1. Play when well rested
You determine when and whether you play. Think of rest and poker as going hand-in-hand. If you’re not well rested, you don’t play. You may get tired during the session, but there’s no reason to start out that way.
Get in the habit of getting your rest before you play so you are always entering the game with your optimal level of energy, concentration, and focus.
2. Play when well funded
Only go to a game with an ample bankroll. Make it routine, like getting your car keys before you go out to your car. Low on funds? Don’t play. Wait until you have sufficient funds. After a while it will become unthinkable to play over your head.
3. Memorize your cards once you look at them
There’s no reason to recheck your hole cards. It potentially gives away information to your opponents — and needlessly. Look at them once, say them to yourself, and remember them. If you can’t memorize two cards, you should not play poker.
4. Pause, at least for a moment, before you act — even if it’s an obvious fold
Put that short pause in there before you act every single time so you don’t betray how much you are thinking about your cards when you have a decision to make. If you have to take longer for a tough call, so be it. But your habit should be to automatically give yourself at least two or three seconds to act.
5. Decide on your action before you act, then act decisively
Many players frequently hem and haw noticeably before they act. Don’t do that. Get into the habit of thinking before you betray anything with your actions or words. Then, after you’ve decided on your action, act purposefully.
6. Observe the behavior of other players
Make a point of looking around at other players, especially if you can catch them when they are checking their cards. You will often pick up useful information from them, but only if you’re looking. After a short while, this will become habitual.
7. Sit balanced and comfortably
Many players tend to slouch and scrunch down when they play, compressing their back and neck in the process. This is often uncomfortable in the short run, potentially injurious in the long run, and creates a feeling of unease and disquiet that inhibits optimal thinking.
Get in the habit of sitting squarely, with shoulders relaxed and head upright.
8. Practice good game selection
Upon entering any poker room, get in the habit of looking around for the best table and best seat at the table. Doing so should become automatic. Always be attentive to this key ingredient in making money at poker.
9. Take session and player notes
Either during the play of the game or immediately following, get into the habit of taking notes on your opponents and on your own play in the game. These notes will be invaluable during future playing sessions and as you examine and think about your own game.
Adopting these good poker habits will surely help you play your best possible game and improve your chances of success. Next time we’ll look at another list of poker habits.