The end of a year encourages people to look back on the year that was, and to look forward to the one ahead. It's a time to review the good, the bad (and the ugly) and hopefully to learn from it in time for 2017. People around the world come up with resolutions that they hope will improve their life in the year ahead – and the same is true for poker players too. Setting clear goals can help keep you on track when times are tough and encourage you to push further when things are going well.
Of course, every poker player will have different individual goals that are dependent on what stakes you play, how seriously you take the game and many other aspects. However, there are still several goals that you can strive towards in 2017 that will appeal to all poker players. Keep on track with these and 2017 could be your most successful year yet at the tables…
Try a new poker game
The vast, vast majority of poker played on PokerStars is No Limit Texas Hold'em. And that's for good reason – it's a fast, exciting game that is easy to pick up and play. However, if that's the only poker variant you've ever learnt then you're missing out on some great alternatives.
The game closest to Hold'em is Pot Limit Omaha
(PLO). In this game you get dealt four hole cards instead of two and you must use two cards from your hand to make up a standard five-card poker hand. The betting is also pot-limit instead of no limit; those are the only differences. If anything, PLO is even more exciting than Hold'em and the pots can quickly get huge as one player has a made hand whereas another has a very strong draw. If you're after action, this is the game for you.
On the other end of the spectrum, a cool game to try out is 2-7 Triple Draw. The aim of this game is to make the lowest hand possible, with the nuts being 7-5-4-3-2. Straights and flushes count against your low hand so you need to avoid those. The reason this game is so fun is that, with three opportunities to draw or 'stand pat', there's a huge amount of bluffing and psychology that goes into every hand.
Experimenting with different games is not only fun but it can hugely benefit your Hold'em game too. Learning how to play draws aggressively in PLO or how to pull off a ballsy bluff in 2-7 Triple Draw are all skills that will help make you a tougher overall poker player to beat.
The learning tree
We all know that playing poker is fun, and pure experience is likely to improve our skill at the table. However, for 2017, you should make an effort to do some learning outside of the table too if you really want to give your game a new year's boost. There are tons of learning tools on PokerStars School, and the best thing is that you can access them all for free.
Try the training courses, read the strategy articles and participate in the forum for some great discussion. Every time that you play a tough hand it's worth taking a note of it and trying to get some feedback – generally, talking about the game with other passionate players is going to be the fastest way to improve.
Focus on the decisions and stay cool
One of the major leaks in any poker player's game is losing their cool, or going on tilt. Just one brief period of madness can undo hours of good work that you've put into a cash game or tournament. In 2017, focus on trying to keep your cool as much as possible and reduce making emotional mistakes.
One good way to do this is to remind yourself that not everything in poker is within your control. More than most other sports or games, luck plays a large factor alongside skill. Realise that all you can do is make the correct decision – such as folding a hand pre-flop or calling a shove on the turn. What happens after that is somewhat irrelevant. Let's say you face a 3-bet holding pocket Fours and fold. Just because a third Four comes on the flop doesn't mean you made a bad decision. Or let's say you call a shove with top pair on the turn and your opponent has a flush draw that hits on the river. You lost the hand in both cases but you also made two correct decisions. That is all that matters. Make enough correct decisions and you will win. That's the way maths and probability works – it just might be that there are some bumps in the road along the way.
Good luck to everyone for 2017 – let's make it your best poker year ever!