In my last article, I discussed the importance of tracking your profitability and gave you simple measurements to do so.

I’m sure all you tournament players would love to increase your return on investment by 15%, 50%, or even 500%, right? And you cash game players would love to have higher winnings per hour or higher BB/100 hands won as well.

Here, then, are five strategies to help you increase your profitability now. They’re listed in order of simplicity; from easy to implement to hard to do. With that said, the harder it is to do, the more profit potential it has.

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5. Play the Stakes You are Bankrolled For

It’s critical that you play within your bankroll to avoid having a “scared money” mentality. It’s quite stressful when a quarter of your bankroll is sitting on the table in front of you (e.g., $500 with a $2,000 roll). With so much at risk, making aggressive, chip-committing plays is scary and can be hard to do. For example, bluff check-raising for $120 means committing 1/4 of your stack, but it would also mean committing 1/16 of your entire roll. Talk about a stressful play!

So, whichever gaming site you choose to play at online, you can keep your stress as minimal as possible by playing stakes where you don’t feel the pressure of loss. Drop down to $1/2 as necessary or online play $10 buy-ins. Build that bankroll so you can more comfortably play bigger games.

4. Choose the Lower Rake Option

I have two card rooms in town. One has a max rake of $6 per hand and the other has a max of $7 per hand. I also play at two different online sites, one with a better rake structure than the other. Guess which card room and site I play on? Yeppers, the lower raked ones.

I don’t begrudge the poker rooms taking rake. They have to turn a profit to stay in business, right? But with all things equal (player pools, availability of action, enjoyment of the poker room, etc.), playing with lower rake makes the cost of poker cheaper. And in poker, just as in life, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Dragging 10 pots at the $7 rake card room during a 3-hour session will lower my hourly win rate by $3.33/hour. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s the difference between earning $15/hour and $11.67/hour. I choose to earn more.

And if you prefer to play poker online, look for sites that offer rakeback. Rakeback is an incentive that sites offer to get players “in the door”. In essence, the site returns a portion of the rake to you on a weekly basis. This is basically a discount for playing on their site.

3. Ditch Distractions

Poker time is poker time. It’s time to focus on implementing the skills you’re learning off the felt, to pay attention to the action, to learn about your opponents and devise ways to exploit their tendencies.

It’s NOT time to watch SportsCenter, play Candy Crush, or respond to emails. These things take up valuable mental real estate that should be used for making great decisions.

If boredom leads to distraction, try to force yourself to pay attention to all the information coming your way. Even if you fold, continue watching the action. Take poker notes: who 3-bets, who limps and calls, who c-bet bluffs a lot, and who never folds their draws. Watch every showdown and rerun the action of the hand through your mind to help you understand the logic your opponents use in their decisions. This information is invaluable to making profitable plays and building your chip stack.

2. Target the Lesser-Skilled Players at Your Table

As a winning player, a majority of your profits come from weak, inexperienced players… the “Fish”. These types of players play too many hands pre-flop, they limp and call with any “pretty” holding, they love flops and are willing to stay in with just about any pair or draw.

Your poker profits come from making better decisions than they do. But, in order for your skill edge to win chips, you must play hands against them. Look for every opportunity to see the flop, heads-up, against these lesser-skilled players while holding a hand superior to their range of hands (e.g., holding Ace-Ten when they can hold every Ace-X, King-X, and Queen-X hand).

Here are 3 strategies for “facing the fish” heads-up:

  • Raise when they limp in, and make it a size large enough to get everyone to fold and just the fish to call.
  • With fish in the blinds, open-raise large enough to get everyone else to fold and just the fish to call.
  • If the fish raises ahead of you with a wide range of hands, re-raise (3-bet) them with hands ahead of their calling range.

It’s critical to remember that these lesser-skilled players are your friends.  You want them happy and willing to play with you, so never “tap the aquarium” by berating them.

1. Study to Plug Your Poker Leaks

This final strategy of increasing your profitability is all about decreasing your losses. You do this by finding areas of weakness, or what I call, your poker leaks. Once you find a weakness, you must study profitable strategies and play with purpose to implement them.

Maybe you’ve realized that pre-flop, you’re profitable when open-raising but losing too much money when calling an open-raise. This is a common poker leak. You must find videos, articles, podcasts or books that can teach you proper strategy around making profitable pre-flop calls.

Once you find an item to study, do so and (again) take notes! Play your next few sessions with the goal of implementing your newfound strategies whenever it seems like a profitable opportunity. Revisit your notes daily, or study a new item the next day. Take notes again, work to implement the strategies, rinse and repeat.

Poker Notes Live

I hope these five strategies help improve your profitability. Implement them one at a time and track your profitability as the weeks go on to see what effect they have on your bottom line at the felt.

For more great coaching, strategies and tips from Sky Matsuhashi, check out his poker training site, The Poker Forge. Here’s our review.

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