1. Start by playing limit games instead of no-limit games. While the largest poker tournaments today are Texas Hold’em No Limit matches, a novice player should place limit games. Because of the betting limit, you’ll be playing stakes where losing a hand will be much less costly. In fact, beginners should start with games where the betting limit is smaller and advance to larger limits as expertise develops.
2. While learning, minimize losses. Play the lower limit games until you feel completely comfortable and confident before moving to higher limits. This is also true for tournament play. Instead of playing in tournaments where the buy-in is expensive, begin at affordable levels. Keep in mind that you, like everyone else, will lose at times; after all, it is part of the game.
3. Watch and learn from more experienced, successful players. Spend some time watching the play at a table before joining the game. Pay attention to how the better players make bets and which hands they choose to play. You can spend some time watching poker tournaments on television but you will learn much more by observing a table and then playing yourself as much as possible.
4. Do not hesitate to ask questions. When you don’t know; ask an expert. When don’t understand rules, hand ranks, or have other queries, find an experienced player and politely ask. Everyone began the same way you did – having to learn the game. The vast majority of experienced players are happy to help a beginner understand the game. Learn from others and their experiences in order to help yourself gain knowledge.
5. Have some patience. There is no reason to play every hand and playing bad cards when you’re a beginner will lead to bad results more often than not. Simply wait for good cards and you’ll enjoy good results most of the time, this will help you get a good feel for playing the game without too many variables. Skilful bluffing will come naturally in time as you learn the subtleties of the game.
6. Once you understand the game well, begin playing at some of the smaller tournaments. Playing in freerolls is a great way of gaining experience. Entering smaller tournaments, with the winners being granted entry to larger cash tournaments or even land-based finals, requires only a small outlay and the pay-off, whether in winnings or experience, can be well worth it.
7. Be a good loser. When you lose, do not allow yourself to become upset. In poker, losing is simply a part of the game for every player, no matter how experienced. Learn slowly and over time you will find you are able to win more often and lose less often. Don’t expect to become an overnight success.
8. Poker should be fun. The game should be fun and not too risky. Avoid taking poker play too seriously, wear a silly hat.
9. Learn a single poker game at a time. The best game for beginners is also the most popular: Texas Hold’em. Once you reach a level of expertise in one online poker game, only then should you consider developing skills in another poker variation such as Omaha.
10. In poker, anyone can win. Sometimes the largest tournament matches are won by amateur players. Who knows, you could win the next World Series of Poker. Continue playing small stake tournaments and small satellites and, over a period of time, work up to the larger games. You never know; next year you might be sitting in Las Vegas wearing a coveted WSOP bracelet.
Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.