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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Making Experience Count

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Nov 09, 2016


Once you’ve learned the correct strategies and plays, poker comes down to selecting the right situations in which to execute those tactics. Having good “feel” for the current conditions is one major element that separates those who study the game and perform well from those who study the game and perform great!

Many players think that learning the correct strategies is all there is to the game. Once they learn them, they play an ABC style of play that is predictable and easy for good readers to exploit. While excellent feel is tough to develop and utilize, its value is immense. You must learn how to read your opponent’s mind, knowledge level, and emotional reactions. And that requires experience and focus.

“Experience is the teacher of all things,” stated Julius Caesar. And while that is true, some people learn more from their experiences than others. I once returned to a cardroom I hadn’t visited in 15 years in which a woman was sitting in the same seat she had always sat at 15 years ago, playing the same godawful way, still moaning about how unlucky she was. She hadn’t learned a damn thing in 15 years. Experience teaches only those who work at learning from their experiences. To play poker well, you need to be one of them!

Seemingly, some never can learn. They dismiss what they don’t want to believe, or they’re narcissistic and think they have little to learn, or they unknowingly lack the necessary skillsets. I’m a self-critical guy. I try to be honest with myself and look for a better way to accomplish things. That said, I do acknowledge the human element and allow myself and others to make errors, but severely criticize lack of effort in anybody, especially myself.

Take a look in the mirror. Are you being truthful to yourself? Do you want to believe you’re unlucky rather than unskilled? Do you think you know it all, but question how others outperform you? Are your skillsets all that you need to play great poker? Some people with great math skills and strategic knowledge have terrible people skills and vice versa. Do you need to take on an additional area of expertise to grow your poker game?

I’ve developed my level of feel through concentrated effort at the table. I continuously observe my opponents and constantly think about exactly how they thought through their hand. When similar situations come up, I’m in tune with their thinking.

What is their knowledge level? In order to comprehend this, first you must understand the levels of knowledge concept. What hands did they play? How do they react to different textured opponents? Different textured boards? Do they recognize how position affects the game?

I study how their emotions affect their actions. In varying degrees, all of us are governed by our emotions. Some are mostly emotionally controlled; others get emotionally unhinged and lose control of themselves, more commonly known as “tilt.” Emotional issues even affect highly knowledgeable players. Unable to control their inner demons, all their effort learning the game’s strategies is wasted, and they’ll never become top performers unless they learn emotional control. But what is important is that you decipher how their emotions effect their poker thought process and adjust accordingly. And keep in mind it’s not just losing that affects players emotionally, winning does too!

Additionally, I review all my close decisions. Did I correctly gather and utilize the information I employed in the hand? Could I have acquired a higher level of information? Did I think through how the hand would play out? Were better strategies available?

By constantly critiquing myself and the game, I not only make better decisions in the present situation, but I also grow my game over time and make my experiences work for me. I’ve got over 70,000 hours in at the poker table; some of them I could have used better, but as a whole, I’ve used them well.

Poker is a game where the few top players make most of the money. If you play to win money, then you need to become a top-tier player at the level you play. The correct strategies are available in many books and videos, but lots of players learn them. To set yourself apart from the pack, you need to utilize that information better than your opponents. And to do that, you need to develop first-rate feel.

So, pay attention. Continuously think. Keep your mind on the game. It will pay big dividends! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke