what things you should look for when you have to make a decision at the poker table and know how these things should influence your decision. To consistently win in poker you have to make as many of the most correct decisions as possible. Often this comes down to correctly assessing the value of your hand in a given situation and knowing the absolute strength or ranking of your hand is merely the beginning of it. The community cards, initiative and your and your opponent's position are important factors to take into account in ultimately determining your relative hand strength. Know your odds approximately: know the strength of your draws so that you are able to decide whether drawing would be correct when facing a bet into a certain pot size. Know what implied odds are: understand why the size of your and your opponents stack is so important to look at. An important part of a sound poker strategy is good starting hand selection and a good poker betting strategy. Make sure you understand which Texas hold'em starting hands can be profitable for you to play in certain spots and what you should be looking for when playing them.
Follow proper bankroll management guidelines
Make sure that you always have got a bankroll left to play with. Moving up in stakes when your bankroll allows it is optional, moving down in time is mandatory. Know why you need to follow proper bankroll management guidelines:
Know and try to realize what variance is
Variance is the reason why bankroll management is so important. Variance is the influence of chance on your poker results. Playing well only gets you so far in poker; executing proper bankroll management might get you further. Variance can be huge. Try to grasp this and find out what affects it.
Recognize a good play when beaten bad
Bad beats are part of the game and part of the skill in poker is to look through them. Don't question yourself when all you did was getting your money in ahead, but some cards to come made the pot go to your opponent. Realize that you played well; try to feel good about that and forget that you lost. Remember that your opponent makes mistakes you can potentially take advantage of in a next hand instead.
Recognize your opponents weaknesses
Spot it when your opponents lack the knowledge or understanding of the basic poker strategy fundamentals. For this you need to know and understand them very well yourself. Try to not get upset by bad playing opponents 'sucking out on you'. Never berate them in the chat box. Know how to take advantage of them and just win your money, more than your money back.
Recognize tilt and try to deal with it appropriately
Tilting can make a lot of effort undone before you even realize it. Tilt can destroy a bankroll build up with patience and hard work in no time as losing in poker is not hard. If you really follow and master the former four points then tilting should not be an issue. You will know that bad beats and suck-outs are going to come, in some sessions more often than in others. You will expect them, take them as they come and move on. It doesn't only happen to you, it happens to everybody playing poker. If you do feel that your play suffers because of the bad weather in poker (and be honest about this to yourself), stop playing. Think of something else and cool down, try again later.
Play as many hands as possible
Just knowing the basic poker strategy fundamentals is not enough. You will need experience to correctly implement them in your game and for that you need to play a lot of hands. Get a feel of the strength of certain hands in certain situations. Recognize certain plays of your opponents and know what they mean. Recognize certain situations and learn how to deal with them.
But don't start multi-tabling too soon
When you are just starting out in poker it is very important to build up a solid strategic foundation and understanding of the game. Learn the most from every hand you play by thinking about it as much as possible. Multi-tabling too soon prevents you from doing this and will halt your growth as a player. When you think you are ready to play multiple tables simultaneously, do it gradually by adding one table at a time and learn how to do it properly.
Keep reading, learning and breathing poker
Sometimes you might read something about poker, think you get it and ultimately forget about it. The experience you get by playing hands will often be essential to really grasp something, to make it click. Sometimes this will be a concept you read about multiple times before but just couldn't identify with from your own playing experience. Gain the right experience, read it again and suddenly it falls into place and you won't easily forget about it. Read other players' poker blogs for motivation, inspiration or consolation.
Keep it fun, keep it healthy
Play live poker with friends just for fun, play other poker variants or don't play poker for awhile at all when things don't go too well. Online poker and personal health (of the body as well as the mind) can really bite each other if you don't take care.
And you will get there!
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