Want to know how to win at poker? Are you looking for some basic tips and strategies to get you started? Poker is easy to learn but can take years to master. If you hit the tables armed with some core skills, you can improve your chances of making a profit.
Read our how to play poker tips and get started the right way. You can even play at 100-percent legal online poker rooms in Pennsylvania. Put your skills to the test and open your account today.
1. Learn the Hand Rankings & Rules
Let’s start with the simplest rule when learning how to win at poker: understand the rules. We’ll use Texas Hold’em as our example as it’s the most popular form of poker in the world. It’s also the easiest variant to learn.
In Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt two “hole cards” face down. There is a round of betting, then three communal cards – the “flop” – are dealt in the center of the table. These are shared by all remaining players.
Another round of betting follows, then a fourth card is dealt into the middle. This is the “turn”. Another round of betting takes place, then the fifth and final card – the “river” – is added to the communal cards.
After a final round of betting, there is a showdown between all remaining players. The aim is to make the best five-card poker hand from seven cards available. These are the standard hand rankings in a game of Texas Hold’em (best to worst):
- Royal Flush (e.g. 10-J-Q-K-A hearts)
- Straight Flush (e.g. 2-3-4-5-6 clubs)
- Four of a Kind (e.g. 5-5-5-5-A hearts)
- Full House (e.g. 5-5-J-J-J)
- Flush (e.g. 4-6-7-9-Q clubs)
- Straight (e.g. 2-3-4-5-6 different suits)
- Three of a Kind (e.g. 4-4-4-A-K)
- Two Pair (e.g. 6-6-9-9-K)
- One Pair (e.g. 8-8-3-7-6)
- High Card (e.g. A-3-6-9-10)
It’s also important every poker player learns the basic rules of poker before they sit down. A player can quickly go bust if they play in a poker game against more knowledgeable players. Luckily, most online poker sites in PA offer Play Money tables where you can practice games before risking your own bankroll.
2. Understand Table Position & Starting Hands
Once you’ve learned basic poker rules, you need to understand what hands to play and where to play them. Position is one of the most important considerations when learning how to play poker. Tips include raising premium hands in all positions and marginal hands in late position only.
In a regular full-ring game (a table with 9 or 10 players) you should only be playing 15 percent of your hands. That means folding the other 85 percent! That can seem like a huge amount of hands, but it’s important to grasp how selective you need to be with starting hands to make sure you are playing with a strong hand.
So, what’s a good starting hand? In late position – i.e. seats 7-10 - you should be raising a range of hands like this, starting with pocket aces at the top of the list. Note: (s = suited, os = off-suit).
In late position, you can also consider calling more marginal hands like A9os, K9os, and J9os. It all depends, of course, on the quality of your opposition. Are you likely to force out a weak opponent who checks the flop and folds to any bet?
In early position, you should be even more selective. Only raise or re-raise with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs and maybe AKos. You will be first to act so you need to be sure your hand is good post-flop. Keeping things tight pre-flop is always a top poker tip for new players. Don’t get into difficult situations that could lose you valuable chips.
3. Start Out with Freeplay Games
Are you worried about losing real money when you start playing poker? Luckily, the best online poker rooms at top PA casinos offer free-play games where you can get a feel for the rules.
When you join a free-play poker table, you will be awarded with play credits. The gameplay is the same as the real money version, and you can take on human opponents playing online.
The beauty of free-play games is that you can try out strategies and practice your pre-flop play. Once you’re ready to play poker for real cash, just make a deposit and load up a micro-stakes table.
Free-play poker is normally available in both cash games and tournaments. Play freeroll tournaments that cost nothing to enter and you’ll have the chance to earn a few dollars in donated prize money.
4. Choose a Poker Variant That’s Right for You
Online poker sites in Pennsylvania now offer a range of variants for players. You can take your pick of No Limit Texas Hold’em, Pot Limit Hold’em, or Limit Hold’em at a choice of stakes. Choose from cash games, Sit ‘n Gos, or tournaments.
You’ll also be able to try Omaha, the 4-card variant of Texas Hold’em, and sometimes interesting variations like Stud, Razz or Chinese Poker.
With so much choice, it’s important to pick the right poker game. Choose a game and discipline that’s right for you. Are you patient and enjoy big returns for a small stake? Perhaps tournaments are your thing. Do you want to play a lot of hands, but you’re happy to multi-table with a bigger bankroll? Cash games might be your preferred option. These are important considerations if you want to be a winning poker player.
CHECK OUT: How To Play Poker For Beginners
5. Master Tight-Aggressive Poker Strategy
If you want to know how to play winning poker for the long term, you need to grasp some tight-aggressive gameplay.
Tight and aggressive is probably the best way to play for Texas Hold’em beginners. Essentially, you want to keep strict hand selection but bet your good hands strongly.
Tight-aggressive play is all about strong pre-flop strategy. Fold out most of your hands in early position and raise or re-raise your big hands in late position. And when the flop comes, bet out strongly, even if you’re just making a continuation bet.
A lot of weak players will check the flop when they’ve missed. But that opens the way for you to bet over-cards or strong pairs on the flop. You can still get away from the hand if you’re re-raised, but over time you will pick up more pots than you lose.
6. Only Play One Table at a Time
At top online poker sites in Pennsylvania, you can play multiple tables at the same time as long as your budget allows. The more tables you play, the more you can win long-term. The problem is, you need to keep your concentration across multiple tables. You may miss valuable information on an opponent or miss a play and have your hand folded.
How do you win poker games? Start off by playing one table at a time. Whether that’s a Sit ‘n Go, cash game, or multi-table tournament (MTT), put 100 percent concentration into your gameplay.
When you can comfortably make a profit at you cash or tournament level, introduce another table and play two at once. After two, add a third, then a fourth. The best pros may play 24 or more tables at once, but they have learned to make optimal decisions from thousands of hands’ worth of experience.
7. Choose the Right Stakes for Your Experience
Online poker sites offer games to suit a huge range of skill levels and budgets. Skill and bankroll don’t always go hand in hand, so you may find terrible players overreaching at levels outside their comfort zone. Similarly, you may find lots of good players at some of the lower levels.
It’s good to start off at the micro-stakes levels. The quality of opponent will be low, and you won’t risk losing too much if the cards go against you.
The problem with micro-stakes games is that the play may be very loose. It might be hard to get a read on opponents and force them off draws. Finding a sweet spot is essential. You need to play at high enough stakes that players care about losing all their chips.
For no-limit cash games, $0.05/$0.10 is a good level to start at. $0.10/$0.25 has poor players who will also respect aggressive play. If your bankroll can afford it, consider moving up to $0.25/$0.50.
One good poker tip is to play in tournaments with guarantees. The poker site will add money to the prizepool, and you could find some value. You can often find good guarantees at the $10-$20 buy-in level. The buy-ins won’t put a dent in your bankroll, either.
CHECK OUT: How To Become A Professional Poker Player
8. Defend Your Big Blinds
Years ago, calling in the blinds was considered a beginner’s move. It put you in a poor early position where you would be forced to make a decision first. These days, defending your big blind is considered a strong move. It gives you a march on your opponents when the flop comes out.
You should only call the big blind with strong marginal hands like K9s and Q8s. But make sure you look at where the original raiser is seated. If they are in late position they could be opening with a wide range of hands.
Also look at how many players are in the hand. Defending your big blind is a stronger move against one player rather than multiple opponents.
9. Leave Bluffing for the Pros
Want to know how to win at poker? Good bankroll management is important, as is picking the right games. But you’ll only make long-term profits by learning how to bluff.
Bluffing is great when you pull it off, but it can also get you into a lot of trouble. Strong opponents may check-raise you if they don’t believe your story. That’s why you should always leave bluffing until you’re more experienced.
When you start your poker journey, it’s more important to learn good hand selection and position. Continuation bets on the flop are a form of bluffing, but usually they’re more about putting pressure on your opponents.
As a beginner, you will come up against other beginners who like to call a lot of hands. Bluffing them is often hard and you may have to make big all-in bets to force them off weak hands. Be patient and wait for good hands – that’s the best way to make a profit when you’re learning the game.
10. Watch the Pros on Twitch
Twitch is a video streaming platform originally set up for video gamers. More recently, Twitch has become home for dozens of top poker pros looking to share their expertise. Twitch stars like Jaime “PokerStaples” Staples and Jonathan Little take to their webcams to live-stream their MTT and cash game sessions. Follow the action live and listen to the pros as they talk you through their thought processes.
Watching Twitch videos isn’t for everyone, but they can be invaluable for beginners looking to pick up some tips. For poker beginners, look out for easy-to-follow streams and commentaries from:
- Courtney “courtiebee” Gee
- Jonathan Little
- Jaime Staples
- Jeff Gross
- Ben “Spraggy” Spragg
- Felix “xflixx” Scheneiders