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Mendes Poker Blog

Winner of the time vault challenge 2013 Making the best of 2015
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So you think you know how to play poker? Think again.

 

Learning poker is much like learning a language or music: it is an on-going process and is never really finished, there is always something new to learn.
One very interesting aspect of the game of poker is, it doesn't look too complicated at first. Once you learn the basic rules of No Limit Texas Hold'em, for example, which hands are stronger than others, when to bet, when  not to bet, what a bluff is, it seems to us that all we need now is to buy into a tournament or cash table and play our way into success. But soon will anyone learn that there are so many different aspects to the many different structures- Sit and Go, Multi Table Tournament, Cash Games all with different strategies at the various levels you may encounter.

It's a vast world of information. Information which changes over the course of a few months. So how to be the best player you can be?

Specialize: know yourself

There are a few personality traits which will help to become a successful poker player. If you know your strong and weak spots well enough to make adjustments, to train yourself and get better, that's a great advantage. Some character traits you can train, just like a muscle. You can train yourself to be more focused, to face your fears, to be more patient, to be less impulsive, to be more (or less) aggressive... One main thing you need to have is patience. Observe what's going on and know the right moment to take action.
There are many poker variants and they require maybe a different set of skills. You might want to choose the poker variant which fits you best as a person. If you seek a lot of action, but not for a long period of time and like to play many hands, maybe you'll like turbo sit and go's or zoom poker. If you like to observe more, take notes, if you do not mind sitting in front of the PC for hours and have the endurance for that, slow structure tournament poker may be your thing.
You may want to find a structure you are good at, and stick to that variant, as most professionals do.

 

Poker school online

The best way to learn poker, in my humble opinion, is to follow online workshops and watch videos by people who are proven winners. The material here at PSO is excellent: the sections with courses and tests are a must to get to know the basics. Then there is a ton of video material available, at various levels, there are the live training sessions... Forum, hand analysis, it's just a great community and if you found you're way around it already then you're like me, in the process of learning and hopefully, with a lot of effort, getting to the next level.

 

Books

There is a big value in books on poker, reading about the experience professional players share with you. Most of them might be outdated though. However, it's still good to read them and have and insight into their way of thinking. The Math does not change over time so it's already a good reason to read a couple of books- old or new. I like the books by Brunson as they are often full of anecdotes and entertaining. I think Sklansky's The theory of poker is also a very good read. One of my favourite is  “Winning poker tournaments one hand at a time” by tournament legends Apestyles, Pearljammer and Rizen.


Practice

PSO offers a friendly environment to practice and measure your skills against other members and instructors. It's a very good way to practice because people will typically be playing their best game. Mostly you will also receive real prizes, such as tournament tickets and cash. Another good way to practice is to play freerolls available at pokerstars. This is the stats from the Open Skill League last year:

 

A healthy state of mind

You need to feel relaxed, well rested, in a place without distractions to be able to focus and play your best game. If you are not having a good day, had a discussions with someone or any other event which might take you out of balance, it's best to not play poker at all. Also, being in a position where you really need money in real life – unemployed, in debt of anything, you might want to solve your financial situation through other means first (finding a job for example) before you take on playing poker, as your decision making will be affected by your situation- unless you can detach your mind from everyday problems and learn to focus on the moment and on every decision.

Gear up!

It's worth to have a HUD and a tracking software, there are two main ones available in the market: Pokertracker 4 and Hold'em manager. They are not absolutely necessary but will help, specially for cash tables where you'll be more likely to face the same opponents. Other software such as the online hand replayer and poker odds calculator available here can be of great use. Finding an Exel sheet to keep track of your progress can also be very good. In the foruns at PSO there is plenty of info about extra software. This is PT4 and the PSO HUD (I folded this hand case you're wondering):

Things to avoid

The main thing I can think of, in the process of learning, try to be humble. Acting like the king of poker will only be an obstacle for yourself and prevent you from being self critical. All other specific things you can avoid will be presented to you by the coaches and teachers once you are open to receive.

Get coached

On a later stage, you could reward yourself from your poker winnings and pay for a coaching session. It's a good investment and will be an eye opener. I had the privilege in the past to have be coached by professional player Gareth Chandler and it brought good insights into my game.

Follow the Pro's

It's good to see what professional players are doing, how they schedule their hours, how they play. Their decision making process, the reason they take their decisions is something to be very aware of and will improve our game immensely. Railing professional players on a tournament, for example, will give a very good idea on how they face the different stages. If you are a tournament player or cash player, looking for the people who are proven winners, reading their blogs and lessons is sure to improve your game. I like to follow many professional players, specially André Coimbra, Tyler Frost, Adrienne Rowsome, Felix Schneiders and André Akkari.

 

This is it for now, there are many subjects when it comes to learning how to play poker and I can't possibly talk about all of what I would like to talk, you can have a look at my older blogs if you like. I am still far away from being the poker player I would like to be. I have been a while away from poker solving some personal issues but will soon be back on track.  Please share your opinions in the comments below! Thanks for reading and good luck at the tables!

 

This is an entry to PSO's Poker Blog Championship 2014. Be sure to check out the other entries and vote for your favourite!

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