A pattern is a repeated or regular way that something is done. So, when talking about “poker patterns”, we could use this phrase to mean “poker habits” or “poker routines,” as well.

  • Patterns might refer to on-the-felt things, like betting patterns
  • They might also include off-table habits, such as what you do before a session.

In this article, we’re going to elaborate on FIVE essential good habits to aim to cultivate into your poker routine.

  1. Continuously Evaluate and Re-evaluate your Table Selection
  2. Develop a Good Pre-Session Routine
  3. Understand the Fundamentals of the Different Betting Lines
  4. Look for Players’ Betting Patterns When NOT in a Hand
  5. Build the Habit of Studying

We also divulge FIVE harmful patterns to watch out for and/or avoid:

Table of Contents

TOP 5 Good Poker Patterns/Habits to Adopt

1. Continuously Evaluate and Re-evaluate your Table Selection:

In poker, you make your money from weaker players. So, it makes sense to continuously seek out juicy games and tables to boost your winrate as high as possible. (This search should include changing tables if you think there are other more profitable alternatives.)

To help illustrate how winnings are divided in poker, suppose the following:

  1. You have one fish at your table losing at a rate of 10 big blinds per 100 hands. 
  2. There are five other regs of equal skill sitting at the table with this fish. 

On average, the losing player’s winrate will get divided amongst the winning players, netting each winning player an average of +2bb/100.

Now imagine you had a major whale who loses at a rate of 50bb/100! That would equate to a +10bb/100 for all the sharks. Add in one or two more whales or fish into the mix, and you’re pushing the regs’ winrates even higher! 

Seek out those juicy games and tables to help boost your profits!

Evaluate and Re-evaluate your Table Selection

2. Develop a Good Pre-Session Routine: The skill gap in poker over the last decade has undoubtedly diminished. There are so many fundamental and theory-based training materials available to all players. So, the real advantage in games is on the mental side

So, it’s crucial to get into a decent pre-session routine to prime yourself for success and optimal decision-making. This preparation might include doing any of the following activities BEFORE a session:

  • Watching training videos
  • Reviewing hand histories
  • Reading strategy articles
  • Meditation
  • Practising the Power of Visualisation
  • Eating a healthy meal to not feel sluggish and tired
  • Getting a good night’s rest
  • Getting any negative emotions out of your system and focusing on the positives for a healthy mindset

3. Understand the Fundamentals of the Different Betting Lines: 

This tip is a more theory-based one to consider. It’s essential to know specific strategies as a preflop c-bettor. There are seven standard post-flop betting lines you can take (across flop-turn-river):

  1. Bet-Bet-Bet
  2. Bet-Bet-Check
  3. Bet-Check-Bet
  4. Bet-Check-Check
  5. Check-Bet-Bet
  6. Check-Bet-Check
  7. Check-Check-Bet

Understand that you need to do a good job dividing bluffs and value combos into each of those lines. That way, you remain balanced and difficult to counteract. 

Beginning players usually play a few of these lines well. But they are MASSIVELY exploitable in the others. Typically, they either over-bluff or don’t leave enough value combos in the not-as-common betting lines. (So, it’d be easy to apply pressure and scoop the pot from them in these instances.)

4. Look for Players’ Betting Patterns When NOT in a Hand:

This tip refers to poker tells whether it’s a physical tell during live play or timing-based tells when online.

People often give off an incredible amount of information with their body language and demeanour when they play. In a recent interview with Doug Polk, Phil Hellmuth attributes most of his success against top pros to being able to read their tells in live games.

  • As such, get into the habit of noticing players’ betting tendencies and what tells you can recognise. Use these to enhance your decision-making when you’re in a hand with them. 

And on the flip-side, try to be as consistent as you can with your betting patterns (same hand, same time length, same way of gathering chips, etc.). This way, you’ll avoid giving off too many tells yourself. 

Meditating, staying calm, and developing a solid pre-session routine (as outlined in Tip #2) will help you maintain composure. You’ll also achieve consistency with your betting patterns.

5. Develop the Habit of Studying: 

Develop the Habit of Studying

The growth curve of studying poker leads to exponential gains at the beginning. It then flattens out more and more as one begins to understand the nuances of the game. 

In other words, it’s essential to spend time studying the game as a beginning player. Your improvement will be MASSIVE during this time. As your game gets better, grow your bankroll and move up stakes.

  • Understanding the nuances will undoubtedly help you to stay afloat at the higher stakes. But the relative payoff will be minimal concerning increases to your winrate. 

As such, understanding the fundamentals of the game is a necessity. It’s critical to get into the HABIT of studying often (if not daily) to improve continuously.

(BONUS TIP): Keep a Game Log and Track Your Results
When you keep track of your results, you’re able to stay honest with yourself. You’ll know precisely how well/badly you’re doing in poker. 

If you continuously have losing sessions, perhaps there are some more significant leaks you need to plug. 

So, keeping track of your results will help you realise where your winrate truly stands.

TOP 5 Bad Poker Patterns / Habits to Avoid

1. Don’t Mix Poker with Alcohol/Drugs:

It’s no secret that keeping a clear head will help you make good decisions in poker. Alcohol will often either make you sleepy or play too loose, hurting your win rate all the while. 

If you wouldn’t drink alcohol during your normal day job, then you shouldn’t do it at the poker table either. Many people drink during the “fun” and “recreational” activities in their lives. So, it’s common for fishier players to have alcohol and do shots while playing poker. 

If you’re playing poker for profits, though, seek to avoid using these mind-alternating stimulants before or during gameplay.

2. Don’t Split Your Focus:

Don’t Split Your FocusDon’t Split Your Focus

There are so many tells and betting patterns to watch out for from other players when you’re NOT in a hand. So, you should aim to always be dialled-in and focused on the game at hand when you’re playing. 

You should be especially observant when you’re actively involved in a hand:

  • Don’t watch television.
  • Don’t have many active conversations with others that deter you from noticing crucial points in the occurring hands.
  • Don’t go on your phone in-between hands. 

Stay focused on the games at hand. It’ll prevent timeouts if your multi-tabling online. It will also help you absorb as much info as possible in live (and online) gameplay.

3. Don’t Bluff Too Often at Low Stakes:

A comedian has to “know their audience” and adapt their routine accordingly. So, poker players must realise the tendencies of the other poker players at their table(s) and adjust their strategies accordingly. 

  • Aspiring poker players need to study the GTO elements of the game to improve their baseline fundamentals. But the truth is that you should aim to play an exploitative style of poker to counteract the massive flaws that players have at micro and low stakes. 

At the lowest stakes, poker is typically a value-based game. Players generally tend to overcall and under-bluff. So, to exploit these tendencies, you should tighten up your game. 

Seek to maximise value from your opponents and not so much on trying to get big bluffs through. (Keep in mind that these players are generally all-too-happy to call down.)

4. Don’t Jump Stakes After a Losing Session:

Don’t Jump Stakes After a Losing Session

Many newbie players’ biggest flaw is to jump stakes after a losing session to try and win back their losses. Of course, this isn’t very smart As you move up stakes, the level of player skill also increases

So, while this tactic may work a few odd times to get back to even, more often than not, they’d end up losing and losing BIG.

Poker is a long term game. There’s no shortcut to success. You have to roll with the punches and the downswings you’ll experience professionally. 

You can do this using the following tips: 

  • Studying more 
  • Detaching yourself from the outcome of the results
  • Continuing to play your A-game, regardless of the situation or variance you may experience.

5. Don’t Habitually Play the Side Games in Casinos:

When you understand the “long term” aspect of profiting in poker, it’s foolish to partake in non-poker side games in casinos (Blackjack, Craps, Slots, etc.). In these games, the house will always be the one to profit in the long term.

Say you’re looking to have fun one evening. As long as you have solace that your money is more likely than not disappearing into the casino’s profits, then having the odd flutter is fine. 

Like the well-known expression dictates, “Everything is fine in moderation.”

Just know that the games other than poker in the casino aren’t going to help out your cause. You won’t be able to build up a long-term sustainable bankroll.

Poker Patterns: The Bottom Line

Most players know what they SHOULD be doing at the poker table to garner successful winning sessions. 

  • But what separates aspiring poker players from the already successful players is whether they’re DOING these things!

Be sure to follow the Dos and Don’ts of this article to head in the winning, profitable direction in poker.

Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.