Poker is a lot like other games. Anyone can enjoy participating, but the more skilled you become, the more fun it is to play. You need a combination of theory and practice to improve rapidly at anything. Read some articles and books, then see how you can put the ideas to use in an actual game. These days, there are many opportunities for play, because of the internet. Sites offer tables to practice using free money, tournaments that are freerolls costing nothing. There are a wide range of stakes available, from microscopic to huge, in both tournaments and money play.
Here are a few tips for getting better at poker:
The essence of the game is betting that your hand is better than the opponent’s. Play only good hands, the cards that give you a decent chance to win the pot. Throw away the longshots. Any hand can get lucky and win, but the weak ones do not win often enough to be profitable. It is more fun to stay in and have a chance to win the pot, but success at poker comes from reducing the desire to just participate, and increasing the desire to become a net winner.
The first thing to do is learn the scale of values in judging your hand’s prospect of winning the pot. At hold’em, the value of your hand depends a lot on the nature of the board-cards. If there is no prospect of a straight or flush, then two pair or three of a kind are worth a lot more. So the scale of values depends not just on where your hand is on the overall table of poker hand rankings, but how likely each type of hand is with a particular set of board-cards.
Study the betting carefully to help determine how good your hand is for winning that particular pot. If everyone is just checking, your mediocre hand may be the best one on that particular deal, even though it is not that strong most of the time. If the betting is strong, with a lot of raising, the hand needed to win this particular pot will quite likely be way above the typical hand usually needed to win. The value of your hand depends not only where it lies in the hand rankings, but how it matches up against the hands held by your opponents. The betting is a strong clue to your prospect of winning the pot.
Know when to bluff. When you have a hand that almost surely is a loser, you can either give up, or try to win by running a bluff. Sometimes one course is right, sometimes the other. Bluff when the opposition has shown weakness. Bluff when you have only one or two opponents. The more players still in, the harder to win the pot by a bluff. The bluff is more likely to be successful at no-limit, because you can bet a large amount of money, which is more likely to get the opposition to fold. On the other hand, a lot of bluffing is also done at limit play, because the amount risked is less, even though your bluff will not win the pot as often. You can bluff when you have nothing now, but a good prospect of improvement, such as four cards toward a straight or flush. This type of bluff is called a “semi-bluff,” because you can still get lucky and win by making the best hand if you don’t win immediately. A semi-bluff is common at poker, and a good weapon.
Poker is one of the most fun games ever invented. Play often, get better, and make sure you are not using money needed for necessities. The reward will be a game you can enjoy for a lifetime.