Hi there, and welcome to our poker lessons pages! Our comprehensive website strives not only to answer your questions and make recommendations, but also to give you some sound advice on how to play poker. In our poker school, you’ll find 21 hand-crafted lessons written by expert members of our staff. Each lesson covers a different skill or technique, ranging from basic principles to advanced strategies. Be sure to check out all 21 lessons. Since our site is constantly updated, be on the lookout for more lessons in the future, too! In the meantime, let’s get started with our first section of free poker lessons.
Since poker is a complicated game that’s made even more complicated depending on the type of competition you’re up against, we feel it’s important to have a number of distinct skills. When we teach poker, therefore, we like to teach one skill or concept at a time. That way, you can master a new concept and move on to the next, constantly improving your game as you go. Lessons 1 through 5 are engineered for the poker novice. They’re short and simple and easy to follow. Make your way through these lessons and move on to Lessons 6-10 when you’re comfortable with what you’re learned, and when you’ve picked up a little bit more experience.
Good morning, class! Ready for your first lesson? We sure hope so, because it’s an important one. In Lesson 1 we’ll look at a crucial poker concept, one of those strategic moves that many people forget to consider: game and seat selection. Let’s get started.
When entering a poker room, game and seat selection should be at the top of your priority list. When you select a game, go to where you’ve got a handicap. In other words, if you’re ranked #8 on the world’s list of best poker players, it’s not a good idea to sit at a table with players #1 through #7. Then again, if you’re ranked #8 in the world, you probably don’t need poker lessons, do you?
Simply said, if you’re after some money, go sit at a table with inferior competition. Sometimes that includes going to where the limits are lower. Trust us, you’ll be happy you sat at a table of fish when the betting has finished. Even if it takes longer, even if it’s boring, you simply stand a better chance of making money when you play with others who are worse than you. Although it’s sometimes tempting to try your luck at a tough, high-limit table, it’s not usually a guaranteed payoff. It’s often the opposite.
Once you’ve chosen your game and table, you’ll have to choose a seat at that table that earns you the most value for your money. How? Well, since poker is played in a clockwise direction, the money usually flows the same way. Therefore, try to identify players with big bankrolls and loose attitudes. (You’ll get better at this in time.) Once you’ve identified the high rollers, try to sit to their immediate left. That way, most of the betting and raising will be completed by the time the action reaches you. Sneaky, yes—but necessary for survival when you’re just starting out.
A quickie but goodie for you today, class.
The game has begun. You’ve received your cards and now it’s time to select your hand. This is the most critical part of your game, since this determines the final outcome.
When making the decision of hand selection, try not to think of the highest overall winning combination. Instead, use your cards to decide your highest-valued hand by considering the most practical winning combination. It’s often that people go for hands that are hard to come by; we think it’s better to stop and take a look around, since there’s usually an easier way. When it comes to going for the practical winning combination, you can use the poker tools of bluffing and semi-bluffing to keep your opponents off guard. In fact, these tools are necessary when you’re playing at more than just a beginner’s level. For an in-depth look at all of the psychological tools at your disposal, check out our strategy section.
Poker player or not, almost everybody is familiar with the term “bluffing”—and there’s a good reason for that. Bluffing is one of the key strategies for getting ahead in a game of poker. Remember: if you only played with your best hands and were honest all the time, you’d have no action when you play!
In order to benefit from bluffing in poker, you have to know when and when not to bluff, since bluffing is a double-edged sword that can sometimes harm your game. In general, bluffing is a simple matter of mathematics coupled with an elementary understanding of how to read tells, or the hands your opponents have. Let’s say, for example, that there is a $50 pot and you bet $5, in an effort to steal the pot when you basically have no chance of winning. That would be a 10:1 payout on your money. As a result, you would need a 10:1 chance or better of winning the pot in this situation. And if you’re unsuccessful on your 10th crack, you’ll still need an 11th attempt to break even. But that’s really a worst-case scenario. The main thing to remember is that your bluffs only need to be successful a small percentage of the time in order to show a profit. As a result, they are invaluable poker tool that you can’t afford to avoid. If you want to learn a lot more about bluffing, check out our strategy section and get informed!
“You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” said the first President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Maybe the president liked to play poker!
The reason we’re reminding you of Lincoln’s famous quote is because in Lesson 4, we’re going to continue looking at one of the things that makes poker such a unique game: the great art of bluffing. We touched on bluffing briefly in our previous lesson but now we’re ready to step it up a bit with some “do’s” and “don’ts” for the poker beginner.
Bluffing is so common in poker that many players consider it more important than the actual deal! Just look at some of the legends who have famously won with hands that look more like feet, and you’ll see how important bluffing is! But first, some guidelines for you to keep in mind:
DO bluff when the pot is big. You don’t need as big a chance of winning as when the pot is smaller.
DO bluff against good players. They will appreciate the opportunity to joust whereas bad players will simply call you, since it’s in their mentality to be impatient. They just want to see the next card.
DO bluff when an opponent is not bluffing. This happens when the pot is huge and the other player knows it will only take one card to beat him. He’s unlikely to be bluffing if he was the first to bet in a game with five or more players and expects to be called.
DON’T bluff when there is only one opponent and a small pot. If you check and he bets, there is a greater average chance that he himself is bluffing.
DON’T bluff when you’ve recently been caught bluffing. You’ve already been labeled as a poor bluffer, so don’t make things worse! Let your opponents forget that hand and start rebuilding a reputation as a straight player. You’ll get another chance soon.
DON’T bluff against lots of players. Chances are that someone has something that they will stick with. From an odds perspective, bluffing in this kind of situation is never worth it.
In this lesson, we’ll look at the much-underrated Seven-Card Stud. Sometimes overlooked in favor of faster games, Seven-Card Stud is still the epitome of classic poker—a challenging mix of skill, patience and endurance, but with simple game rules.
Betting in Seven-Card Stud consists of an initial ante, followed by five betting rounds. Throughout the game each player receives three face-down cards and four face-up cards. Each player then creates his or her highest-valued hand, using any combination of five from the total of seven cards.
In Seven-Card Stud, it’s a distinct advantage to be able to watch other players’ hands develop. This helps when considering strategy. For example, watch for “dead” cards. You may have two aces in the hole after an initial deal, and you’d normally consider betting aggressively, but NOT if you can see those other two aces sitting face up in the other players’ hands.
Another thing to remember is that the first three cards are more important in Seven-Card Stud than in Five-Card Stud. Most players, even some good ones, believe that they should enter the betting round with a lower-ranking hand than they would in Five-Card Stud on the basis that they have four more cards with which to improve their hand. But this applies to other players too and the betting hasn’t started yet!
It must also be remembered that Seven-Card Stud is generally a high-card game (10 through ace), meaning that most games are decided on a high pair or the best of two high pairs. Therefore, it’s better to fold early if you don’t have at least two high cards (10 through ace) or at least one card that is higher than anything showing on the board in your starting hand, unless you are playing a “draw” hand (a high straight, high flush or a straight flush).
Remember: let them beat you, don’t try to beat them!