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Poker is one of the most popular games in the world, with the World Poker Tour estimating that there are now over 100 million players across the globe. And more people are looking to give it a try, thanks in part to the rise of online poker, which is giving curious first-timers various platforms to play on. Poker’s rising popularity is the reason we’ve prepared this brief guide, so that beginners like you can get to grips with the basics.
- Master the basics
Knowing when you have the best hand and when you don’t is a key component of poker. So, it’s important to learn poker’s different hands — royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, and high card — and how they stack up against each other. Aside from that, it’s important to learn the actual gameplay, like how the flop, turn, and river work and when to raise or call.
A nuanced understanding of how poker is played will help you make sensible in-game decisions, and prevent your opponents from taking advantage of any lack of knowledge on your part.
- Play a balanced range
Predictability is your enemy in poker. Do the same things over and over — continuation betting when you have a big hand, for instance, or check-raising with pairs in hand — and your opponents will pick up on your tendencies, and exploit them. The solution, as explained in a guide on how to win at poker, is to play a balanced style of poker in which you mix things up to keep everyone on their toes and guessing your next move.
Always remember: Deception is a big part of success in poker. Therefore, you will need to constantly trick your opponents into believing you have xx cards when they are actually yy. Not settling into patterns and being unpredictable will make that easier and help you win hands.
- Take your time
Making decisions quickly and aggressively will leave you vulnerable to taking unnecessary risks, and that’s exactly what happened to poker pro Rich Zhu in a 2018 tournament. Dealt with a pair of kings, Zhu immediately went all-in and lost as Nicolas Manion had pocket Aces (while Antoine Labat also had pocket Kings). So, rather than acting hastily (and recklessly) as Zhu did, practice self-restraint and play methodically. An article on top tips for amateur poker players outlines several ways to do just that, beginning with tempering your aggression.
You’ll need to study every situation, too, and make mental notes in regards to your position, the players who’ve already bet, and the tactics being employed by your opponents. Just as important, be willing to fold and wait out the next hand. If you’re in a game with 10 players, the chances are you’ll start with the best hand 10% of the time, so always look to factor probability into your game. Which means the key is to read the situation to figure out the right call. Rely on the numbers and never play on emotion.
- Play at your skill level
Lastly, don’t bite off more than you can chew! This is especially true for online poker, where it is quite easy to join high-limit games. These games, according to a guide on how to improve at poker, outlines have higher stakes (bigger pots, bigger winnings), but are also likelier to have better, more experienced players. So, avoid being a fish playing with the sharks by joining a lower level game first — say, the $2/4 range — and then working your way up gradually. With enough experience, you’ll know when it’s time to move up a level and face better competition for bigger pots.