Image Credit: Poker is not a game that can be mastered. To be the best, you need to hone your skills continually. And while this takes lots of time…

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To think that you have nothing to learn in poker is to lose before you even begin playing.

Poker is not a game that can be mastered. To be the best, you need to hone your skills continually. And while this takes lots of time and practice, there are some basic steps that you can take right now to improve your game. Here they are.

Pick Your Style

When it comes to poker gameplay, there are four main styles. Tight-aggressive, tight-passive, loose-aggressive and loose-passive. The tightness and looseness refer to how you play your cards before the flop. Tights play only the best whole cards that they get. Loose players play pretty much everything that comes their way. On the other hand, aggressiveness and passiveness refer to how you play your chips. Aggressive players bet and raise a lot while passive ones prefer to call or fold.

Overall, the best style is tight-aggressive. This way you only play decent hands, but when you do, you make sure that you get the most out of them.

Be Vigilant and Flexible

Apart from choosing your style of play, you also need to watch how your opponents do it. Observe the gameplay and take mental notes of their playing style. Then be flexible.

For example, if you’re playing heads-up against a tight-aggressive player, you pretty much know that he is holding a decent hand. If, however, you’re playing against a passive player, you should expect that too much raising will scare him away.

Another tip is to watch professional poker players and take notes of their playing styles. By doing so, you will learn to adapt to your opponents.

Learn Some Basic Math

You don’t need Einstein’s brain to be good at poker, but it won’t hurt either.

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You might not like math, but if you want to excel at poker, you need to learn some basic probabilities. At least remember which hands make for a good play and which ones are better folded. Knowing when to play and when to fall back is key in any winning poker strategy.

Thankfully, there are plenty of materials on the internet that’ll give you the basics of which hands are winners versus losers. Online Casino Bluebook is a great resource for poker tutorials, as well. Keep in mind, though, that these are only estimates and you can never be 100 percent sure how your hand will turn out.

For example, getting a pocket of aces might get you excited, but they will be pretty much useless against a two and a five if there are two twos and a five on the table.

Don’t Act Crazy

If you’re a loose cannon, perhaps poker is not the game for you. Poker and emotions don’t mix well. Not being able to control your reactions will distract you from your game, and depending on your opponents, it might even get you in trouble.

If you get overly excited, learn some relaxation techniques to ease your mind. Taking deep breaths as well as holding on to a stable object are things that psychologists suggest help in times of stress.

Keep Your Head Clear

No matter what you see in the movies, alcohol won’t help with your game. Liquor impairs your judgment and can lead to a gaping hole in your pocket.

Enjoying a beer or two is one thing, but gulping free cocktails at the casino will only help other players take advantage of you. Casinos offer free alcohol because loaded customers have loose wallets, not out of generosity.

And when talking about playing intoxicated, this also applies to extreme emotions. If something serious is bothering your mind, then this is not the best time to play. Clear your body of alcohol and your mind of disturbing thoughts before you hit the felt.

Don’t Try to Pull a Fast One

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Dogs might get away with passing cards under the table, but you won’t.

Cheating is for losers. When playing poker, don’t try to cheat, be it in a live game or an online one.

Cheaters spoil the game for everybody. Besides, when you get caught, you’ll get banned from the site, or if you’re playing at a casino, possibly get banned from all such establishments throughout the country.

And you will get caught because casinos have dedicated security teams and a bunch of cameras shooting from all directions. On the other hand, online casinos use artificial intelligence to detect cheaters. Don’t do yourself a disservice by sacrificing your long-term enjoyment for some short-term action.

Don’t Be the Prey

When you play live poker at a casino, come prepared by learning the basics of how to play with real people.

When you play online, the ante and the blinds are placed for you. But if you go to a live game and start fumbling for the chips when it comes the time to pay your share of the pot, you’ll show other players that you are a noob, a. k a. prey.

When playing poker, you don’t want to be the prey — you want to be the shark.

Be Your Best Accountant

Whether you play poker for fun or to make money, make sure that you can afford it. The general consensus is that newbies should have at least 20 times the buy-in to ensure that they can recoup any possible loses.

Another essential part of bankroll management is to never buy-in with all the money that you have set aside for poker.

Also, make sure that the money that you play with is for such exact purpose. And when it comes the time to play, set financial or time limits for yourself and be unapologetic about them.

Don’t Be Macho

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Knowing when to say no and keeping your word is an attractive quality to have.

Indeed, there is no shame in quitting. What’s embarrassing is having to beg your friends and family to lend you some money because you lost all your savings at a casino.

Just like with your bankroll management, make sure to set clear boundaries for when you’re going to quit. And no “buts.” Ever.

It’s enough to slip up once for you to go down the spiral of gambling addiction. No matter what happens, whether you win or lose big, set a limit for how long you’re going to play and stick to it like a gum sticks to hair.

When it comes to winning at poker, it all comes down to being sensible. Make wise choices with both your play and your money. Try not to give in to emotions. Pay attention and be the best player on the table. It’s as simple as that.