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When to Stop Playing Poker

The main goal of PokerSchoolOnline is to help you improve your poker game, before encouraging you to put those new skills to the test online at PokerStars. Playing poker is great fun and can be profitable too if you are good (or lucky) enough. However, there are also times when you absolutely should not play poker too.

Don't play when….tired
To perform your best at the poker table you need to be alert, focused and able to spot key trends such as betting patterns or a physical tell (if playing live). It's almost impossible to do these things if you are tired. Instead of paying complete attention to every hand you might switch off after folding, misread the board or even misclick online and cost yourself unnecessary chips. Ignore the urge to play poker if you are too tired to perform anywhere close to your best. Increase your alertness by getting more sleep, eating healthily and doing some exercise. These three simple things can ensure that you don't miss a beat at the poker table and play to your full potential.

Don't play when…you've been drinking
A familiar refrain in poker is that, "I play better after a few drinks." And for some people that may be true – a beer or two might help loosen a player up and allow them to have the confidence to bluff or make a big call. In general though, drinking any alcohol and playing poker – even if it's just one or two – is a major mistake.

Alcohol impairs judgment and can lead to you missing information at the table that could prove crucial later on. It's also likely to make you more tired – see above – and that can be fatal in a long tournament where the most important, crucial decisions will be made after many hours (or days) of play.  If the game you're in is purely for fun and played at very low stakes that you can afford to lose, then go ahead and have a few drinks if you wish. However, if you are serious about bringing your best poker game to the table then you should leave the drinks behind.

Don't play when…you're over-matched
One of the great things about poker cash games is that you effectively get to choose who you play against. Before you sit down you can see who the other players at the table are and make a choice. If you're online at PokerStars you will have the option of many other cash game tables at the same stake to choose from. Think the other players at the table are all really good? Simply move to a different game.

Sometimes you won't be able to tell how good the other players are until you have played with them for a while, and sometimes you will have played with them before and have prior information. It's vital that you have the self-discipline to be able to leave a game if you don't have an edge. There's no shame or embarrassment in doing so – remember that the main aim of poker is to try and win!  Now, there are times when playing against players better than you can be a good thing. It can often force you to raise your game, try out new tactics and improve you as a poker player in the long run. But it's not something you want to do too often!

In a tournament you don't get the same degree of choice in your opponents. You are forced to play at the table where you get seated. Even within these constraints you can still use some player selection – aim to play more pots against the players you think are weak, and avoid getting involved with the players you feel are strong. Sometimes this plan won't always work to perfection – what if you get dealt a hand you just have to play? - but it's a good guide to how you can make life easier for yourself.

Don't play when…you're on tilt
Tilt can take many forms; anger, outrage, depression, fear and more. Tilt makes different people react in different ways but, essentially, it represents any time that your performance at the table is being affected negatively. If you feel that you're on tilt you should take a break and stop playing immediately.

Tilt can quickly ruin a good cash game session or result in you being knocked out of a tourney that had previously been going well. So if you feel the demon tilt emerging, run away fast and try to regain your cool before it's too late!

For more winning poker strategy tips, create your FREE PokerStars account now and join our school. If you're already a school member, why not make a deposit and try this strategy at the tables?

We also suggest you check out these other Poker Strategy topics.


Folding Monsters

Three Bet Bluffs

Playing Flush Draws

For more winning poker strategy tips, create your FREE PokerStars account now and join our school. If you're already a school member, why not make a deposit and try this strategy at the tables? 

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