There is a very interesting analogy between learning poker and learning to drive. At first, we don't know what we're doing and we look at everything around us. As we get better, we look at only those things we need to look at.
Poker Improvement Comes from Learning and Practicing Step by Step
In poker, unlike in baking, there are no recipes. You need to learn how to play your hand from the experience of the hundreds and thousands of hands you’ve played before. Online poker is a great way to practice.
Poker Excellence Means Advancing from Possibilities to Probabilities
Let us accept the fact that for all but a poker natural, it will take quite some time to develop expertise in all facets of poker. There are some ramifications of this simple insight. First, we need to play in games that are either at our present level or slightly above or below our present level.
You could, of course, play against a table of inferior players and win but you wouldn’t be learning anything if you did so. Therefore, we say that you can learn if you play against opponents who are relatively close to you in skill.
Importance of Practice
Even in the pre-flop stage, there are many things to consider before you decide how to proceed. So, the point of this article is to emphasize learning one aspect of poker and practicing it on many hands. One of the main thrusts of this article is that online poker is a far better tool for playing the hundreds of hands you need to play in order to improve.
When you play poker online, you play at your own pace and for the duration of time you want. It’s a lot easier to get up from the table when you’re online because you don’t have the investment in time and money of getting to a land based casino. When you play at a land based casino, you feel the need to get the most for your money which often leads to staying at the table when you are tired or hungry and really need to take a break.
Play for Free
Another aspect of playing poker online is that you can play games for free. You can’t, of course, get into a real money game for free but you can play your game of choice in free play mode. This gives you the chance to practice specific aspects of poker that you would find harder and a lot more expensive to do in a live game.
Learning to Evaluate Hands Quickly
Even if you slow play as a bluffing technique, you want to be able to evaluate hands quickly. Nothing shows a player to be a rank amateur more than having him or her obviously trying to figure out the value of a hand before they decide how to proceed.
Learning to Drive
Let’s look at evaluating a hand in poker as being similar to learning how to drive. We begin driving thinking about everything. There is an obvious lack of confidence as we expect people to turn into our path, we slow down in anticipation that a traffic light will turn red far before we need to, and many other things we learn to do automatically or naturally but cannot do in that way at the outset.
In poker, we’ll look at our cards and, at first, be completely unsure if we can win the hand or not. It takes a lot of practice to realize that we don’t need great hands to win; we only need better hands and a hand that wins one pot will be hopelessly weak in a different game.
Everyone Sees Five Cards
The entire mystery in poker is: what are the two hole cards my opponent has? There will be hands where the best he could have is three of a kind whilst in other hands the range may be from nothing to four of a kind or even better.
Many players, especially beginners, don’t fully realize that you also have two hidden cards and that your range of hands is as much a mystery to them as their range is to you.
One of the main aspects of bluffing is taking advantage of the information your opponent does not have in order to make a sound decision.
Practice Evaluating Range
If you play in a very low stakes game online, you can reasonably afford to see the flop. In all likelihood, most of the opponents will be able to see the flop as well. Since you don’t see any opponent’s cards, you can impart one hand to one opponent and another hand to a different opponent.
Simply evaluating range is not enough. You have to formulate a probable range as opposed to a possible range. The probable range is a lot more complicated because it has to take into account your opponents stack, his or her position, his or her relative ability as a player, and their position in the hand.
But before you can get into evaluating probable range, you’ll need to play hundreds of hands evaluating just possible range. You need those hundreds of hands to develop a feeling for all the otter parameters that go into determining the probable range of opponents’ hands.
Value of Playing Online
This brings us back to the idea that online poker is a great way to play the many hands you need to play to improve stage by stage. Getting back to the analogy of learning to drive, we can say that at first most new drivers either drive too slowly or too fast. Your instructor would almost certainly tell you to drive slower if you start out driving too fast.
Hopefully, you learn to drive at the safest speed for all the conditions you’re facing which include the weather, the traffic, the quality of the road, and the speed at which other drivers are driving.
If you start out driving slowly, the instructor would probably not tell you to go faster. He might take you on a road that is better suited for slow driving.
In poker, if you start out playing too fast, you’ll miss a lot of the valuable information you can derive from the other players’ actions. If you play slowly, you would be better situated to see everything your opponents are telegraphing and you’ll be better able to evaluate your hand based on the information you get.
Poker Only Gets More Complex
The easiest stage of betting is the pre-flop stage and we see that even there, many players have little idea of what is happening around the board. Only by practicing many hands can you develop the natural sense of the possibilities facing you in those hidden cards.