Going to the casino to play poker if it’s your first time can be an intimidating experience. To prepare yourself for it, it would be recommended that you at least learn the basic rules of no limit hold’em, or whatever poker variant you choose to play. But if you are truly serious about winning money playing live poker cash games, then simply learning the basics of the game just isn’t going to cut it. There are certain things you should be doing to prepare yourself for the casino poker environment.
First and foremost, you would want to purchase a few solid poker strategy books. It’s not necessary to purchase every poker book you can find, you only need to read a few of the better books. Two authors who have published books on poker (several in fact) that I would recommend are David Sklansky and Dan Harrington. Harrington recently published “Harrington on Online Cash Games” which is a phenomenal read and likely the best poker literature you will find on short-handed online cash game poker. If you scan the bookshelf of any good bookstore you will no doubt come across David Sklansky. His books are highly recommended because they cover the mathematical aspect of the game, which is incredibly important in any winning poker player’s arsenal.
But there is more to learning cash game poker. If you are reading this article, then we’ll assume you have an internet connection, which is a good weapon in your poker game. There is a wealth of solid poker literature online if you know where to look. For example, this knowledge can be gained from poker coaches through videos and other paid/free content. You should check out online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked, Bluefire Poker, and CardRunners. Regardless of your knowledge or skill level, you will find these sites to be immensely helpful in improving your game. The better training sites have coaches that are willing to spill their in-depth knowledge about poker. Some of these poker professionals/coaches have accumulated millions from playing poker, so it makes a great deal of sense to listen to what they have to say. The lead pro at Bluefire Poker’s training site is Phil Galfond, whose online moniker is ‘OMGClayAiken’. Phil’s won millions online, crushing Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Holdem cash games, so the knowledge that can be gained from listening to guys like Phil is truly amazing.
Although the above online avenues are definitely worth exploring in an attempt to improve your game, I think there are even better ways a novice player can improve their game.
New players should definitely try and get some volume in online by playing online poker cash games, even if it’s micro stakes games. There are numerous benefits to playing online poker when you are starting to learn the game. Online poker is less intimidating then a live poker cash game, so you won’t have to deal with the intimidation factor. Playing behind the computer screen also means it’s not possible for you to be giving away information to your opponents, which you may not even realize you are doing, especially when you first start playing poker. More then anything though, playing online allows you to play smaller stakes games then what is possible at the casino. At the casino, the smallest hold’em games you can play is $1/$2. However, at most popular online poker rooms, it’s not uncommon to find limits as low as $.05/$.10, $.10/$.25, $.50/$1.
What does this mean for new players? It means you are risking less money since the buy-in is a smaller investment of your bankroll. With less money at stake, you can worry more about the decisions you are making, instead of the potential money you may be winning/losing. This is crucial when you first start playing poker. If you allow emotions to get in the way of your thought process, your decisions and judgment will become clouded, and you will no doubt begin to make mistakes and errors when you play.
In addition, playing online poker hands can be very easily tracked and analyzed. All of the popular online poker rooms will allow players to download hand histories of the hands they’ve played. If they don’t allow this by default, make sure you change the settings to download the hand histories to your computer. By doing this, you can easily go back to previous hands you’ve played, especially hands which troubled you, and especially the hands where you played big pots, regardless if you won or lost the hand (this is not important). You should post your hands on poker forums to get feedback and a different point of view of how you could have played the hand. By listening to other players, especially winning players, you will gain an insight into the game that is invaluable.
Once you become more confident in the current limit game you’ve been playing, you can think about playing more tables. That’s the beauty of online poker. Multi-tabling allows players to fire up more then one table at the same time. Not only will it allow you to learn the game at a quicker rate because you are playing more hands per hour, but it will also prevent the boredom that can come with being card dead. In these situations you can be tempted to create your own action, but when you’re multi-tabling if you are playing 4-6 tables you will always have action and a decent have to keep yourself occupied with on at least one of the tables.
What you learn from grinding hands online and analyzing your hands will no doubt prepare yourself for live poker cash games. Although there will be adjustments you will need to make since live games tend to play a bit differently, with your new found knowledge and deeper understanding of the fundamentals and more advanced concepts of the game, it will take your game to the next level and you will be ready for any opponent, online or live. Just make sure that when you are considering the migration from online to live poker that you have a sufficient bankroll. Practicing smart bankroll management is imperative for every poker player. The more consistent you can make decisions that are not influenced by your emotions, the more money you will win at poker, it really is that simple.
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