How To Become A Poker Expert (Featuring Pros Bruno Politano, Sofia Lovgren And Dominik Nitsche)

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Poker's one of those activities that, quite frankly, you're either really good at or really bad at. And because all of use hope for the former, we talked to poker expert Jeremy Olson, who has covered the game for over a decade for various outlets like 888poker, PokerNewsDaily, PokerUpdate and PokerWorks.

Since we want to see you walk away from the table with more money than you started with, we asked Olson to give you pro tips in order to take your poker game to the next level.

Warm Up To The Table

“Watch carefully how your opponents play before you start to loosen up your game,” says 2014 WSOP Main Event finalist Bruno Politano. “Start slow, and when you know exactly how each one plays, go in for the kill!”

Put Extensive Thought Into Bluffing

Bluffing with a 2-7 off-suit might be the stuff of poker movies, but consistent and successful bluffing requires analysis and planning. “You need to be great at reading your opponents and playing without cards. It really demands timing and also the nous to know exactly when to pull off that big bluff,” says Swedish poker pro Sofia Lovgren.

Know Poker Math

While reading your opponents is very important, one big problem I had in the beginning was not putting enough emphasis on poker math. Concepts like pot odds, implied odds, and expected value should form the basis of any tough decision that you make.

Know Your Own Game And Change Gears

It helps to know your own game and how the table views you. Once you understand this, you can change gears based on how the table is playing. For example, let’s say the table dynamic is ‘loose-aggressive’, where players are betting and re-raising frequently with a wide range of hands. You can then change your style to ‘tight-aggressive’, where you wait for strong hands and take advantage of overly-aggressive opponents.

Force Opponents Into Tough Decisions

“Look for situations to take advantage of players who play too many hands,” says two-time WSOP champ Dominik Nitsche. “Force them to put in a big percentage of stacks preflop. You will win because you are playing a more solid range.” Nitsche also advises that you make the game easier on yourself too. “The first tip has to be: play tight. Don't enter the pot with hands that are tough to play.”

Use Available Strategy Resources And Poker Tools

It used to be very difficult for one to find poker resources, as pros were stingy with advice and outdated books failed to provide much help. That's changed, though, so take advantage! You can use poker tools for advanced in-game statistics, training videos to watch how the pros play, and poker coaching to fix your leaks. A good rule of thumb is to dedicate at least 20% of your poker hours towards strategy and improving your play.

Review Your Poker Sessions

In poker, not enough emphasis is put on self-analysis. But if you truly want to succeed, then you need to review your sessions and figure out what you’ve done right/wrong. It’s really helpful if you play online poker and have access to your hand histories. But even just thinking back over tough hands can be a helpful exercise.

In summary, the road to becoming a poker expert isn’t always a fun one—especially when you’re pouring over training videos and hand histories for hours. But no matter whether you want to dominate your home game or win a major live tournament, standing in the winner’s circle makes it worth the effort.

Jeremy Olson is a poker expert who’s been working alongside 888poker on their latest interactive piece. He’s also been covering online poker for 10 years and has been featured on PokerNewsDaily, PokerUpdate and PokerWorks.