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How to maximize your potential in each game

July 17, 2018

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Wondering how you can maximize your potential? The first thing anyone should do before playing poker is decide what you want from the experience. Do you want to pass some time just playing cards and chatting, or do you want to build up a serious number of chips? It is important to remember that social poker for play chips is vastly different from real cash. Success with play chips, especially over a short period of time, does not imply success in games for real money.

If you decide you are looking for short periods of playing a fun card game and the chips are not important, ring games or short-handed Sit’N’Go, (2,3 or 6 max), might be for you.

If you are able to set aside longer periods of time for more intense poker action, maybe multi-table tournaments will appeal to you. MTTs do not always reward your efforts, but when they do, it is often quite handsomely and nothing beats the feeling of knowing you ended up with every single chip from a field of a hundred or more opponents.

If you are prepared to study opponents, develop a winning strategy and build a bankroll, all three types of games can be used to suit your goal. Preparation is never a bad idea, no matter what your intentions.

Ring games

Ring games can suit all kinds of players. Jump in with whatever amount you feel like you can afford to play with and leave when you’ve won enough or had your fill of poker for whatever reason.

If you want to excel at ring games in the long term, you have to put aside thoughts of tilt and bad beats. You’ll typically reload to the number of chips you like to have if you lose a hand and start over.

Each hand in a ring game is more or less the same as the last, as will be the next. The blinds are the same, the players are usually the same, but the button moves from one seat to the next. The ring game professionals are often known as ‘Grinders.’ This is because they face fairly repetitive poker – playing every hand as optimally as possible and starting over after every showdown.

Dedicated players make notes on opponents and spend as much time as possible studying hands again and again to see whether any players made errors which could be exploited in the future. This applies to mistakes made by yourself as well as others!

Important things to remember

The following are a few important points to keep in mind while playing.

  • Bankroll management (BRM). Keep the risk of ruin to a minimum if you don’t want to end up in the poor house.
  • Game selection. Find a table which not only suits your chip count, but where the players suit your ability. Don’t play more tables than you can comfortably concentrate on
  • Seat selection. If there is a choice, sit to the left of tight players so you are the first to know when they announce they have a good hand with a bet or raise and to the right of aggressive players so that you gain information about the rest of the players hands by their reactions.
  • Leaking chips is bad. Calling preflop and folding to a raise is giving chips away. Before you call a big blind pre-flop ask yourself if you are confident no-one will raise after you and if you are prepared to call a raise. Folding a winner is not expensive, playing a loser always is.
  • Study hands which you saw and did not understand. Make notes and play through hands again paying attention to players known hole cards and whether they are calling with correct pot odds. Work out who usually only plays with strong hands and who bluffs too much, then adjust your calling ranges accordingly. Work out who calls your bets too often and who folds too often and adjust your betting frequency and sizing accordingly


Sit and Go tournaments are dictated by the blind level speeds. Some will barely give you enough chips to see more than a single circuit of the table before you are all in. Others will allow you to wait for much longer before you start to run low. Pick a speed which you can identify as quick fire or more sedate and try to identify players who seem to have ignored the basics of the game you are in.

Find out which SnG have Leaderboards or promotions. Ensure you understand how the scoring system works and how many games you need to play each week to maximise your chances. You may want to alter some of your decisions in the tournament itself if you need extra Leaderboard points.

Look at the prize places and as the game progresses, decide if first place is your main target. If you are low on chips, maybe the prize structure means second or even third is still a decent return.  A chip and a chair means you still have a chance.

Important things to remember

  • Blind Levels. Think ahead about blinds increasing and low stack players being forced to risk most of their chips before you have to.
  • Stay vigilant. Look for chances to make value calls when you have a large stack, but don’t get into the habit of calling with poor hands just because someone is all-in.


Choose a tournament that you are able to play to completion if it lasts for a couple of hours. Check the Lobby to see if it has rebuys and Late Registration. This way, you have a rough idea of how many players and the number of chips in play.

Have a look at the blind structure and decide if you have time to wait for good hands from the start or if you are likely to have to play whatever you get after just a few orbits.

Important things to remember

  • Take advantage of overlay chips. Look for tournaments which have a Guaranteed (GTD) prize pool, especially if they rarely seem to fill up with the number of players needed to take that amount in entries.
  • BRM and variance. MTT have high variance, and you could go for a long time between profitable wins. BRM still applies, but finding tournaments which are easy to get small wins from, will help keep the losses to a minimum
  • Identify your end game. When the tournament approaches the stages where everyone is guaranteed a prize, you can decide if it is best to be bold and go for a higher prize or if you are going to grind out a lower prize by hanging on as long as you can with a low or average stack.