Card playing tips for the beginner

This is a compilation of tips for all new players of Texas hold'em and other poker games.

1. Be realistic about your winning prospects

Everybody wants to win and many feels that they are better than the average. Sometimes that is the case, but as a beginner you must realize that you might face opponents that have been playing for many years.

learning versus results diagram

The diagram is only a hypothetical illustration.

These players may not be experts, but they have at least learned some during all their playing sessions. Try to not be to focused on the result in the beginning and instead have the goal of learning the game and become better at it.

2. Choose a cautious approach to begin with

Wait for good cards before you join pots. The problem with playing to many starting hands is that you often have to fold directly after the flop – that means that you lose your investment. And if you decide not to fold with a mediocre hand, the risk is that you lose even more money.

Avoid starting hands like 4-2 (two low cards), 8-5 (one middle range card and one low card) K-3 (one strong card, but with a weak kicker).

3. Don’t be curious

To be curious in poker will cost money. A curious player calls lots of hands in hope for hitting a pair, a straight or a flush. This is in most cases not worth the cost for calling. A curious player also calls the opponents to see what they have just to be sure they had him beaten – that will also cost a lot of money.

4. Loose the minimum when you haven't the best hand

This advice is a follow-up to the previous one. When you don’t have a hand that will beat other hands in the specific situation, fold directly against a bet. You will sometimes fold to a bluff, but in the longer run this approach will save you money.

5. Let your opponents pay when you have a strong hand

When you hold a strong hand, bet! You don’t win any big pots by checking. In some, cases it can be better to just check if that stimulate the opponent to raise. But the default approach is to bet with your strong hands on every street to build a pot.

6. Don’t bluff to often or by impulse

A bluff in the right spot is something that distinguish a great player. Beginners may lack this ability; therefore, don’t bluff too much until you learn how to find the right spots.

In poker, you shouldn’t bluff only because you feel for it. A bluff should be based on many factors. Such as a board that give many possibilities to represent good hands, or an opponent that shows weakness by only checking after he have made a bet on an earlier round.

7. Study your opponents

Your opponents have various playing styles. You may for example observe how a player tend to use a specific betting pattern. Make mental notes about things like that and you will have better chances to exploit the player in the future.

8. Don’t get upset

Poker is a game that can feed anger. The down- and upswings during a session can take its mental toll. As for beginners that are not use to the swings and the bad beats, strong emotions are common. Negative emotions can spoil your game in many ways and influence your game in a direction against bigger risks.  

9. Learn the odds and act upon that

Every situation has some odds implied. If the odds aren’t good enough, you shouldn't make the call. And if you make the call anyway and win the hand with a negative expected value, the play you did still lose money over time.

10. Understand the long perspective

Poker is like a marathon. It is not very important if you win a certain hand or not. The important thing is if your decisions will earn you money in the long run.  

11. Avoid disadvantageous playing conditions

If you want the best possible result based on your capacities when playing poker, you must avoid unnecessary distractions. The supermarket queue is not the funniest place, but neither is it the optimal environment for gambling about money through a cell phone.

There are many possible distractions. Listen to music can be positive for some, but to share your attention between the TV and the poker tables aren’t.

12. Site selection

The poker sites around the web have some different features and different player bases. You may find features on one site that you like and it can also be that you find the competition softer on one site. Thus, it can be a good idea to try different sites, see listed poker rooms. Site selection may be the most important off-table decision you do.

13. Learn the lessons for free

As a beginner, you will often lose more than you win. The good news is that you can participate in freerolls and get the needed lessons for free. If you lose, you don't lose any of your money, and yet, you can sometimes win some money. The money you can win from freerolls are often not big, but it will step up your motivation.

14. Pay the minimum rake and fees

You won’t find a poker room without rake and fees (you pay rake in cash games and fees when buy in to a tournament). However, you can perhaps find a poker room with lower rake and fees than that you play on.

Thus, it can be a good idea to compare rake. To know if your site doesn’t give you overprices you should be able to buy-in to a tournament and pay maximum 10% fees of the buy-in amount.

15. Customize the playing conditions

There are many things you can modify from the default when playing online. Some of these things are avatars, color on the cloth, background in the game window and appearances of cards.

When it comes to the cards, you can in many cases choose everything from animations to the looks of the back and front. These are minor things – and for many just curiosities – but something that actually can affect your performance is to choose a 4-color deck. Playing with four color may seem unnecessary – after all you are probably not color blind, but it may have some benefits then you think about it. When playing online, the tempo is much higher and you will often end up taking faster and faster decisions. The chance that you will mistake a diamond for a heart can happen.

16. Don’t play when you are tired or in a bad temper

You will not perform at your best when you’re tired or in a bad temper. In addition, there is a greater risk that you will be on tilt.

17. Keep studying the game

Most poker players don't improve very much. They tend improve in the beginning, but after a short while, their progress stagnates. One reason to this is that they don't search for new ways to improve: the don't analyze their game and they don't consult books or article on the web.

After you have learned the fundamentals, keep studying to get insights about the subtler finesses in the game. The sum of the details you understand in the game, can be what separates you from a non-winning player.

Written by Oscar Sand

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