The good kind of poker action comes from thinking about the specific situation of the hand you’re in, and applying an appropriate strategy to maximise your gain or minimize your loss in that hand. When you look at players and how they behave at the table, you’ll observe some of their advantage is derived from their general nature or persona which has little to do with card values and betting ranges.
Below you’ll find some table behaviours, they’re no substitute for thoughtful play, of course, but by making these behaviours habitual and therefore automatic, you’ll be better able to focus your attention on other aspects of your life as well:
- Positioning yourself well: Several players lean and scrunch at the table in a haphazard manner. This in turn can become especially harmful if a session extends for long hours. Instead, you could learn and then habitually practice a relaxed, comfortable, and replicable method of sitting and moving at the table.
- The Good Old Inhale and Exhale: Ask any fitness instructor and they’ll tell you the importance of proper breathing – for good health and good poker. Once you sit down for a game, after you comfortably seat yourself, take a few long and deep breaths. You’ll find it calming, restorative, and helpful to establish the alert, focused attitude in maintaining emotional control and good decision making. This in turn will prove useful for maintaining your stamina and focus, especially over a long and stressful session.
- Taking Regular Breaks: Adopt the habit of getting up from your seat at least every hour or so. You don’t need to be sore, restless, hungry, or tired. Just do it! Stretch your legs and give yourself a break, even a brief one – it’ll help with blood circulation which in turn helps with your thinking. A break will also provide you with a space in which to consider how you’re playing, how profitable your table is, and whether you’re in a proper mental and emotional state to continue your session.
- Gather, View, Memorize, and Position Your Cards Uniformly: There are many small actions you take in every single hand you play. Doing them the same way each time is another way in which you can remove distractions, and learn to focus on the important parts of your game. At the start of each hand, gather your cards together, lift up and spread the corner for viewing, while shielding them from anyone else’s view; look at them; memorize them; place them flat on the table; center them; and cover them with a card protector. This will help you maintain your relaxed bearing at the table, project a confident image to your opponents, and prevent any possible tells or reactions that might otherwise indicate the true strength or weakness of your hand. By making a habit of memorizing your cards, you’ll also be avoiding the unnecessary, distracting, and possibly revealing action of re-checking your cards as the hand progresses.
- Betting Decisively: Create a standard behaviour for every betting action, including folding. Pause a couple seconds before acting to give yourself time to think, even if you don’t need the time because you have an obvious fold. Before any bet, decide on the amount. Announce the action and the bet; stack the chips in front of you that you will wager and then make one decisive forward movement of your chips. By routinizing your betting behavior, you’ll avoid any of the possible tells of indecision or waffling that many weak players exhibit. You’ll also create and project an air of confidence that will help your play.
- Smile: A resting expression generally gives off a negative vibe. They frown or otherwise look unapproachable or stern. You may think that this is the ideal game face for poker, but that isn’t always right. Serious and intimidating expressions can deaden whatever vitality a game might otherwise have, making opposing players cautious, stressed and less willing to play. You don’t want that, do you? For the most part, the happier, friendlier and more relaxed players are, the more likely they are to willingly part with their chips, making for a better game.