Some Tips For Beginners

Introduction: This article is for players who are interested in No Limit Hold Em (NLHE) and do not know how to take the next step in their poker career. This article is comprised of some easy, general strategies that players can use when at the table. While not all of the strategies in this article are too in-depth, they should be an excellent starter for further poker learning. Other subjects that are relevant to all games (not just NLHE) such as bankroll management and understanding variance are also included in this article. If you are completely new to poker and no limit holdem, start at our poker tips for beginners page.

Note: This article is primarily for beginning NLHE players and should be taken as such. This article assumes that players have a basic understanding of poker rules and terminology for NLHE.

Play a Reasonable Starting Hand Range- Some pre flop mistakes that many players do can hamper their development and improvement greatly. Because pre flop is the first street of action in NLHE, it is the first that we will address.

Having a solid pre flop hand range will greatly improve your results. A few short tips:

  1. Do not limp pre flop- Unless you are playing live poker, limping is generally a poor play (particularly open limping). Raising pre flop sets an aggressive mentality for the hand and enables you to represent stronger hands overall.
  2. Play stronger hands- meaning do not raise suited garbage or hands that have little to no potential post flop (Ax, Kxs, random connectors, etc). There are multiple hand charts available online that should provide a solid base to work with.
  3. Play positional poker- Tighten your range in early position and open it in late position This is due to a number of factors; a few being: the number of players (and potential strong hands) ahead of you, the amount of information shown, and the positional advantage that you may or may not have in the hand.

There is many more pre flop notes not presented in this article that players can study. Concepts such as 3-betting/4-betting and squeezing are just a few that players should study further.

Be Aggressive- When players first begin playing NLHE, a general thought process is “bet when you have it and check when you don’t”. An aggressive mentality is much better for a few reasons:

  1. It disguises the strength of your hand. Instead of only betting when you have a strong hand, one must also bet when holding weaker cards (or pure bluffs). This is especially true when players have a draw and like to check/call out of position while drawing. While this play can be fine in many instances, taking an aggressive line is also a nice option.
  2. It allows you to pick up the dead money in pots where no player has hit a hand. Remember, unpaired hands only flop a pair roughly 1/3rd of the time. The dead money in the pot and getting opponents to fold their equity will be the largest benefit to playing aggressively.
  3. By playing passively in some situations, you force yourself to hit a hand in order to continue (since it is very difficult to call bets with no pair and no draw). By playing aggressively, you allow yourself another chance at winning the pot (other than hitting your hand).

Studying Other Poker Strategies and Concepts

This title may be a bit vague. As stated previously, this article is merely an introduction to some of the basic poker strategies you may encounter on the tables. Other concepts and strategies that you should study more on are:

Squeezing pre flop
-3-betting pre flop
-4-betting pre flop
-Donk betting (leading into the aggressor)

These are just a few of the many different plays that one may see in NLHE. The reasons for each play are varied. Each of these plays holds a place in the overall game plan in NLHE and should be investigated further.

The next two sections will describe some of the other subjects that newer players should consider while starting poker.

Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is a huge part of a player’s success or failure- especially at lower stakes. Too often do you hear about recreational players who deposit $100 and sit with the entire balance at a $100NL table. While aggressive shot taking is certainly a viable strategy in some circumstances, rarely is it a good idea to sit with your entire poker bankroll at a table.

Bankroll management is important for many reasons; the main one being that it minimizes your risk of ruin when losing. Having solid bankroll management can help your state of mind when losing. Some notes on bankroll management:

  1. When losing money, it is advisable to move down in limits to regain confidence and rebuild some of your bankroll. Moving down in stakes can help you psychologically as well as from a pure skill standpoint, where you are probably going to be better than most of your opponents.
  2. Again on the psychological part of having good bankroll management- losing one buy in will not be hurtful if that buy in consists of a small percentage of your overall poker bankroll. When that buy in percentage gets higher and higher, the pressure of wining can sometimes lead to poor decisions while at the poker table.
  3. When taking shots at bigger games, sometimes it is good to alleviate the risk by selling a percentage of yourself. This is especially common in a live setting. A short example:Player A, a 1/2NL regular, wants to take a shot at 5/10NL. He asks player B to take 30% of his session net, meaning 30% of his losses or his winnings.

Alleviating risk for players can come in many different forms. There is staking, which has a player play for 50-70% of his winnings and a backer who takes the losses (but also a percentage of the profits). Session percentage sharing, as discussed, is also an option. These are all considerations when deciding how to effectively manage your bankroll when moving up.

Understanding Variance

Poker can be a very difficult game to play at times. Heavy favorites in each hand can lose, and the results can be frustrating. Downswings are inevitable in every poker player’s career and learning to deal with them is an essential part of growing as a poker player. Alternately, sometimes players get a massive rush of cards and go on massive heaters, which results in huge winnings. It is important to understand variance and how it affects your poker game in the grand scheme of things.

Now, this section might be summarized as ‘how to deal with downswings’, but it is more than that: Though players must understand how to approach a streak of losing sessions, they must also understand when they are running well and getting lucky. Players can sometimes get overconfident and not understand the difference between luck and skill. Oftentimes you will hear about a player who crushes through different stakes in a rapid fast motion, only to lose everything later on when variance catches up.

A player’s career will often have many peaks and valleys. It is important to understand that one lost stack is a blip on the radar when thinking about the long run. A significant sample in poker can be hundreds of thousands of hands or more; a sample that many players fail to reach in their entire career.

Variance is also different with each game. Games such as multi table tournaments have an incredibly high amount of variance. Others, such as NLHE cash games, have less so. It is important to understand the variance in each game when going through a downswing.

Closing Thoughts

This article is not meant to be an end all advice for some of the strategy concepts described. As with all things poker, more study is needed in order to understand these theories and ideas. Above all, understand that poker is a lifelong endeavor and players can always improve in one area or another.