Poker has been a mainstay in modern society in one way or another for almost all of the past 200 years. Though games have not always existed as they do today, and luxurious poker rooms and online poker sites are more part of recent history than any other period of time, the core tenants of poker games have always been around.
The word “poker” is actually a catch-all term that is used to describe a number of different games. From Hold’em, to Stud, and even Razz, poker comes in many different forms. With the dawn of the World Series of Poker and the attention that it receives every Summer, this game is one that is likely to get much bigger before it gets any smaller. Before you can begin playing, however, you need to be briefed on how the game works and what the rules are. After that, it is imperative that you educate yourself as to the basic do’s and don’ts of the game. In the following few sections, we have outlined and elaborated upon 10 tips that will serve you well for the rest of your poker-playing life. These tips are for online and brick and mortar poker players alike, however some of them will only apply to one or the other.
Tip #1: Never drink while playing poker
Drinking and card games seem to go hand in hand. Even if you are playing at an online site, it is an incredibly common occurrence to crack a beer or mix a drink before, during, and after your play. Drinking, in and of itself, is not an inherently bad thing. Even at casinos, it is not always bad to enjoy a few cold beverages while you are sitting in front of a slot game or at the blackjack table.
When it comes to playing poker, however, drinking is just about the last thing you will want to do. For those who may not know, poker is more a game of skill than just about any other gambling game that exists. What we mean by this is that, unlike slots, poker affords players the opportunity to directly influence their percentage chances of winning or losing money. Slot machines, on the other hand, are inherently random and unable to be manipulated.
If you think about poker being a game of skill the way basketball or football are games of skill, it becomes incredibly easy to understand why alcohol should be avoided while you are playing. Not only does it affect your decision-making ability, it affects many other mental and physical attributes and will end up hurting you in the long-run. Plain and simple, even if the drink is free, wait until you are done playing, or simply play another time.
Tip #2: Do not play poker whilst tired
This tip, in many ways, ties directly in with the 1st. If you are pounding drinks while playing poker, inevitably your eyes will become a bit heavy and your play will reflect that. It bears repeating; do not ever drink alcohol and play poker simultaneously.
There are plenty of experts who equate tired driving with drunk driving, and say that the two are equally deadly. The same can be said with poker. If you are running behind on your sleep and really want to get a few hands in, you should think twice, because this is not always the smartest move. Playing poker tired also leads to poor decision-making which, at the poker table, will inevitably lead to lost money. Keep your wits about you and only play the game when you are thinking clear and straight.
Tip #3: Pick a set amount of cash with which you would like to play
Leaving yourself an open-ended amount of money with which to play poker is almost always going to lead to trouble. While this may come as a surprise to some, poker games can work against you and your bankroll in a hurry. If you are having a rough day of poker, your first instinct will be to continuously hit the ATM, take money out, and attempt to win your losses back. In the moment, even the largest losses seem able to be overcome, but in reality this is not always the case.
If you are serious about playing poker, you should ensure that you are equally serious about bankroll management. Pick a set amount of cash to bring with you to the poker table. As soon as that amount has been lost you must have the responsibility and wherewithal to call it quits. The biggest poker pitfall is that players think they can win losses back in a hurry, and this rarely ends up being the case. In fact, you will likely dig yourself into an even deeper, sometimes insurmountable, hole.
Tip #4: Never play recklessly, especially when you are already in the red
Poker is unlike many other card games because you have more influence over the outcome of a given hand. Understanding this, players who have had a tough streak tend to bet increasingly recklessly in order to win their losses back. This is not something that is unique to poker, but is something that rears its head in poker games often.
This tip also ties into the one above, because adequate bankroll management will prevent you from ever betting so recklessly that your losses stack up in devastating fashion. It is ok to take risks, but it’s when you begin taking huge, unnecessary risks that things begin to go from bad to worse. If you are a new player, play within your level of skill. Do not try to outbluff or swindle players with more experience, because any experienced player will be able to sniff this out and flip your plan on its head. If you stick to your game and keep your wits about you, not only are you more likely to come out on top as far as money is concerned, you are also more likely to have an enjoyable poker-playing experience.
Tip #5: Avoid trash-talking at all costs
This tips applies just as much online as it does at brick and mortar sites. As it is with any game or sport, poker can feature quite a bit of trash-talking. Whether friendly or aggressive, trash-talking happens at almost every table at one point or another. Our advice to you is to avoid trash-talking as best you can. The reason for this is because talking trash and getting into heated exchanges with other people distract you from the game at hand and, even worse, make you more apt to play with your emotions rather than your head.
Let’s say, for example, that you have been locked in a heated exchange with another player throughout the duration of your time at a given table. If this happens, players tend to abandon common sense and attempt to do anything they can to overcome their rival. This means that players will do things like go all-in on a weak hand just to intimidate another player. Doing something like this seems harmless, and sometimes it can be, but other times you are setting yourself up for disaster. It is best to avoid talking trash and to do your best to ignore any trash-talking that may be being thrown at you.
Tip #6: Know your position
As was mentioned many times already, poker has elements of skill that other games simply do not. One of the biggest skills that can be acquired is really not that difficult to learn at all. By knowing your position at a table relative to other players, you will do well to know what actions you should take, and when to take them. We elaborate more on how your position at a poker table affects your gameplay in our page about poker strategy tips.
Tip #7: Consider cards that are not in front of you
This tip most accurately applies to players who may be new to the game of poker. When playing a game of Texas Hold’em players, especially beginners, tend to consider very little else than the two face-down cards in front of them as well as any community cards that have been laid down. Yes, it is true that these sets of cards are very important, but it is also true that there are other factors to consider as well.
Though it may take some time to really learn, you need to begin to consider the cards that are sitting in front of other active players. This is so because while your hand may be fairly strong, there is a chance that someone else has an even stronger hand. For example, in a game of Hold’em, if you have an A♥ and 8♣ in front of you, and there are two other As on the table, you might think that your 3 of a kind Aces is impossible to beat. Then, by the time the showdown rolls around and you have already gone all-in, you discover that the player sitting across from you has an Ace as well, and his high card beats yours. This is just one small example, but does well to show you how easily you can be duped into thinking that your hand is stronger than it actually is.
Tip #8: Understand the difference between cash games and tournaments
When playing poker, you can play cash games or tournaments. No matter what you are playing, the actual gameplay is the same, but the overall strategy is not similar at all. When it comes to cash games, players can get up and leave and take their money with them whenever they want. With tournaments, on the other hand, you pay an entry fee and the only way in which you can take away money is if you place in a position where there is a cash reward.
What it boils down to, however, is that cash games can earn you cash quicker and easier than tournaments. In the same breath, it is also easy to lose a lot of money in a short period of time, whereas tournaments do not offer you much opportunity to lose more than the amount you paid to buy-in to the tournament. Both tournaments and cash games are great, and one is not necessarily better than the other, but it is important to remember that they are definitely different. Learn more about the differences between cash games and tournaments.
Tip #9: Understand the color-coding system for chips
When you are playing poker, especially at brick and mortar sites, understanding how different chips are colored is very important. Casinos generally follow the same rules for chip color-coding, so, generally, if you understand how it works at one place you will be in good standing at most others.
Knowing the chips is extremely important because, once you lay a bet down on the table it is often not able to be retracted. So, if you mistake a black $100 chip for a $20 chip, you may have dug yourself in a quick hole that you cannot get yourself out of.
Tip #10: Avoid Tilting at all costs
Tilting is something that very much ties into the 4th tip we provided here. It is a word used to describe a player who has grown extremely frustrated after running poorly for an extended period of time. Thanks to ceaseless losses, the tilting player will relentlessly bet in an attempt to win back their losses. In some cases, the tilting person will be so angry that they have a vocal or physical outburst.
Playing poker is great, but it is only fun so long as you keep your wits about you. Have fun, play smart, but remember that, at the end of the day, poker is nothing more than a game and should be enjoyed as such. Once playing poker becomes a life or death scenario, or a scenario that turns you bankrupt, you have crossed over the thin line between being a recreational gambler and a problem gambler.