7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Playing Poker

People Playing Poker With a Green Poker Chip on Bottom

Poker is one of the most entertaining and gratifying casino games in existence.

While anyone can sit down and play slots, it takes a special kind of gambler to thrive at a poker table. But, not just anyone can stroll into a poker room and start carving up tables.

To be able to survive in the world of poker, you have to learn the ropes and develop a solid strategy.

Some of you might be able to do this relatively quickly, while others could spend years trying to become a good poker player. Then there are those gamblers like myself.

I caught on to the game quickly but plateaued very early on in my poker-playing career. It wasn’t until I was tired of being an average poker player that I revamped my strategy and style of play.

During that process, I always wished I had taken my first few months and years of poker more seriously. Additionally, I wish someone had taken me aside and shared some important wisdom.

Here are the 7 things I wish I knew before I started playing poker.

1 ‒ Building a Strategy Around Bluffing Isn’t Smart

Bluffing is an important part of poker, and almost everyone should have the ability to do so. If you’re able to bluff confidently and effectively, you can learn to dominate tables and the competition.

But, like many newer players, I started bluffing early and couldn’t seem to stop. That is, until the beginner’s luck ran out and everyone seemed to start calling my bluffs.

You see, there are certain times where it’s appropriate to try and bluff your way to winning a hand. Learning when and where to bluff can help you steal pots and keep yourself in the game.

However, building your entire strategy around this tactic isn’t smart. Eventually, you’ll run into players who are better and more experienced than you.

They’ll be able to tell when you’re being deceptive, call your lie, and take all of your money.

Bluffing is a gambit that many players should use on a rare occasion, it should never be the cornerstone of your poker game.

2 ‒ Folding Doesn’t Make You Appear Weak

Many poker players are too proud and cocky to want to appreciate the beauty that comes with folding a hand.

The act itself is an admission that you believe an opponent has bested you. Some might interpret this as a sign of weakness.

However, the truth is that folding, even if it’s a good hand, is necessary from time to time. Learning how to fold effectively can take time and be challenging to wrap your head around.

Poker Room at Derby Lane

Additionally, bowing out of a hand you think you might have a shot at winning can be a tough pill to swallow.

But trust me when I say that the sooner you start folding regularly, the better player you will become. I didn’t start folding decent hands on a regular basis until I was a year or 2 into playing poker.

I didn’t want other players to think they could buy the pot or bully me. The only reason I continued to play this overly aggressive and misguided style of poker was pride.

However, pride has no place at a poker table when there’s money in the center of it.

If a player starts to raise on the river and turn (big money streets) then there’s no shame in getting out of a hand before it’s too late. Even if you think you have invested too much into a particular hand, it’s a veteran move to cut your losses and live to fight another day.

3 ‒ Online Poker Is Worth Your Time

It took me far too long to get into playing real money online poker.

I, like many of you, started playing poker when I was quite young. The feel of cards in the hands and the sounds of chips clanking against each other is normal to me.

So when I was finally old enough to gamble, I always opted to stick to traditional poker at the casino. That’s because it felt comfortable for me.

But as online casinos continued to gain steam and innovate all the time, they became too hard to ignore. I had always assumed that online poker was a watered-down version of one of my favorite casino games.

However, I soon discovered that it was well worth my time.

Unlike certain other online casino games, virtual poker is eerily similar to the version you would find at the nearest casino. While there are some obvious differences, the feel of the game, pace of play, and over gameplay is spot on.

Online poker is far more convenient making it much easier for a casual player to find a game.

4 ‒ Don’t Be Afraid to Mix it Up With Good Players

For the longest time, I was content being a big fish in a small pond.

I always preferred being the best player at any table. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be? But I soon found that the subpar competition I surrounded myself with was holding me back.

Las Vegas Poker Game

The best way to improve at any game is to play against the best competition possible.

Having said that, I’m not advocating for you to find the best batch of poker players in the casino to compete against. Doing so isn’t cost-effective and can completely ruin your self-confidence.

But, every now and again it might be wise to break away from the tables you know you can thrive at.

5 ‒ But, Try to Play With Bad Players Often

The easiest way to consistently win poker games is to play with people who you’re better than.

Luckily for you, there are plenty of downright awful poker players around. While you might not improve your skills by sticking around tables with these types of players, doing so can make you a lot of money.

As a new player, it might be hard to separate the sharks from the fish. Most of the time, you’ll have to stick around a table for a while to truly pick out the subpar players.

Doing this is easier in person than it is online, as you’ll get a better feel for a particular player.

However, if you can figure out where these less-skilled players congregate in online casinos, you can make a killing. In general, the skill level of an average poker room decreases at night and on weekends.

6 ‒ Be Smart With Your Money

There are several challenges new poker players must face.

Learning about the game, strategy, other players, table etiquette, and how to handle money are among the most important aspects of the game. That last topic is arguably the most important.

Bankroll management is so incredibly important for gamblers that it cannot be overstated. Still, learning how to spend or save your money like a professional is often at the bottom of players’ priority lists.

Poker Pocket Aces

Simply put, a poker player won’t last very long if they aren’t disciplined and can’t be responsible. Poker is one of the most demanding games in the casino and requires gamblers to display smart gambling habits.

If you’re unable to do so, you shouldn’t expect to perform well in the poker room.

7 ‒ There’s More to Life Than One Style of Poker

Texas Hold’em has always been my favorite variation of poker. It’s the style I grew up playing and it’s the game I was the best at. At least, I thought that was the case.

Hold’em is known to be the most popular type of poker and draws in more gamblers than any other variant. But, just because it’s the most popular style doesn’t make it the best option for every gambler.

It took me years to step out of my comfort zone and give other styles a try regularly. It turns out I was depriving myself of the opportunity to learn about some equally entertaining types of poker.

Most of the other popular poker games share similarities and aren’t any more or less complicated. If you want to learn to play a different type of poker, I would recommend doing so when there’s no money on the line.


Like other poker players, there are several things I wish someone had told me before I started playing.

Instead of building a strategy around bluffing, the tactic should be used only when it’s effective. Once a player recognizes your tell, it can completely ruin your game.

Don’t interpret folding as a sign of weakness. Learning when it’s smart to fold a decent hand will serve you well down the road.

Even if you’re a fan of traditional poker, online casinos make it possible to access poker games whenever you’d like. While you should try to play with decent competition from time to time, there’s money to be made by playing with all the subpar gamblers that are online.