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Beginner Poker Tips
The world of poker strategy is a vast one that involves learning lots of little intricacies and tips. If you’re just starting out in poker, you need to stick to the basics. Work on your understanding of the game until it improves. With this being said, here are some good beginning poker tips to keep in mind while you learn the game.
Tip #1: Focus on the Table Instead of TV or the Internet
Online poker can be a slow and tedious game where the real action takes a while to occur. If your goal is to improve as a poker player, you need to be focusing your full attention on the game at hand. This means no surfing the internet or watching TV in the middle of hands.
Tip #2: Stick to Starting Hand Requirements
Playing too many poker hands will cause you to bleed out chips. This puts you in difficult decisions after the flop. It’s ideal to stick to a rigid set of starting hand requirements in the beginning. Avoid playing too many hands. Early position, play AA-JJ and AK; from middle position, include TT, 99, AQ, AJ, KQ and QJ; late position, include 88, 77, JT, and T9.
As you start to gain more experience, you can widen your starting hand requirements.
Tip #3: Constantly Study Postflop Strategy
While learning the pre-flop poker strategy is important, it’s a post-flop play that sets the winners apart from the losers. Most of the tough decisions will be made after the flop. Players who consistently make strong decisions here are going to reap long-term profits.
Tip #4: Learn Simple Poker Math
Some of the poker math gets pretty complicated as you advance in stakes. You can still get by in the beginning just by sticking with simple math such as pot odds and implied odds. Learn these concepts well and your early poker days will go a lot better.
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Top 5 Rookie Mistakes
#1 Playing Too Many Hands
You’ve got to be selective when playing poker. The old saying may go “you can’t win if you don’t play,” but it’s also true that you can’t lose what you don’t put in the pot. Playing mediocre poker hands that lose most of the time when up against premium hands will destroy your chip stack. By playing too many hands, you’re tipping the odds in your opponent’s favor.
#2 Playing over your Head
If you’re really a beginner, play at a beginner table. Many rookies think they have the game down cold just because they watch the WPT on TV all the time and they cleaned up while playing their poker buddies in the basement. Start out small and if you dominate those levels, move up. It will save you lots of money if you play below your level instead of over it.
#3 Too Much Bluffing
This is another rookie symptom brought on by watching too much poker on TV. You’re not a poker pro yet, so don’t think you can act like one. Throwing in the occasional bluff is fine, but don’t fall in love with trying to dupe the table. The players who know what they’re doing will fleece you.
#4 Playing Distracted
If you’re going to play poker then play poker. Don’t listen to your favorite tunes, watching TV, or catch up on work you missed at the office. If you’re not totally focused on the game, you’ll make that one big mistake that sucks you dry.
#5 Falling in Love With Your Hand
Rookies who get monster hands tend to play them out no matter what happens. They pull in a monster hand and then it gets beat. Then often a lot of chips just went to their opponent. Remember, no matter how good your hand is, it is beatable, so don’t be afraid to fold if you know you are beaten.
Doing the Opposite of What Your Opponent Wants You to Do
Commonly in online poker, your opponent has the advantage over you when they are expecting you to move in a certain way and that’s exactly what you do. In some cases, it can work to your benefit to play around with their expectation.
Expecting the Standard Continuation Bet
For example, you raise from the button with a pair of sixes, and the loose-aggressive big blind calls you. They are expecting you to make a standard continuation bet here. When the flop comes 10-6-2, they expect you to bet if they check.
Your opponent is trying to softly check-raise you without you knowing so when they check you, you’ll do exactly what your opponent expects you to do. They may even do so so they can implement a very powerful check-raise. However, playing in a way that fits in with what your opponent wants you to do is usually a mistake.
Outmatched But With a Strategy
Let’s look at a heads-up match to show another example of this. It’s a $200 heads-up match with $250 effective stacks. There is a large skill difference between the two players. The weaker player should ideally be playing someone else. However, they can negate the advantage of the stronger player by increasing the variance in the game. This is something that the stronger player does not want.
For example, the weaker player is the big blind and the strong player makes a minimum raise on the button to $4. The weaker player has a weak hand with 8-6. Normally, most players would call here because of the pot odds. However, calling is what the stronger opponent would want you to do. They are better than the weaker player and on this hand, they even have position on them as well.
Over-Bet the Pot and Raise
The weaker player seems to be in bad shape. If they call, the result is good for the stronger opponent. If they fold, the result is great for the stronger player as well. Even a pot-sized raise wouldn’t be bad because the stronger opponent can still call with position. But, look at the results when you over-bet the pot and raise to $20, which is five times the stronger opponent’s raise.
Surprise the Stronger Opponent
The stronger opponent will not have been expecting that. They have to decide if they should get involved in an escalated pot with what is likely a weak to mediocre hand. There is the option to call. Then the weaker player can lead out for a pot-sized bet on the flop whether the weaker player hits or misses.
This sends out a message to the stronger opponent that they may have to commit their stack in this hand. With a weak-to-mediocre hand against a far weaker player, gambling will not be an option for the stronger opponent.
Don’t Play Small Ball
The lesson of this hand is when your opponent wants to play small ball, disappoint them by forcing them to play a higher variance game. If your opponent has an edge, flipping a coin is in your favor.
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Pro Poker Tips
Going Beyond the Regs
Multi-tabling seems to be so widespread in online poker these days that the vast majority of seats that are taken up at an online poker room in cash games are by players who are playing at more than one table. Multi-tabling is fine of course and it has many advantages. It also offers advantages for the avid single table player as well. Good single table players are in the best situation to really optimize their one-table earn rate if they are sitting with multi-tabling regulars.
Multiple Tables – Stonger Player?
It is often assumed that players who play numerous tables are strong players. In some cases they are. But, chances are that they are a decent player with a sound game who is grinding. Being tight-aggressive in poker isn’t good enough these days and many players have the pre-flop part of their game sussed out.
It is the post-flop skills that are lacking with many players. The primary concern in the games of low-stakes tight-aggressive players is that they do not have a plan for the hand from start to finish. Let’s take a look at an example of this.
Plan for the Hand From Start to Finish
Your opponent raises from middle position and you call with pocket sixes on the button. The blinds fold and now it is just you and your opponent left in the hand.
The flop comes Kc-9s-8d and your opponent leads out for a two-thirds pot-sized bet and you fold. In this situation, your entire plan for the hand revolved around hitting a set and getting paid off. This is a narrow line of vision, therefore you have actually played the hand badly. Your opponent held A-J but their pre-flop aggression and flop continuation bet forced you to fold.
Folding and Other Moves
Some people may say that folding is the best option and we’d have to agree. However, you placed yourself into a situation where you not only had to hit a set to continue, but you are also depending on your opponent paying you off sufficiently enough for the expenditure to be worthwhile.
Pre-flop, it’s preferable re-raise with the pocket sixes than call with them if your only plan was to hit a set. At least when you hit your set after three-betting then you stand a far greater chance of stacking your opponent! You may get four-bet but at least you have done something that is proactive in the hand.
Defensive Mentality Online
This defensive mentality has become prevalent in online poker games and now many of the players at many levels seem to play much the same. If you can break out of this mold then you could find yourself obtaining a significant edge against these players.
Do You Need to Move Up a Level?
There is a huge impulsive urge with most poker players to want to test themselves at a higher level and play against better players. Of course, the desire to move up isn’t always to do with wanting to test yourself against better players, but also wanting to make more money. However, a combination of greed and naivety in poker can be very financially damaging.
Better Poker Players Make Better Poker Decisions
It’s a fact that if you move up a level then you should, in theory, be playing against better online poker players. But better poker players make better poker decisions. Do these better decisions hurt your bottom line? It may just be the case that moving up a level would entail you almost have to learn a new form of poker as the game dynamics at your new level could be very different.
Options for Earning More
Let’s look at NL50 as an example. If you are playing four tables and making a good earn rate, then you have two options if you want to make more money. You could, as most people do, move up to NL100 or you could also play more tables at NL50. It always surprising how many players take the first option without first considering the second.
Take Time to Experience Each Level
You can already beat NL50 (providing of course that we are talking about an adequate sample size here). You have also built up a very powerful feel for what is happening at that level. The reason why you have built up that feeling is simply because of the experience that you have put in playing at the same level. Some very good players have been known to not beat low-stakes games simply because they were playing their normal poker game.
Strategies for Levels Up
The experience that you have built up at NL50 while being useful at NL100. You cannot play the exact same game at NL100 as you can at NL50 because the players are better and are using different poker strategies. They will be more aggressive both in reacting to your steals and also when it comes to stealing from you. So keep in mind that building yourself up to play more tables is often a better option than moving up.
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Live Cash Games – What to Expect
Quite often, some views on live cash games have not gone down too well in certain quarters. Unfortunately, they are the result of past experiences and painful experiences at that. Wherever you go then you will find certain players who will do almost anything to get their hands on your money.
Whether this is fair or unfair it makes no difference. It’s times like when someone plays a game where the locals were signaling to each other and in some cases openly discussing hands in non-English during actual play.
I have played live games since but they have been private cash games rather than casino cash games. Even then, there is no guarantee of straight action. Inside a casino, you are somewhat vulnerable if all you have ever played is online poker.
Watch Your Back
The take away here is that you really need to watch your back playing them but then again you need to police your own games anyway wherever you are playing as you cannot always depend on other people to do that for you.
Signaling techniques when done well are very difficult to spot and if you want to play live these days it’s suggested that you would try to make sure of a few things. Firstly that you didn’t stray too far from home and secondly that you were not seen as an outsider! Some people simply don’t like cash games where most of the players know each other and no one knows them or viceversa.
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Evaluate Your Play Using Tracker Metrics
Many online poker players use tracking software but do not know what they are supposed to be looking for or what metrics are optimal for certain game conditions. In this article, I want to look at the six-handed limit hold ’em at the lower and middle limit levels to show what a good player should be striving for.
My tracker of choice is Poker Office not because it is the best but because I find it easier to use and it was my first serious tracker so I stuck with it. But one of the most important metrics in online poker is your VPIP or how often you voluntarily put money into the pot.
This metric probably more than any other determines not just your overall quality as a player, but also your opponents as well. This one metric alone will highlight a major potential flaw in your game -namely playing too many hands or playing too tight. It will also highlight these flaws in your opponents, helping you to game select far better. You will know what to look for on your HUD and what those numbers mean.
Aim for 24% to 36%
If your game is five or six-handed in low to middle stakes limit then a VPIP of between 24% to 36% is appropriate. Straying too far below this figure will not be optimal. Unless you are multi-tabling and getting good rake back or you are not slipping too far below and are at around the 21-22% mark.
Being well above 36% is dangerous. Playing too many hands is a leak in any form of poker. In limit Texas Hold’em, you see more rivers and showdowns than at no-limit. If we take this a step further and start playing even looser then I would say that anything that is above 47-48% isn’t just sub-optimal but actually downright shocking poker.
Know Your Limit and Watch It
So if you are seeing your six-max limit VPIP either below 24% or above 36% then you need to be careful here as you may need to either increase or decrease your raising, three-betting and calling ranges (when in the big blind). Keep in mind that your VPIP is a very important representation of skill.
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There is Always Time to Think
You always have time to think through poker hands in online play, with the exception of when you are playing multiple tables. Here’s an anecdote: This man was sitting with a friend a few weeks back observing his game after he asked if he would critique his play. One of the first things the man noticed was that he was playing too fast.
Check Your Speed
He was only playing two tables but he didn’t slow down from making automatic folds to when he really did have something to think about. In one such hand, he had just folded junk when the following situation cropped up. He had the A-Q in an early position and insta-raised. It was folded around to the cut-off who called as did the button and both blinds.
There was a five-way pot and the flop came A-K-10 two suits, he led out with a pot-sized bet and got two callers. The turn card brought a third spade making a possible flush. He bet two-thirds pot and was called by both players. The river card was a brick and he checked. The first player bet half pot and was called by the second player and our hero also called without a moments thought.
The Call -Game Over
The split second he clicked “call” the man told him that he was beaten. The winner had a flush while the other caller had A-10 for top and bottom pair on the flop. His entire play was too fast and automatic and he needed to slow the process down. He started off with an A-Q out of position so he needed to factor that into his play.
He didn’t need to make a pot-sized bet on the flop and he certainly didn’t need to make another bet on the turn or call the river bet and call. But the problem was that he didn’t allow himself any thinking time in the hand even though he clearly had the time to do so.
Online Play – Faster Pace
In online poker, at the lower levels, it’s not that uncommon to see players who get used to the faster pace of online play. This problem can be made even worse by players multi-tabling.
There is always time to think in online poker even if it is only just for a few seconds. If you have audio prompts telling you that you need to act on other tables then you are wise to ignore them if you are in the middle of a crucial pot.
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Playing Rocks in Low
There are many players at low-stakes six-max limit Texas Hold’em who do not play with the proper frequency for that form of poker. Playing frequencies is a difficult subject and the true theoretical frequency can often never be attained simply because game dynamics are forever changing. But we must do whatever we can of course to ascertain what our opponents are doing and how and why they are doing it.
This information allows us to be creative at the poker table and places us into a situation where we can make all sorts of plays and be correct in doing so. There are many types of players in all forms of poker, but there is a certain type of player who plays low-stakes six-max limit Hold’em that is very exploitable.
Rock that plays 20%-25% of Their Hands
This is the rock but this isn’t just any old rock as these rocks play something like 20%-25% of their hands. These are players who are essentially tight-minded players but who do not want to play the slower full-ring games and prefer the faster action of six-max games. The problem is that even though these player types realize that they need to expand their ranges, they do not do it enough.
Narrow Range Players
What we are left with here are players who fold too much and also back down in heads-up situations too often. The low VPIP of players with quite large sample sizes of at least a few hundred hands is indicative of how these people operate. If they raise from the first two seats in a six-handed game, then you know their range is pretty narrow.
Design Your Play to Fit Opponent
They will certainly be raising with less than 10% of their total range from these seats and especially from UTG. This is where it pays to know how they play certain streets with certain types of hands. Will they go all the way to the river with a big ace? If so, then you can design your play accordingly and if you can narrow down their range quite well then you can definitely make money from them.
Narrow the Range, Make Money
Let’s say that you are in a situation where you have 7-7 and your opponent raises from the hijack seat and you three-bet. Everyone folds but your opponent calls and the flop comes 10-6-3 and your opponent checks and you bet. The turn card is the 8 and your opponent checks again and you bet and they call.
The river is the 2 and your opponent checks again. Here the best play is to value bet the sevens if your opponent will pay off with all big aces. There are far more hands that your opponent can call with that you beat than what they can call with that beat you. Bigger pairs would not have waited until the river to raise so unless your opponent has something like 9-9 then you are ahead and can likely make a value bet.
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Selecting Your Limit in Poker
Selecting limits that are not only appropriate to your skill but also to your bankroll is key to being able to make money in poker betting. There really are no secret formulas to playing certain limits in poker but there are numerous different guidelines that must be adhered to. For instance, if you are not sure about whether or not you can make money in online poker then err on the side of caution.
Play Where You Can Win
One often hears people say that if only they played at a higher level then they would be able to beat the games. This view is totally warped and does not address the main reason for the losses that have been incurred. If you are a losing player at NL25 for example then do not make the mistake of thinking that you could beat NL200 simply because your opponents will respect your bets and raises more often.
The reason why you are losing at NL25 is not because of your opponents playing in a certain way. This is merely the excuse that you are creating for yourself in your own mind. If you know the weaknesses of your opponents and you are still losing then you are losing because you are failing to make adjustments.
Make the Proper Adjustments For Your Level
If you are failing to make adjustments at NL25 then why think that you will make the proper adjustments at NL200? All poker levels present the player with a set of questions or puzzles that they need to figure out and answer. So if you cannot figure out the correct answers to an NL25 puzzle then what makes you think that you can figure out the correct answers to the NL200 puzzle?
Opponents Play Differently
The way that your opponents will play from level to level will differ but they will present you with totally different challenges at each level. So at NL1000 then it is no use complaining that your opponents are too aggressive and if you had a hand then you would stack them. You need to find the correct and proper way to counter that aggression. You need to find an answer to the puzzle.
Do not play at any level that you don’t have any experience of beating except if you are merely taking a shot. If you have never played any higher than $5-$10 limit then taking a $30,000 bankroll and playing $30-$60 is asking for trouble.
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Trying to Aim for High Concentration Play
Strange as this may seem, playing online poker can be extremely tiring. The process of sitting in a chair sitting upright all the time while staring at a computer screen can leave players feeling mentally drained in a short space of time. Also, the process of constantly staring at a monitor can also have a very draining effect on a player as well. Some players have started out playing full-time when they played online and they found that their earn rate improved when they dropped down the number of hours that they played.
Play as Long as You Can Focus
Don’t play poker for six hours if for four out of those six hours, your concentration is low and you are leaking money. Playing at a level where your opponents are not very strong means perhaps you play on autopilot as mentally drifting off will probably not do you a great deal of harm.
What high concentration play means is to try and play poker at all times during phases when your concentration is either at its maximum or is close to it. This will always be close to the start of the session. Now, these cut-off points will vary from player to player as to when your concentration will start to diminish.
One could maintain one’s concentration for two hours years ago and recently it has shrunk to about thirty minutes. It is vital that you accurately establish what your limits are with regards to your concentration and when you hit that barrier for when you start to move into the danger zone of making plays that are on automatic pilot.
As it was said earlier, there is nothing wrong with automatic play, multi-tablers or players who multi-table large numbers of games do this all the time. But the difference is that they are both good, playing against lower-stakes players or more than likely both.
If you find that you are starting to drift in poker games, drop your sessions down to thirty minutes. Drifting would be fatal against strong players after forty-five minutes. If your aim is to be a full-time player and this isn’t an option for you then don’t do it. You cannot play profitable poker if you are constantly making mistakes due to concentration lapses.
It is the non-playing poker skills that players need in order to be able to beat the game. Good money management skills, good discipline, good game selection, using good software like Poker Office (which I use), and maintaining good concentration.
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Play Regularly or Not at All
At the end of the day, poker is a skill. Poker is like driving or any other skill-based process, if you fail to repeatedly practice and participate then you will slowly and gradually lose those skills!
Beginning to lose the feel of the games and this is something that builds up over time. The fact of the matter is that poker is forever evolving and online poker is changing very rapidly.
When the Environment Changes, the Players Change
What this means is that the players are also changing. The entities that exist within that environment also change. The poker sites are frequently changing. Their constant implementation of bonuses, features, types of games, prize money levels, and all the rest of it all combine to change the game.
This is something that isn’t noticeable on a day-to-day basis but it has a gradual effect sort of like night changing into day. Even the online poker schools and tutorials that sites have an impact as these serve to educate the masses. We can also factor in sites allowing tracking software to interact with their API and all of the other software tools. What is taking place is a transformation of the poker landscape.
So to keep abreast with this means being immersed in it constantly. It is for this precise reason that It’s recommended to players that they at least try and play constantly even if it is only for a few hours every week. If you have built up a feel for the game and are starting to make money then whatever you do, persevere in playing poker even if at times you may feel fed up with the actual process of doing it.
Because if you stopped for say just a few months then any experienced player could guarantee you that the game that you would be returning to would not be the same as the game that you had left. Whatever the differences would be would in all likelihood be subtle, but yet they could easily impact on your ability to be able to make money in this new environment.
Over a period of time, you tend to feel little changes and you slowly adapt yourself. It is only when you stop doing something that is skill-based that you realize how far behind the rest you have fallen.
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So You Want to Multi-Table?
It is some people’s opinion that too many players jump into playing several tables too quickly. There are numerous problems that are associated with multi-tabling. The first one is that it makes it far more difficult for players who have poor temperaments. If you are prone to tilt or you don’t like losing and it affects you mentally then playing several tables could turn into an absolute disaster.
It also depends on how high you are playing as well. Watching your opponents and game selecting well will help your earn rate to go through the roof. If you are multi-tabling then you aren’t in a place where you can multi-table unless you are using Poker Office.
Start With Two Tables
Even when you use Poker Office, trying to see your HUD on so many tables will still be a handicap. The speed of multi-tabling will likely take you by surprise. I suggest playing two tables to see how it goes.
Most people can play two tables comfortably so you maybe could start at three. If you struggle, miss things, or time out, drop down to two and take it from there. If you are playing low-stakes games and rake back is a major part of your overall strategy then watching your opponents may be far less important to you!
Don’t Be Quick to Pile on Tables
A solid game could be enough to make you money. Don’t rush to add tables just because you have read of someone else who is doing it. Playing faster will highlight flaws in your playing style. You could lose money at a faster rate which may not always be compensated by rake back.
A recommendation is to play one table and one table only. Add tables when you have your playing style automatic and it is also making you money! When that time arrives then playing more tables will be a far easier step to take.
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Knowing When to Quit a Spin Up
Spinning up is the process of trying to turn small amounts of money into a very large amount. Usually, this is done by playing cash games. My best ever spin up was starting with $100 and turning it into $8000. When you do this, you are not practicing sound bankroll management. Poor bankroll management is one of the major reasons for why poker players lose their money.
Moving up rapidly through the levels seems exciting. But, if you just keep on moving up while being chronically under-funded then you will likely bust out. This is akin to playing a poker tournament in principle. Only one player can ever win a poker tournament. Players may do deals with regards to the prize money but there can only ever be one winner.
Every single player bar one will be eliminated by a combination of bad luck, bad play and rapidly rising blinds and antes. But yet many players attempt to play cash games using this very process. They play at NL50, win $50 then move up to NL100 with just $100. They win another $100 at that level and then play at NL200.
Sooner or later everyone has a big hand cracked or a slice of bad luck. Their money will be gone. All they will have done is basically pay for a few hours of entertainment. More players could win money playing tournament poker if they were allowed to cash their chips in after a few rounds of play.
This is basically what you need to do if you want to try a spin-up. Stop sooner rather than later. When you move up levels in cash games then you will have the added problem of playing against better and more sophisticated players. This means that your chances of achieving a successful spin-up will be even less.
Set Realistic Limits
Give yourself a chance to make money. Don’t put yourself into a situation where you need a miracle to make money. You will achieve this by stopping sooner rather than later and that is the real key to spinning up in poker….. start by setting yourself realistic limits.
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Other Helpful Articles About Poker
- Online Poker Basics – Understanding Position
- Limit Hold‘em Poker School
- Do You Need to Play Hold’em?
- Poker Tips – Doing the Opposite of What Your Opponent Wants You to Do
- Using Your Position at Poker