When we’re starting out on the road to poker stardom, the first steps can be intimidating…

If you’re new to online poker and need pointing in the right direction, here are a few tips to help get you on your way.

Be Patient

This is an obvious one, of course. And perhaps a better way to get this point over would be to say ‘Don’t be impatient’ because that subtle difference in introducing the subject has a more foreboding tone that should serve as a warning to new and ambitious players.

There’s a tendency to ‘run before we can walk’ with most new things in life, and the result of this lack of patience usually works to our detriment, serving to slow us down rather than get us to our desired destination quickly. Not only is poker no exception to this life rule, but the monetary factor can mean that if we seriously mishandle the early stages of the journey, we might not even be able to afford to continue.

So, you’ve been warned – there is no cutting corners when it comes to poker!

Keep calm, and keep it fun

Inexperienced players, quite understandably, are likely to lack confidence when they first play poker. Even the fact that there’s a limited amount of time in online poker during which to arrive at a decision can initially feel like we’re being rushed, but this, like other factors, is something that (quite soon) no longer becomes an issue.

It’s also easy for our excitement and anticipation to lead to naïve over-exuberance. We might have dreams of one day sitting heads-up at a final table about to taste the glory of winning a big money event, and consequently get a bit carried away and in fact become over-confident.

Importantly, the trick, as in life, is to keep our feet firmly rooted to the ground, keep calm, think clearly and rationally and take the game and whatever it might throw at us in our stride. Approach the game in a relaxed state, with a healthy, realistic level of expectation,  confidence and a reasonable idea of the fundamentals of solid, practical poker.

It’s also a must to sit down having bought into a Cash Game or a Tournament for only what we can afford to invest, which brings us nicely to…

Follow Sensible Bankroll Management

Again, this couldn’t sound more simple and obvious. Surely such a subject comes down to good old-fashioned common sense? If only poker were that simple. Some fantastically talented players have blown their entire bankroll because they failed to adhere to proper bankroll management. However strong a player you might be, whatever natural skills you have, these positives will come to nothing if you are reckless with your bankroll. Play within your limits and, however much you feel ready to move up to higher stakes Cash games or bigger buy-in Sit & Go or multi-table tournaments, never step up a gear if your bankroll doesn’t justify it. Remember where we started – Be Patient!

Maximum Buy-ins Only

Assuming sensible bankroll management is in place, you’ll get the most out of a Cash game by buying in for the maximum. While there perfectly valid reasons to buy in with $6 at a $10-max table, for instance, or to short-stack with a minimum buy-in, it’s preferable, especially given the modest outlay at micro stakes, to sit down with the maximum. At this level it’s quite normal to see many players unjustifiably going all-in because they like to gamble or simply lack experience or, often, a combination of the two. When this happens, and you have a hand strong enough to make a stand, it’s important to have them covered in order to take full advantage.

Remember not to join in with all-in gambles just because other players are making such mistakes. Pick your spots, and if you lose the occasional big pot, you can afford to reload and continue playing sensible and ultimately profitable poker because you’re applying disciplined bankroll management.

Strong hands need betting, weak hands need folding

Another no-brainer, but seeing golden rules in black and white helps us remember to keep on an even keel. If your hand is strong, don’t hold back, and try to derive maximum value when such an opportunity presents itself. If you’re sitting with a weak holding, don’t shell out good money after bad. Once your chips have gone into the middle, they’re no longer your chips, so there’s no obligation to rescue them!

Make opponents pay

The vast majority of inexperienced, lower limit players simply love to chase a draw. If there’s a possible flush or straight they tend not to concern themselves with such factors as odds and whether they’re paying too much for the privilege of seeing the next card; in fact, many players – and not just beginner! – don’t even get that far in their considerations, rather they’ll happily match whatever bet is in front of them. With this in mind, overbet with strong made hands when the board shows possible draws! This might seem counter-intuitive because over-betting looks so conspicuous that it might scare opponents off and help them make the correct decision, but you’d be surprised at how unwilling many players are to give up a draw. Make them pay, and most of the time they will, and most of the time you’ll rake in a big pot. Of course, there will be times when someone hits but, in the long-term, inviting people to pay too much for draws is a key part of the game, and a very profitable one. Note that many players will compound an incorrect call on the Flop by calling another big bet – at even worse odds – on the Turn. Ideally, even if they miss their draw on the River we should throw in a decent sized value bet in case they caught a pair, for instance – again, it’s important to extract maximum value. Checking despite knowing we’re ahead because we doubt an opponent will call is a cardinal poker sin.

Keep it simple

Having confidence in our strategy is one thing, but as soon as we feel unbeatable there’s a danger we stray from the game-plan with flashy plays, unjustifiable moves and generally becoming careless. Successful poker players recognise a good thing when they see one and are happy to keep doing what brings the desired result, however routine it becomes. In fact finding an effective money-making recipe is the whole point of any player’s poker quest.

Don’t Bluff Too Much

It’s tempting to suggest to inexperienced players to not bluff at all during the earlier stages of their poker career, but that would mean ruling out an important part of the game, and hands not going our way through faulty play is part of the learning curve. However, it’s best to keep bluffing to an absolute minimum at this stage.

Finally, did I say be patient…?

Have fun…



AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 30.11.2020 · last updated 30.11.2020