We try various ways to teach our newer and more experienced players the finer points of poker. To our surprise, we also have some players who are so new to the game that they have to start at the beginning.
What Would You Tell a True Poker Beginner?
Starting at the very beginning in learning poker or in teaching poker is a lot harder than it looks. There are so many nuances in poker that a teacher really has some difficulty knowing where to start. Take the hierarchy of hands as an example. But before we do so, let's also recognize that anything we teach at the most basic poker level can best be learned when you play poker online. Everygame Poker offers a poker no deposit bonus so perhaps accepting the bonus is really the best place to start!
Hierarchy of Hands
We all know that the best hand is a royal flush followed by a straight flush, four of a kind, and so on. The “so on” is the least intuitive part of the hierarchy. Why is a flush stronger than a straight? Why is a straight stronger then three of a kind? Is three of a kind really more difficult to get than two pair?
The fact is that the hierarchy of hands is based on the probability that a player will get such a hand. The mathematics of all this is far beyond this article. So, as a player, you have to simply accept that the hierarchy of hands truly reflects your chances of getting such a hand.
Even very new players need to know something about probability. Let’s say that you have four cards of the same suit which we call four to a flush. You should want to know what the chances are that you’ll get a flush on the last card.
The way we calculate this probability is a very important early lesson in poker. We count the number of possible cards that can give us the flush. Any card we have not seen counts as a card that might give us the flush even if it was folded by another player.
This is so important that we’ll repeat it in a slightly different way. Since we can’t see every card, we have to assume that all of the cards we need to get a winning hand are still available to us. In the example of the flush, we have four to the flush and there are still nine other cards that can give us the flush. We next need to know how many cards are left in the deck and the probability of our getting the flush is the fraction 9/ the number of cards left in the deck.
You might be playing in a Texas Hold’em game against five other players. Three players folded before the flop. That removed six cards from the deck. The dealer dealt the flop and the turn card which is Hold’em jargon for the fourth community card.
So, 38 cards remain in the deck. We have to assume that all nine cards that can give us the flush are in the deck. That makes the probability 9/38.
There are a few good early poker lessons in this one example:
- We often treat cards we have not seen as if they still are available even when they really are not.
- We need to be able to make some simple calculations quickly. These calculations can be approximates but we still need to be able to make them.
- We need to pay attention to everything that goes on at the table.
How to Visualize an Opponent’s Hand
In any poker game, there may be two or three cards we can’t see. In five card draw poker, there are five cards in every player’s hand that we don’t see. How can we know what to bet at any time? We need to learn techniques for visualizing other players’ hands.
Paying attention to everything that happens at the table is a major factor in being able to visualize an opponent’s hand. We need to pay attention to each opponent’s betting habits. A very good opponent will be just erratic enough in their betting to throw us off the track of visualizing their hands. But we still need to pay close attention for any clue that might help us down the road.
This is one of the major lessons we can learn from the YouTube clips about high level poker. Very often, a top pro will take the time to analyze a bet in a crucial situation. The commenters might say that the player is reviewing everything that has happened in the game overall not just in the present hand.
Any execise you can do to improve your power of observation and your memory can be valuable in poker. Also keep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to be able to make sound conclusions about your opponents’ hands.
Probably a majority of poker players just play for fun. If you are one of this category of player, it’s quite all right. But it points to two very important aspects of poker:
- We need to play within our means.
- We need to play within our skill level.
Every player needs to determine the size of their bankroll. If you are playing for fun, you might play with a small bankroll and stay in low ante games. After all, for players in these games, the primary goal is to have fun playing poker.
Similarly, if you are happy with the skill level you have attained, you should play with players of a similar skill level. Everyone will have a lot of fun; no one will win or lose a lot of money; and no one will tell you about all the mistakes you made!
If you are committed to getting better at poker all the time, you need to understand that getting better at poker is a commitment in time and energy. You will need to study. You will need to read good books about poker. You will need to demonstrate a lot of patience during the most basic learning period.
A lot of poker players get impatient when they are playing. The main reason for this impatience is that you should fold about 70% of your hands without making any further bets.
This rule of thumb does depend on many other factors. It depends on the actual poker variation you’re playing, the skill level of your opponents, the comparative size of your bankroll and your opponents’ bankrolls, and your position in the betting sequence.
This last point is called position. We bet more and more often when we are betting in late position. The reason is simple: when we are in late position, we can get some clues as to what kind of hand our opponents have simply by their bets before us.
Earn Your Winnings
New players need to understand that although there certainly is a large dollop of luck involved in poker, commitment, study, and patience can truly change luck into functions of skill. In other words, the degree to which you commit yourself to becoming better at poker, the less luck will determine your success and the more skill will determine it.
We will continue thus discussion soon - stay tuned.