How to Get Started in Online Poker
While poker rules are simple, the game is fairly fast paced. Usually you have less than 30 sec to make a move. Thus it is critical to be able to quickly grasp at least what cards you have, how they combine with community cards and all different ways you can win. Do you want to learn all that when you have your real, hard earned dollars on the table? Perhaps you do. As for me – that would make me nervous and where is fun in that? Free multiplayer poker sites, where you play against other people online, are perfect for learning these basic poker rules. You will learn them with no pressure and no hit to your wallet.
Do Not Be a Patsy
There are reasons why many sites encourage you to make a cash deposit as soon as possible. The most important one is to bring new money into the game. Poker is a zero sum game. That is what someone won someone else must have lost. New inexperienced players are called “fish” or “patsy” in poker parlance. Good players purposely seek them out. Poker is a game of skill after all. The better you skills are the better and more consistent your payday is. You are certainly not a patsy. Since you are reading this article you are already ahead of 90% of poker newbies. You have mastered poker basics on safe play money poker sites for free. So when you are ready to play for real cash you enter the game with some confidence. You are not intimidated or confused by a strict dealer and quick pace at casino tables.
Learn What Not to Do
Some poker experts believe it is detrimental for your poker skills to train on free, that is play money, poker sites. They explain that when there is no real money on the line players modify their behavior. In other words players have no fear of losing their money and become maniacs raising every hand just to see what happens. I agree with that observation. Play money sites often feature reckless, hyper aggressive even maniacal players who never stop for an instant to think what they are doing. Well, they are easy to beat if you have a minimal discipline and not engage in the same over the top playing style. Poker has what is called a perfect strategy – strategy which guarantees to win the most over the long term regardless of what cards you are dealt. The closer your play to perfect strategy the bigger your edge becomes. Think of it this way – if you cannot beat a free poker game, why do you think you would prosper in cash game where players, on average, are much more competent? Make sense? This way of thinking goes further. When you can consistently beat a free poker game, it is a solid indication that you are ready to move up.
Observe and Adapt
There are at least three fundamental skills you must learn before you go on a roll in Las Vegas. Obviously learn the cards. That is understand how cards combine into winning combinations in Texas Holdem poker. How different combinations rank against each other. Most of the players you will encounter do know that. But those hours you spent online will pay off there. Since you played for free you could afford playing more hands. More practice made you faster and more comfortable running card combinations in your mind. The other two skills are being observant and adapting to current playing style. What is there to observe online you might ask? Even in online poker you can observe a lot. Watch how much time your opponents take to respond. Make mental notes how they respond to different situations. Discern patterns in their play. It sounds like a lot of work. That is because it is but so is walking. You do not consider walking hard because you learned it once and it became you nature through constant practice. It works the same with poker skills. Finally, adapting means adjusting your game to take maximum advantage of specific individuals seated at your specific table now. You cannot play mechanically applying “best practice” rules like raise with your good cards and fold your junk cards. I want you to do better than that. Here your sharp observation starts bearing fruit. You will notice that a raise from maniac means a lot less that a raise from a tight, cautious player. Betting out into four players after a raise on previous round says a lot more that an automatic bet on the flop. You have to adjust your play by loosening up and tightening down as opportunities come and go. There is one thing I learned well – playing poker is fun and playing is the important thing. But playing and winning is even more fun. Spend a little time preparing then you can enter on your own terms and be a dangerous opponent not a fish.
Where to Go Online
This is a brief section because the answer is easy. Find a site with Fixed Limit and No Limit poker which loads fast and its graphics are functional but sparse. I find that many gambling themed sites are heavy on flashy in-your-face graphics which confuse me and turn me off. You want to avoid those and seek out poker rooms where graphics are simple, functional and basically “get-out-of-the-way” for you to focus on poker. You have plenty of choices from feature-rich, downloadable software by large commercial online cardrooms with an excellent support for Windows and Mac. On the other end of spectrum is free no download poker software playable in a web browser. Such no download clients still offers full-featured Texas Holdem poker yet playable even on iPad or smartphone.
Where to Learn Poker Strategy
The pointers I gave in this article are only bare basics that get you started on the right foot in poker. However there is plenty more if you wish to improve your game. Depending on your personal way to learn and how you digest information you can go one of the two ways. Either spend a lot of time on poker forums interacting with fellow new players and learning via social group. It can be fun and pretty motivating but be prepared to spend some time. Another way is buying a book and really working through it. For the best value I recommend Small Stakes Hold ’em: Winning Big With Expert Play by Ed Miller and David Sklansky. The book is solid, methodical yet readable and covers all aspects of winning in poker.
Enough Talk – Go On and Play Some Poker
Now it is time to put everything into an actionable plan. Here is how I recommend you to proceed. Start out by playing poker for free online. After you have learned the rules buy a book. Read it once. Play more poker while staying observant. Think of the hands you played after the game is over. You will automatically return to the book. Reading it second time will not be boring at all because you get deeper meaning based on your own experience at the tables. After you are beating a free game online you can pay a visit to your local casino and play some Limit Texas Holdem. Starting out with No Limit is a sure way to lose your bankroll quickly. Continue on playing micro stakes online as well as low stakes in a casino. Inevitably there will be moments when you have lost control and made stupid mistakes. It is never wrong to go back to the previous level to rebuild confidence. Even poker pros do that often. Keep building you bankroll and saving for a trip to Vegas. I will see you there.