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How to play poker: 6 best strategies for beginner poker players

best strategies for beginner poker players

Outlines how to play poker with the best strategies for beginner poker players, from knowing which hands to play, to not chasing draws.

The basics of poker are not hard to learn. Players need to know what order the hands rank in and some relatively simple rules for how to play each round. However, as a game based on strategy and being able to read other players, becoming good at poker is not so easy.

There are a variety of common mistakes that beginner players almost always make. Practicing as much as possible and learning from mistakes is a large part of becoming proficient at poker. It can take many months for a poker player to reach the stage where they are consistently winning more pots than they are losing.

There are multiple free online resources to help new poker players begin to develop their strategy and learn the best ways to be in with a higher than average chance of winning a hand. These range from quick guides to the best hands to online poker schools taught by experts. New players can practice online or host a home poker night to hone their skills.

Best strategies for beginner poker players

1: Know Which Hands to Play

Simply knowing which order the hands rank in is not enough to be able to calculate how well a hand is likely to perform in each specific round. One of the best strategies for beginner poker players who want to learn how to play poker successfully must learn how to calculate their chances of getting a better hand in subsequent rounds of betting and work out to the best of their ability what the odds are of their opponents holding a better hand. 

A starting hand that is only fair can easily become the best hand on the table with a favourable flop. Conversely, a good hand can also become a waste of time if the cards do not fall right. Many beginners feel that if they have bet pre-flop, they must commit to staying in the hand to the bitter end. Good players know when the odds are against them and fold their cards limit their losses and wait for a more favourable hand.

2: Practice Good Chip Management

Chip management, which can also be referred to as bankroll management, is all about playing in accordance with how high a stack a player has compared to others at the table. As a rule of thumb, any player with less than 20 big blinds left in their stack should be playing almost every hand, otherwise they will quickly find their stack eroded beyond the point of playability through antes and blinds. Those with a larger stack can afford to be choosier about the hands they play.

3: Play in Position

The order of betting moves around the table with each hand of poker played, with the dealer button moving one place to the left every time. This means that the players who have to post blinds rotate around the table. It also means there are stronger and weaker positions to play from, so strategy should be altered accordingly.

Essentially, the further a player is in the betting, the better chance they have of making the best decisions, as they can see what other players are doing and therefore work out whether they are likely to hold good cards. Players can often win with weaker hands when they are in a strong position, but in early position only the best hands should really be played.

4: Resist the Urge to Bluff Too Much

Bluffing is a large part of poker – the idea is that you never want the other players to know what cards you might hold. However, new players often take this to extremes, going all in with a hand that has no chance of winning or slow playing aces to try and increase the pot.

More experienced players know when to bluff and how far to take it. Part of bluffing is reading the cards on the table and working out what hand other players may think you have if you choose to bluff. Just going all in without calculating the chances of the bluff paying off will result in more losing hands than winning.

5: Be Well-Prepared

Top-level poker is complex and stressful, with competitors constantly having to think on their feet, make calculations and observe their opponents. Preparing for a big tournament is therefore essential. This means preparing physically by getting a good night’s sleep, eating a good meal and resisting the urge to drink alcohol.

It also means preparing psychologically. Some players perform breathing exercises, others use positive affirmations before an event. Whatever the strategy, serious poker players know how to calm themselves down and avoid getting stressed and emotional and losing focus during a game. 

6: Resist Chasing Draws

Players who just need one more card to have the best possible hand on the table are often tempted to chase that draw all the way through to the end, even when without that card they have nothing. The value of chasing a draw depends on the odds of getting the right card or cards compared to the pot odds. 

If there are several options that could fall to make a great hand it does not cost much to stay in, then it can definitely be worth seeing what happens next. However, if it will cost more to stay in the hand and there is only a small chance of getting the right card or cards, it is rarely worth it. This is called hand odds versus pot odds.

They say practice makes perfect. It may not be possible to play a perfect game of poker as there are too many variables, but it definitely gets easier to play better with practice. New players should spend as much time as possible at low-stakes tables to develop their strategy and take advantage of free online resources to learn more about the game. Keeping a log of hands plays means players can go back and learn from any mistakes they make.