How to Play Poker for Enjoyment

How to Play Poker for Enjoyment

Poker can be a entertaining game if you play it right — even for old-timer poker crowd who've already seen just about everything. But what could, you as a single player do to make your sessions lighter, more enjoyable and overall stress-free?

PokerListings recommends following these three simple rules.

#1 Play Cheaper (but Not the Cheapest)

First and foremost, choose your buy-in range and limits wisely. If you want to play stress-free poker — spend the real money that you aren’t afraid to lose.

With that said, you'll still want to avoid cent-rolls and similar “cheapest of the cheap” type game. Apart from rarely giving reasonable returns per spent time, these games also attract the most inexperienced of players who equate poker with gambling. While the last bit might seem attractive from an income perspective, you'll have to ask yourself: are you there to play poker or just to participate in the festival of crazy preflop jams?

On another note, you shouldn’t invest your money into a poker bankroll if you don’t have either a regular job or passive income that covers your day-to-day needs. If you're standing tall on the financial front, you'll still want to implement the popular Rule of Budget, also known as 50/30/20. It means spending your income as such:

  • 50% on needs — food and medical care for humans and pets of your family, rent, utility payment, etc;
  • 30% on wants — hobby, luxuries, free-time activities, etc;
  • 20% on savings.

So, for poker the rule would sound something like:

Do not spend more than 30% of your overall budget on bankroll”.

After all, remember that in 2024 only the luckiest players have the luxury of breaking into the live poker arena and crush it straight to the top. As Ben «bencb789» Rolle said on X (Twitter):

So, if you're still not in the business of seeing poker as a “serious” occupation and just want to have fun — balancing your budget and not spreading it on the bad games is enough for now.  

#2 Do Not Play Tired, Angry, or Annoyed

When you're starting a poker session, it's advised to do it feeling fresh but also calm and in an at least semi-good mood. The reason behind this idea is that overtly negative or even intense positive emotions can disrupt your focus and attention.

This isn't the worst of it. A study about the emotional and social factors that influence poker decision showed that emotions can reduce decision making accuracy during a poker session, even hurting the players' physical health due to suppression.

Return to a Ben Rolle post from a while back — it's almost obligatory to take a day off when you feel exhausted, disappointed, or tilted. This is how you boost your poker mindset.

Poker won't help you to relax, especially if you are stressed going into the session. While this game can be incredible, its variance in it is brutal. So, if you're not in the right head space — step back and give yourself time to recuperate. Particularly, be attentive to the quality of your sleep, efficiency of rest techniques, and the variety of your nutrition.

#3 Try Variants Only After Learning the Basics

Don't get me wrong, Texas Hold’em is a more-than-solid poker format but not everyone is equally fascinated by it. So, the case that NLH becomes dull or you just want to try something new, the poker industry has more than enough variants to explore — Pineapple, Stud, Omaha, Razz — just to name a few.

While it's hard to resist just diving into any of the variants above, as a player, you need to work your way up from the basics. Even when you're in it for kicks, you still need a basic understanding of the rules. If you think that you can just figure it out as you go — prepare to lose money, be confused and feel out of place.

Instead of jumping head first into novel variants, take your time and go through a couple of guides or rulebooks. You can also watch streams to understand the hand order and evaluate the game from another perspective. With that said, don't think you'll easily find streams of the rarer disciplines on Twitch or YouTube — people prefer to stream Hold’em, Omaha, or Short Deck games because of their popularity.

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