Is this the best “how to play poker guide” ever?
Well, we would like to think that.
So lets formally introduce you to our guide on how to play poker and let start.
What topics will we cover?
If you are new to poker then this guide will teach you how become really good at playing poker.
And we will let you become that good by teaching you about the following six topics.
- Introduction to poker
- Poker basics
- Starting hands and rankings
- Strategy and psychology
- Bankroll management
- Finish words
Introduction to poker
Everyone has their own reason to become really good at poker.
- You want to beat your home games consistently
- You’ve been playing for a while but you haven’t won any
- You’ve been to a casino and had your butt kicked
- You just want to improve your game because you want to become a professional poker player.
Playing for hours will no doubt improve your chances of winning.
Besides, practice makes perfect.
Playing out in the open and putting your hard-earned money on the poker table can be devastating if you don’t have a plan.
We hope this poker player’s guide will help you improve your poker mindset.
A fair warning though: this guide is not etched in stone.
It serves as a reference on how you should conduct yourself and your game as you go along and win big at poker matches.
This guide is not a substitute to the real game. Instead, treat it as some form of reinforcement.
To have a guide or not to have a guide? That is the question
Would it hurt your game if you read a bit about poker?
Will you lose precious time at the poker tables if you spend an hour or two brushing up your poker knowledge?
Sure, you’d say, “Nothing beats hands-on experience!”
Of course, you can do just that.
Spend countless hours playing and battle it out with the best in the poker business.
We’re even sure you’ve met so many poker players in your playing days (nights) who haven’t read a book on poker and claim they’ve been winning ever since.
It could be true (and good for them) but how much have they lost in those years of play?
If you buy that poker logic, here’s what we have to say: it would be “too” costly.
Going to battle without preparing would cost you more time and money compared with a little preparation on how you want to go about your game.
You can play poker the way those people play but it will take time for you to learn from your mistakes and efficiently correct them. When you read, you’re investing.
When you read, you acquire knowledge. And once you have that knowledge, it can never be taken away from you.
Reading this guide will help you cut those impending mistakes and let you see different angles of the game.
If you use your hard knocks experience coupled by poker analytics you’ll be on the right track.
What most poker players forget is that the basics of poker play will bring them a long way.
In this section, we’ll go back down to the basics and break them down to understandable pieces to guide you in your quest for poker excellence.
Think of it this way – you’re like laying the foundation of a building.
Without it, the building will crumble.
Before you can start putting on ornaments, you need to make sure that your base/foundation is solid to cover and protect the pillars and weight of your building.
Once all the structural elements are in order then you can experiment on how you’d like to design and improve your game.
Thus, the basic rules of poker and the core game play are important to help you develop a strong game plan each time you play.
Why are you playing poker in the first place?
- Fun and recreation
- Earn money
Poker is the number one card game on the planet and everyone seems to enjoy it.
You play it with your buddies, your co-workers, your Aunt Mary, and just about with anybody. It’s fun and you can talk about so many things while playing the game.
You could be telling inside stories among your own circle and continue playing poker for hours until the sun rises.
Others play poker to earn some money.
Some, the pros, play poker to earn a living.
Nothing can be more motivating than winning loads of cash while enjoying a recreational sport you love. If you put the two together, you’ll have a mix of experience that could make you smarter and wealthier at the same time.
Poker is a mind game at best.
It hones your strategic side and lets you deal with situational dilemmas that you need to immediately address.
If you’ve been in a heads-up scenario, you know you have to deal with it head-on.
No turning back.
No backing down.
That’s the reality of poker
Unfortunately, most players don’t see poker this way.
They ignore this reality and blame many things but themselves.
Rather than acknowledge their shortcomings as a player, they point a blaming finger at the dealer, bad deck of cards, and even fate.
They think the poker universe is not kind to them that’s why they’ve consistently failed to win big pots, tournaments and cash games.
The challenge of poker reality is this: how to win loads of cash and correct your mistakes in the shortest possible time.
We’re not saying it’s easy but it can be done.
With the right plan and discipline, you’ll be on your way to consistently win poker games.
What’s your objective?
The object of the game is two-fold: to win as many hands as possible and to save as much money if the going gets tough.
As experts of the game put it, the greatest sin in poker is to let the sucker keep his money.
Poker is a game of wagers in which a player bets, calls, raises, or re-raises hoping to get the best deal with the best hand (or best bluff).
Regardless of a real made hand or a bluff, the objective of poker is to get as much chips as you can from other players at the table.
The beauty of poker lies in taking turns. There’s always a first mover and a second mover position.
Game theory experts who’ve studied the game understand that there are advantages and disadvantages to both positions.
How many players can play poker?
Depending on the game, the number of players range from two to ten players per table.
In most No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments, each table is made up of nine or ten players.
Poker game dynamics
Each player is dealt with two hole cards faced down.
If you’re in the hand it means that you’re still at play with your hole cards and you should be the only person to know what hand you’re holding.
The action in the game starts with preliminary betting pre-flop with the player under the gun (the player right after the Big Blind) to act first.
The action is clockwise with the succeeding players taking turns.
Any time a player decides to forfeit his interest in the pot, he may release his hand when it is his turn to act (to do something related to betting: raise, fold, check, or call).
When a player folds a hand, he is not required to place any more money in the pot.
If a player bets or raises and no one calls, the pot belongs to that player, the cards are collected and shuffled, and the next hand is dealt.
If there are two or more players still active at the end of the hand, the best hand wins the pot.
In game theory parlance, poker is a fixed game with zero-sum results.
That means it has its own structure with only one winner at the end of the game. In some tournaments, especially those that take longer hours to finish, players would agree to split the pot among themselves and call it a day.
At other times, they would continue with the attrition until two players remain standing, and these two players will play “heads-up” until one is declared a champion.
How do you win a hand in poker?
The first is when one or more players reveal and compare the best hand after the betting rounds are done up to the last community card is dealt (the River).
This means that two or more players are still in the game after all the betting rounds, but they have to show their hole cards faced up for comparison to determine who has the best hand.
The second way of winning a hand in poker is when all your opponents folded their hands after your action.
It means that no one at the poker table gives up his claim for the pot that is being contested.
Hand Rankings and Starting or Opening Hands
For the hand rankings, we presented them below from highest to lowest rank:
1. Royal Straight Flush
An ace-high straight flush depicted in the image is known as a royal flush. Remember that it should be from Ace to ten of the same suit. It’s the highest-ranking standard poker hand. It is usually treated as a distinct and rare poker hand because it seldom appears in poker games. Mathematically, you can be dealt a royal flush twice when you play for 365 straight days. There are four different possibilities for a royal flush: Ace to Ten for each suit of Spade, Diamond, Heart, and Club.
2. Straight Flush
Any set of hands that contains a five-card sequence of the same suit is called a straight flush (just like the image depicted). It is a hand that fulfills the requirement of both straight and flush. It’s typically referred to as the “steel wheel” in poker lingo.
3. Four of a kind
Also called quads, a Four of a kind hand is a combination of all four cards of the same rank (an example is the image depicted above) with one unmatched card. In Texas Hold ‘Em, it’s possible for multiple players to hold quads. When this happens, the winning player will be determined by the kicker (unmatched card). Whoever holds the higher kicker wins. In case both players have the same kicker, the pot being contested will be split.
4. Full house
A full house is a poker hand that has three matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank (just like the image depicted above). If it’s a contest between two full houses, the player who holds the higher-ranking three cards wins. You often hear pro poker players say they have the Boat (or Full Boat) as full houses are also referred to this way.
A flush is a poker hand (depicted in the image) refers to all five cards are of the same suit, although not in sequence. In cases where two flushes are competing over a pot in a given play, the player with a high card hand wins. Flushes are described according to their highest card. In the case of the sample image, it can be called an “Ace-High” flush.
A straight is a poker hand (depicted in the image) that contains five cards of that come in sequence. It may be from two or more different suits. If there are two players hold a straight, their hands’ sequence will be compared because there are times when one player has a “high straight” while the other has a “low straight.” In poker parlance, a straight is sometimes referred to as the “wheel.”
7. Three of a kind
Also called a set or trips, a Three of a kind is a poker hand that has three cards of the same rank and two cards that are not the same. It’s called a set when a person holding a pocket pair hits his third card during the Flop on the community card. It is called trips when a one of the player’s hole cards hit two matching cards on the community board.
8. Two Pair
9. One pair
One pair is a poker hand such as 4♥ 4♠ K♠ 10♦ 5♠, that contains two cards of one rank and three cards which are not the same as each other. Remember that higher-ranking pairs always defeat lower-ranking pairs. In cases when two hands have the same pair, the non-paired cards or kickers are compared in descending order to determine who the winner is.
10. High Card
A high-card or no-pair hand is a poker hand made of any five cards not meeting any of the first top nine cards we just described. If no players who are still in the game made no hand, the winner is determined by comparing who has the highest card.
Poker Starting Hands for Beginners
For a thorough discussion of opening poker hands for beginners, we suggest you read this article about brilliant poker starting hands.
Basic Poker Strategy and Psychology
In this section, we’ll discuss the first two and deal with bankroll management extensively in the next section.
Strategy: The Mathematics of Poker
Don’t be overwhelmed when we say math is needed in poker.
Strangely enough, most people we spoke to about poker math would brush the idea aside and say, “what for?” or “I’ve been playing poker all my life and I don’t need no math!”
For the uninitiated, or those who play poker for recreational purposes, poker is just about luck or sweet destiny.
If you’re taking poker seriously, you can’t rely on luck and we promise you that you’ll be destined to something not sweet – financial ruin.
Poker as a game or sport can be analyzed from the prism of game theory and decision science. All we ask is a little patience so that you can understand why and how probability plays a role at the poker table.
That’s the math involved in poker.
There’s too much asymmetric information involved (you don’t know what going to happen next) and the best you can do is estimate what is the most like card to come up.
Win or lose, variance plays a major role in the outcome of any poker game.
In layman’s terms, variance refers to the number of times a particular hand in poker is most likely to win.
For example, if you’re holding pocket Aces, how many times do you think it’d win during a heads-up match?
Your estimates may not be accurate but having a foundation and understanding why things work the way they do helps you not ending up in a mental institution.
If you play the game too long, poker math becomes second nature and you’ll start to breathe estimates.
You can’t predict your opponent’s cards 100 percent of the time, but you’ll have an inclination what hole cards they’re holding.
In poker, this is a big deal.
The Psychology Ingredient: Discipline + Plans + Composure
Playing serious poker requires mountains of discipline and solid plans.
Whether you like it or not, just like in any field or profession, you need truckloads of discipline at poker to achieve a certain degree of mastery over the game.
We’re not saying you can master poker.
Nobody can master the game.
But you can achieve a level of excellence if you’re disciplined with the right set of plans as you soldier on in your quest for poker greatness.
Planning is not just a list of what and what not to do.
It involves strategy and tactics.
Strategy is your long-term approach to the game, while tactics are the tiny details of your game during small skirmishes.
You need tenacity and a strong core to execute both to the fullest.
You’ll reap benefits if you treat poker this way. It may be true that you’ll lose a number of games along the way, but in the long run you’ll be a winning poker player.
Believe it or not, your behavior at the poker table is a microcosm of how you deal with real life.
You get bad beat or get outdrawn, you whine. You get busted, you complain about the odds not being on your favor. No wonder you lose your composure during a corporate deal that went wrong.
No wonder you scratch your head when things don’t go your way. Everything you do, even the smallest of things, is a reflection of your person.
Planning to play poker professionally requires that you get your act together not only at the tables but most especially in all aspects of your life.
Bankroll Management (and Recordkeeping)
To convince you further, will you invest in something, maybe a car or a house in suburbia, without considering how much you have in the bank?
What if you’re running a business? Would you continue operating if you don’t have financial records how your business is doing?
In this section, we’ll discuss what bankroll management is and how to have good recordkeeping.
According to the poker dictionary PokerDictionary, bankroll management is a series of guidelines designed to help safeguard a bankroll from tilt, variance, and bad play.
In ring games, coin flips can occur where we have only a slight edge in a hand when all the money goes in.
Occasionally we will lose these flips and need to have a large enough bankroll to support these losses so that we can continue to get our money in with small edges as well as big ones.
There are two ways of looking at bankroll management: upside bankroll management and downside management.
1. The upside bankroll management approach or “Quit While You’re Ahead” advises you to quit while you’re still ahead in the game.
If you went to a casino and played No-Limit Hold ‘Em with an initial bankroll of $1,000 and after five hours of playing you already have $7,000 in chip stacks, the upside approach suggests that you take your money and leave the table.
It gives you $6,000 dollars-worth of winning with only $1,000 as initial investment.
The idea is to decide how much is your target winnings for a number of hours of play (or days or weeks). If you meet that target, this approach is inclined to drag you off your seat and run with your winnings.
You call it a night.
I remember when I was first starting out as a poker player I lost a month’s-worth of salary and had to win them all back for two months.
I went every night to my local card club and set a target amount for four hours of play. When I hit that amount, regardless if the swings and odds were to my favor, I leave.
1. The downside bankroll management approach or “Give it Up and Go Home”, on the other hand, suggests a stop-gap approach to how you should manage your bankroll when your hands are folding.
In this way you can limit the amount you’re most likely to lose if you continue playing with a downswing playing curve.
If your bankroll is a maximum of $500 every night and you happen to lose all of it in one hand, the downside approach tells you to leave the poker table even if you have wads of greenbacks in your wallet.
The idea is to stave off variance from your skin and come back another day.
Recordkeeping is essential for you to know if you’re a successful poker player or not.
Without any system of keeping tabs of your daily poker performance, how would you know if you’re winning enough or losing so much money?
Businesses and enterprises keep records of their expenses and earnings to ensure their continued economic existence. Without any form of recordkeeping, it becomes impossible for businesses to keep tabs of their costs.
The same thing holds true if you want to play serious poker and make a living out of it. I’ve encountered many poker players who don’t keep any record at all. For them, getting enough wins (or hoping to get those big wins) is enough motivation to keep playing.
This is not a good strategy at all.
I believe players like these are scared to see an awful and hurtful truth that they’ve lost thousands of dollars in the years they’ve played poker.
How complicated is keeping a record from your poker games?
It’s not really complicated. What we suggest is for you to keep track of two important things: (a) Win Rates and (b) Standard Deviation Short-Term Fluctuations.
These two statistical tools are crucial to determine if you’re on the winning side of playing poker.
Tips on how to keep a record
It sounds ridiculous but we do suggest that you carry a small notebook with you the next time you play poker.
If you find it crazy, use your smart phone or tablet. Use a spread sheet.
You don’t need any computational formula.
Poker recordkeeping requires only arithmetic to compute the number of hours you’ve played versus the amount you’ve either won or lost. The secret is to record your hourly performance at the poker table.
These are the things that need to appear on your small notebook, smartphone, or tablet computer:
- The amount of cash you’ve won or lost in the previous hour
- The amount of table blinds you’re playing
- The number of hours you’ve played per session
The purpose is to have statistical data of your performance that you can quantify for over long periods.
This cumulative data will help you determine if your game has improved or not overtime. You begin with your daily records, then it becomes weekly, then monthly, and then yearly.
To compute your win-loss average, you can divide the amount of money you’ve won or lost by the number or play time you’ve spent.
This approach will help you arrive at an average of winnings and losses per hour of play.
If you can achieve a win rate with less investment then you’re better off playing poker.
More Basic Tips
We won’t be surprised if your jaw just dropped with the amount of information you’ve just read. Like what we’ve said right from the beginning, poker looks simple on the surface but it’s really a complex game.
If you’re a beginner, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. Take it as a grain of salt that with all the books, websites, and videos that tackle poker, you have all the opportunities in the world to learn more about the game we so love.
Rest assured, you’ll be awesome with your game if you show diligence, patience, intelligence and courage in your game.
If you’re an intermediate player, it won’t harm your game if you review the basics of poker math and psychology.
The foundations of poker are as essential as the foundations of other fields of work and study. The remembering the basics will help you smoothen the rough edges of your game.
For our last words, remember to:
- Sharpen your game by learning poker math
- Learn to control your emotions and reactions both near and away the poker table
- Read more books, websites and whatever poker literature you can get your hands on
- Watch videos and mimic how the pros play
- LEARN BANKROLL MANAGEMENT and be diligent with your RECORDKEEPING.