So, you just started playing poker. Either online, via some websites like our audience-favourite Khelo365, or with a group of close friends. Except, there is a little problem — you just keep losing, with wins being few and far between.
If that is the case — you came to the right place. With this article, we are going to take a look at the most common mistakes the newcomers to poker make, learn how to stop making them, and explain how to take advantage of the mistakes others make.
Rule #1: Adopt the Poker Face
There is a simple rule to poker — if you had played your hand differently if you knew your opponent’s hand, then you have lost. Which means that knowing, or at least suspecting the hands that other players have, is everything.
And they know it. So they will be looking at your reactions to the cards, the nervous ticks, and dozens of other tells. Those who can easily ‘read’ other people, are at a great advantage when it comes to poker.
Which means, you need to find a way to remain visibly emotionless. Keep smiles, eye rolls, and any other reactions off your face. Do not drum the table with your fingers. This state is commonly known as the ‘poker face’ and there’s a good reason for it.
As for online players, here’s a bit of practical advice — gain a mechanical attitude. Make sure that everything you do at the table is with the same level of efficiency, that you do not introduce random pauses into your style. The best way to do so is to spend 5-10 seconds thinking about any decision — even if you have already made up your mind. This way, you will have a buffer for when you really need the time.
P.S. You will create your gaming persona and introduce more emotions to it later, when you get better at acting, but for now — keep your poker face on.
Rule #2: Money is a Resource
It’s pretty easy to spot a newcomer to poker, as they will make different bets when they have different hands. Even when they have a decent poker face, you can still see that they get aggressive or defensive depending on their hands.
However, when playing professionally, you will see ‘weird’ cases of players raising bets even on definitely losing hands. In fact, you might see that most bets – winning and losing – are in roughly the same range. You can never predict what kind of hand the player has up until they reveal it.
Now, when it comes to punishing people who do not understand this principle, you have several options:
- If you see someone fold bad hands quickly, start playing aggressively on high-valued pots. Chances are, they will easily buy your bluff – after all, that’s what they would do!
- If you see them raising, consider what hand they might have. If anything goes or your own cards are bad, maybe it’s time to fold?
Of course, these strategies won’t work on someone who only pretends to not understand the ‘same pot value’ concept and is just gaming you waiting for the all-in. But that is the risk you will have to take – especially if your opponents are not known to be skilled.
Rule #3: Use Common Sense and Maths
Common sense is important in poker, and here’s why — you can easily calculate the odds of winning against the call and the pot. For example:
- You have a 5 of spades and a 7 of hearts. The window is the jack, queen, king of diamonds. There are nine other people at the table.
- The chance that none of them has two diamonds, a jack, a queen, or a king is infinitely small. In fact, it is 0.2%.
- The pot is 100 USD and the call is 10 USD. Which means that the risk/reward ratio is ⅕ or around 10%.
- You are, commonly speaking, screwed. About ten times over. Fold immediately.
Of course, this is a very out there kind of example — most of the time you would have at least something. However, the odds of you winning with a 7 of diamonds are around 5%, while holding a pair of 7 puts it at 7.5%. Having a single Jack of any suite pushes it to 7.5%. And finally, playing against only two players will put even your original — and incredibly bad — hand to a 9% winning possibility. Which still leads to the same suggestion, by the way, since risk is much higher than the reward. Now, if you were holding a pair of Jacks, Queens, or Kings… that has possibilities!
It’s very rare that you can calculate exact percentages of risk when playing a real-time game, but having at least a good idea is already enough. Therefore, keep an eye on the cards and think about the chances and the risks before making each decision. Even if something seems obvious, give it a couple of seconds (see Rule #1) and maybe you will see something you originally didn’t.
Poker is a skill that comes with experience and training. These three simple rules will not help you to become a world-class pro, but it might help you own a couple of your college buddies or a random noob online.
If you want to get even better, you have several avenues to consider:
- Acting classes. Great for playing live, since you can create a persona with unique sets of tells and only you will know that they are completely and totally fake.
- David Slansky’s Theory of Poker and Dan Harrington’s On Hold’em are spectacular primers on the maths and theory behind the game. Page turners, however, they are not, so if reading is not your forte – it will be rough.
- Amateur tournaments. A costly way, since you will probably get destroyed, but a great place to get a read on all kinds of opponents and figure out their tells and play styles. Also, stay as a spectator after getting eliminated — provided the rules allow it.
- If you are playing online, we highly recommend Khelo365 for such practice. They have a great platform and several kinds of low-stakes tournaments that run daily. And there are high-stakes options too, for when you get better.
Overall, serious, professional poker is kind of a commitment. It’s a full-time hobby, and it will take away a lot of your time. However, it is definitely worth it, since it is one of the very few hobbies that can — and will — become profitable very quickly.
~ K365 Poker Team