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Top 10 Poker Tips to Make You a Better Player & Improve Your Poker Game

Want to become a better player, fast? Follow these 10 tips to boost your poker performance & profits. While geared to beginner players, there's poker tips that even seasoned pros should remind themselves of once in a while.


1. Don't Play Every Hand / Do Fold More


Probably the number one mistake beginning poker players make is that they play far too many hands. When you're just starting out playing poker, you want to play poker, and that means staying in hands that aren't very good just to be part of the action. But playing more doesn't mean winning more, it usually means losing more. If you find you're staying in half or more the hands you're dealt, you need to upgrade your starting hand requirements.


2. Don't Play Drunk


Countless nights have I sat across a table from someone & watched them get plastered silly and throw away their entire stack of chips. I've been that person too - and there are nights where you're just playing with friends for low stakes and it's more about the fun than the poker - but if you're in a casino, watch the alcohol. The truth is, while you may be more relaxed after 2 drinks, it may lead to you playing looser and less sharply, even if one's not 'drunk.'


3. Don't Bluff Just For Bluffing's Sake


A lot of beginner's understand that bluffing is a part of poker, but not exactly how. There's is NO rule that one must bluff a certain amount or at all during a poker game, but many players don't feel like they've won unless they've tried a poker bluff. Bluffs only work in certain situations & against certain people, and if you know a player always calls to the showdown, it is literally impossible to bluff that player. It's better never to bluff than to bluff "just to bluff."


4. Don't Stay in a Hand Just Because You're Already In It


Another common mistake beginners make is to think that "Well, I've already put that much in the pot, I have to stay in now." Nope. You can't win a pot just by throwing money at it. There may be cases when pot odds warrant a call, but if you're sure you're beaten, and there's no way your hand can improve to be the best hand, you should fold right away. The money you've already put in the pot isn't yours anymore, and you can't get it back just by playing a hand all the way to the end.


5. Don't Call at the End of a Hand to "Keep Someone Honest"


This one follows the last tip. I see a lot of players look at another player's final bet, look at the hand, & say "I know you've got me, but I have to keep you honest," as they throw in a final call. It may be worth it to see if a player really has the hand if you're not sure & you're gaining information that will help you later on, but if you really feel a player has the hand he's representing & you're beat, why give him another pile of your money? Those bets will add up over an evening.


6. Don't Play When Mad, Sad, or in a Generally Bad Mood


When you play poker, you shouldn't do it to escape from being depressed or having a really bad day. You start out on tilt -- playing emotionally, not rationally -- and you won't play your best. Likewise, if during a poker game, you lose a big hand or get sucked out on and feel yourself going on tilt, stand up & take a break until you feel calm later on. Fellow players will sense your mood & take advantage of it.


7. Do Pay Attention to the Cards on the Table


When you first start playing, it's enough just to remember how to play and pay attention to your own hand. But once you've got that down, it's incredibly important to look at what's going on at the table. In Texas Hold 'em figure out what the best possible hand would be to fit the flop.. Make sure you notice flush & straight possibilities. In 7-card stud, pay attention to what's showing & what people have folded when you consider calling opponents.


8. Do Pay Attention to the Other Players


As you play, one of the single best things you can do is observe your opponents, even when you're not in a hand. If you know if one player always raises in a certain position, & another has a poker tell when he bluffs, & a 3rd folds to every re-raise, you can use that information to help you decide how to play against them. Once you know that player 3 always folds to a re-raise on a river, that's when you can bluff & steal a pot.


9. Don't Play at too High Limits


There are many reasons people move up to a higher limit game than they usually play. Good reasons like they've been winning consistently at a lower lever & are ready to move up, & bad reasons like the line is shorter for higher limits or you want to impress someone. Don't play at stakes that make you think about the actual money in terms of day-to-day life or with money you can't lose. Even if you had one super-good night at $2/4, resist the urge to play $5/10. The next tip explains more why.


10. Do Pick the Right Game for Your Skill Level & Bankroll


One of the reasons you shouldn't jump into a $5/10 game after winning a huge bunch of money at $2/4 is because as the stakes rise, so does the average skill level of the players sitting there. You want to be one of the best at the table, not the fish who sits down with sharks. If you're making stacks of money at a lower level game, why move? You're winning stacks of money. The swings up & down at higher limits are much bigger, and one big night's win won't last long at a high-stakes game.



With the mind-boggling surge in the popularity of poker in the past few years, the game is attracting record numbers of players to casino poker rooms, online poker sites and home games across the planet. Never before has so much media attention been paid to the classic game that rewards skill, mental dexterity, money management, bluffing, luck, patience, deductive reasoning, and an all-around killer instinct.

Anyone who plays the game has dozens of stories of bad beats, classic confrontations and dramatic battles over the green felt. This is not surprising considering the infinite possibilities that arise when you combine a 52-card deck with a group of players bent on relieving their opponents of all their hard-earned money.

Hence this top 10 list of some of history's most famous poker stories and folklore.



Richard Nixon's poker career

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon reportedly financed his first political campaign with money he won playing poker in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The winnings helped pay for his successful U.S. Congress run in 1946. Apparently, Nixon decided that his lucrative pastime would not sit well as his political career gained momentum, and he gave up poker in 1952 when he became Dwight Eisenhower's running mate.

Cool Fact: In his autobiography, Nixon wrote: "I learned that the people who have the cards are usually the ones who talk the least and the softest; those who are bluffing tend to talk loudly and give themselves away."



The legend of Poker Alice

One of the most memorable wild women of the old west, Poker Alice moved to Colorado from England in the 1860's and eventually married a mining engineer who played cards at local gambling parlours. Alice accompanied her husband, learned the games and began playing for a living after her spouse died. She earned the name Poker Alice and quite a reputation to boot. By the end of the gold rush, Alice had made over $5,000 (an enormous amount for those days) and moved to New York to retire. In her lifetime, the wild woman shot two men, killing one, and eventually opened an establishment which was a combination of a card room and a brothel.

Cool Fact: Despite her wild ways, Alice refused to play or deal cards on Sunday, and chose to teach Sunday school lessons to her fellow ladies.



Origin of "the nuts"


In poker, "the nuts" refers to an unbeatable poker hand. According to some poker experts, the term originated in the old west, where players often bet their horse and wagon. When a player put up his horse and wagon in a game, he would be required to remove the nuts from his wagon wheels and place them in the pot, so that he could not flee if he lost the bet. Therefore, it was assumed that anyone would bet "the nuts" with only with the best possible poker hand.


Cool fact: Similarly, a "nut" player is one who tends to play only strong hands. A "calling station" is someone who frequently checks and calls, but rarely raises.

History's greatest con man, the story behind 10-2 and more poker folklore...



Canada Bill, history's greatest con man

A gambler and con man, William "Canada Bill" Jones played along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800's. Supposedly, Jones had a squeaking voice, seemed to be somewhat of a klutz and came across as a bit of a clueless simpleton. But nothing was further from the truth. Canada Bill was a poker cheat and three-card monte hustler of legendary status who regularly fleeced unsuspecting opponents who had him pegged as a sucker.

His gambling winnings were routinely lost in rigged games operated by other con men and he eventually died penniless. When a friend once tried to warn him to stay away from a particular game he knew to be crooked, Canada Bill responded: "I know, but it's the only game in town."

Cool Fact: Perhaps the best-known Canada Bill quote has become a mantra for many poker players: "Suckers have no business with money, anyway."



Doyle's infamous 10-2

Poker pro Doyle Brunson won the final hands of the World Series of Poker two years in a row (1976 and 1977) with the exact same hole cards: a 10 and a 2. Today, many poker players refer to a 10-2 in their hand as a "Doyle Brunson."

Cool Fact: In poker, "rags" refers to holdings that are of low denomination or ones that have a low chance of winning, such as a 10-2.



Famous poker misquote

Poker legend Amarillo "Slim" Preston is often quoted as saying that if a woman ever won the World Series of Poker, he would slit his own throat. But like many quotes that get people in trouble, it was taken way out of context. Playing in a tournament, Slim watched a rather annoying woman declare to the media in a loud and arrogant fashion that she was going to win the event. When she asked Slim what he thought of that, he said that if she won he would slit his throat. Thankfully for Slim, she did not win.

Cool Fact: Amarillo "Slim" Preston, who helped establish gaming facilities around the world, was kidnapped by associates of drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia because they believed he was a spy or informant. He was eventually released.



The fixer killed at a poker table

Arnold Rothstein, the American gambler and underworld figure who was rumoured to be the mastermind behind the fixing of the 1919 World Series, was murdered in a hotel room in New York while playing poker, supposedly for welching on a large bet he lost at the table.

Cool Fact: In 1919, Rothstein allegedly paid a number of players from the Chicago White Sox $80,000 to throw the game and lose the World Series.

A player who made poker history recently, a game that lasted five months and the story behind the Dead Man's Hand...



Chris Moneymaker takes the poker world by storm

Chris Moneymaker (his real name), a then 27-year-old accountant,  when he won the 2003 World Series of Poker No Limit Hold 'em Championship event for a record-setting payout of $2.5 million. The dream-come-true poker victory made (and continues to make) headlines for two reasons.

First, Chris had been playing poker for only three years, and at the time of the 2003 event, he had never played in a live poker tournament in his life. Second, Chris won his entry into the main event through an online poker contest for a total investment of only $40.

Cool Fact: Chris won the final hand of the 2003 World Series with a full house, 5s over 4s, defeating poker pro Sam Farha, who held top pair. Sam wasn't too upset though; he received a cool $1.3 million for placing second.




Johnny Moss cleans out Nick the Greek

In one of the most famous poker confrontations of modern times, poker legend Johnny Moss battled with Nick "The Greek" Dandalos in a marathon game in 1949 at Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. The game lasted five months (they took breaks to sleep) and consisted of every variation of poker there was. At the end, Moss reportedly bled the Greek for $4 million. The game was actually a precursor to the World Series of Poker (WSOP), which would officially begin in 1970. Johnny Moss went on to become the first player in history to win the WSOP three times (Stu Ungar is the only other player to have accomplished this feat).

Cool Fact: The estimated first prize for the 2006 World Series of Poker is expected to hit a whopping $10 million, with over 6,000 players expected to compete in the grueling week-long event.



Wild Bill and the Dead Man's Hand

On August 2, 1876, in Deadwood, South Dakota, old west legend Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death by Jack McCall during a poker game because McCall believed he was being cheated. The poker hand Wild Bill was holding at that moment was two pair, black aces and black 8s. Since that fateful day, that poker hand has been known as the Dead Man's Hand.

Cool Fact: Other memorable poker hand nicknames include American Airlines (a pair of Aces, due to the AA acronym), Motown (two pair -- jacks and 5s -- since it sounds like Jackson Five), and Dolly Parton (a 9 and a 5 -- a reference to the song and the movie 9 to 5).


Top ten poker tips
Top ten poker tales