If you’ve never played Texas hold’em or other poker variations before, you will almost certainly be invited to the table at some point. The tips below will hold you in good stead when that day arrives. And even if you are an experienced online poker player, you might pick up a trick or two:
1. Don’t throw good money after bad
Although poker is about winning money (or matchsticks!), you have to know when to let go. There are some cases where it is worth continuing to pay money into a pot based on the desired hand (see Tip 3) but in general, you can’t buy your way out of a bad bet.
2. Stay at a comfortable level
When you’re getting a good run of wins with low stakes, it can be tempting to start playing for higher winnings. The downside to this is that the skill level of your opponents will be that much higher, and losses will hurt more. Think carefully before taking a step up.
3. Master pot odds
Whether you use the ratio method or the less popular percentage method, learn how to measure whether the odds of gaining a winning hand are worth continuing to pay into the pot. There are plenty of online resources about ‘pot odds’, the best give you examples to practise on.
4. You don’t have to force a player to be honest
When you have feeling a player is bluffing, it can be tempting to raise and re-raise to force them to be honest about their hand. While this can be useful while initially sussing out opponents (see Tip 10), don’t make it a habit.
5. Avoid too much alcohol
Alcohol is well-known for its uninhibited effect, which can spell disaster on the poker table. Save the juice for when you’re celebrating your winnings. Alcohol can also intensify emotions which is also incompatible with poker (see the next Tip).
6. Don’t play ‘on tilt’
Playing ‘on tilt’ is poker-speak for playing when under the influence of emotion, whether anger, sadness or delight. This also applies at the table. Experienced players know how to take advantage of a player who has just won or lost a big hand, so take a break before resuming.
7. Pay attention to the board
In Texas hold ’em, the flop refers to the community cards that are on the table and are available to every player. Beginners are too focused on their own hands to imagine what others might hold. Think about the possible combinations of cards that your opponents might be able to make and weigh this up against your own hand.
8. Fold more than half of the time
Forcing players to be honest and throwing good money after bad is two newbie mistakes that will lead you to call too many bad hands. On average, you will get more losing hands than winning ones, so if you’re folding less than half the time, you will end up out of pocket.
9. Don’t bluff too much
To be an exceptional poker player, you need to be inscrutable. People who bluff at every hand are as predictable as those who are always honest and will be eaten for breakfast when the big guns come to the table.
10. Study your opponents
When you fold your hand, don’t immediately head for the bar. This is the perfect opportunity to scrutinise the other players and learn to read their ‘poker tell’. Watch out for predictable patterns of behaviour (perhaps they always fold after a re-raise on the final community card) and file it in your memory for future use.