Poker is a game of information with multiple facets. Each professional and expert player specializes in one or more strategies. But until you get there, we've compiled the best basic poker tips for beginners. It is important to understand that there is no silver bullet in Texas Hold'em (or in any other variant for that matter).
Top competitors reach the top by playing a lot, often, and well. They study their failed hands and adjust their gameplay. These basic texas hold'em tips allow you to skip doing the most common mistakes beginners do at poker.
1. Mathematics Are Key To Any Poker Strategy
In poker, beginners tend to rely on what feels good in order to play a hand. They enter pots without realizing how few outs they have to win the pot. This is because most new players completely ignore the importance of mathematics in a winning poker strategy.
One of the key mathematical concepts in most card games is knowing how many cards in the dealer's possession can make you win the round. Once you know that, and how much is at play during that hand, you can calculate odds, pot odds, and even assume some implied odds.
Pot odds and your hand's chance of winning (outs) will give you all the information you need to decide whether to play that hand - or not! Check out our easy-to-use Texas Hold'em odds calculator to help you make the right decisions.
2. Ignore Your Gut Instincts
Following your instinct is a red carpet to losing your bankroll as quickly as possible. Because humans are naturally hopeful creatures, we tend to overestimate our chances of succeeding. We will give more weight to the single card that could allow us to win, and ignore the 40 other cards that would make us lose.
Unless you are playing a game of luck (e.g., roulette), go with making informed decisions rather than random outbursts of false genius. The worst thing that could happen with gut instinct, is for you to actually win. It would reinforce that behavior which is a losing one in the long run.
3. Properly Manage Your Bankroll
Whilst the appeal of potentially earning a lot of money quickly is exciting. It is also a sure way of losing all of it as quickly, if not quicker. Decide on some daily, weekly, and monthly spending limits that you will never go beyond. Especially not to win what you lost over the course of a few recent playing sessions.
Additionally, winning some small tournaments should be partly a way to pay yourself but also buy courses and entry tickets to other tournaments. Pro poker players have financial advisors to help them manage their huge bankrolls. You only have yourself, so get some basic financial education with a couple of books, and plan ahead.
4. Watch How Champions Play
Never imitate champions - they are almost playing a different game than you are! Their stakes are higher, or not. Sometimes they use their own money whilst playing and do stress a lot. Other times, they are backed by investors and sponsors so their stress levels are most likely a little lower. Instead, study their Texas Hold'em poker strategies, how they switch them, when do they switch betting patterns, and so on.
Watching champions or just great players online is a free way to learn how better players than you handle situations you can find yourself in around a table. Do not, however, be distracted by too much consumption of videos. You also need to practice.
Check out Joe Ingram's YouTube Channel but there are many, many more!
5. Improve Your Hand Reading Skills
Whilst there is no absolute best poker system, most of them agree on the importance of properly reading your opponents' hands. Gauging what they seem to have is a great way to know how relatively weak or strong your hand is.
To read them, focus on what you have seen from them so far. But also how much they are betting, how quickly they placed this bet, and any other physical tells they can subconsciously share with you. Always compare these tells with what is each player's baseline behavior. And then, finally, come to your conclusion.
6. Keep Your Long-Term Expected Value Positive
Piggy-backing on to the importance of maths in poker, the concept of EV is particularly crucial. Indeed, it gives a positive or negative rating for each hand you play. That way, it allows you to know that if you played that same hand a million times, you would come ahead, or not. Nearly all moves you make should be EV+. And yes, you will lose a bunch of them, and that's okay.
Over the course of your poker career, you should statistically be coming ahead. You just have to not give up when you are on a losing streak despite following the right strategy. Trust the process, especially as it is mathematically proven.
7. Never Play Out of Desperation
A common scenario in online poker rooms is new players doing some reading. They learn that they should adopt a tight-aggressive playing style. So they do. But, after six hands they have folded, they get bored and impatient. So, you guessed it, they limp in with a weak hand. They catch a low pair on the flop. They bet. Get a gentle raise that they call. And it goes on until the showdown. They lose.
This is such a common situation in which players play out of desperation. It almost always ends up with a loss that could have been avoided if the player simply had shown more patience and self-control. But at this point, the players forgot their silly initial move to enter the pot. Instead, they blame it on a bad flop, a lucky move from the opponent, etc.
8. Sharpen Your Value Betting Pattern
When a player receives wonderfully strong hole cards, stress levels start increasing. Should I raise now? Should I slowplay? Should I just check? And things get even worse if they catch a great flop.
Most new players will slowplay the hand which may be smart but will also attract players who will simply flop at the first bet. So, you probably want to place bets to clean the table and get rid of deadwood. Only keep players who think they have something to fight you with. That way, you will be able to place bets, even raises, and milk them a lot more. Sure, you may scare everybody off sometimes, but at least over time, you'll get more value.
9. Diversify Your Poker Games
All poker players have a specialty in which they excel. Some of them are broad (e.g., tournaments, cash games) whilst others are more laser-focused (e.g., heads up tournaments, 6-player cash games, high stakes, multi-table playing). Obviously be strong in whatever poker strategies and game types suit your personality, but don't place all your eggs in the same basket.
All of a sudden, you may get very impatient during a few weeks and can't stand the first hours of online poker tournaments. You end up exiting them before paid places. If that's all you ever play, this is going to be a tough drought for you. If you also had part of your bankroll reserved for cash games, you could still play these and save yourself some from valuable losses.
10. Lose Gracefully
Be enthusiastic when you win a poker game, but lose gracefully. Losing your temper is not going to turn you into a top professional poker player. It will impede your progress and growth. Knowing how to lose is one of the most undervalued basic poker tips for beginners, yet it matters so much, in the long run, to avoid going full tilt.
So, when you happen to lose, take a few deep breaths, and go for a long walk. When you get back, note everything that you did wrong that led you to that poor decision you made.
If there was nothing wrong in what you did and instead you played the right move just at a bad time, then congratulate yourself. In the long term, this is a win, not a loss.
11. Don't Punch Above Your Weight
New players, in poker, often want to live the same intense moments that they see at the WSOP and other poker tournaments. So they try to go play at strong tables, with most of their bankroll being used on a table they will never win at. Don't chase poker fame. Play with smaller players. Scratch that. Exploit smaller and weaker players. Grow your bankroll beating people who are not as good at poker as you are.
Once you are consistently winning in a specific configuration (e.g. low stakes cash games), then move up just a little. Then win again consistently, and move up again. And so on, until you're feeling a lot of, or too much, resistance.
12. Save For Losing Streaks
Rare are the poker players who just win consistently. Many of us will hit a tough period in which we just can't seem to win. And there are two options here:
- Stop playing because you can no longer afford to lose any more
- Keep playing because you prepared for such a losing streak
If you keep on playing, don't just blindly carry on your usual routine. Spend a lot of time understanding why you are losing so much recently. Do some hand analyses, show some hands so other poker players can give you feedback (e.g. r/poker on Reddit).
13. Follow the Game Theory Optimal (GTO)
The Game Theory Optimal (GTO) is a consolidated poker strategy that requires players to follow mathematical-based models when playing poker. Therefore, on a hypothetical poker table, if all the players applied the GTO to the letter, winners would only be determined through luck.
Obviously, because we are all just a bunch of humans, we cannot apply the GTO for every single action we take during a game of poker. Therefore, the goal here is to train yourself so much to follow math-based poker strategies that these become somewhat instinctive.
14. Know The Terminology By Heart
Players in-the-know have their own poker slang and terminology. You must learn it now so you can understand what you read, hear, and see. From reading hand analyses to understanding live commentary, you cannot grow as a poker player if you don't have a grasp of what is being said.
In fact, you probably already know most of the common poker terms but the few you don't will make a hell of a difference in the long run.
15. Don't Obsess Over Starting Hands
In poker and Texas Hold'em, starting hands are a huge part of any player's strategy. Knowing what ranges you should bet, raise, fold, call, or check on, is truly valuable knowledge. So starting hands are incredibly important. But once you get that in your head, you also need to learn how to switch your strategy after you enter a pot.
Numerically, poker players will see more starting hands and hole cards than they will see flops, turns, and rivers. So we inevitably experience more pre-flop action and less post-flop action. Therefore, you need to sharpen these post-flop skills somehow. Watching other players is great as it's free. Recording and studying your own hands is key, too.
16. Skip Bluffing for a While
Bluffing seems like an easy move in poker. Until you get called on your bluff. One of the most basic poker tips for beginners is to never bluff during your first few months. It is just not worth it. Instead, only play solid hands with some tight tendencies. The more you understand the game, the looser you can get.
Poker bluffing is a sure way to lose your money and even love for the game. Stick to this playbook and you will be way ahead from most beginners at the poker table.
Overall, poker players put in place some winning strategies that work very well for them. But you are not the same player as your favorite poker master. You have your own risk tolerance, patience levels, and overall poker playing style. Learn the basic poker tips that work for you, get some practice, fix your mistakes, and grow your bankroll step by step.
This article was published on November 24, 2020, and last updated on February 7, 2021.