Poker might be a game that can be played even at the professional tournament level, but it’s also a game that’s widely enjoyed by beginners. Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of poker experience, you can easily play and win poker with just some basic knowledge about the game.
Mastering poker takes a lot more than that, of course, but these basic tips will help you get started on your poker journey.
Just remember that the main goal for most poker players is having fun, not winning money. These skills might help you win more chips, but the most important thing is having a good time while you’re doing it.
When you’re first starting to play poker it’s a good idea to start online. Not only can you find poker games that don’t cost any money, but you can also focus entirely on your cards and how the game is played instead of trying to read your opponents. That makes it a great way to get your basics down and to start developing your own play style.
Once you’re a little more confident you can start playing online games against real players and for actual money. There are still fewer distractions in this format, so you’ll be able to focus on the core of the game. Playing against real people can make the game a lot more enjoyable.
Learn Hand Rankings
One of the goals of playing online is to start learning the different hand rankings. Knowing how a hand will stack up is critical for making good betting choices. Not only should you know which hands are likely to be winners, it’s also important to know the ranking and which hands are most common.
You have to remember that most games of poker will be won with middling hands, not the absolute best options. It’s great when you have a slam dunk hand, but knowing the hand rankings and evaluating the odds will tell you when you can press forward with a hand that’s only so-so.
Stay At One Table
When you switch to playing in-person games, it’s important to stick to one table instead of moving around to lots of different games. Usually, you’ll be able to tell beginner players from the more experienced tables, and it’s best to play in those games at first.
Staying at one table gives you a more consistent group of players. While the other players might occasionally switch tables or leave the game entirely, you’ll still have fewer variables to consider. That way you can continue focusing on the game without having to worry as much about the psychological aspects of poker.
Sticking to one table also helps eliminate another variable, the dealer. While dealers usually do their best not to influence the games, especially at professional casinos, their dealing style and pace can still influence the players.
Don’t Look for Tells Until You’re Confident
Experienced poker players will tell you that paying attention to the other players’ tells is just as important as your cards, but beginners shouldn’t spend a lot of time looking for tells.
Mastering the cards and knowing which playing strategy works well for you is more important than trying to watch for tells at the beginning. Plus, you’re likely to be playing with new players who may or may not have reliable tells.
A good tell is something the other player isn’t aware of, and that gives you reliable information about their hand. But a beginner poker player might not be able to evaluate their hand well in the first place, and will likely give a lot of mixed signals while they think through their next moves or hope for a specific card.
Start With Low Stakes Games
When you’re learning poker it’s important not to go with a high stakes game because the stakes are likely to get in the way. Poker players need to be calm. Getting caught up in the excitement of a win or worry about a loss can make it harder for you to do well on the next hand.
Worse, emotions make it harder to think rationally about the game. While you’re still learning that can be disastrous since you need to think about card rankings and other technical aspects of the game.
Low stakes game let you stay calmer and more collected, and let you develop the instincts of a good poker player as conscious thought becomes muscle memory.
Set a Budget
It’s also important to have a budget for your poker. That way you don’t accidentally spend more than you meant to. Having a budget also gives you a natural stopping point that can prevent you from playing too long.
More importantly, having an affordable set budget also helps you stay calm and collected while you play.
Think About Your Opponent’s Hand
This is a skill you should pick up after you’ve learned hand rankings and other poker skills. This is actually one of the last skills a beginner poker player should develop.
The cards on the table and in your hand can give you a lot of information about the other players’ hands. Having a solid understanding of card odds is also critical for developing this skill.
Evaluating what the other players likely have, based on your cards and the moves those players are making will help you know when you’re a likely winner and when you’re taking more of a risk in a hand.
Learn When to Fold
A lot of beginning poker players don’t want to fold because they think that playing the whole hand will help them learn faster. That’s true to some extent, but knowing when to fold is critical. Not only will you lose less money when you learn to fold, but you’ll also be demonstrating that you know your cards and the odds that much better.
It’s also important to avoid the other common mistake, don’t fold too early or too often. Folding too often will tell other players that you don’t know when you have a winning hand and will make it easier for them to bluff you later. Folding too often will cost you money every bit as much as failing to fold when you should.
Take Your Time At First
One thing beginner poker players often forget is that you should take your time as much as possible in the beginning. It’s okay if you need a moment to think before you make your play. It’s generally a good idea to stick to beginner games until you can move faster, but trying to rush your game to keep up with more experienced players will make it harder for you to learn the game.