Poker School 101
Make sure you have an adequate bankroll for the stakes of the game. Normal game fluctuations dictate that playing in a R3/R6 game with a R50 total bankroll will normally see you leaving the table broke and looking to deposit more money.
A good rule of thumb is to have a bankroll of about 20 times the big blind to consistently play at a particular limit (e.g. R20 to play at R.50/R1).
Evaluate the Game
Some games are tougher than others, even though the limits are the same. It is important to find a game that has weaker players as opposed to a game that has stronger players. This is a very important ingredient in poker success that you will pick up as you continue to learn the game.
Take some time to observe a game before sitting down. If it looks like a game full of tough players, then you should consider looking for another game.
Tight/Loose & Passive/Aggressive
There are two major ways to describe games and players: Tight/Loose and Passive/Aggressive.
Tight/Loose describes how many hands a player will play. If they play very few hands, then they are considered Tight. If they play a lot of hands, then they are considered Loose.
Passive/Aggressive describes how often players tend to bet their hands. Passive players do not bet very often and prefer to call or check. Aggressive players tend to heavily bet their hands and rarely call or check.
The easiest and most profitable games for the smart beginner are those that are Loose/Passive. These are games where players tend to play too many weak hands and do not raise often enough when they have strong hands. These are games that beginning players should seek out.
The toughest games are those in which players play fewer hands and bet heavily when they do enter the pot. This is a Tight/Aggressive style of playing that all poker players should aspire to on the other hand, these are exactly the types of players that you should be cautious of.
Early Position is usually defined as the first three players to act after the blinds (for a full table). A player in early position should only play strong hands, as there are players to act after them who may raise.
Middle Position is usually defined as the next three players after the three early position players. A player in Middle Position may play slightly weaker hands than an early position player as they have the opportunity to see some of the action before them.
Late Position is usually defined as the last two players before the blinds. Players in Late Position may play a greater number of hands, as they are able to see the actions of the majority of the players at the table.
The blinds have the advantage of playing a diverse number of hands as they have already contributed either a partial or full bet. If there is a raise before them, then the blinds must often fold, as they will be in Early Position after the flop and so need a strong hand to continue.
So, you've taken your seat at the table but now the action is really going to heat up. And where you are sitting at the table determines, in part, how you should play the game.
Playing the Game
Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK's,
Group 2: 10/10, AQ's, AJ's, KQ's, AK,
Group 3: 9/9, J10's, QJ's, KJ's, A10's, AQ,
Group 4: 10/9's, KQ, 8/8, Q10's, 9/8's, J9's, AJ, K10's,
Group 5: 7/7, 8/7's, Q9's, 10/8's, KJ, QJ, J10, 7/6's, 9/7's, A(x)'s, 6/5's,
Group 6: 6/6, AT, 5/5, 8/6's, K10, Q10, 5/4's, K9's, J8's, 7/5's,
Group 7: 4/4, J9, 6/4's, 10/9, 5/3's, 3/3, 9/8, 4/3's, 2/2, K(x)'s, 10/7's, Q8's,
Group 8: 8/7, A9, Q/9, 7/6, 4/2's, 3/2's, 9/6's, 8/5's, 5/8, J/7's, 6/5, 5/4, 7/4's,
Checking is a play that has advantages and disadvantages. Often you might consider raising or folding rather than checking. A player should typically check if the community cards have not helped them. Drawing hands are often checked in the hopes of seeing the next card for free. If a player is unsure of whether or not they have the best hand at the showdown, then checking is often the best course of action.
Calling is very similar to checking in that it also has advantages and disadvantages. Often you should consider raising or folding rather than calling. A player shouldn’t call if the community cards have not helped them.
Drawing hands are often worth calling a bet in the hopes of making a straight or a flush. Drawing hands usually requires a slightly bigger pot or lots of players in the hand, as the odds of completing your draw are roughly about 4-1 against. If a player is unsure of whether or not they have the best hand at the showdown, then calling a bet is often the best course of action.
Betting, Raising, Re-raising and Check raising
Betting, raising and re-raising are instrumental weapons in a poker player's arsenal and seriously, it also makes poker a lot of fun.
A player should bet, raise or re-raise whenever they believe that they have the best hand. This is done to increase the amount of the bets in the pot and to protect their hand against drawing hands.
Players in late position may also bet or raise with strong drawing hands to either win the pot right away or to enable them to receive a 'free' card on the next betting round when all the players who act before them check. If a player flops or later makes a very strong hand, then check raising becomes a powerful play to get extra bets into the pot. Players must be very confident that someone else will bet after they check, for check raising to be a viable option.
Betting, raising, re-raising and check raising are powerful tools when trying to deceive or bluff opponents, but only when they are used sparingly.
Observing Your Opponents
Analyzing your opponent's play allows a player insight into what hand their competitors may hold. This allows the observant player to make better decisions and ultimately win more pots and lose fewer chips. A player should pay attention to other players and their actions even when not involved in the hand. A player should remember that their opponents might be watching them and so vary their own play occasionally.
Bluffing can often win pots and it allows you to create deception and uncertainty in the minds of your opponents. Bluffing works better against a smaller number of opponents and often will not succeed against a larger number of opponents. Do not bluff players who tend to call too much. Bluffs tend to succeed better against players who are more willing to make a fold. Be careful of bluffing too much, as opponents will soon catch on and will not be fooled.