Things You Need To Do To Improve Your Poker Playing

1. Start reraising with a polarized range.

Before the flop, the vast majority of amateur poker players reraise with one of two ranges.

Most amateurs simply reraise with their premium hands. This is an awful strategy because it turns all of their premium hands face up, allowing their opponents to call when getting the proper implied odds or fold when they are not getting the proper implied odds. If you turn your hand face up, you allow your opponents to make perfect decisions, costing you a ton of money.

Once someone becomes aware that reraising with only premium hands is a losing strategy, they usually shift to reraising with a linear range, meaning they reraise with both their premium hands and hands they perceive as strong, such as A-J and 7-7. While this can be a great strategy against players who call reraises with hands that are easily dominated, such as A-9 or K-T, it is not a good strategy against players who only call reraises with premium hands and hands that do well against a linear range, such as 2-2 or 6s-5s. You will find very few thinking players opt to call reraises before the flop with hands that do poorly against a linear range because they recognize how detrimental it is to be dominated on a regular basis.

Most of the time, the ideal reraising range will be polarized. This means the range consists of the best hands, such as A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-K, as well as hands that are not quite good enough to call a raise with, such as Ac-9d, Kd-5d, and 9s-6s. Notice that by calling instead of reraising with most of your good, but not amazing, hands, such as A-J, K-Q, and Ts-9s, you get to see if you flop well before investing a significant amount of money.

Reraising before the flop with a polarized range also allows you to play a wider range in an aggressive manner, drastically increasing the profitability of your premium hands. If your opponents are unsure if you have the nuts or nothing, they will have a terribly difficult time playing against you, forcing them to make costly mistakes.

2. Start continuation betting more in heads up pots.

While most amateur players know to continuation bet on the flop when their hand improves, they often fail to continuation bet when they totally miss the flop. When against only one opponent, especially on flops that should be good for your range and bad for your opponent’s range, you should continuation bet almost every time.

For example, if you make a preflop raise from early position and only the big blind calls, if the flop comes A-7-3, K-Q-2, or 8-4-2, you should continuation bet every time. Flops you should consider checking behind on include 8d-7d-2s and 6c-5c-4c because, on average, those should be much better for your opponent’s range than for yours. That being said, if you raise from all positions with a decently wide range, as I suggest in my books, you can get away with continuation betting on almost all boards a high percentage of the time because any flop could conceivably connect with your hand. Notice if you only raise with a tight range from a specific position, you should continuation bet less often on certain flops because it will occasionally be clear that the flop is terrible for your range.

3. Start two barreling more.

While many players have become somewhat comfortable with continuation betting on most flops, they have yet to realize that they should often be firing again on the turn, even when they have nothing. As the continuation bet has become more main stream, observant players have started calling or raising them with a wider range. To combat your opponents calling your continuation bets with a wide range, you should continue betting the turn with a wide range, at least until they make additional adjustments.

Also, make a point to almost always bet again on the turn when the board drastically changes, such as when an obvious draw completes, or when you pick up additional equity, such as when you turn a flush draw, assuming you do not expect to get check-raised. You will be surprised at how often a turn bet will steal the pot.

4. Start getting comfortable postflop.

As you move up to higher stakes, you will find that most of the large pots occur due to betting after the flop. The problem with this, at least for most amateurs, is that they only have experience playing before the flop. This is because most local casinos have a goal of getting tournaments over quickly so the players can hop into cash games.

If you want to move up in the tournament poker world, you must get comfortable with not getting all of your money in before the flop. While this creates more situations where you are uncertain about the relative strength of your hand, you will find that, with practice, the turn and river become where you want to invest most of your money.

5. Start putting your opponents on a range of hands.

If you are not putting your opponents on a range of hands during every hand of poker you witness, you are not playing correctly. If you only pay attention when you are involved in a pot, you will fail to develop vital reads on your opponents, costing you a ton of equity whenever you enter a pot. By failing to pay attention, you also miss out on time spent learning how to put players on ranges. If you make a point to mindfully practice whenever you are at the poker table, your skills will improve. If you don’t pay attention, expect to lose in the long run.

6. Start practicing other forms of poker.

Especially if you want to play poker tournaments, I strongly suggest you learn to play both short handed and heads up. The vast majority of amateur poker players are deathly afraid of playing against only a few opponents because they are forced to play hands they view as weak. In reality, they don’t understand how hand values change. This causes them to either over adjust or under adjust, leading to huge errors.

While this lack of understanding is not much of a problem if you constantly play at a full table, in tournaments you are forced to play short handed when most of the money is on the line. If you don’t know how to play short handed, you will be at a huge disadvantage.

Cash game players are not exempt from this concept. The most profitable opportunities in cash games often arise when you can start a game with only a few other players or late at night when the table is about to break. This allows you to play many more hands than normal against the weakest players at the table, allowing you to have a huge win rate. If you refuse to play short handed, you will miss out on these prime earning opportunities.

I also suggest you learn to play other games besides no-limit hold’em. Learning other games will force you to break free from any sort of default thinking you may have about standard poker strategy. That being said, don’t spend too much time on the other games because most of your time should be focused on the game you expect to be the most profitable in the long run.

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