The game of poker has advanced so much over the last 15 years that sometimes it’s easy to forget that some people are new to the game and are just starting out as beginners. Beginners know nothing about GTO, hand ranges, exploitative play or any of the jargon commonly used by people who’ve been playing the game for a long time – and that’s a good thing! Once upon a time, we were all beginners at poker. We were enticed to the game to have fun and possibly win a little money, perhaps with the dream of some day notching a big score and getting to play poker on TV.

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In particular, many casino game players have the itch to give poker a try for the first time and they certainly should be welcomed to the game with open arms. Poker’s irresistible combination of luck and skill will always have appeal. Once you’ve made the choice to start playing poker, however, there are a few basics that are critical to learn. The breadth of poker knowledge out there is just huge, but to paraphrase the famous saying, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” So, whether you’re a player at one of the best online casinos uk or an American with extra time during this long Thanksgiving weekend and have decided to spend some time at your local land-based casino poker room, here’s a brief rundown of how to prepare for your first sessions.

Learn Poker Hand Rankings, Positions, and Rules

A mistake that many poker beginners make is that they are quick to memorize the game rules but just as quick to forget them. When it comes to poker, this is a big “no.” The last thing you want to happen is to be sitting at the table, wondering if to call, raise, or fold having forgotten if your straight beats your opponent’s flush right in the middle of a hand! Even if you remember the correct answer (a flush always beats a straight), the moment that you start to show your ‘unpreparedness’ and lack of grasp of the game, you open yourself up to exploitation. As such, it’s best not just to memorize the hand rankings and rules, but to truly learn them and have them down pat before you even take a seat at the felt.

Start Playing for Low Stakes (or No Stakes!)

Every poker player – even a beginner – enjoys the opportunity to win money. One of the great things about poker is that it can be played for nosebleed stakes as well as penny ante. In fact, you can even have a great time playing at ‘play money] tables, with nothing at stake whatsoever except for some pride.

Patience is a virtue. Don’t set out on your poker journey sitting at the tables where the high rollers play. Check out the micro-stakes online or $2/4 limit hold’em in a brick and mortar card room. If even that sounds too worrisome, head on over to Zynga and play free poker games online before you start risking any money. Once you are more confident in your play and have recorded some decent results, then perhaps consider wading into the waters and trying to win some actual coin.

Tight is Right

Playing tight means that you limit yourself to playing only very strong hands. Many years ago, it used to be the case that a player could maintain a “tight” strategy so much so that that’s the image and reputation they’d develop wherever and whenever they played. These days, playing tight poker is exploited with relative ease.

With that said, as a beginner “tight is right.” Sure, your opponents will likely be aware that you’re playing strong hands and act and react accordingly. Utilizing a tight strategy usually means that you won’t be a huge winner at the felt, but at the same time it also pretty much ensures that you won’t lose too much either. It’s the most conservative of approaches to poker, but for a beginner it’s the perfect one. It allows you to focus on the essentials and learn the fundamentals of solid play, which is what being a beginner at ANY game is all about.

Let the pros make the tough decisions post flop. With your ‘tight is right’ strategy your decisions will come quickly and become more and more automatic. The less time that you have to worry about decision making, the more time you can spend focusing on learning and expanding your game to greater depth.

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