The Best Poker Habits Of Winning Poker Players

The Best Poker Habits Of Winning Poker Players

It may be easy to highlight the common bad habits that make fish and mis-regs what they are, but what are the good poker habits that winning poker players use to succeed? Or a better question: what quality poker habits do you have that help you better succeed at the poker table?

While natural skill and ability are always relevant when gauging how successful you can be at poker, there are many optimal poker habits that do not require skill, but simply effort and willingness. For poker players who have the drive to take their game to the next level, reinforcing and sustaining proper poker habits can help them make more money from playing poker and accomplish their goals. Are you willing to put the work in?

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

– James Clear 

Poker Habit #1: Taking Notes and Tracking Your Poker Sessions

Actively taking notes and keeping consistent track of your poker bankroll is something not nearly enough poker players do at the low stakes. One of the best ways to improve at poker is reviewing past played hands and either sharing them with other poker players for feedback or reviewing them during your personal study time. Even if you lose money from an unlucky or poorly played hand, you can still draw +EV by using the hand to improve your play in the future. Unless you have a photographic memory, the only way you can recall past hands is by taking notes at the poker table. Even if it means bringing a notepad and a pen with you to the casino, making the extra effort to take notes will help you improve in the long run.

How To Effectively Take Notes When Playing Live Poker

Although it requires extra effort on your part, it has never been easier to record poker hands for later use. Online poker players benefit from programs like PokerTracker 4 and most online cardrooms recording past hands, but what is the best way for live poker players to keep track of hands away from home? 

In 2023, the vast majority of people have access to a mobile smartphone, meaning they have the means of taking notes electronically. If you are active in group chats with other poker players, you have undoubtedly seen a screenshot from the Notes App recounting a hand history. As long as your iPhone or Android has some amount of charge, you have the means of recording a hand history at any time.

Even with the convenience smartphones provide, it doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon the old-school approach of taking notes using paper and a pen. Even in the modern era of poker, you will still see the occasional poker player with a pad and pencil at the ready. Throughout my career, there have been times where even I have brought a pen and notebook to take notes at the table, which has greatly helped my game!

Jonathan Little taking notes during a poker tournament for later poker study. Photo courtesy of PokerNews.

Photo Courtesy of PokerNews

Tracking Your Sessions and Poker Bankroll

Not being cognizant of your performance at the poker table and where your bankroll stands is detrimental to your long-term success. Keeping consistent track of each session and your poker bankroll is a requirement if you eventually want to move up stakes, and much like taking notes, keeping track of your poker performance has never been easier.

If you are a poker player who only plays live tournaments and cash games, there are a variety of mobile apps that will make tracking your statistics even easier. A popular one amongst poker players is Poker Bankroll Tracker, which not only helps you track your bankroll, but also provides its own hand replayer and odds calculator. While Poker Bankroll Tracker is certainly a fine option for poker players looking to track their results, there are a number of tracking and bankroll apps available to poker players on mobile marketplaces. Simply find the app that works best for you, and get to tracking!

Poker Apps like Poker Bankroll Tracker help poker players track how much money they make playing poker tournaments and cash games.

Poker Bankroll Tracker not only tracks your total winnings, but also your hourly rate and overall ROI.

Poker Habit #2: Eliminate Distractions At The Poker Table

Have you ever sitten down at a live cash game or poker tournament, and seen a player at your table watching a movie or YouTube video on their phone or iPad? Odds are you have, as such behaviors are incredibly common in modern poker rooms and casinos. While some of these players may be enjoying Friends or the latest Jonathan Little YouTube video, they are doing themselves a huge disservice by not giving the game the attention it deserves!

By not paying full attention to the poker game you are playing, you are costing yourself EV over time. Even if you aren’t watching Rounders at the poker table, it is important to consider how often you are distracted when playing poker.

Using Your Cell Phone at the Poker Table

Alright, if your mother texts you asking for your garage door code so she can get into your home and babysit your child, by all means, take a moment to text your sweet mother back as a quick text will likely not cost you a lot of EV. However, if you are constantly messaging fellow PokerCoaching premium members in the PokerCoaching Discord and exchanging poker memes, you are certainly not giving your poker game the attention it deserves.

One of the most common behaviors you will see at the poker table is players on their phones when they are not actively in a poker hand. Even if you are not in the hand, by not paying attention to the action you are missing out on useful information that may help you later on! 

Let’s say your opponent raises in early position preflop, and you call on the button with A♣-10♣. The flop comes A♠-Q♠-9, a decent board for you! Your opponent leads out for a small bet, and you call. The turn is the 5, your preflop opponent sizes up with a chunky 80% pot bet and you call with top pair. The river is the 2, and now your opponent makes a huge 150% pot bet! While you have top pair, you certainly may be nervous calling such a big bet against a preflop raiser who triple-barreled. With a lack of information on your opponent, you are left with a tough river spot and are unsure what to do.

While you may be torn between calling and folding, what if a half hour prior your opponent played the same board against another opponent, and after the other player folded to the 150% river bet, your opponent showed them K♠-J♠. If you had been paying attention instead of watching Ryan Depaulo vlogs, you would know your opponent was capable of bluffing, and would have known making the call was the correct play.

Should You Listen to Music or Podcasts at the Poker Table?

Like many aspects and variables in poker, whether it is optimal for an individual to listen to music or podcasts at the poker table is player dependent. It is no secret that the ability to multi-task and pay attention with background noise varies from person to person, but what works for one person may very well not work for you. Just because a high stakes online legend said in an interview they won millions while also listening to Lex Friedman, it does not mean you are capable of doing the same thing while grinding micro stakes.

While it is easy to say you should always pay 100% of attention at all times or “if you’re bored, add another table”, the grind of poker may prevent you from playing at all if you have no form of other mental stimulation. It cannot be debated that playing at peak optimality means zero distractions entirely, but that is not a realistic answer for the modern poker player. My advice: track how you perform when listening to podcasts/music when playing poker, as well as when you are not. Compare the results, and look to see how greatly listening to media while playing hinders you. If you see a huge drop off in your hourly, you know what you must do moving forward.

Poker Habit #3: Consistently Study Poker

To be a winning poker player in 2023, you must regularly study the game. The vast majority of poker players you encounter at the low stakes do not study poker on a regular basis. Even if you devote just 2-3 hours a week to studying poker strategy, you can give yourself a huge edge over your opponents. However, if you are new to the game or have never studied poker strategy before, you might not know quite where to start.

Don’t Just Study Poker, Study Poker Effectively

With almost anything in life, improvement and execution has a higher rate of success when you follow a plan. What is the first step in solidifying an effective poker study plan? Understanding what you want to improve in and specifying where you want to improve over time. In the beginning, start by focusing on the variation of poker you want to specialize in. If you are a $1/$2 cash game player looking to grind and eventually move up to $2/$5, you should primarily be studying cash game resources.

While I may certainly be biased, the Cash Game Masterclass on not only provides a resource for cash game players of all levels to improve, but does so in a methodical and structured way. 

Jonathan Little's Cash Game Masterclass helps poker players master how to play preflop, flop, turn, and river to make money playing cash games.

Starting with the fundamentals then breaking down the aspects that come with each street of a poker hand, my Cash Game Masterclass provides poker players a structured approach to learning how to beat cash games, especially at the small stakes. But what if you are a PokerCoaching member who has already completed the Cash Game Masterclass? Lucky for you, there are plenty of opportunities to apply what you have learned while studying.

Study Real Life Spots with Hand Quizzes on offers a number of poker hand quizzes inspired by poker tournaments and cash game hands played by our team of poker coaches.

PokerCoaching members get access to over 2,000 hand quizzes inspired by real-life hands played by my team of professional poker coaches. By not only being tested but receiving feedback from coaches in real time, the hand quizzes found on allow you to apply concepts and strategies you learn on the site without having to risk your stack at the poker table. If you want to learn to play like the pros, see how the pros approach the game!

Tips For Studying Poker

Make The Most of Your Limited Study Time

The vast majority of poker players are recreational players who do not play poker full-time. If you have a career, a family, or both, you do not have 40 hours a week to study poker as the pros do. Since you likely only have a limited time to not only play poker but to study the game as well, you must make the most out of the time you use hitting the books.

The first step in making sure you are fully utilizing your study time is by placing yourself in an optimal environment. If you have access to a room in your house that is quiet and away from other people, you have taken a huge step toward limiting distractions. Once you find your “quiet place”, do yourself a favor and turn off your cell phone. While cell phones in the modern poker solver era of technology are incredibly useful, they also serve as the number one distraction for poker players. Don’t worry, Twitter will still be there when you get back.

Before you sit down to study, have a set study plan you look to follow prior to each study session. If you spend the first 5-10 minutes of each study session scrolling through content and deciding what to study, those precious minutes add up over time. By following a set course or preparing hand histories in advance to review, you can hit the ground running at the start of every study session rather than waste valuable time.

Categories Your Poker Hands and Spots To Review

After you get into the habit of recording hand histories played online and live, you may start to notice patterns in your play. Whether it be continuation betting too wide or over-folding on the river, patterns in your play may highlight leaks that are worth specifically studying. 

Let’s say you are a PokerCoaching premium member, and after looking over a number of hand histories you realize you are losing way too many pots when playing from the big blind. By going to the Classes section of your dashboard and simply searching “big blind”, you will be providing a long list of classes that will instruct you on how to play from the big blind properly. By deeply examining your play and being aware of common spots in which you make mistakes, you can better allocate study time to areas you can improve in. offers a wide variety of classes to help members learn how to make money playing poker tournaments and cash games.

Consider Hiring A Private Poker Coach

Hiring a professional poker player to serve as your private coach can be a worthwhile investment that could greatly benefit your hourly and ROI playing poker. While reviewing poker hands can be incredibly beneficial, reviewing hands with a professional poker coach can be even more impactful as you work to improve. While you may not have the experience to see the game through the eyes of a pro, a professional poker player can leverage years of study and hundreds of thousands of played hands to help you see the game in a different way. 

Even though private coaching can greatly benefit poker players looking to improve, I recognize private coaching is rarely cheap to most low-stakes players. If you cannot afford private coaching, there are still plenty of ways to surround yourself with people who can help you improve. As a poker player, you likely know plenty of people at your local card room who would be willing to discuss the game with you. Whether it be a group chat where you send hands to other poker players or a weekly study session with friends, regularly discussing poker with players who are better than you will in turn make you a better poker player. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, join the official PokerCoaching Member Discord!

The poker coaches at offer private poker coaching lessons to members to help them beat poker tournaments and cash games.

Interested in booking a private coaching session with a coach? Click here!

Poker Habit #4: Taking Breaks and Not Playing Poker Tired

Long, grueling sessions grinding it out at the cash game table are often glamorized by poker players, but such glamorization fails to account for how this impacts your performance. A professional athlete will likely have an “off” game if they were up late drinking at the bar the night before the big game, and the same is true for poker players. Poker is a mental game that requires substantial brain power for success, and if you are not properly rested or let your emotions get the best of you, chances are you won’t be playing your best poker

Be Prepared and Recognize When You Can Leave The Poker Table

One of the beautiful things about cash games is the flexibility they provide to poker players. When it comes to cash games, poker players can dictate when they want to play as long as at least one game is running at their local poker room. Even when they have chips at the table, most poker rooms will allow players to come and go from the table if they need to grab a bite to eat or want to take a smoke break. Since cash game grinders have the ability to play on their “own terms”, it is easier for them to dictate when they have the proper amount of energy to play. That being said, you will still see poker players push themselves too far during cash game sessions. If you can log 20 hour cash game sessions and still play optimally, more power to you, but if you find yourself being tired and unable to fully focus it’s probably time to leave the table.

Avoid Playing Poker Tournaments Tired

Tournament poker players do not have the luxury of dictating when they can and cannot play poker. While you can certainly late register for poker tournaments, if you bagged 15 big blinds for day two and action continues at 10 A.M. on Sunday, you better be there by 10 A.M. on Sunday! With the grind of large field poker tournaments, almost every tournament poker player has been forced to play tired at some point in their poker careers. While these instances cannot be avoided entirely, it is easy to take preventative measures.

If you have a 10 A.M. start for a poker tournament and you plan on being there at the start of level one, go to bed at a reasonable hour the night prior and ensure you get at least 8 hours of sleep. By intentionally giving yourself what you need to be well-rested, you can wake up energized and ready to make a deep run in whatever event you are playing. 

While it’s easy enough to recommend getting eight hours of sleep, I recognize it’s not always that simple. If play ended incredibly late the night prior or you couldn’t fall asleep due to excitement/nerves, you may need some assistance to stay alert and make it through the poker tournament. Most poker players may turn to coffee to get the energy they need, but such caffeine intake may leave you jittery, and eventually cause you to crash before tournament play ends. Instead of coffee, try some green tea with a squeeze of lemon the next time you need a pick-me-up. Most cocktail servers will have some variation of tea available, which is way more likely to give you the proper energy boost you need.

Taking A Break When You Are Tilted

It is certainly important to take breaks when you are tired at the cash game table, but breaks may be even more crucial if you find yourself tilting. While you may be able to overcome fatigue and navigate tough spots, if tilt is causing your temper to flair, blind rage may greatly inhibit you from making the most optimal play.

Almost every poker player has seen tilt get the better of another player at some point. Even if you are facing a total fish who is willing to play 7-2 offsuit, if you “go after” that player in an improper way and let them get into your head, the roles can reverse and you may become the fish. Especially when playing cash games, if you find yourself tilting allow yourself time to take a break. Get up, go for a walk, and calm yourself before you make your return to the poker table. Emotions can very well cloud your ability to properly approach spots, use all of the resources at your disposal and give yourself a break when you are tilting.

Poker Habit #5: Follow The Strategy That Works

Out of all the traits that make up a profitable poker player, discipline is by far one of the most critical. If you have been card dead for hours during a poker tournament and are starting to feel the pressure of increasing blinds, it may be tempting to deviate from the proper strategy. Especially in the golden age of live-streamed poker where crazy bluffs and wild plays provide Hustler Casino Live with millions of views, it’s never been easier to rationalize poor poker play.

In case no one has told you this yet, take it from me: “I don’t care if pocket twos is your favorite poker hand, if you are UTG in a $1/$3 cash game you must fold them.” If you are a poker player who regularly studies the game, you know the strategy that works. As soon as you decide to deviate away from what you have studied, you all of a sudden lose your edge and are no different than the players at your table who never study. By deviating from proper ranges preflop, you will create a number of post-flop spots you will have no idea how to approach.

If your overall goal when playing poker is to simply have fun and enjoy the experience, by all means, play your pocket twos UTG. However, if your goal is to make substantial money and eventually move up to bigger stakes, you must be willing to remain disciplined and stick to the strategy you have studied. Honor the time you have dedicated to studying poker by making sure it does not go to waste!


If it was easy to make money playing poker and be a winning player, everyone and their mother would have a World Series of Poker bracelet, but the sad truth is there are no winners without losers. While there is no guarantee you will one day play $200/$400 and become the next Jason Koon, if you are willing to maintain good poker habits you can certainly crush low stakes cash games and poker tournaments to become a consistent winner. The game of poker is certainly not easy, which is why success at the poker table requires not just effort but the adoption of proven systems that work. Are you ready to take the next step and accomplish your poker goals? Take the quality poker habits shared in this article, and do your best to apply them to your poker study and play.

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