How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention

vincent pasdeloup

Part 5 in our 10-part series for the beginner poker player, this article will touch on a critical ingredient in playing good poker that's often overlooked - paying attention.

Texas Hold'em is a game of partial information. The more you can acquire, the better you'll play.

And everything that happens at a poker table - whether you're in the pot or not - is one more piece of information you can add to your collection.

Making the Most of Auto Play

The vast majority of poker hands you'll be dealt actually require little to no thought at all.

If you're following the advice from the first article in this series (play fewer hands), you should only be playing somewhere in the neighborhood of 15% of all hands.

This means 85% of the time you're dealt in, you're folding.

Of the 15% of hands you're playing, many of them are going to be simple, one-action hands. Either you raise your K K and everyone folds, or you're ready to play your 9 9 when a player moves all-in ahead of you.

Only a few hands you play will really require some thought. And only a fraction of those will force you to make a very difficult decision.

When you do need to make those difficult decisions, you'll need as much information as you can - and you can gain that while you're auto-playing.

What to Look For

In short: everything.

Everything a player does at the table is a clue to how they play and what kind of decisions they're going to make.

Watch how they talk, how they sit. Watch every hand that plays out even if you're not in it.

Take notes (mental notes in live poker obv.) anytime someone does something out of the ordinary. Note how much money they brought, how they bought in.

Do they like to play in large pots? Are they scared of losing? Do they bluff? Watch everything, and understand that everything is a clue.

The more you take in, and the more you consciously catalog, evaluate and remember, the better chance you'll have at making the right decisions when the time comes.

Making the Hard Choices

When you're in a hand that requires you to make a difficult decision, you need to quickly and accurately compile all of the information you have about the hand and the players involved.

Every scrap of information you have is one more piece of the puzzle. The more pieces of the puzzle you hold, the easier it will be to see the big picture.

And making the correct decision in these few key moments is what separates the losing player from the winners.

Stay tuned for Part 6: Have a Bankroll.

More on how not to suck at poker:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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