Most poker players spend their entire life sometimes winning and losing sometimes, yet never quite figuring out how to break even. Even fewer poker players figure out how to win consistently. But you have to figure out how to break even before you can start winning.
The good news is that you can start breaking even when you play poker with a few simple steps. And these steps don’t even represent a big change. But you have to be willing to change if you want to get a different result.
Here are six steps to take if you want to break even at the poker tables.
1 – Know Your Competition
The fastest way to start breaking even when you play poker is to play against worse poker players than you’re playing against now. If you logically think about poker, it’s easy to see that your results have a lot to do with how good or bad your competitors are.
Another way to look at this is to consider your results if you’re playing against a table full of poker players who are better than you. You’re going to be a losing poker player when all of your opponents are better players than you.
On the other hand, if all of your opponents are worse poker players than you, you’re going to be a winning poker player.
Following the logic of your opponents controlling your profits when you play poker, why are you playing against poker players who are better than you?
Most poker players never think about this, so they never try to find more profitable opponents. Unfortunately, other poker players make the mistake of thinking that they have no way to control who they play against.
The best way to start is to pay attention to every opponent when you play poker. Learn which opponents are good players and which ones are bad players. As you learn about more of your opponents, you can look for games with more bad players.
You can also start creating situations where there are more bad players in a game. A simple trick is starting your own poker game and only inviting bad players, but this isn’t the only way to create this type of situation. Your job is to find as many ways as possible to create a profitable playing environment.
2 – Start with Good Hands from the Right Position
After knowing your competition, the second most important thing is setting yourself up for success from the beginning of every poker hand.
It’s a mathematical fact that the poker player who starts each hand with the best starting hand has the best odds of winning the hand. Of course, the best hand at the beginning of the hand doesn’t always win, but the best hand wins more often than any other hand.
The question you need to think about is how do you start each hand with the best hand?
The answer to this question is only play when you have a good hand. Of course, you’re still not always going to have the best hand when you enter the pot, but when you only play good hands, you’re going to have the best hand more often than you do when you also play weaker hands.
Another important thing to understand when you start each poker hand is your position at the table. Late position is more profitable than middle position, and middle position is more profitable than early position. The blinds are the weakest position at the table, and the blinds are where most poker players struggle.
Focus on playing your best hands and folding all of the rest, and learn how your position influences each hand.
3 – Play the Best Game
When you think about playing poker, what game do you think about playing? Most poker players play Texas holdem because it’s the most popular game.
But if you play Texas holdem, you still have many different options. You can play limit or no limit and play cash games, single table tournaments, or multi-table tournaments. You also can play at tables with a wide range of limits, from a few dollars buy in online all the way up to thousands of dollars.
You also have the option to play variations of poker other than Texas holdem. The bad news is that I can’t tell you what the best poker game is because the best game for me might not be the best game for you.
One important thing that I can tell you is that most poker players play too many different poker variations. If you want to have the best chance to win when you play poker, you need to master one poker variation.
It doesn’t matter what variation you choose, as long as you focus on one variation. Stop playing a mix of games and limits and rules. Instead, pick a game, a level, and a type of game, and spend all of your time mastering whatever variation you choose.
4 – Use the Numbers
Most people don’t enjoy using math, and poker players are no different. But you need to start using math if you want to break even when you play poker. The good news is that you don’t have to learn a lot of difficult mathematical concepts to break even as a poker player.
The first thing you need to learn is how to use simple odds in poker. You already know most of what you need to know; you just have to learn how to use the information.
For example, if you’re drawing to a full house with two pairs, you know there are exactly four cards that give you a full house. You know, if you’re drawing to a flush, there are exactly nine cards that complete the flush.
The next step is using the odds in combination with the money in the pot to determine when it’s profitable to stay in a hand and when it’s best to exit the hand. Using odds and the money in the pot is called pot odds.
The last thing you need to use is called expected value. Once you learn how to use odds and pot odds, determining expected value isn’t hard. And when you start using expected value to make your decisions when you play a poker hand, you’re on the right path for profitable poker play.
5 – Learn from Your Mistakes
Every poker player makes mistakes, which is true for beginning poker players and the best poker players in the world.
The differences are that the best poker players in the world make fewer mistakes than other poker players, and they learn from their mistakes and correct their mistakes.
Losing poker players think they made a mistake when they lose a hand. However, winning poker players know that the result of a hand has nothing to do with whether or not they made a mistake.
For example, if you get all-in before the flop with a pair of aces in a Texas holdem game, you made the right play whether you win the hand or not. It’s the right play because you make a profit when you get all-in with aces before the flop in the long run.
Expected value, which you learned about in the last section, is the best tool you can use to determine if you made a mistake and correct your mistakes moving forward.
6 – Earn When You Play
Poker rooms offer promotions and perks sometimes to entice more players to play. For example, online poker rooms run contests and offer bonuses, and land-based poker rooms run promotions and reward programs.
Promotions, reward programs, and bonuses don’t change anything else you learned in this post. But these things give you more ways to break even.
A winning poker player knows how to win whether they’re getting perks or not. But with the right perks, you can go from a losing poker player to a break-even poker player or from a break-even player to a winning player.
You don’t have to change where you play poker to chase bonuses and rewards. But you do need to take advantage of any rewards, perks, and bonuses offered where you play poker.
Breaking even when you play poker is a good goal. And it’s a realistic goal if you follow the six steps in this post.
If you focus on finding the right mix of competition, you’re automatically going to get better results than when you ignore your competition. No matter how good or bad you are at playing poker, your competition plays the biggest part in your results.
When you choose the right game and start with good hands, you’re almost guaranteed to break even at the poker tables. Finally, learn how to recognize when you make a mistake and correct your mistakes quickly. When you do these things, you’re going to become a better poker player.