If you’re looking for some quick poker tips to inflate your win-rate, then you’re in luck.
We’ve gathered ten of the best poker tips and strategies from one of the game’s brightest stars, Doug Polk.
This list won’t teach you how to win at poker every time – not even the greatest players can do that – but it will help you improve your game both strategically and mentally, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player.
Time to dive in.
10 Quick Poker Tips from Doug Polk
Tip #1: “When making a decision at the table, be confident in that moment, but be open to analysis down the road for the sake of improvement.”
All poker players, regardless of their skill level, find themselves in spots where they are unsure of the best play. Uncertainty is the bedrock of poker – it’s what makes the game so fun, as well as so difficult.
The most we can do as poker players is try and reduce how often we find ourselves in these spots by studying and improving our game.
However, when we do find ourselves in these spots, it’s important not to become paralyzed by indecision, as that indecision can set us off-tempo for the rest of the session. It’s much better to revisit those uncertain moments away from the table, where we are better equipped to study and learn from them.
Tip #2: “I would recommend actually playing poker about twice as often as you study it. But make sure to study.”
While studying is essential to becoming the best poker player you can be, poker is a game that requires practice. Without practice, we can’t apply what we’ve learned off the felt, and we’ll begin to lose our innate sense of the game.
Many of the decisions you make at the poker table are automatic. However, you’ll find that the longer you go without practicing, the less automatic these decisions become. This, of course, only gets worse as the decisions become important. For this reason, it’s necessary to regularly play poker in order to stay sharp.
Tip #3: “When you’re on a hot streak in tournaments, don’t change your bankroll management or study habits. You have to study and hope to run good to keep it going.”
Every poker player has that one friend who shipped a large tournament, then proceeded to blow their winnings by playing cash games or registering tournaments at stakes way higher than their usual.
It’s important to remember that poker is a game of peaks and troughs. In order to survive the troughs, you need to act responsibly during the peaks.
That’s not to say you can’t celebrate, or be proud of your success. Just remember that going on a heater doesn’t mean that you’ve suddenly become a poker god, and it won’t last forever.
Tip #4: “Pick one form of poker and get really good at it. Don’t hop around and lose in a bunch of places.”
You’ve probably heard the adage “jack of all trades, master of none”. It’s a phrase that seems tailor-made for poker.
You shouldn’t aim to be decent at many forms of poker when you can be superb at just one. It’s an inefficient use of your time.
Why play multiple forms of poker at a mediocre win-rate when you could just play one at a high win-rate?
Tip #5: “It’s way better to stick it out and grind in a great game than it is to put your head down and try to get a small edge in a bad one.”
This tip is similar to the last one. You should always aim to put yourself in a position where your edge will be its largest. This is why it’s important to leave your ego at the door when playing poker.
It’s much better to be crushing a smaller or weaker game than it is to barely beat a larger or tougher game. This is not only because it’s more profitable, but because it’s less stressful and will have lower variance.
Moreover, if you’re only barely beating a game, it’s a sign that you’re not yet ready to be playing there.
Tip #6: “When you have a strong hand, lean towards fast playing, not trapping. By betting you build a pot and make more money.”
It’s a sad sight when a player triple checks their flopped nut flush just to awkwardly table their monster when their opponent checks back on the river. It’s a mistake which seems to be particularly appealing to newer players who are afraid of chasing other players out of the pot.
In most cases, it’s best just to bet your strong hands to build a pot and protect your equity. That’s not to say you should always bet/raise your strong hands. You can check your strong hands if it’s very unlikely you will be outdrawn, if there aren’t many scare cards that could prevent you from getting paid on later streets or if your opponent’s range is heavily weighted towards hands with no showdown value.
However, if you feel uncertain, just bet. Yes, it’s sad when they fold, but it’s not nearly as sad as getting outdrawn or missing out on potential value.
Tip #7: “Don’t be a nit.”
If you’re a complete beginner to poker, then there’s nothing wrong with being a nit. In fact, a simple poker strategy is recommended when you first start out.
But as you get better at poker, you’ll begin to see how much of a crutch being a nit can be. It means you’ll get in less pots, which means less opportunities to exercise your edge over your opponents.
Moreover, it allows skilled players to exploit you, either by bluffing you more frequently or by folding more often to your bets.
Lastly, and most importantly, it means you’ll win poker hands less often because you won’t be bluffing when you should.
Tip #8: “When betting the river, you want to clearly know if it’s a value bet or a bluff. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be betting.”
This is a mistake that many new players make, and one which immediately flags them as a novice player.
Their opponent has checked to them on the river, and they have a medium strength hand, so they bet. However, they weren’t paying attention to how dangerous the board was, and end up losing when their opponent calls and tables a hand that just beats theirs.
This is why on the river you should be betting with a polarised range. That is to say, you want to bet with a range that is split into value bets and bluffs, while checking everything in between. This is because there are no more cards to come, so there’s no need to protect your equity – either your hand is the best, or it isn’t.
Tip #9: “The earlier the street, the more often you should be bluffing because that’s when the equities run closest.”
Poker expert and game theory wizard Matthew Janda says that we should bluff the most on the flop, slightly less on the turn, and the least on the river. He provides the mathematical proof for this in his advanced holdem strategy book Applications of No-Limit Hold’em. (A fantastic book if you want to have advanced poker strategy and game theory explained to you by one of the best in the business.)
Applications shows that in order to bet with a balanced range on the river (i.e. a range composed of the correct number of value bets and bluffs), we need to bluff less on each progressive street. This is because our bluffs will have more equity on earlier streets, as well as the opportunity to bluff again on a later street, so we can bluff more often while still remaining balanced.
Betting with a balanced range is most important on the river — rather than the flop or turn — because that’s when the pot is at it’s largest.
Tip #10: “It helps to think of early stage tournaments like a cash game. Don’t worry about survival and focus on playing solid poker.”
There’s a time and a place for stack preservation, and the beginning of a tournament isn’t it. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of advanced tournament poker strategy.
In order to finish in the money, you’re going to have to at least double or triple your starting stack (usually more). This means that instead of playing defensively, you should be playing solid, aggressive poker in order to build up your stack for a deep run.
If you find yourself short-stacked and near the bubble or a pay jump, then you can start using a more survival-oriented playstyle.
Which of these quick poker tips did you find most helpful?
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