The Best Poker Tips from Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey, a 10-time winner of the World Series of Poker and a multiple winner of online poker and live tournaments, is not a professional who gives out poker tips very often. But when he does, his tips are very valuable, especially for newbies. After all, even Phil Ivey was once a newbie and must have gone through many stages of developing his own skills. He must have learned, sometimes the hard way, about making rookie mistakes and how to avoid them. He must have thought deeply about how to improve his skills, and he must have read the how-to manuals and followed the guidelines in order to develop his own understanding and style of poker gameplay. And, along the way, he must have learned how to read the game, of course – as he is especially good at it.
More importantly, he must have learned from his own experience how it feels to become a great poker player. And today, with the benefit of hindsight, he can give very valuable tips and advice, full of keen perception of the game itself, as well as the best ways to become a more proficient player.
“I’m a firm believer in learning the game by playing the game.”
There are many solid guidelines and learning materials about playing poker. All these books and tutorials can be of great help, especially for novices. But you should never rely on these materials too much, because once you study them and begin to follow them meticulously, you could end up playing poker like someone else, or like everyone else, which can be even worse.
“Different players have their own approach to the game,” says Phil Ivey, and it is the key. There is a certain line that divides what you have learned from other players and your own style of play. The latter is what you have to develop yourself by playing the game. Of course, you would have to incorporate what you learned in your own style, but you can never substitute the experience you must gain with the books you have read.
“Poker Math Only Takes You So Far.”
Many players apply a very mathematical approach to playing poker. They study and calculate the odds and every decision they make is in tune with the math. “It’s a solid way to play,” admits Phil. But this approach won’t work for everyone. Besides, there are many situations when you just cannot calculate everything – otherwise, this game wouldn’t be so interesting and sometimes thrilling. And even the best odds-calculating players would tell you that the math “only takes you so far,” giving you only a general idea about a particular hand.
There are factors other than odds, and these factors largely influence the tournament play, especially when it comes down to intangibles, like what you feel, who your opponent is, whether he has a strong hand and what he might be up to. “Even if the odds say you should play, your gut may be telling you something else,” says Phil. This special kind of “poker feeling” can only be developed through extensive practice.
“Poker Isn’t About the Cards, It is About the Players and the Situations.”
All beginners usually rely on other people’s advice, sometimes too much. And then all the bits and pieces of advice from all the different sources make a kind of a hodgepodge in your head, which prevents you from becoming a better player. All your attention is focused on the cards, and you think about odds and probabilities, often forgetting that you should figure out what your opponent is doing.
The only way to improve your skills in poker is to weigh and take chances, regardless of whether they worked in this particular hand or not. “You have to make the play that you believe is best,” notes Ivey.
“Recognize your mistakes.”
Phil once admitted that many players don’t recognize when they make mistakes. Indeed, once a player reaches a certain level or just feels he has considerably improved his skills, it might seem to him that he has reached near-peak ability. Tempted to think this way, this player dramatically narrows the scope of his further progress. If you made a mistake, you need to find out where, and how.
“Do Not Overanalyze.”
After a hand of a session is played, it is good to go back and look closer at where you have made mistakes, if any. It is important to be honest with yourself. But some players tend to overanalyze, thinking too much about how they could have played. This kind of unnecessary focus on a hand you have already played can have a negative impact on your next hand or session.
It is important to understand that, with many decisions in poker, you just cannot judge – whether the decisions were right or wrong. If the decision you made did not work, it does not mean it was a wrong decision.
“Manage your money.”
Phil Ivey repeatedly spoke about money management in many interviews and emphasized how important the issue of bankroll management is for every poker player. It is not only about staying on the safe side and not putting yourself in trouble. In poker, managing your bankroll takes more than just being a responsible gambler. It involves your betting decisions and the chips you risk in every hand you play.
“Figure Out a Way to Win When you Have Much Better Players at the Table.”
As soon as you get better at poker, you will face stronger opponents. Some players would get intimidated in such situations and cannot play their cards well. The good advice here is to try and figure out a strategy that works – because there should be at least one. Try to move them out of their comfort zone. Study your opponents; their body language; how they react to the cards they see. Remember that you can win if the strategy and decisions you develop work.
“Handle Your Defeats.”
Phil Ivey reminds us that poker is a game of chance; quite a tough game with a lot of variances. And that it involves swings and losing streaks. “You are going to have bad days,” says Ivey. But not every loss is your fault. You could lose because of tough luck, or just because you enter a losing streak, despite the fact that you have played your cards well. Phil Ivey has been unlucky many times, and he knows how it goes – when the whole session goes wrong, he still tries to play his best. That is why your ability to handle your losses is tremendously important. If you cannot handle your defeats, don’t play poker.
“Read other tips and poker books. Talk to your friends. Absorb as much information as you can. But, at the end of the day, you have to trust your instincts and play your own game – not someone else’s.” There is nothing to add to these words of wisdom from Phil Ivey.