Learning how to play poker can be one of the best decisions you'll ever make. It is one of the most exhilarating and popular games on the planet, and if you really know what you're doing and have the passion, it can turn into an even more thrilling and profitable pastime or even profession. Whatever your reasons for hitting the tables, learning how to play poker is relatively easy.
This may sound counter-intuitive since playing successful poker is a nuanced and refined skill, so let's put it this way: YES, mastering poker IS an endeavour that demands countless hours of table time and a solid understanding of the more subtle elements of poker. It does take quite a bit of practice and due diligence. We're not even attempting to undersell the amount of experience and knowledge you are going to have to gain before you can become a truly exceptional poker player. But - to draw on a common building analogy - you are going to have to learn how to build a solid lean-to before you can construct a cathedral. Once you've mastered the foundations of poker, you can move from there. The aim here is to teach you how to play poker by equipping you with all the tools you'll need to shape a sturdy base for a lifetime of poker success.
The Basic Principles of How to Play Poker
1) Learn the Rules. This is a fairly basic tenant of learning any new game, but one that is often skimmed over or just overlooked entirely. Save yourself (and your tablemates) a lot of time, frustration and money and read up on the fundamental poker rules before you go all-in.
2) Learn Hand Rankings. Nothing is more demoralizing than having a winning hand and not even knowing it. Avoid the humiliation and commit this basic list of hand rankings to memory. From highest to lowest, your hand rankings are as follows:
Royal Flush, Straight Flush, 4 of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind, Two Pair, One Pair, High Card.
3) Learn Your Limit. When we say 'learn your limit', the first thing that probably comes to mind is your budget. While this is certainly true and you should never play beyond your financial means, learning how to play poker also necessitates that you know your limit in regards to your skills, as they exist now. It may seem tempting to jump into a full-on tournament when you feel you've got the basic poker theory nailed, but the truth is, you probably haven’t. Rash decisions breed harsh realities. Theory is one thing, experience is another. You’ll need them both to truly learn how to play poker. Poker is exciting - we get it - but we still recommend you hold tight and immerse yourself into the game slowly. Start with a suitable, fixed budget and avoid full-on tournaments until you’re totally comfortable playing ring games or single table sit and gos. These game structures don't run as long, so beginners are less likely to become tired, impatient, frustrated and reckless.
4) Learn Your Style. All poker players have their own swagger at the tables; their own way to roll, so to speak, and upon entering the world of poker, you've got to find what works for you. Go ahead, be as individual as you like, but for the love of little plastic chips, don't be an overly passive player. Part of learning how to play poker involves getting in the game and, you know - actually playing. Passive players don't tend to see a lot of money for their time at the tables. Hell, they don't even tend to have a lot of fun. They usually just sit there and let the game wash over them and let's face it, even if you are playing purely for pleasure, apathy is not at the root of poker. Or good poker, at least. In fact, the mere combination of the words 'passive' and 'poker' seems downright oxymoronic to us. Learn more about poker playing styles to get a better handle on where you think you fit and what might work for you. <link>
5) Learn Patience. Ah yes, the crux at the beating heart of any poker game. Skill and stack aside, your ability to stay cool, calm and collected can do wonders to help you win. It will also do wonders to help you learn how to play poker. While there is an undeniable skill element in poker, there is also an equally undeniable (and sometimes infuriating) fortuitous force in the game. You’ll have to keep your head about you if you’re not going to lose it trying to out-think blind chance. While you may be ready and raring to go, sit a hand out if you don't have solid cards (and/or a solid understanding of the game). Likewise, if you blank on hand rankings during your first real game, don't sweat it. Learning anything - including how to play poker - takes time. Learning how to play quality poker takes even longer. Take a few deep breaths, re-read these guidelines, review your poker fundamentals and then get back in the game.