Being new to poker is a little like being left in a sweet shop after closing time. There is so much to enjoy and no-one to tell you to stop filling your pockets. But while poker can give you the same high as a bag of sherbet lemons, it can be far less sweet if you make the same mistakes as everyone else in the early stages. We’ve taken a look at a few of the most common errors to save you from falling into the same traps as your enemies.
Play Little, Enjoy More
The temptation is there to take part in as many hands as you can when you first start playing poker. After all, with five community cards, any two could win the hand, couldn’t they? Well yes, but also no. The notion of a ‘premium hand’ is an important one to grasp early, as it will let you build your game around strength and in the early days of playing poker, this comes from playing strong hands like big pocket pairs or those hands which often have your opponents dominated, i.e. A-K, A-Q or K-Q. Until you know how to play weaker starting hands, it’s best to cherry-pick the best of them and learn by observation more than by costing yourself money!
Just as we’d advise you not to go crazy, one of the most common errors made by rookies in poker, especially live, is to clam up and only play premium hands, never changing and turning into what regulars will call a ‘rock’. The main disadvantage of being pegged a super-tight player is that other players will often bully your stack because they know that more often than not you are going to fold your hand. Fear can turn your play scared very quickly is one of the most visible things you can do at a poker table. Learn to trust your instincts and don’t assume that other players have a strong hand every time. Recognise patterns of play and you’ll manage to remain present in the room as the game. Both are just as important.
It may not sound the most glamorous of poker skills to perfect, but trust us, bet-sizing well will win you money! Many beginners mis-size bets with hands across their whole range, from overvaluing draws that diminish their stack to under-valuing premium pairs that allow other players to remain in the hand to chase their own flush or straight. Optimal bet-sizing in poker is hand-specific, so it is one of the hardest things to get help with early. Much of what you will learn will be through experience, but if you should keep anything in mind when making that bet, it is this. You ideally want to be maximizing how much you can win with the best hand and limit the amount you can lose. Follow that mantra and you won’t go far wrong.
Everyone would like to project perfect emotional control at the poker table, but doing so takes years of practice. In the beginning, live poker especially will send your emotional readings spiking. Your heart-rate will be up around the ‘Josh Wink’ state of consciousness, while the temptation to tilt will be worse than if you were watching Batman vs. Superman. We’ve written a whole article about controlling your tilt, but learning to remain calm despite the stresses of bad run-outs, players who rub you up the wrong way and a hundred other frustrations are key to improving your poker temperament. If you think this skill is less important than others, check out winners interviews on YouTube and see how often a winner’s temperament is praised by those he or she beat along to the path to victory.
Position, Position, Position
Playing position in poker is pivotal to your early chances of success. Knowing where you are in relation to the small and big blind is vital, with the ‘dealer button’ the best seat at the start of any deal, because you get to act last in any hand, thereby raking in information from every player’s decision. It is a well-known fact to experienced players that the players in the blinds and early position will lose more money than players on the dealer button or in the cut-off (the next seat round anti-clockwise from the button) as they are ‘out of position’.
Don’t Bluff Too Much
Everyone dreams of pulling off the monster bluff in poker – after all, it’s the ‘Cadillac of Poker Moves’. However, bluffing when you first start playing is a very tricky business. We’re not going to suggest that you never bluff, as it is a key part of any poker player’s game and not to do so especially when you’re inexperienced will leave you as wide open as the England football team defending a counter attack. But you must time your moves carefully, a good rule for poker in general. Learn what a bluff for value is and when to use it. Work out which opponents are most susceptible to a bluff and which others are calling stations. But above all, don’t overuse this priceless poker move. An all-in bluff could be the last move you make at the table!
Listening vs. Talking
One of the most common mistakes ay player makes when sitting down at a poker table for the first time is either to talk too much or too little. TV poker is awash with celebs bantering around like a stag party during Euro 2016, wo why shouldn’t you chat away to your heart’s content? Well, talking is giving away information in a way only body language outdoes, and few people read body language as well as they do intonation and speech. Resist the urge to show cards, tell players what you had or why you made a particular play, as you can be exploited for any of those truths about your game. Alternatively, if you’re nervous and feel like you’re not establishing your table image as you’d like, then use conversation to get comfortable at the time and as a way of mining information from your opponents – just try your best not to give anything about your game away for free!
Starting your journey in poker should be entertaining, fun and make you want to play more. Check out more of our blogs to help you acclimatise to the surrounding s at the poker table…and good luck!