Tips for Staying Focused Playing Poker
You’ve probably heard this phrase before: “Knowing it is half the battle.” Anytime you find yourself in a bit of a puzzle, the first step you need to take towards solving it is recognizing the situation you’re in. And like just about everything else in life, this maxim applies perfectly to the poker table. That’s what makes this game so compelling – that, and the chance to make some big money along the way. Bodog’s tips for staying focused playing poker will put you on the front foot.
Knowing the game of poker means understanding the rules of the particular variant you’re playing. There are dozens of different games on the menu at Bodog Poker; you could be playing Texas Hold’em, Omaha or Omaha Hi/Lo, with those games divided into Fixed-Limit, Pot-Limit and No-Limit betting formats. And you get to choose among cash games, tournaments and Sit-and-Gos, each with its own list of different variants and rules to learn.
Once you know the rules, you can work on crafting a solid poker strategy that will help you maximize your results at the tables. But this still falls into the “knowing” half of the battle. The other half is execution – applying the things you’ve learned.
This is where so many would-be poker champions fall short. No matter how well you’ve studied the game, you’ve only got so much mental energy in your tank, and that energy can easily go to waste. That’s why the world’s top players follow these five very important tips for staying focused playing poker, whether you’re at a live table or playing online right here at Bodog.
1. Prepare Yourself
Smart players always make sure they’re ready for battle before taking their seat. Warming up your brain is essential; if you’re going to enter a tournament, for example, play a few hands at the micro-stakes cash tables first, or even some Play Money hands. It’s like a baseball player swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle.
Ideally, you’ll also make sure your mental energy tank is not only as full as possible, but also not leaking anywhere. The mind is ultimately part of your body, so treat yourself well physically with good sleep and dietary habits to bring up your energy levels, then eliminate all of those distractions that steal your focus while you’re playing – put away your smartphone, in other words. The internet will still be there when you’re done.
2. Follow Along with the Action
The game of poker doesn’t stop when you fold your cards. You should always be gathering information on your opponents. Even if you’re at the anonymous tables at Bodog Poker, you can still pick up on their habits by paying attention to the moves they make. Taking notes in the moment will help reinforce your observations and better prepare you to exploit their mistakes.
Keeping track of everyone’s stack sizes is important, including your own, but actively doing this doesn’t just give you vital information – it also helps you stay focused once you’ve folded by blocking out other distractions that could creep in otherwise. And if you happen to be at a home game or with friends at a live casino, paying attention like this helps you remain engaged socially, which will make the game more fun for everyone and keep the action flowing.
3. Don’t Play Too Many Tables
One of the best things about playing online at Bodog Poker is the ability to multi-table. The more hands you play per hour, the more money you can make, and the more experience you’ll gain while you’re working on your poker strategy. But there is such a thing as too much poker. If you’ve ever loaded up one table too many and seen your entire session fall apart because your attention has been stretched too thin, you know exactly what we mean.
Whether you’re playing cash games (especially Zone Poker, our fast-fold variant) or tournaments at Bodog, always start with one table, and don’t add any more until you’ve established yourself as a winning player in that game. And if you do add a second table, consider dropping down in stakes; generally speaking, the higher the stakes, the harder the game, which means you’ll need more focus to be a winning player. Keep adding tables until you find your sweet spot, and don’t be shy about dropping tables if you find yourself struggling to keep up.
4. Play Fixed-Limit Games
No-Limit Texas Hold’em is still the most popular poker game in the world, but the excitement of going all-in comes at a cost: It significantly raises the amount of risk you’re tackling at any one point, which means you need to pay even more attention in that moment. The No-Limit format also introduces layers of complexity to the game by growing your “decision tree” with all those different bet and bet-sizing choices you have to make.
Fixed-Limit games minimize both of these problems by lowering both the risk you’re taking on and the number of decisions on your plate. Consider playing Limit Hold’em instead of NLHE if you’re just starting to learn poker strategy, then keep playing LHE and other Limit games as part of your larger poker portfolio.
5. Know When to Stop
In a perfect world, we could go on playing poker forever, but even the smartest and fittest players have their limits. If you’re playing cash games, schedule them ahead of time to last 90-120 minutes, then either stop completely or take a 30-minute break before playing again. If you’re playing tournaments, use the breaks at the top of the hour to refresh, and if you find your energy levels dwindling, play a less aggressive style that doesn’t challenge you too much; fold your marginal hands, or even all your hands, until you’re mentally back on track.
None of these five tips for staying focused playing poker are overly complicated. Even if you’re brand-new to the game, you can apply them all right away and put yourself in the best position to succeed the next time you play at Bodog Poker, so get these fundamentals down pat, and we’ll see you at the tables.