Never Played Poker Before? Start Here First.

first time playing poker by amanda botfeld

So you want to play the great game of poker. Welcome! As a poker author and instructor, my job is to transform beginners into winners.

Here are a quick few tips to get you started.

Did you know that poker pros fold 80% of their hands? It’s true. Believe it or not, the best way to get better at poker FAST is by folding more often — most beginners play far too many hands.

So which hands should we play?

Here is a general criterion for you to stick to — only play these cards and fold everything else! Knowing this trick alone will give you a leg up on the competition.

All About Pairs

Already having a pair gives you a headstart on your opponents. Whether you’re playing a pair of fours or a pair of kings, these are worthwhile. Both cards are ten or higher. Play any hands if both cards are at least a ten. This means you should fold a hand like King-Nine, but play a hand like King-Ten. Ace-Two, Ace-Three, Ace-Four, etc. are all bad. Hands like Ace-Jack are good. Only play face cards if the second card is at least a ten! Many amateur players think hands like King-Seven of diamonds are good — when this couldn’t be further from the truth! Stick to this rule, and you’ll be one-upping your opponents in no time.

Suited & Connected

Lastly, play cards if they are suited and connected — meaning fold a hand like Nine-Ten if they are different suits. Only play hands like Nine-Ten, Eight-Seven, and Five-Six if they are “suited”. Likewise, fold hands like Eight-Six even if they are the same suit. You want them to be suited and directly connected (consecutive cards). This rule takes the most discipline — but will ensure the greatest payout.

As you become a more experienced player, you will want to vary which cards you play based on your seat at the table. For more on this, see the chapter in my book titled All the Ra(n)ge that has a cheat sheet of which range of hands to play in each seat.

Play in Flow

Poker has a certain rhythm to it and a natural game flow. If someone raised before the flop (aka The Preflop Raiser), it is customary to “check” (pass) to them on the flop and wait to see if they continue betting — even if you have a good hand. If you decide to come out firing and bet instead, that is called “donk-betting,” which is short for “donkey-betting.” Don’t play like a donkey! Do not get in the habit of betting before The Preflop Raiser on the flop or people at casinos will make fun of you… hee-haw!

What if you have an exquisite hand? You should still check and wait for them to bet, and then raise their bet to shovel more chips into the pot. (Ex. You check The Preflop Raiser bets $30, and then you raise them to $100).

Don’t Expect to Hit

Poker isn’t bingo. Did you know that two-thirds of the time, your cards are going to miss the flop? (meaning won’t hit a pair, flush, etc.) That is one of the reasons why having a pair before the flop is so powerful (especially aces or kings). What you can take from this is that if you are The Preflop Raiser, you can bet almost all flops and your opponents will often have to fold — because usually, their cards will have missed too!

Learn Some Stats

Quick: how often will you flop a flush when holding two suited cards? One out of 118 times. (Now do you believe me when I say hands like King-Seven of diamonds are bad??) Stats like these can really change the way you play. Study up online, so you know the basics from flopping a pair (29%) to completing a straight draw (32%).

Make Aggressive Mistakes!

It is always better in poker to be over-aggressive rather than under-aggressive. So don’t kick yourself if your big bluff got called…the important thing is to go for it!

Hopefully, this article provides a good starting point for you. Catch you at the casino.

Avatar for Amanda Botfeld

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