Poker tips and advices for novices

June 8, 2010

Basic Poker Tips, Strategy and Advice for Beginning No Limit Holdem Poker Players

I hope all of you know what a call, fold, raise, or reraise means. If not, then you are not a beginner, but someone who did not live on the planet the last 10 years. Let’s start with the the goal of online poker and poker in general. In addition to the enjoyment of playing the game, winning money is the ultimate goal, not pots.

What Poker is and isn’t Poker is not one game but a variety of games that employ hand rankings, betting, and bluffing as strategic and tactical elements. ln some forms of poker, like SevenCard Stud, Texas Hold’em, Five-Card Draw poker, and Omaha, the best poker hand wins. What’s the best hand? The rarer the hand, the higher it’s ranked. Thus a straight flush, which is much less likely to occur than a full house, is ranked higher. That’s why three-of-a-kind beats two pair, which in turn beats one pair.

Basic Poker Concepts
Your first efforts should center on learning basic poker concepts. Even when you understand them, this know-how must be continuously applied. The knowledge and abilities that compose basic poker skills are not a pill to be swallowed once. They need to be continuously refined. Andres Segovia, the greatest classical guitarist of his generation, did not spend the majority of his practice time learning new pieces or practicing his concert repertoire. He spent four to six hours per day playing scales and etudes. Segovia spent 75 percent of his practice time on basics, and did this every day. You’ll have to take our word for it, but this anatogy holds true for poker, too. Before we begin with giving you all the poker tips and advice we hold at our disposal, first read about the sklansky hand rankings , as these are very important for ever online poker beginner.

Understand blinds and antes
Every poker game begins as a chase for the antes or blinds. An ante is a small portion of a bet contributed by each player to seed the pot at the beginning
of each hand. A blind is a forced bet by one or more players before any cards are dealt. In Stud games, players usually ante; in Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em,
blind bets are used. Regardless of whether a blind or an ante is employed, every game needs seed money to start the action. Without it, players could wait all day for unbeatable hands before entering the pot. Playing for an empty pot would make for a slow and boring game. Blinds and antes serve the same purpose: to tempt and tantalize players, enticing them into the pot and creating action because there’s a monetary target to shoot at.

Know your opponents.
Suppose you’re playing Texas Hold’em and have been dealt AvKv, and your opponents are Rick and Barbara, two players who are known for calling much too frequently. “Fantastic,” you say to yourself when you look at the flop and see Jv5v9+. “I have position, two overcards, and a nut-flush draw.” You remember something about semi-bluffing and implied odds, and when your opponents check on the flop, you bet. They call. The turn brings 44, and it’s checked to you. You bet, thinking that they might fold and you can win it right here. Maybe you even have the best hand and would win in a showdown right now. Perhaps a heart – or even an ace or king – will come on the river (at the last common card). But you are up against players who sleep very well, thank you, each and every night of the week, secure in the knowledge that no one, but no one, ever steals a pot from them. The river is no help; it’s 4*. Rick and Barbara check again. You still might have the best hand if you show it down. But you bet and you’re called, and you lose to Rick, who holds a 6-5 of mixed suits. “What went wrong?” you ask yourself. “1 had the perfect opportunity to semibluff.”
Perfect, that is, only from the perspective of the cards on the table and those in your hand. But it was far from perfect if you stopped to consider your opponents.

Your mistake’involved considering only the cards while choosing a strategy. Semi-bluffing doesn’t work with players who always call. You have to show them the best hand to take the money. While there was nothing you could have done to win that pot, you certainly could have saved a bet on the river. Nothing was wrong with the strategy itself. It might have worked if the cards were the same but your opponents were different. Knowing your opponents is as important to winning at poker as understanding strategic concepts. Strategy is situationally dependent. Skilled players realize they need to be aware of the big picture while simultaneously paying attention to small details. Understanding strategic concepts is only part of the battle. How, and under what circumstances to apply them, are equally important. If you can do this, you will find that you have become a better player and a more creative one, too.  


Prepare to win
Success demands preparation. Knowledge, plus preparation and experience (and whatever innate talent one may have), equals know-how. That’s what it
takes to be a winning poker player. If you have that knowledge and you’re losing, or you’re just not winning as much and as often as you should, see. The primary step in making behavioral changes and eliminating bad habits is to be responsible for you. Adopt the irrevocable assumption that you are personally responsible for what happens to you at the poker table. If you put the blame on forces outside of yourself, you have not committed yourself to making changes; you’re denying the problem. 


A Little Probability
Consider a simple coin toss. With a very large number of tosses, do you believe that the number of heads and tails would be exactly the same? If you
do, then you would also believe that these simulated players, each programmed to play identically from a strategic perspective, should have identical
results after 3 million hands. Understanding poker’s fluctuations can provide some perspective when considering your short-term results. Not only can fluctuations persist for a long time before results can be attributed solely to skill, but there is no guarantee you will balance your books after the last hand is dealt. AU-that probability theory offers is the likelihood that your results will parallel your ability. A short-term simulation. We used a computer to simulate 60,000 hands of $20-$40 Hold’em. That’s about one year of play if you treated poker as a job and went at it eight hours a day.

The objective was to determine how long it would take to get into “the long run,” that elusive zone where luck is filtered out and only skill determines who wins and loses. Because identical player profiles were loaded into the computer, the long-run expectation was zero. With identical profiles, each player should neither win nor lose. They should have broken even in the long run.Nevertheless, there were four losers and five winners. Seat 9 lost $3.18 per hour while seat 6 won at the rate of $1.99. That’s a difference of more than $5 per hour – and it was clear they never got into the long run, even after a year of simulated play. A long- term simulation. If a year was insufficient to get into the long run, what about a lifetime? The computer was asked to play 3 million hands of $20-$40 Hold’em. At 30 hands per hour, 2,000 hours per year, that’s 50 years of poker – about as long a run as we’re likely to get. After 50 simulated years, the big winner was ahead $60,214. The big loser was stuck $35,953. That’s 60 cents per hour for the winner, while the big loser was in the red about 35 cents per hour. All the others at the table had results somewhere in between.

Did they get into the long run? Or does the 95 cents per hour difference between the big winner and big loser mean that even a lifetime isn’t sufficient to get into the long run? Some probability theory will help us here. Probability theory makes no promise to balance the books over the long haul. All it offers is this: The coin is as likely to come down heads as tails. Not that it will, only that it is as likely to. Because there is no reason why a coin should land on one side rather than the other, they are both equally likely to happen. Still, don’t expect exactly half-and-half – even in a large sample.While you can expect results close to theoretical probability, remember this: The coin doesn’t have a memory to give it heads this time and tails the next. If you carry that logic over to the nine computerized Hold’em players, each had an equally likely chance tb win. With identical playing profiles, each player’s expectation was break even. The fact that they did not break even does not negate probability theory. After all, a breakeven prediction was the best forecast you could have made, and there’s no way anyone could logically predict seat three would win 60 cents per hour and seat one would lose 35 cents per hour. Maybe the best you can expect over a lifetime of poker is that only 1 to 1.5 percent of your results would be attributable to luck.


How many bad players does it take to make a good game?
In another simulation, two poorer players were introduced into the game. One played exceedingly tight. The other was much too loose. They also played for 50 years. The results: Mr. Too-Tight lost $3 million while Loose-Lee dropped nearly $4 million. Each of the seven other players was a lifelong winner in this game. The biggest winner was up $1.2 million. The smallest winner was ahead nearly $800,000.These are pretty significant results, and they show the importance of game
selection. Simply by substituting two poor players in this game (and they did not play that poorly, just somewhat worse than their competition), the big
winner went from 60 cents to $12 per hour – a twentyfold increase. ame selection, according to inferences that can be drawn from these simulations,
is crucial to a winning player’s long-term success. Why is it so important? Every subsequent decision made at the table relates only to the hand you are involved in. Game selection, however, has implications for every hand that you choose to play – or refrain from playing – when you are at the table.


Some Poker Perspective
The information explosion is everywhere, and poker is no different. More has been written about poker since 1985 than had previously been written in the
entire history of the game. Once you’ve made a commitment to reach for the stars, you have to decide where to begin. If you aspire to poker excellence, the first – and probably the most important step – is to develop a perspective that enables you to put each piece of information, each drop of data, each factoid, into a hierarchical structure. After all, some things are just a lot more important than others, and you might as well concentrate your efforts where they’ll do the
most good.


Why some tactics are important
in poker and others aren’t lmagine that we could teach you a terrific tactical ploy that would require some real study and practice to perfect – but once learned, could be used to earn an extra bet from an opponent. What if we also guaranteed this ploy to be absolutely foolproof: It would work perfectly every time you used it. Have
we piqued your interest? But suppose that we also told you that this tactic works only in very special circumstances that occur about once a year. Do you still want to invest the time required to learn it? Probably not. While your ability to execute this particularly slick maneuver might brand you as a tough player in the eyes of
your opponents, the fact that you might use it only once a year renders it meaningless. In the course of a year’s worth of playing, one extra bet doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It doesn’t even amount to a can of beans. Frequent decisions Tactical opportunities that occur all the time are important. Even when the amount of money attributed to a wrong decision is small, it will eventually add up to a tidy sum if that error is made frequently. Always defending your small blind in Hold’em, for example, is a good example. You have to decide whether to defend your small blind every round – and that’s frequent. If you always defend it, you are investing part of a bet on those occasions when it is wrong to do so. At the end of a year, those mistakes add up.

Suppose that you’re playing $10-$20 Texas Hold’em, with $5 and $10 blinds, and you decide to always defend your small blind, even when you’re dealt hands like 7v2*. Just to keep this simple, we’ll assume that your small blind is never raised. Based on the random distributions of cards, you’re probably dealt a throwaway hand about one-third of the time. At the rate of 30 hands per hour, you’ll be dealt the small blind three times every 60 minutes. If you always call, you’ll wind up calling once each hour when you really shouldn’t have. That’s only $5 each hour, but after 1,000 hours of poker, you’ve essentially given away $5,000. It adds up fast, doesn’t it?


Costly decisions
Playing correctly requires a great deal of judgment -the kind that comes from experience, not books. No matter how skilled a player you eventually become, you’ll never reach the point where you always make these decisions correctly. Don’t worry; that’s not important. Just err on the side of protecting yourself from catastrophic mistakes, and you’ll be on the right track. Decisions that cost a significant amount of money when they occur, even if they don’t happen too often, are also important. If you can’t decide whether to call or fold once all the cards are out and your opponent bets into a fairly large pot, that’s an important decision. If you make a mistake by calling when you should have folded and your opponent wins the pot – that’s an error, but not a critical one. It cost only one bet. But if you fold the winning hand, that’s a critical error, since the cost of that error was the entire pot. Now we’re certainly not advising you to call each and every time someone
bets on the last card and you’re unsure about whether you have the best hand, but deciding to call instead of fold doesn’t have to be correct too often to render it the Y istake of choice. If the cost of a mistaken fold is ten times the price of a m~stakenc all, you only have to be correct slightly more than 10 percent of the time to make calling worthwhile.


Decisions and subsequent actions
Choices can also be important because of their position on the decision tree. Those that are first in a long sequence of subsequent choices are always important, because subsequent choices are usually predicated on your initial selection. Make an incorrect move up front and you run the risk of rendering each subsequent decision incorrect, regardless of whatever else you might do. That’s why the choice of which hands you start with in poker is generally a much more critical decision than how you play on future betting rounds. If you adopt an ” . . . any cards can win” philosophy, you have set yourself up for a disaster that even the best players could not overcome on later rounds.


Poker’s single most important decision
Choosing the right game is the most important decision you’ll encounter as a poker player. Choose the wrong game and little else matters. Choose the right
game and yo11 might even make money even on nights when you’re experiencing a below average run of cards. Starting standards After you choose the best game and select the best available seat (check out the sidebar “Getting the best seat in the house”) at that table, what’s important to winning play? Early decisions predicate subsequent choices, so deciding which hands to start with (your starting standards) is critically important. It’s only human nature to seek the best bang for the buck, and poker players are no different. There are hands where the return on your investment is positive, and others that will prove costly in the long run. In the heat of battle, you don’t have the time to thoroughly assess your hand. You should have made these decisions long before you hit the table. That’s why standards are critical. If you incorporate solid starting standards into your game, you are light years ahead of any opponent who has not done this -never mind how long he’s been playing
or how much experience he may have in other phases of the game. Starting standards also provide a basis for deviation, but only under the right conditions. Those conditions are impossible to recognize – and capitalize on – unless you’ve developed standards and integrated them so completely into your game that they are second nature to you. Only when that’s accomplished can you hope to find those very few exceptions that allow you to profitably deviate from them.


Hand selectivity
Hand selection is one of the most important keys to winning. Most of us play too many hands. I’m not referring only to beginners. Some players have been
at it for years, and the single most important flaw in their game is that they still play too many hands. After all, the majority of poker players are recreational players. They’re not playing poker to make their living; they play to enjoy themselves – and much as they’d have you believe their goal in playing is to win money, that’s
really secondary to their main objective: having fun. The difference between a player who has come out to have fun and another who is playing to win money is that the recreational player will look for reasons to play marginal hands and to continue playing them even when subsequent betting rounds are fraught with danger. The money player will look for reasons to release hands, avoid unnecessary danger, and dump speculative hands whenever the potential reward is overshadowed by the risks.


Be aggressive, but be selective
Winning poker requires selectivity and aggression. Every top player knows that concept, and every credible poker book emphasizes it. If you have any doubts,
consider the need to be selective. Picture someone who calls every hand down to the bitter end unless he sees that he is beaten on board. Her opponents
would soon discover that it never pays to bluff her. Of course, every time they had the smallest edge, they’d bet, knowing that she will call with the worst of
it. These value bets would soon relieve our heroine of her bankroll. If selectivity is clearly correct, what about aggression? Consider the passive player. He seldom bets unless he has an unbeatable hand -and they don’t come around all that often. More often than not you’ll find yourself in pots where you believe, but aren’t absolutely certain, that you have the best hand. Even when you are 100 percent certain that yours is the best hand at the moment, you might recognize it as one that can be beaten if there are more cards to come. This occurs more often than you might realize, and you can’t win at poker by #!iving your opponent a free card. If they have to draw to beat


Patience
Patience is certainly related to the “be selective” portion of the “be aggressive, but be selective” mantra. Few players dispute the need to be selective. Nevertheless, most aren’t very selective about the hands they play. After all, poker is fun, and most aficionados come to play, not fold. When the cards aren’t coming your way, it’s very easy to talk yourself into taking a flyer on marginal hands. But there’s usually a price to be paid for falling off the good-hands wagon. Sometimes it all boils down to a simple choice. You can have a lot of fun, gamble it up, and pay the inevitable price for your pleasure, or you can apply, the patience required to win consistently.


Position
In poker, position means power. It is almost always advantageous to act after you’ve had the benefit of seeing what your opponents do. Their actions pre vide clues about the real or implied values of their hands. This is true in every poker game, and is particularly important in fixed-position games, like Hold’em and Omaha. In these games position is fixed for the entire hand, unlike Stud, where it can vary from one betting round to another.


Coping When All Goes Wrong
Unfortunately, no magic elixir eliminates the fluctuations everyone experiences at poker. But it’s little consolation when you’ve been buffeted by the vicissitudes of fate to realize that you’re not the only poor soul tossing about in the same boat. When all seems lost, you need to remember this: There is opportunity in adversity. In fact, losing provides the best opportunity to examine and refine your own game. Let’s face it. Most players don’t spend much time in careful self-examination when they are winning. It’s too much fun to stack the chips and revel in the money that’s rolling in. But when they lose, they pore over each decision they made, wondering how they could have improved it. “What could 1 have done differently,” they ask over and over. Losing turns them from expansive extroverts into brooding introverts whose inner-directed thoughts dredge them back over the same ground time and time again, in search of reasons and strategies that will prevent losses like these from ever happening again. If you’re on a losing stveak While no guarantees about future losses are available, we do recommend one course of action to any player mired in a losing streak: Just change gears. We all change gears during a poker game, sometimes consciously, as a planned strategy, and sometimes we just wind up playing differently than we did when we first sat down.


When you’re losing, consider gearing down.
Way down. This is a time for lots of traction and not much speed; a time for playing only the best starting hands. Not marginal hands, not good – or even very good -starting hands, but only the best hands. That means you’ll be throwing away hand after hand, and it takes discipline to do this, particularly when some of these
hands would have won. When losing, most players want to minimize fluctuations in their bankrolls and grind out some wins. Gearing down accomplishes this, because you’re not playing any of the “cIose call” hands you normally might. By playing hands that have a greater chance of winning, you’re minimizing the fluctuations
that occur with speculative hands. Of course, you’re also cutting down your average hourly win rate, but it’s a trade-off, because you are less apt to find yourself on a roller coaster ride. You can still win as much; it will just take more hours at the table.


Narrow the target
Gearing down also prevents your opponents from kicking you when you’re down. When you’re winning, your table image is quite different than when
you’re losing. Win, and you can sometimes bluff with impunity. It’s a lot tougher when you’re losing. After all, your opponents have watched you lose hand after hand. They believe you’re going to keep losing. When you bet, they’ll call – or even raise – with hands they might have thrown away if you had been winning steadily.

 

 

Let us now move on to ten final poker tips


1. Be Aware of your Strengths and Weaknesses

An outrageous image at the table may work for some people but not for others. Some players are better suited to tournaments, others to ring games (cardrooms). Play your best game and play within the confines of your own comfort zone. In other words, know yourself, and do what you do well.


2. Act Responsibly

What you achieve in poker will be the product of your own play. Yes, luck is a factor in the game, at least in the short run. Over the long haul, it generally evens out. But until you acknowledge your own accountability for the results you achieve, you won’t be able to exercise enough control over your skills and abilities to ensure success.


3. Think Don’t just play poker

You have to think about it. Unless you’re consistent about doing your poker homework, you’ll simply find yourself marking time. You need to keep up with the current poker literature, and you need to think about the game. Think about it while you’re at the table and when you’re away from it. Analyze hands you’ve seen. Decide whether you would have played them differently – and if so, why? Learning about poker, like learning about
most other things, is a recursive process. Think, analyze, and modify your game. Then, repeat as needed.


4. Have a Plan

What is your goal as a poker player? Do you want to have fun and just break even? Do you want to be a top tournament player? Or do you want to be the best $15-$30 player around? How much are you willing to risk? You need a definite plan for your poker play. Without a plan to guide you, you’re likely to wind up as a pawn in someone else’s game!


5. Set Deadlines

If your goal is to play an average of 30 hours per week, then do it. If you plan to reread Poker For Dummies until you know it cold, then set a deadline for yourself and do that too. If you’ve lost all your poker money and need to rebuild your bankroll before venturing back into a casino, plan on how long it will take until you are back in action. Once you have a plan, go out and get the money you need to enable you to start playing again.


6. Be Realistic

If your goal is to win the World Series of Poker next year but you’ve never played a big limit game in your life, don’t expect to achieve that simply by virtue of having read this book. Let’s get real here. While your authors are terrific teachers (who are now learning to walk on water) they haven’t quite mastered it yet. Instead of indulging your fantasies, start with a challenging but reachable goal. Once you make it, you can set the next, more difficult, goal. Perhaps you want to set a goal of playing in one or two inexpensive tournaments per week, or playing in satellites that are usually part of the format surrounding major tournaments. If you don’t do well there, keep trying. But save your money. You’re probably not ready yet to invest big bucks in entry fees to major events.


7. Expect Difficulties

You will succumb to all of your flaws as a poker player during the period you are struggling, growing, and reaching for a higher level of skill. Just because you’ve read all the books by all the experts, don’t deceive yourself into believing that you’re going to play as well as they do. Every top-notch player struggled to reach the level of success they’ve achieved. You’re going to have to do the same. Golf videos won’t turn you into Tiger Woods, chess mone graphs won’t turn you into Gary Kasparov, and Poker For Dummies will not turn you into Doyle Brunson. The best poker books will teach you how to talk the talk. You’ll have to walk the walk on your own!


8. Build on Small Accomplishments

If you’re not a winning player today but you study hard, put into practice what you read, and integrate these strategies into your own style of play, you’ll find yourself improving. You may not be able to make your living from the game, but at least you’ll no longer be a contributor. Keep doing what works for you, and you’ll find that success builds upon itself. Don’t let small setbacks put you on tilt. You’ve already taught yourself to expect difficulties. If you play poorly, correct it next time. However, if you find yourself saying, “Just this once won’t hurt me,” you’re wrong. It can hurt you, and it will. You’ve got to focus on what produces accomplishments. Playing a weak hand or taking the worst of it on a hunch – or just for the fun of it – is nothing more than premeditated backsliding. Do it, and you have only yourself to blame.


9. Persist

You must sustain. The saying, “Ninety percent of success is just showing up” has a lot of truth to it. You need to keep playing, keep practicing, and keep building on small successes. Each time you reach one of your goals, savor the moment. Then quickly set another goal. Try visualizing. Golfers visualize their putts dropping; baseball players visualize the bat connecting with the ball; basketball players visualize the hoop growing and the ball dropping through, hitting nothing but net. In your mind, watch yourself make the right plays at the poker table. When you’re able to visualize strategies in action, you’ll see your winnings accrue in the process. Keep showing up, play your best game, and keep moving forward. Remember that some of your opponents will be improving too. If you do not consistently move forward with your own game, you are probably moving backwards in relation to your opponents.
 
10. Enjoy
Enjoy yourself while you are playing. Time spent playing poker is discretionary. No one has a gun at your head. If poker is not enjoyable, don’t play.
While there are lots of bitter pills we all have to swallow in life, we ought to enjoy what we choose to do. If you cannot enjoy yourself when you play, perhaps you should find another outlet for your time and money. Some players are constantly griping when they play. Some of them have done this for years. It seems they are never happy. Why do they bother to play when they get no enjoyment from it? Questions like that can take a lifetime to answer. But unhappy players generally represent profit to you. So have fun when you play, or find something more enjoyable to do. You won’t succeed a poker player if you have to fight yourself as well as your opponents. The information in this chapter is simple stuff, and it’s as true in life as in poker. Look inward, look outward, set goals, deal with the inevitable setbacks.

 

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