The Strong vs. the Weak

If you just play No-Limit Texas Hold’em for fun, congratulations: you’re a lucky person. You can be happy with your game, however it is now, and sleep easy at night.

But if you’re like the rest of us, who live to improve our games, it’s a never-ending mission: Get better at No-Limit Texas Holdem.

It requires a lot of things, but one of them is the ability to honestly analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and then see what you can do to play to your strengths and minimize the damage from your weaknesses until you can improve them. Here of some of the most important areas of strength and weakness:

GETTING THE GOODS

If you want to play good Texas Holdem poker, you have to be great at gathering information. You need to figure out which players are weak and which are skilled, and do so quickly. If you can’t tell what kind of player someone is after a few hours at the table, your information-gathering skills may need help. Try to start by observing one specific opponent, particularly when they’re playing a hand you aren’t. You don’t have to pinpoint all of their exact tells, but try to catch little patterns of behaviour you’ll be able to recognize later.

CONTROLLING YOURSELF

Think about how easily you get emotional at the poker table, and how it affects your game. If you’re a decent Texas Holdem player, but you’re always going home a loser, it might be fatigue or frustration or an inability to control your play after a bad beat that’s holding you back. Play shorter sessions, maybe, or learn relaxation techniques. You could be the most skilled player in the world, but if a bad beat puts you on tilt and gets you making bad plays, you might as well be a rank amateur.

CONTROLLING YOUR OPPONENTS

Great No-Limit Texas Hold em players say they have an innate feel for the hands their opponents are holding. They just know what other players have, and can play them like instruments, almost knowing their moves before they do.

When you sit down at your next game, ask yourself this: How much control do I have over my opponents right now? Can I read their bluffs? Bluff them? Sense when players are weak or strong? If you find yourself getting bluffed easily, or getting caught bluffing, or misreading opponents and putting them on weaker or stronger hands than they possess, you need to work on your game control. Try to guess your opponent’s cards on every hand, especially hands you’re not involved in. Not a random guess, but your best, educated one. If you fail, go back and see if you could have analyzed events better to figure it out. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

KNOWING THE GAME

How much do you really know about the game? Do you know the Texas Holdem rules properly? Have you read books or did you learn Texas Hold’em watching television? Have you been playing home games, or going to the casino for years?

Even the best players feel they have more to learn. But there is still some fundamental knowledge you must have to be at the top. If you’re losing consistently, there just may be some aspect of the game you’ve missed along the way, or a source you’ve overlooked to give you the most well-rounded knowledge possible. The best way to assess your knowledge is to read books by recognized experts, or find forums of knowledgeable players you can discuss hands and ideas with. Be honest. Figure out how much you really know, and go from there.