Poker is exciting. There are no two ways about it. Literally play your cards right and you can win big. The thrill of the game and the prospect of large wins can tempt people into taking up poker and trying their hand at the tables. That’s fantastic, but you don’t want other players working out you’re a novice and picking on you at the table for easy winnings. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the game as a beginner.
Don’t bluff for the sake of it
Bluffing is arguably one of the most famous poker terms, movies such as “Cool Hand Luke” make bluffing look cool, and it’s true that bluffing is an essential skill in poker; don’t, however, fall into the trap of bluffing just because you think it’s the thing to do. Although there are no rules when it comes to bluffing, there are certain situations when you should bluff. If the circumstances make bluffing a good decision, go for it and you could win a hand that you might have otherwise lost. Bluff without good reason and players will punish you at the table.
Don’t stay in a hand just because you’ve already started it
Just because you’ve started playing a hand, it doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. There may be times when the pot odds make it appropriate to call but calling all the time won’t win you games. It’ll just lose your money. If you feel you’re beaten and you can’t improve your hand, don’t call to save face. Fold and save your money for the next game. If players sense you’re staying in hands out of a sense of pride, they’ll turn up the pressure by playing more aggressively. You can expect to see high bets and face raises in these circumstances.
Don’t play on scared money
You should detach yourself emotionally from the money and be prepared to play all-in. To play feeling you can’t afford to lose the money is playing on “scared money”. Any players who pick up on this fear will use it against you and push you into calling and making bets you don’t wish to. Of course, no player wants to lose money if they can help it, but you should never play feeling scared. Play games within your roll and aim to play a high-quality game.
Play in good games
You want to give yourself the very best chance of winning, in which you do this by playing against players weaker than yourself and looking for good games. Be honest about your abilities. If you’re not, it will cost you dearly. Look for players that limp regularly — i.e. bet the bare minimum — play in games that have multiway pots and games which there are either very rare re-raises or very frequent ones. These are all signs of a good game. You just need to have the ability as a poker player to make it count.
Don’t play more than one table at a time
Expert players can play more than one game at a time, but as a beginner, you should avoid doing this, no matter how confident you are in your abilities. A lot goes on at a poker table and games move fast. Playing at more than one table places you under more pressure and doesn’t always give you the time to make the right decisions. If you focus on a single game, you can take more time to assess your hand and everything that is happening at the table.
Only play when you’re feeling good
Poker should always be enjoyable, whether you’re playing for leisure or as a professional, and you should only ever play when you’re feeling good. The game is mentally intensive and if you’re feeling angry, depressed or frustrated, it could have a detrimental impact on your decision-making and how you play the game. If you enter any of these states, bow out of the game and head home (or leave and log out if you’re playing online). You’ll save money.
Note that you should never play while under the influence of alcohol. It’s tempting to have a couple of drinks while you’re playing when you’re at a casino, but it can cause you to play more loosely. Even if you’re not completely drunk but are just feeling relaxed, you’ll be less sharp at the table, which isn’t what you want when there’s lots of money in play.
Poker is thrilling and you should always play to win. It’s a question of understanding how the game and the betting work, and of implementing the right strategy. All the while you should be keeping negative thoughts or feelings at bay and not be placing yourself under unnecessary pressure. Allowing yourself to feel good throughout the game and focus will enable you to play better and steer the odds in your favor.