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Becoming a Better Poker Player

Becoming a Better Poker Player Part 1: Beginners and Novices
by Daniel Johnson of

Sometimes I get asked the question: How do I become a better poker player? The answer I give is usually different because it really depends on the person. As we all know, people learn differently; at different rates and by different methods. People who ask this question are also usually at different stages as a poker player. Some are already fairly advanced and others are new to the game, so my advice will vary. This article will breakdown techniques to learning the game for beginners and novices and will include my suggestions for what I feel works best. In poker you need to try out as many methods as you can and soak up as much information you can. There is no substitute for game experience, but if you jump into the game too early without knowing what you are doing, it can cost you a lot.

There are many ways to learn how to become a better player, but experience is the best way to practice strategies and see how most opponents act in certain situations. The more you run across these situations, the more you will know what to do and how to react. However, online free money games and freerolls DO NOT COUNT AS EXPERIENCE. This is a common misconception with beginning players. They think they are ready to jump into a big real money game after they have achieved a million play chips, but what they don't realize is those games are nothing like real money games. Even a 1 cent-2 cent game is vastly different in strategy from a free game. Since free games require no entry fee, people don't care about winning. This changes the game from poker to simply pure gambling. Sure, every once in a while you will see people trying to win a free game, but when any amount of money is at stake, trust me, everyone will want to win.

You want to start at a level that is comfortable to you. Never play with scared money. If you lose a certain amount of money and stress about it, then you know you were playing too high. You have to want to win, but not be worried about losing. If you play with scared money, you will be unable to make aggressive moves when needed to win uncontested pots. You don't want to be reckless in any way, like some people are in the free games, but you also don't want to be scared of losing. Once you find a good level, settle in and pay attention to the game. For you to learn, you need to be able to recognize what players are doing and why they are doing it.

Playing and discussing poker with friends is one of the best ways and my favorite way to start to learn the game of poker. One reason is that friends are people who you can trust. They will give you information you know you will be able to use and you can have honest conversations about hands with them (after the game of course).

Another is that playing in small home games with friends will put you in a safe and comfortable environment to start learning the game. You probably won't have to risk much money and playing frequently with a group of the same people will allow you to start to spot patterns in strategy, tells and betting, that is if you are paying close attention. But if you are serious about learning, then you will.

Once you have some game experience, poker books and online strategy articles such as this one, are good ways to become familiar with poker terms, lingo and basic game play. Poker books and articles will give you basic strategies that you can apply in real money games, but be aware that different books offer different styles of play. Most of them will give you basic betting strategies, but the authors will dish out their own recipes for success. In poker, there's no one way to win. You need to find a style that suits you and that you are comfortable with. Try them out in your home game or wherever you are comfortable to find your own style. Keep in mind though, that just because you found your style, doesn't mean you should stop learning about other playing styles. Understanding alternate styles will give you a better idea of how your opponents will be playing and it will allow you to be able to read through their moves and strategies easier.

Poker boot camps and training seminars can also help newer players. But again, these will be taught be players who have different approaches to poker and to teaching. They can also come with a hefty price tag, so you should only participate if you are serious about playing poker long term and can afford them. I would suggest checking out card rooms in your area. Sometimes they offer free lessons before tournaments or other events. And we all love free information in poker because usually it will cost you.

You've already taken the first step to becoming a better player if you have read this article because it means you are willing to learn. Too many people in poker have big egos and think they don't need to learn anything new, but those are the players who will never get any better. Continue to keep an open mind. Bounce strategies off friends in your home game and digest as much cheap or free information as you can. And play, play and play more poker. Experience and practice will make you a better player. Reading books and articles will help, but you need actual game experience in order to apply those tips, lessons and strategies. Stay confident in your game and don't get discouraged after losing sessions. Go back and find out what you did wrong and learn from your mistakes instead of letting them haunt you. Good luck on the green felt and be sure to check out Part 2 of Becoming a Better Poker Player: Intermediates and Advanced Players.


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