Having a Poker Game plan

The best poker I played in my life is the poker I played before I started taking the game seriously. I have found that the more obsessively I try to improve my game, the more rigid it has made me. Being rigid in the middle of gameplay can only give away precious information about your hand. So, I have made an effort towards a more fluid, laid-back style. The lessons of rules of poker are important, but you have to remain instinctive during the game. To ensure that my game remained fluid, I opted not to put a great deal of thought into the game prior to starting. This is the mistake. Being so laid-back that you do not formulate even a vague game plan before going in is as dangerous as having a game plan that is too rigid.

In the interest of remaining flexible, I mistakenly decided not to put sufficient thought into the game. I sat down at the table with what I felt was a fresh start, but cliche or not, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Putting together a game plan prior to play should not be confused with making yourself too rigid to play a flexible, instinctive game. In fact, the point should be to put together a flexible gameplan, one that sets some assumptions but ultimately leaves you free to adjust your style as the game progresses and dictates.

Elements of the Game plan

The type of players

Who is coming to the game and what do you know about them? If a particular player watches alot of poker on TV, expect that he may try to emulate the style of game he sees being played by professionals. This can prove fatal if he plays strategy that may work in big-stakes games, but not necessarily the one you play amongst friends.

If a particular player is poor at hiding their tells (as in telegraphs, as in they can’t hide what they have very well), make sure you remember the tells, make sure you share that information with nobody, and make sure you are looking for the tells when the game starts. If a particular player is loose, remember to avoid bluffing and slowplaying this player. The opposite if a particular player is too tight.

The type of game

What is the table climate and how do you fit in? Is the game loose, tight, aggressive, passive? If the table is loose, prepare to play a few more hands than you might normally. If the table is aggressive, prepare to play a few less hands in early position. If the table is tight, prepare to do more bluffing and slowplaying. If the table is passive, drop the slowplaying. It is important to keep this element of your game plan flexible because the climate of the table might not be what you expect and even if it is, it will change as the game progresses.

The level of competition

Based on the stakes, how seriously is the game being taken by its players? If you’re playing for fun, then you might be the most competitive and strategically-prepared player at the table. If you’re playing in a competitive nature, then get ready for your opponents to show up with their best game.


These are guidelines only, not a checklist. You have two goals when you put together your game plan: 1) have a game plan, and 2) ensure it is flexible enough that it does not make you rigid during play and that it can adapt to changing conditions at the table. Players that do not have a game plan have not put forward thinking into how exactly they intend to do well at the table. Players whose game plan is too rigid will find themselves playing rigidly, giving opponents the chance to catch on to their game plan and play against you accordingly. Don’t write down your game plan! If you do, you’re already being too rigid. Be able to enunciate it before the game, but ultimately, have it in the back of your head.