‘Strategic thinking’ might sound like some business jargon catchphrase to some, but it is a genuine process. It’s about how we assess, view and plan for the future in the context of achieving a particular goal. For instance, it could be used to aim for a promotion at work, save for a holiday, or anything else you can imagine.
But strategic thinking can just as easily be used to up your poker game with ease. Like we covered in Upswing poker lab review, knowing all aspects of the game will help you plan ahead and make much better decisions.
The Logic Laid Out Slowly
According to the University of Florida, ‘strategic thinking and/or planning consists of three phases that identify and clarify'. In simple terms, these are:
- The first phase is knowing where we are now.
- The second is knowing where we want to be.
- And the third is how we will get there.
Easy enough, right? It’s just logic laid out slowly.
Now, let's look at these in the context of a poker hand of Hold ‘Em:
- The first phase (where we are now) is knowing your hand, the flop and being able to read your opponents.
- The second phase (where we want to be) is knowing what cards would help you, whether you want to fold or bluff, or even go all in on various runouts.
- The third phase (how we’ll get there) is coming up with the best play for any card that will come to maximize your EV.
Now, you might think that practice is the only thing you need to get better at strategic thinking, but there’s more to it than that.
The Key To Strategic Poker Thinking is to Slow Down
Financial group Macquarie suggests the key to thinking strategically is allowing yourself to slow your mind down. You need to think in the first place. And that takes time. In a high stakes game of poker, you only have a limited amount of time, so another critical skill if you want to improve your poker game is the ability to work under pressure with the limited information available to you.
To be able to do that well, you'll need to practice decision-making in challenging situations. There are many ways to do so, but probably the best one is to practice away from the table using one of many poker tools available to you.
Having time limits to make up your mind as well as the win/lose aspect makes games such as blackjack and baccarat helpful in teaching you to keep calm and make decisions fast. What's more, certain online providers have live and non-live versions of casino-style poker games, which apply poker rules to casino-style gameplay against the dealer, thus creating an experience that's closer to Hold'em, but without the bluffing element. For instance, the Buzz Bingo platform has Casino Hold'em on offer in addition to roulette and blackjack games. So the next time you're at the table, online or off, slow down. Reflect and calculate. Poker is a game of probability and maths as much as anything else. The more you play into that, the better off you'll be. Playing against the dealer in casino-style card games without worrying too much about others at the table like in Hold'em can help you improve your quick-thinking skills, carrying them over to the poker table when the time comes.
According to Psychology Today, one of the strategic thinking’s worst enemies is emotion, whose negative results we often refer to as 'tilt' in the poker world. To that end, here’s a practical tip for putting it into practice. Focus on phase two – knowing where you want to be. You want to win at poker. Getting frustrated, alienated or angry isn’t going to help your game. What helps is a cool, steady reflection. What helps is having command over the way you present yourself. Others around the table are going to be looking for clues, tells and tips. Give them nothing – or rather, give them a bluff if that’s more your style!
There’s a secondary goal to every hand or game of poker besides winning that doesn’t get talked about as much, and that’s an improvement. With a cool head, with strategic thinking, improvement of your skills is guaranteed so shoot for that!