Keeping ahead of the game [Editorial]

Keeping ahead of the game [Editorial]

Friday, 29 July 2011

Even at recreational, affordable-for-the-everyman stakes, poker is a highly competitive game where staying just that one extra step ahead of the competition can mean the difference between breaking even and beating the game long-term. Though I’ve only been playing for a short few years, in the time I’ve been battling opponents at the table the calibre of player has improved dramatically even at the lowest of the low stakes.

Of course there are still fish a-plenty everywhere but now seeking them out is your goal. Pre-2006 if a table had one other good player sitting there, it was a bad table. Now it is more a case of beating worse regulars than fish-hunting. Even the worst players at any given table have some idea of how to play. They have a general idea about tight being right and know that acting last is good for some reason. They may not apply it correctly or profitably but you need only look at the amount of nits populating microstakes tables and low online cash games to see that the correct strategy is somewhat ingrained in the collective consciousness.

If you truly want to compete and be the best at small-to-mid-stakes or even higher then you will need to eat, sleep and breathe poker. You’re competing against guys like me - those that have no experience of a working world outside of poker and the free time each and every day to analyse hands, run equity calculations, refine range estimations, post on forums, discuss strategy with peers and above all put in thousands of hands each and every day.

If you want to just play and not lose too much, well… you’re still gonna need to improve your game. If you don’t have reasonably solid, or at least somewhat viscous, fundamentals in your game then you’re behind even the average donkey at a table outside of the smallest stakes. This brings us to the Bluff Europe Poker Academy which takes place on August 7 at The Mint Casino in South Kensington. We’ve been hosting these bad boys for a while now and dozens, hundreds even, of players have come away with more poker-related tidbits of information to think about and use to hone their game.

This time around, Bluff Europe columnist and poker pro extraordinaire Paul Zimbler and WSOPE runner up John Tabatabai will be giving a live seminar on “the situations that pros look to exploit” which can also be turned around to “the situations you shouldn’t be getting yourself into”: limping, isolation raising, stack sizes. Are you not learning something already? The multi-hour seminar is £199, or less than one buy-in at £1/£2 NL. You’ll certainly add that to your long-term winnings after the seminar.

Of course, there are other ways to improve your game and because I spoil you, here are my top tips. I would of course recommend a ticket to the poker academy where real pros can take you through hands as you play them and improve your game right there and then, as well as giving you plenty of general advice on how to better your poker self. But maybe you can’t make it to South Kensington that day so here’s what else you can utilise:

Video training sites.
The most popular way of poker training, begun with CardRunners way back when. Now they are as numerous as they are full of knowledge with sites specialising in tournament, Sit ‘n‘ Go or most commonly ring game play. When watching the videos, take notes constantly and utilise the pause button - before each hand decide what you would do and then see why the instructor does or doesn’t do that. Don’t watch a few videos while checking Facebook and assume you can then crush.

Private coaching.
More costly but by far the best value. A lot like what we offer at the Bluff Europe Academy, actually, but more one-on-one and over the Internet. This means hand replayer programs and team viewer software can be used to play in real time and analyse hands with your coach. My tip for a coach? A guy who was playing your stakes recently. As good as coaching from someone like Cole South or Daniel Cates would be, there’s no point you taking them on as a coach if you play NL50. If you play those stakes, better to hire someone playing and beating NL200 or so - he beat the limits you’re playing not a few months ago.

Working on the mental game.
This isn‘t one I would have listed until recently but Jared Tendler‘s new book The Mental Game of Poker has opened my eyes. With edges being so small (see the first paragraph, everyone is good, remember?) the mental game is an area you can begin to excel in and gain ground on your peers.

Tags: Matt Perry, Editorial, Bluff Poker Academy, Paul Zimbler, John Tabatabai, coaching, Jared Tendler