It’s often said about Texas Hold’em Poker that it ‘takes a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master’. That’s a very apt description. This concept is true for all of the casino games that are ‘beatable’–blackjack, sports betting, horse racing, etc. Learning the basics isn’t particularly difficult. Learning to play effectively–let alone profitably–is the real trick.

Transitioning from novice to expert is a long, arduous path. There are two components to ‘learning the ropes’–learning the right things to do and learning the *wrong* things to do so you can work to eliminate them from your game. In the articles you’ll find on this site we’ll attempt to cover both components equally. We’ll teach you the right things to do as well as highlight the *wrong* things to do.


Over time our goal is to address poker topics of interest to all skill levels. Initially, however, we’re going to focus on information intended to help complete novices learn the game. In this article, we’ll give you a both of very fundamental ‘tips’ that you can take action on immediately to improve your game. Keep in mind that this list just scratches the surface–no matter how much experience you get you should never stop learning about the game and how to play it better.

Many of these topics will be dealt with more expansively in subsequent articles. We’ll skip over the most simplistic points–if you don’t know the rules, for example, you’re already in over your head. If you’ve never played in a live casino setting and think you can hang with the pros at the high limit tables there’s nothing we can do to help you. Our goal is to provide novices that want to learn to play the game right with the information they need to get started.


–LEARN ALL YOU CAN ABOUT POKER THEORY: This is a refrain that we’ll sound often. You can’t know too much about poker theory. Poker theory is obviously applicable to the game itself but much of it is such good information that the concepts can be applied to other disciplines like sports betting, investments, sales and much more. Poker players have always been very prolific writers compared to the other forms of gambling but the amount of poker literature has exploded over the past couple of decades. Although there’s some worthless stuff out there I’m always surprised of the general high quality of the output. Even writers and books that I might not agree with personally are typically well written and thoughtful. It’s important to not take anything as ‘the gospel’ but to keep an open mind and make your own decisions based on research and experience. While there is no substitute for experience, be it online or in a casino, the more theory you read the better you’ll play.

–TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SIMULATOR SOFTWARE: There’s plenty of poker simulations out there and the best ones are excellent learning tools. You might want to do a little research since the ‘state of the art’ changes frequently. When I was coming up, the ‘best of breed’ was ‘Turbo Texas Hold’em’ by Wilson Software. This software went through a number of revisions but I’m not sure if it’s still in active production. A quick search online suggested it that was very difficult to find. I was able to find a couple of copies on EBay and based on the prices they were commanding ($60 US) they’re highly sought after. If you can find a copy of this game pick it up.

–DON’T PLAY TOO MANY HANDS: Starting hand selection is to the poker player what openings are to the chess grand master. The stronger your opening hand play the better you’ll do. It’s that simple. While there are some situations where you can play a weaker hand generally speaking you should avoid doing so. There’s plenty of literature about opening hand play and a number of countervailing theories. In general, however, you should very selective as to the hands you play–and especially as a novice.

–DON’T THINK YOU CAN BLUFF YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS: Bluffing is a valuable skill in poker but on balance it’s overrated–and particularly for beginners. Pro poker TV coverage and Hollywood movies have helped ‘mythologize’ bluffing but it’s something that you need to know how to do well to be effective. As a novice, you’re better off keeping your ‘bluffing’ to a minimum–if you do it at all. There’s plenty of fundamentals that you need to get into place before you worry about bluffing or reading the bluffs of others. You’ll get more mileage out of strong opening hand play, understanding pot odds, and making correct betting decisions than you will from bluffing.

–THINK STRATEGY AND TACTICS: A common mistake of beginning players is ‘playing in a vacuum’. It’s easy to get so focused on your own cards and how you’ll play them that you shut out everything else that is going on at the table. This is a *huge* mistake. If you’re going to be a successful poker player you need to always be thinking. You need to think about your skill level relative to your opponents. Are they fairly evenly matched foes? Are they better players against whom you’ll be happy to just hang in against? Are they inferior players that you should be able to be very effective against? It’s not always possible to have thorough knowledge of your opponents beforehand–in this case, your observations at the table are of paramount importance.

In game tactics are also extremely important. Beginning poker players frequently ignore their playing position and the importance thereof. Hands that are playable in a ‘strong’ position are unplayable in a ‘weak’ position. It’s also essential to think about your opponents cards–how they’re betting and playing, the cards that are on the board and what they might be holding. This will not only help you make decisions about your hand and how to play it, it’ll help you gain valuable information about your opponents and how they play. It’s essential to always ‘be aware’ of the game.