The boom may be dying down a bit but Poker is still one of the most popular card games out there and it’s never too late to get started! Whether you’re planning to get your mates round the table, play poker online or eventually take a swing at the World Series of Poker, there are just 4 short steps to upping your poker game to a competitive level.
Step 1: Pick a Game
This one is either extremely obvious or a complete curveball depending on your level of experience. While Texas Hold ‘em is by far and away the most popular version of poker there are plenty of opportunities to play the other games too, you might even have an easier time with a less crowded pool. You could pick up Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Razz, there are plenty of options for you to choose from. Do you want to try and get really good at an obscure game first or just jump straight into Hold ‘em? You’ll have an easier time getting players for Hold ‘em but you might want to see how the different games feel before you commit to mastering one.
Step 2: Learn the Numbers
And by numbers, we mean the odds and probabilities as well as the hands. A sizeable amount of poker is learning how to predict your chances, it may seem like a good idea to keep a hand like a King and Ace of the same suit but the odds of landing a royal flush are negligible (In Texas hold ‘em for instance, it’s 1 in 30,940) even if you have two of the cards to start, until you see the flop you can’t know if the cards are worth betting heavy on as you may see the next few cards come up as a three, a ten and a seven. Working out the probability of getting what you need is called “your outs” which you can calculate here.
You also, obviously, need to know what hands beat what, it does you no good to know your opponent has three of a kind if you think your two pair will beat it.
Step 3: Get a handle on Bluffing
Bluffing is sometimes exaggerated in its importance, a lot of people will believe that having a strong bluff is an essential element in poker and take movies like Rounders as gospel for how to work out when someone is trying to conceal their hand. Bluffing is absolutely an element of poker and learning to read people will help a lot but its very easy to get your head stuck in a place where you’re seeing things that aren’t there. Reading literature about cold-reading or just getting some table experience will help you to isolate what to look for at the table. While it’s worth bearing in mind, getting your head around recognising bluffs and tells is quite a long process and not one you should rush.
Step 4: Practice by Playing!
You should be playing through all of these steps really but this is probably the most important thing to remember. You can only really get better by playing, doing the groundwork before you start will make sure you have a better shot at winning of course, but there’s no point if you don’t play! Obviously only play with your bankroll and don’t start betting hundreds of chips on your first hand, but practice makes perfect! Casual games with your friends or a few online hands can be a good way to cut your teeth before you commit to a REAL game.
Feel like playing a hand? Just remember these steps and don’t jump into the deep end until you’re ready. Good luck!