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Keeping the mistakes you make under control;

Winning poker is about the successful exploitation of the mistakes your opponents make. It's not ONLY about that though. The mistake that most rookies make is that they focus enough to take advantage of others' mistakes, yet in the same time, they fail to pay attention to their own. Damage control is extremely important in poker. Remember, winning is only one half of your mission completed, you also need to make sure you do not lose. While detecting mistakes and pouncing on weak opponents is a relatively easy-to-learn task, keeping your own mistakes in check needs much more subtle skills.

This is where the difference between an average player and a high-profile professional player is made. The problem with keeping your mistakes from building up is that unlike any other challenge at the table, it is a high-wire balancing act. You will make mistakes. Everybody makes them, even the best pros. The key is to keep these mistakes from escalating. Let's see a few examples. Let's say you hold Ad,Qs and put in BB size preflop raise. You get called and the flop comes 8c,3c,9c. This kind of flop is the last thing you want to see. Your hand doesn't really beat anything at this stage, but you haven't made your mistake yet. Folding is the only option for you here, yet still sometimes players will decide to call a bet under such circumstances. That's a mistake already.

The turn comes another blank (or possibly another club making it all the more possible for an opponent to have made a flush). Even though the mistake has already been made, what our rookie needs to do is fold it right there, as soon as the opponents lay another bet into him. Many will feel pot committed though, and start chasing after a hand, regardless of the fact that even if they did improve, they probably couldn't beat the opponent's hand. The river is a blank and our player makes that last call, just to see what the opponent has basically. Piling up additional mistakes on top of an initial one is how lots of beginners play the game. The initial mistake needs to be recognized, and the hand needs to be mucked right there, regardless of how much abuse you've previously taken from the opponent involved, and how much of a revenge you're itching to exact on him. Getting emotional is never an option.

Mistakes can pile up not only on a street-to-street basis, but also from one hand to another. I played in a $50+$5 MTT the other day, and got dealt a pair of Qs about midway through. I went all in hoping to either just nick the blinds (which were pretty substantial by then), or to get called by someone with a lower pocket pair. Sure enough, guy on my right calls me and turns over a pair of Jacks. The flop and turn lands blanks and the river brings another J to give him the pot. I must admit I got truly pissed. My next hand was an As,5s and I hit all-in on it. The same guy called me down with Ac,10c and made a pair of 10s to bust me out.

The first move I made was obviously a correct one. I managed to trap an opponent on a worse hand. Through a perverted twist of fate though - as it's often the case in poker - I ended up losing the hand, and that pissed me off. The call I made on the following hand was the direct consequence of the bad beat I've suffered, and it was a mistake which cost me my tournament life. Professional players are able to treat each hand independently, and thus none of their decisions are influenced by anything that may have happened in a previous hand. This is one of the fundamental things everyone has to learn if he/she intends to be a poker player.

Much like in roulette, no outcome influences any of the subsequent results in any way. You will go on bad-luck streaks and lucky runs too, but as a poker player, your aim should be to minimize the role luck has in the outcome of the hands you play. Always focus on this basic truth: regardless of how bad a beat you take, the outcome of the following hand has nothing to do with your previous bad luck whatsoever.

FL betting

Fixed limit poker barely ever makes the headlines these days. It would appear that everything that counts revolves around NL poker, and ever since the 2003-2004 popularity explosion of online poker, this phenomenon has become even more pronounced. Someone who's just beginning to venture into the world of online poker may rightly believe Fixed Limit poker is but one tiny step up from the play money tables, meant to give beginners a cheap and efficient way to get used to the real money tables. Nothing could be further from the truth than that though. All poker used to be FL until not so long ago, and all poker variants - without exception - can still be played with a FL betting structure, while only some of them can be played No limit.

The strong emergence of NL poker can probably be attributed to the fact that in recent years, Texas Holdem has blown out all the other poker variants popularity-wise, and Texas Holdem is indeed a variant wonderfully suited to the NL betting structure. The bottom line is, Fixed Limit poker is still a huge part of the poker industry, online as well as offline. The fact alone that most micro limit games offered by online poker rooms are FL ones doesn't mean there's no money in FL games. The limits involved can be as high as one wishes to set them and as a beginner, you'll probably make more money off FL games than NL ones. As a matter of fact, the FL betting structure is ideal for beginners. FL games are based on mathematics and on raw discipline rather than on psychology, and as such, they only require level 1-2 poker thought. Most players will never really get past the second level of thought anyway, which means they shouldn't ever hit the NL tables.

Level 1-2 players are at a huge disadvantage in NL games because the featured betting structure amplifies and compounds all the mistakes they make, without actually offering an edge on the other side to compensate. The bottom line: if you're a beginner, stick with FL. The fact alone that there's a set limit to the amount of money you can lose on a single hand means that you'll be able to keep your losses under control and thus to keep your "tuition" down in the beginning. You'll be able to play a much higher number of hands in a FL game than in a NL one on the same amount of starting chips. The conclusion: you'll be able to amass valuable experience much cheaper. What are the most important things you - as a beginner - should know about FL poker? First of all, FL is not just a small step up from the play money tables. It is in fact a giant leap.

While some poker rooms do not collect rake at the micro limit FL tables, they definitely do at the higher limits. When it comes to actual FL strategy, the first thing you need to hammer into your head is that every single bet counts. NL players completely fail to see the point in this, because NL is a game of implied odds where your objective is to control your losses and to possible get someone all-in in order to felt them.

In FL poker, you operate in a much more delicate manner. You can't get people all-in, so you work your small edges and you put them to work time and time again, exploiting your opponents' mistakes and staying out of trouble in the same time. In FL, your overall goal is to win a set number of big bets per hour, and if you can achieve that you can call yourself successful. Every mistake that you make will cost you a bet, and for every such bet you'll need to earn two to make a profit. If you lose say 3-4 bets on a badly played hand, and you are playing with an hourly rate of 2 big bets, I think I needn't tell you how big the impact of such a mistake will be.

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