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For those just emerging from a coma or an underground bunker, the 2016 Presidential Poker Open is over. In the end, there were several candidates at the final table, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the only ones actually playing in the heads-up portion of the game.

The last day of play was on November 8, and a flurry of action led to chips flying all over the place but most of them landing in front of Trump. The tournament director declared Trump the winner, and Clinton congratulated the new champion.

It was a marathon tournament by all accounts, and it was brutal. But any poker player who puts his or her heart and soul into a tournament knows how it feels. After all of the hard work, it comes down to the final hand to determine his or her fate. But for every player who didn’t win, there is typically a period of time in which he or she examines the game – key hands, strategies, successes and mistakes.

Read More: What Poker Players Can Learn from Donald Trump’s Election

Clinton is undoubtedly doing just that, as are her supporters. And the reflections have given way to some important lessons that any poker player can take into the next tournament.

Never Underestimate Your Competition

Poker players sometimes judge their competition by first impressions. It is too easy to assume that a person who can’t riffle chips isn’t experienced or that a person wearing sunglasses and a hoodie takes the game too seriously. That person who seems new to the game or doesn’t know table etiquette may have the best intuition and call your bluff every time.

Odds Aren’t Everything

It is important to know the basic odds at the poker table. Pot odds can help make decisions in key hands. But as any player knows, luck plays a role in the game. Playing strictly by the numbers may be a winning strategy in the long run, but skilled players also consider everything they see and hear at the tables.


Who Deserves to Win has Nothing to do With it

A player who studies and puts in the time and effort to become a great player sometimes feels that they deserve to win. “It’s my time,” they say. “I’ve paid my dues and deserve this win.” That may be true, but it does not determine who actually wins. The hard work must continue in every game and throughout every tournament, as the cards don’t differentiate between who deserves to win or not.

Appreciate Every Chip

Small pots are just as important as the monster ones. Of course, the double-ups and massive pots feel great, and big chip stacks are more fun to work with, but every chip counts. Stealing the blinds and winning those pre-flop hands are key to building a winning stack.

Do Your Research

Playing poker by instinct alone is not a winning strategy. A person needs to research their opponents when necessary, as well as studying the tournament structures and rake. Being familiar with a poker room and its rules can be as important as feeling comfortable at the table, so make sure to be informed before playing any game or tournament.

Keep Your Rail Happy

Anyone who supports your poker playing hobby or career is worthy of gratitude. It is not easy to support a player through the ups and downs, bad beats and missed draws. Make sure to keep supporters in the know as to what is happening in the tournament, and realize that many players do not have that kind of support. Be grateful for anyone who is willing to rail what can be the most boring of spectator games.

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Know and Use the Rules

Rules set out by the Tournament Directors Association, or versions used by various card rooms and tournament hosts thereof, are there for a reason. It cannot be assumed that every dealer will catch every rule breach, and players should be aware enough of the rules to call out any improprieties. Some players try to take advantage of those who don’t know the rules and standards, so it’s important to be the player who can call them out when necessary.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.