Anyone who has spent time playing sports will tell you this:
They almost always perform best when playing against or with someone much better than themselves.
Unfortunately, it's hard to raise your own poker game simply by playing against better players.
Who to Look To in Poker
Most of the decisions players make at the table are done privately. You can't emulate another player when you have no idea what they're doing and how they got to that decision.
The only way to get a glimpse into the mind of a better poker player is for that player to willingly share their thoughts and thought processes. And a solid discussion with a better player about specific parts of the game can be more useful than any book or article.
The reason is simple: the exact questions you have are answered and there are no holes left lingering after the lesson.
Although talking poker with anyone can be beneficial, certain people can offer much more insight and advice than others.
First, you want to be talking to someone who is stronger at the game or knows more than you. The discussion may be fun but it's rare for you to pick up any useful advice from someone who knows far less than you.
Second, you need to consider the person's ability to communicate their thought process. Doing something really well and being able to describe how you do it are two very different things.
It's better to have a discussion with a strong $5/$10 NL player who can clearly explain his thoughts than with a tight-lipped Phil Ivey.
What to Talk About
The way the majority of humans learn best is through practice - trial and error, learning from our mistakes. To learn from a mistake, you have to:
- Make a mistake
- Understand and admit it was a mistake
- Figure out what the correct choice would have been
- Figure out why that is the correct choice
- Apply it to your game.
This mistake formula is crucial to becoming a great poker player. Technically you can use it with great results by yourself but discussing with a friend, peer or coach can greatly expedite the process and make it even more successful.
Here's the key to discussing the game: The best discussions come from you bringing up a legitimate situation where you think you made a mistake.
Hypothetical situations and abstract poker theory can be good but nailing down a specific situation you've encountered will, for most people, be much more helpful.
Take the situation with your mistake, describe it with as much detail as possible and then discuss.
You'll be using everything you learned in the first nine steps of How Not to Suck at Poker as the building blocks of your discussion, from evaluating your hand selection to counting outs to paying attention when you're not involved in a hand.
The more mistakes you can fix using the above formula, the fewer holes you'll have in your game. And every mistake you eliminate will be one more step towards not sucking at poker.
Don't Be Afraid to Branch Out
Having friends that can beat the stakes and games you're playing is great. But hearing a different perspective on a hand or a concept can help you make the mental leap necessary to take your game to the next level.
If you're already starting to take poker a little more seriously you've likely begun hanging around with a few more people who also enjoy the game more than the average Joe.
If you don't have a network of poker friends like that in real life, don't feel disheartened. There are lots of other ways you can reach out and find the right network for you.
First, start online. Make an account and start posting on one of the big poker forums like TwoPlusTwo.
The forums are broken down into tons of subcategories based on everything from the games and stakes to specific hand situations and deeper strategy lessons.
If your fellow forum posters don't have the answers, they more than likely can direct you to someone who can. The poker sub-forum of Reddit is also a good place to start.
If you do play at a live casino, simply start asking around. Dealers, floor staff and players in bigger games will likely be happy to direct you to some of the more open and communicative players in your area.
Whatever you do, don't give up! It may take a while to find the right network you - and it may never be in your local area - but great poker friends are out there. You just have to find them.
Watch our short video below to see how it's done!
More on How Not to Suck at Poker:
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Talking So Much
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Track Your Results