Confidence is an odd thing in poker. It can help you get deeper into a game, or at least get you close to it. But when it comes to zigging, confidence is something that can kill you in a second. So if you want to survive a round or two you need to have enough confidence to keep your fellow players in the dark. This is especially key in tournaments, where you don’t know everyone you’re playing with.
If you have a decent hand, don’t be afraid to show it. Don’t be embarrassed by holding back a hand or two – Poker is not a car sales position. When you hold back and fold, you are showing confidence in your game, and other players will be more willing to call if you provide a little background noise.
However, it’s not your job to provide background noise. Your job is to provide sound advice to the players on the table when it’s appropriate. Be sure to observe the players when you are in the hand, and ask yourself things like:
Is there a straight or flush draw?
What are the odds of the next card coming on a turn card?
What are the chances the next card will give someone a straight or flush?
If you know the answer to these questions, and possess the talent, you will be much more competent than your opponents and be able to help them along, if not be entirely successful in the current hand.
This poker hand example is a little bit deceiving because you can’t always tell what the next card is pending on the turn, but in a Limit game it’s a bit harder to guess, though not impossible. In a NL game it’s a bit more tricky because the players are, by virtue of the blind, aware of what you are holding. In a PL game where you aren’t, so to speak, you are in effect playing your hand blind. But in any case, above you need to pay attention to the odds of the next card in the air. If it’s a flop, the odds are that it’s very likely that someone will have a better hand than yours, even if you’re holding the Damon Runyon claypoker chips. Check to see if someone else has made a bet near the pot, and if they have, you need to fold.
Of course, above all else, pay attention to your own cards. If you are holding a hand good enough to win, then you should fold. Especially, if you are beaten, it’s often better for the beaten hand to just stay in the game and be mended (filled with cracked cards) for the next hand, rather than take the risk of killing the game.
Knowing when to fold is a tough skill to learn and discipline to use, but with practice, you will be able to read other players’ hands, even when you are holding what is considered to be a very good hand. Some things to look out for are things like a flush draw or straight draw, especially if there are several people in the pot. Be wary of someone with a short stack that is in desperate need of chips, and desperate enough to stack his or her chips in the middle. Watch out for a guy in a heads-up situation who is playing very loose and appears to be making quite a few steals, especially if you have a monster hand. Typically a player like this will not last much longer in a tournament, so it might be better to just get out of the way before you get injured.
Practice your dewagg face. If you don’t have a good hand, then don’t bet on it. Everybody knows that in poker it’s good to have a straight face, but especially when playing No-Limit Hold ‘Em, it’s important to keep an accurate one. Don’t let other players know too much about the hole cards you’re holding, or how you are playing, because good players will work that out.
When you are inexperienced, play tight. It’s going to be easy at first, just playing very conservatively and betting low. However, slowly you will get a hang of it and realize that many of the bigger stacks will be raising quite often. When you do see a good hand, bet big.
As a general rule, play more hands in the beginning, and bet smaller amounts. In order to take down first place, you need to have a good hand (even if it’s obviously trashy). You can play tight in a tournament for a while, and then all of a sudden you will get an ace, and be able to maybe take down first place. When you bet small for a while, the players are less likely to suspect that you have something good.
When you are playing in a larger buy-in more experienced players are likely to play a lot looser.