Everywhere you look, it’s staring you in the face. Sports channels such as ESPN and Fox Sports net continuously have events on television for you to watch. Other television channels have capitalized on such events as celebrity tournaments and high stakes games for drama and entertainment purposes. I am talking of couse about the rage that is poker. Or more specifically, the style of poker known as Texas Hold’em.
Before I get into my tips, this article is for an audience assuming two basic things:
1.) You know how to play the game: I can’t explain to you the nuances of poker hands, rankings, betting habits, patterns. If you are looking to learn those, you can check out some different websites online that can help you with that. You can also join a online cardroom that can teach you step-by-step the process of analyzing hands, betting and raising, and things of that sort. This article is for people who know the basics of playing and are looking for a way to get their ‘foot in the door’ and start playing for keeps.
2.) You are looking to get started playing for money. A lot of us play for fun. You can get on any online cardroom and play for ‘play money’ and be able to have a good time without the risk of money. However, this article is for you people who are looking to see some profit from this endeavor. It’s not enough to have fun for you, you want to become a better player through practice and be able to play positive sessions in a casino or online.
Now that we’ve dealt with that, it’s time for my tips. They aren’t in any particular order, so read them and follow the ones that sounds right for you. I have to preface it also by saying that everyone is different at the table and this was how I got started. I am in no way a professional, or even a part-time pro, I am only an amateur who watches a lot of poker, studies the game, and play as much as possible. However, I have never had a losing session playing my game, having always come out ahead with some simple strategies. So without any more talk, here are some of my top tips for you ‘real game’ beginners.
1.) PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! I know you hear this all the time, it’s a cliche that comes with almost all hobbies or games. Practice does make perfect. But in the case of playing real poker, you have to get used to a few scenarios. You have to know how you play with the best hand, or with the worst hand, bluffing, betting and raising… you have to know how you personally deal with each situation and find a comfort with it. Many people like to hold onto the ‘strategies’ of professional players, but I maintain that you must know your own game and how you play it. You can develop a unique style that may serve you much better in the end.
2.) Whether online or in a casino/cardroom, know your limits. Don’t start off at high stakes tables just ebcause you have the money or the perceived ability to do so. Limit yourself, as they would say. Don’t jump into a $10/20 no limit game for your very first time at a real money table. You will more than likely be way in over your head and will be eaten alive by the sharks and serious players who frequent these tables. They are waiting for you, they want to take your money… and you making your first appearance into this poker world in such a high stakes games basically signs the check to give your money away. Start off small. Online, do not play for more than $0.50/1 for your first game. You can play higher, but get comfortable with the competition. They play different when real money is involved.
3.) Tournaments are a great way to start. Especially online, tournaments are a great way to practice for a number of reasons. They start everyone off on a level field and it goes from there. You will have to be patient and wait for premium hands to play, which will help you in the long run to take that habit into money tables. Most online poker rooms have free tournaments where you’ll not only be matched up against some of the best in the world, but some of the worst. You have to be able to tell the difference, or it may cost you a lot of money to figure it out.
4.) Play limit games first. I cannot stress this one enough. The very first time I went to a no limit table, I played $5/10
table and won about $250 dollars. Then I tanked and gave it all back in less than an hour. When you’re new, play limit games. It’ll give you an idea of how often to chase hands, what hands people will play for the cost, and also let you feel out your own game without the prospect of losing all your money in one hand. If you truly want to play no limit, that’s fine… it’s the glamour game right now and I don’t blame you. But if you want to see considerable gains or get good information to start off against real players, then limit games could prove more beneficial to you in the long run.
5.) Do not slowplay most good hands. A common misconception that many beginning poker players seem to have is that good players always slowplay their hands. I say that if you are just starting off, then you must bet when you think you have the top hand. You can get a whole lot of information on how they were playing just by simply making a decent sized bet. If you slowplay, you will more than likely allow a player to catch up. Now, there are top hands that I do suggest slowplaying. For instance, I had pocket 6’s and was in an early position on the table. I limped in with a call and got 5 other players to call in a limit game. The flop came Q-6-6. and now I’ve got four 6’s. That kind of a hand, definitely slowplay, allow people time to catch up because more than likely you have the best hand possible on the board. Someone with a Q might bet and raise, someone with pocket Q’s could be in a whole mess of trouble. Other than that, I suggest being upfront, at least when you start, to get the image of an aggressive player out there.
6.) Know when you quit. Whether you are ahead or down, know when enough is enough. If you are losing concentration, then I suggest that you give it up for a while and recharge. Professionals can play for hours, but you are not one of them. Get up, have a meal, walk around, do something to get your focus back before sitting down. If you are hitting a losing streak, then you must get up before it gets out of hand. Do not try to recoup by rebuying and losing more money. Regroup first, get some focus, maybe change tables. Obviously something isn’t working.
7.) Study everything at the table. Everyone has a tell, I guarantee you. You’ll be able to sooner or later tell what someone is thinking, has, or has had in the past. Observe betting patterns, what people do. Who’s paying attention during hands, who seems to be nonchalantly playing a hand, and who is dialed in. You want to focus on people on rushes to avoid them cause they’ll play a lot looser and you might wanna stay out of the way. Players on tilt are those you want to engage, because they’ll chase and try to recoup their losses.
8.) Only chase nut draws. Sometimes, a hand is good enough to call just to see a flop, but if there is only an outside possiblity for a draw to hit, then let it go. You will get your opportunity soon enough to cash in, but in the meanwhile you should allow people to play it out. Watch them as you can see who does chase and make them pay for it later. If you have a suited ace and two to the flush on the board, then by all means chase it another card or two. But be wary of draws that other players may have to a potentially better hand.
9.) Invest in a book or two. If you’re serious in improving your game, there are some simple books that can help you out. I suggest Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book, a book that I have read and studied and learned a lot os simple poker tips from. But there are many other books out there that are good for you. Find the game section in a close bookstore and check out the different types of poker books. Read some pages, get a feel for what some of them are saying, and pick one that is good for you. Get to know how to calculate your odds with basic methods, which hands you are comfortable with.
Not all of you are goona be successful right away, but if you follow some of the tips that I have given to you, your chances will increase. These tips won’t give you a guarantee, but nothing in poker is guaranteed. Bad beats, bad luck, and better players are just some of the things you have to look out for. All I have to say to you is good luck and work on your games.