How To Play Poker

Peter Eastgate

When I interviewed this Danish bloke in 2008 for Alpha magazine, he’d just won an eyewatering amount of money, but seemed very unexcited about it.

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At 23, Dane Peter Eastgate is a multimillionaire, thanks to his recent win at the World Series of Poker World Championships. Just as Aussie Joe Hachem did a few years ago, Eastgate made it all the way to the final table and hung on to claim roughly $10 million. He reckons it’ll take him at least two years on the pro tour to win as much again. Here, he offers some fundamentals that helped him on the road to riches.

Start online for free

The way I learnt the game was to play online. I played many different types. Pokerstars.net have the most gamess running. People need to get a little bit of knowledge about the game; I would recommend they start off by not risking any of their money and play for free. When you feel like you’re getting the hang of the games and making progress, invest some of your own money. But be very conservative, don’t play with more than you’re willing to lose.

Know the odds

You need to learn a lot of fundamentals about the game, including the pot odds, but you don’t need to be a math scientist and work them all out. You need to know which kind of hands can pay from which kind of positions. Get a feel of it – some situations can be very uncomfortable. Memorise the odds.

Learn The Patterns

I liked reading the opponents. Observe your opponents and how they’re playing their hands. Maybe they’re playing too many hands, giving away too many chips. The main thing you need to focus on are the betting patterns of your opponents – how often do they play a hand, what are their usual betting sizes when they are playing a hand. How the betting sizes differ: sometimes they might bet small, sometimes bet big. Then you interpret what those bets mean. A small bet means that he’s weak. And you have to counteract what you believe your opponent is representing. You’ve got to have enough chips and be in a position where you can make money out of it. Figure out possible situations and take advantage of the things your opponent is doing.

Practice

The main thing to get better at the game is just to play a lot of hands. It’s all about practice. The good thing about online is you can play multiple tables. When you are playing live you’re probably playing 20 hands an hour; if you’re online you’re playing 100 hands an hour. You can get so much experience.

Keep Your Head Clear

It improves your chances of winning if you keep your head clear. Poker is all about not getting too emotional. There is very little room for emotion in the game. It is making the right decisions, not about getting the right result, because there’s a lot of situations where you can’t really control the result. You should only focus on making the right decisions.

You go through times when you lose more than you should, you run below expectations. Those kind of times can be pretty harsh. Try to focus on improving your game, don’t focus on things you can’t control.

It’s All In The Mind

Poker is a very entertaining mind game. You’ve got to get into your opponent’s head, with the knowledge that he’s also got some beliefs about the way you’re playing. You’ve got to be aware of what he’s thinking about your game. You have to counteract that so you’re not getting too predictable. If you are, he gets a read on you, then he can play you quite easily. He knows what you’re doing and what you’re holding in those situations. Mix it up, so your opponents can’t get a read of you.

Know What You Can Afford

Every game you’re playing it’s important you’re not risking more than five per cent of your total bankroll. If you were to lose more than 20-30 per cent of your bank roll – and probably before that, you should go down to lower stakes, so you’re not risking more than five per cent. Always be aware of how big your bank roll is; if your bankroll is increasing, then you can go up to higher stakes, but you don’t need to necessarily. The game is all about making a profit. If you feel very confident playing this stake, keep playing that stake because there’s no need to go to higher stakes. It’s all about being confident with the stake you’re playing.

Find Your Level

The higher the stakes get, the more difficult the games get, because there are a higher number of pros, so it’s definitely easier to win at the lower stakes.

Don’t Outsmart Yourself

If you’re playing against a complete amateur (like your mates over a few beers) I would assume that he has no idea what he is doing so  the information that he is giving away, you can’t interpret because he doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing anyway. On the other hand, if he’s bluffing, he might be just acting overconfident, but it all differs. People are individuals and they can act very differently. You could pick up some tells but be aware that it’s very hard to make general assumptions.

Give Nothing Away

Keep the same composure all the time. No matter if you’re bluffing or have a very strong hand, try to look the same. Then you’re not giving anything away. Of course you could be wearing sunglasses and so on, but I prefer not to, because it spoils my vision. I like to get a close look at my opponents and pick up everything that tells me whether they are strong or weak or how they feel about the hand.

Keep Your Focus

When you get tired, it’s a good idea to quit, because you might go from being a winning to a losing player. You cannot play your A-game all the time. I would recommend you eat well and exercise, and drink plenty of water. Sometimes I play seven days straight, 12 hours a day, so it’s all about endurance. In tournaments you can’t buy in again – once you’re out, you’re out. It’s very important to stay focused.

Don’t Worry About Luck

You should be aware of luck all the time, but, poker is a skill game and you have to focus on making the right decisions. To improve and be a better player, think of critical situations and discuss them with poker friends, rather than pick out bad-luck stories. Because over time those kind of situations even out. And that will earn you money.

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