Beginners Poker Strategy


Poker can be a complicated and intimidating game, especially when first learning. One wrong move can see players lose their entire chip stack instantly. If players persevere and learn some simple basics of the game, then poker can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. To that end, here are 10 tips beginners can use to help learn the basics and start playing.

1. Avoid Playing Every Hand.

Playing every hand is a common mistake beginners often make. The mantra that you have to be “in it, to win it” does not hold true in poker. Figuring out when to cut losses and fold can be as crucial as knowing the card rankings. Realistically every hand dealt has a chance of winning; there are just some that have a higher chance than others. So players should be selective about how many hands they play in a game, and above all, learn to fold.

2. Bluffing Is Only Useful In Moderation, If At All.

Bluffing can be a useful tactic for winning big pots when the cards aren’t going your way. Doing it every round though is a deadly trap beginners often fall prey to; other players will eventually catch on to the deception. Poker is a game of deceit and once other players figure out your playing style, it’s all over. Watching poker related content often portrays bluffing in a positive light, they show significant wins with a crafty player bluffing their way to victory, but it in reality, bluffing usually results in bleeding chips with cards that should be instantly folded. When first learning how to play, it’s better to play the cards you’re dealt competently rather than bluff. Obviously, beginners can try it out a few times, keep in mind though it’s rare for players to master quickly. Bluffing takes knowledge, lots of practice and should be avoided by new players until they have a better understanding of the game.

3. Think About Other Players Cards, Not Just Your Own.

The difference between a good poker player and a great one is thinking about other player's cards. Figuring out what other players have is half the battle, knowledge is power in poker and the more knowledge you have, the more you’ll win. Figuring out what cards other people have is a skill that players develop over years of playing, and it’s important for beginners to develop this skill early. Knowing when other players have stronger cards could be the difference between winning and losing. This skill helps beginners learn when to fold, and when to bet.

4. Try To Play Against Other Beginners.

Playing against high-level veterans who have been playing poker for years is a sure fire way to lose, and quickly. Playing against other beginners will allow you to try new tricks, learn the card rankings and get away with tactics that won’t work on higher level players. If you are better than everyone else at the table, and play your cards correctly, it should increase the odds of winning in the long run as well.

5. Consider Table Position.

Playing a hand when in the correct table position can be as crucial as the cards themselves. Often, the last to act is the best position because it allows you to see what everyone else is doing, figure out a strategy and gain potential knowledge on other players by the way they bet or fold. For example, if you have seen only weak bets, there is a chance nobody has highly ranked cards, you can take a chance and make a big bet to project strength. Or if the betting is getting massive, it could mean some people have highly ranked cards, and the last to act can opt out without risking anything. Only playing when in a good table position can give new players the edge they need to win.

6. Watch The Game, Even When You’re Not In The Hand.

Even after folding it’s a good idea to pay attention to what’s happening. You can pick up tips, figure out how to play, look at other player’s styles and figure out how you’d play the hand without the pressure. The more information you have, the better chance you have to win. Watch how other players bet, see what they raise on. If you only have a pair and there are the makings of a Straight on the board, what’s the best way to act? Push all in? Or fold? Watching the game allows players to gather information without risking their stack. In poker, knowledge is power, and the more you can collect, the better player you’ll be.

7. Don’t Play High Stakes Games As A Beginner.

Generally, the high stakes games are full of players who have been playing for years and are out for blood, and your chips. Most of the players in high stakes games have hundreds of hours of game time, and as a beginner, you will be hard pressed to beat them. You may have some initial luck while they figure out your play style, but in the long run, they will take your stack. Playing high stakes can be very costly as well, especially if you don’t understand how to play yet. It’s better to play the smaller stakes games and learn the nuances of the game first, then worry about the higher stakes games.

8. Don’t Waste Chips Chasing Cards.

There will be times when you just need one more card to make a killer hand that will trump everything on the table. When the betting gets high though, it’s best to fold these longshot hands and only chase when the betting is low. If the betting is high, it’s rarely profitable for beginners to stay in the hand waiting for a specific card. Experienced players will know the statistical chance of getting the card they need and allocate a certain amount of their stack they are willing to lose while chasing the card they need. Beginners on the other hand, tend to waste their stacks on long shots that any seasoned poker player will tell you only have a small chance of paying off. You will get it wrong though and waste chips on cards that rarely pay off, so don’t stress, learn from the mistake and move on.

9. Suited Cards Aren’t Great.

Suited cards are deceptively bad; a common beginner mistake is to hold onto suited cards and discard weaker pairs in the hopes of making a Flush, which is a decently ranked hand. Flushes are not as frequent as you might think, and there is always the danger, especially in Texas Hold‘em, of another player having a higher Flush. Statistically suited cards only improve the hand by 2% compared to non-suited cards. Folding low suited cards may make you fold cards that could win on the river, but more than likely it will help you fold a more significant number of losing hands in the long run.

10. Learn The Rules.

The amount of players who try to play poker without knowing the rules is disturbingly high. Players can get away with a basic understanding of the game, only knowing the card values, such as a Flush is weaker than a Full House, should be the bare minimum before you start playing, anything after that is a bonus. The more complicated aspects of the game, such as who is first to act and blinds aren’t crucial to start; other players will most likely be happy to explain how these work. It’s also worth noting that some casinos and game types have variations on the basic rules, so it’s essential to check that before starting. Don’t be that person who goes to the table and then spends most of the game slowing down play with relentless questions about the basics; nobody likes those people. It shows that you didn’t care enough to learn about the game you are playing and people will be less likely to tolerate you.

One Final Thing

These tips are for beginners to start playing poker. After a few months, you will figure out how you like to play and only use a few, or none of these tips because you will understand the game and the consequences of specific actions, like chasing an inside Straight draw. There is no sure-fire way to become a high roller poker player, just remember though, every expert was once a beginner, and every pro was once as clueless as you are now. So know when to fold, read other players, don’t bet more than you can afford, but above all, just have fun, it’s only a game after all.