How to play poker
18 poker tips for beginners
You've worked out the rules of poker, and you’re ready to play. Now for a few last tips before you hit the tables.
Watch who's playing aggressively or in a loose way (betting hard, playing a lot of hands) and who's playing tight (folding quickly, only playing good hands). Only go up against the tight players if you’ve got a strong hand.
Watch the chips
If someone has more chips than you, be careful – a mistake could knock you out. Fewer chips? You’ve got the upper hand.
Cards don't match any of the community cards? Fold as soon as someone else bets.
Ace in the hand
An ace in your starting cards isn’t necessarily a winner. Only play it if your other card is the same suit or a 10 or higher.
Starting hands with potential
Before the flop, go ahead if you have pairs (7-7, 9-9), two face cards (K-Q, Q-J), or cards that could make either a straight or a flush (8-9, 6-7 of the same suit). Anything else, fold – unless you're in the blind.
Good hand? Bet strong
In no-limit Texas Hold'em, you can bet any amount, any time, so when you do have great cards, back them up with a strong bet. Make sure you master the texas holdem rules.
Watch and wait
Play fewer hands when you're one of the first players to act. You can’t see what other players are doing, so if they raise, you’ll be out on a limb.
Wait your turn
Play goes clockwise round the poker table.
Be a 'bettor,' not a 'caller'
Remember, a lot of poker is psychological, so go out there and take control.
Call their bluff
If someone in a late position raises, chances they’re just trying it on, hoping to ‘steal the blinds’. If you’re in blind position and raise, you could scare them off and take the pot yourself. This move, known as going 'over the top', is probably the strongest play in no-limit Texas Hold'em.
Try not to act too quickly. Before you make a decision, think about how the betting has gone and what your opponent might have. Take your time.
Don’t get stuck in a rut of $100 freerolls. With minimal risk, soft competition and crazy all-in calls you’ll collect nothing but bad habits. Instead, make a deposit, whatever size you like and play for more cash.
Balance the books
Keep a record of all the tournaments or cash games you enter with their buy-in cost and returns. It’s the quickest way to realise your strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on winning. And it’s also a great way of seeing exactly what you're getting from the game – lots of cash, hopefully!
This one is a little out there but stay with us. Put a sticky note on your monitor to cover your cards and play according to position and betting patterns only. You’ll be more focused and discover that your cards are possibly the least important weapon compared with position and chip stack size. And who knows, you might do better than you expect.
Chucking all your chips in pre-flop isn’t going to get you anywhere – but going the distance will. You might not win all the time to begin with, but learning how to extract chips from opponents and betting for value, as well as spotting tells and picking up reads on people will be invaluable for the future.
Get as much live poker experience as you can. You need to know how to handle yourself in the live environment so that you can worry less about what you're doing and concentrate on your opponents instead. Getting your mates round for a few sessions or heading to your local casino would be perfect.
Play for something that matters
There's a fine line between being frightened of losing cash and not playing for enough to give the game your utmost attention and effort. So make sure you play for something that will have an effect on your life (without ruining it obviously). Enter a $100 multi-table tournament or Sit & Go and see how far you can go. As the saying goes, anything could happen.
Beat the bullies
There's only one real defence against an aggressive player – attack. Annoying table banter and constant raising are tell-tale signs of players trying to boss the table. So it’s time to play them at their own game. Re-raise heavily and often – you might not win all the time, but more often than not you'll just call their bluff. Then you’ll have the respect and you'll soon realise that you can dominate aggressive players, which is a great ability to have in your locker.