1. Don’t be afraid to fold more. Contrary to popular belief, playing more doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win more. In fact, it usually means more losses. If you’re staying in for 50 percent or more of your hands, you need to upgrade your starting hand requirements and only play those that have a good chance at the pot. Remember, patience is a virtue.
2. Pay attention to the cards on the table. This is especially important in community games, such as Texas Hold’Em, to figure out the best possible hand to fit the flop and to identify flush or straight opportunities. In 7-card stud, also pay attention to what other people have folded when you consider calling.
3. Pay attention to other players at the table. This one is obvious, but one of the best things you can start doing now is observing your opponents, even if you’re not in a hand. Take note if a player raises in a certain position, if they have a tell, or if they always third folds to each re-raise. This information will help you play against them in the next round, so you can bluff and steal the pot.
4. Pick the right game for your skill level (and your wallet). This one is also self-explanatory, but you shouldn’t be tempted to jump into a high-stakes game if this is the first time you’ve joined the rodeo. Keep in mind with every rise in stakes, so does the average skill level of the players at the table—don’t be the lonely fish that swims with the sharks.
5. Check your emotions at the door. Poker is a very calculated game, and as the saying goes, you need to don the perfect Poker face if you expect to bluff and win hands. When you let emotions enter your game, you’ll notice your stacks start to tilt—and not in a good way.
6. Mix it up every once in a while. The game of Poker is also unpredictable, and you never want to play the same hands, stakes and raises over and over again. In fact, predictability ensures defeat, as your opponents are likely keeping a close watch on your game (review Tip #3 above). Keep them guessing and reap the rewards.
7. Study odds and percentages. Do you know the likelihood your pocket pair will flop a set? You should. (FYI, it’s 11.8 percent.)
8. Don’t overdo it. Unless you’re a professional, playing Poker should always be fun. When you start to feel like it’s becoming a chore or something that’s taken over your life, switch up your game or take a break altogether. You’ll come back a stronger player.
9. Know when to quit. Along the same vein, sometimes the cards just aren’t showing for you, and it might be time to call it a night and come back another day.
10. Learn from your mistakes. Read online forums, Poker FAQs and keep playing, even when you’ve hit a down spell. You’ll refine your game much quickly with more consistent experience—especially when the stakes are high.