Learn the Game
People often say poker is a simple game, and in many ways it is. Having said that you must learn the basics before you start. Many of the tricks of the trade referred to later in this article are one-off advantages. If you use them up before you are ready then they will be wasted.
GET TO KNOW THE BASICS BEFORE YOU MAKE ANY REAL MONEY DECISIONS!
- Start by reading a good list of Poker Room Reviews. This will give you a good overview of what the different poker sites have to offer.
- Which game? There are lots of variations of poker. Texas Hold'em, Draw, Stud, Omaha, as well as more exotic varieties like Pineapple. Even within those general game families, there are variants such as, 5 card vs. 7 card, hi/lo and kill games.
- Which Format? Limit, pot limit or no limit. You can play cash games (a.k.a. ring games), multi table tournaments (MTTs) or single table tournaments (STTs or SNGs). Each requires different skills and comes with different financial risks and rewards.
- What are the rules? Sounds obvious but you’ll be amazed how many people don’t know the rules. I’ve even fallen into the trap myself in an Omaha hi/lo game. Above all, you must know what the hand rankings are. Flush beats straight – this isn’t 3 card brag.
- What are the betting limits? Are there blinds or antes (forced bets)? How much are the minimum and maximum bets.
- How does the software work? All sites have different layouts, different betting buttons etc. If you press the wrong button by mistake, you can’t ask for your money back! Online poker is a very quick game.
I’m not going to go into the detail of all the possibilities above. It would take too long, its covered in detail on the rest of this site, and most importantly it isn’t the point. The point is if you do not know what game you are playing then you should not expect to win. Do not use real money to learn this!!!
Most sites offer free-play tables. Although there are limitations to how much strategy you can learn playing on them, they are perfect for learning all of the points set out above. If you play some hours on a play money table you will get to know the software, the ranking of hands, the betting structures and which format of game you prefer. You will also make those inevitable early mistakes for free. Don’t get macho and think you are above this!
Some people will play for weeks before taking the plunge into real money – others only a few hours. Don’t feel there is a set period. Personally I think the real test that you are ready is when (1) you can win regularly on the free tables, and (2) you’ve stopped doing things that 20 seconds later have you screaming at the screen – “that was stupid!”.
Ultimately this whole strategy depends on having a solid winning game and that should be your first target. If you are a losing player, all bonuses will do is slow your rate of losses.