Poker can seem like a complicated game to learn, but the fact that it is so compelling and fun means that you learn while you play, and then play, and then play some more. There are a bunch of variations and the best advice is to get stuck in and play and see which you prefer, but there are some basic strategy pointers that will increase your chances of winning and overall enjoyment.
Know the type of poker you are playing
Before you start your game, make sure that you know and feel comfortable with the nuances of the particular variation you are playing. Be aware of the hand rankings and any special points for that game. Does the lowest hand win, are there any wild cards? If you are a beginner player, make sure that you play the variation that you feel most comfortable with.
Patience is your best friend
More often than not, you will not have the edge when you are playing poker. You can generally see from your initial set of cards if you will have a successful hand or not. Fold early if your cards are not good, be patient and wait for the next round. By continuing to play with marginal cards you will simply be giving money to a pot that someone else is more likely to win. By holding out until you have a hand that is worth playing, you will have more to contribute to a pot when you have a hand that is more likely to win.
Be aware of what your opponents’ hands may be
Make sure that you don’t just focus on your hand, but also on the hands that your opponents may be holding. Try to keep in mind how your opponent has played previous hands so that you can develop an understanding of what kind of hand he may have now. By having an idea of what your opponent holds, you will be able to play, or not play, your hand with more certainty.
Conversely, you do not want your opponent to be able to read what you are holding so that he has the advantage. This is where the idea of having a ‘poker face’ comes into play. The less you give away, or the fewer ‘tells’ you have, the less your opponent will be able to base his play on what he thinks you have.
Know when to play aggressively
If you have a good hand, do not hesitate to play it. Raise it if there are only a few other players in the pot. If there are a lot of players be careful; someone else might have a winning hand so be more cautious about raising unless you know your hand is a good one.
Play, play and play
Practice makes perfect and there is no better way to learn than through doing. With so many poker rooms out there with new player bonuses, practice and real play, as well as poker tutorials it is easy to find opportunities to practice your game. Make sure that you practice as much as possible so that you are playing an optimal strategy and making use of all of the tricks of the trade. Practice will also help you to learn to keep your emotions in check so that you do not give your game away to the other players.