The importance of the first several hands of a game of poker cannot be overstated. While it’s always a possibility to bounce back from a slow start, any savvy gambler hopes to get off on the right foot.
Texas Hold’em can be significantly more difficult than other popular casino games. Because of this, a strong start is never guaranteed and can elude inexperienced players.
Every strong poker player should aspire to double their chip stack in the early stages of the game. If you’re not going to pick apart weaker players and take their chips, someone else will.
For those of you who can’t seem to play quality poker in the early going, there are a few things you can do to change your fortune. Here are seven tips to help you get off to a fast start when playing Texas Hold’em for real money.
Pick the Best Poker Game
Whether you’re playing a casual cash game or a more serious tournament, selecting a quality game is crucial.
Some of you might feel inclined to immediately pounce on the first opportunity to gamble. That’s understandable, but being picky about the games you choose to play will serve you well.
There are a few things you should consider before sitting down:
- Make sure you’re comfortable with the price of the buy-in
- If you can’t afford to buy in for the maximum, pick a different table
- Analyze your potential competitors
- If you’re playing online, make sure the quality of the competition isn’t too high
While the question of which kind of poker game is somewhat subjective, if you aren’t comfortable, you’re not going to win money.
When gambling, it’s always tempting to strike while the iron is hot. But jumping into action simply for the sake of satisfying your gambling itch isn’t a good reason to pick a game.
Figure Out Who the Weakest Player Is
Once you’ve selected a game, the real fun can begin. Hopefully, you’re competing against other players who are inferior to your skill level.
Novices and even intermediate players often struggle to pick up on the signs of a bad poker player. But picking them out of a crowd is much easier than you would think.
Bad poker players will sometimes be brash enough to admit their inexperience to other players. Count yourself lucky if you’re playing against someone like this.
However, there are other, less blatant signs that you should be looking out for. Bad poker players will make a habit out of limping early, be overprotective of the big blind, and even attempt to bluff in the first few hands.
Before going in for the kill, make sure these mistakes are legitimate instead of a tactic to lure in players who might be too smart for their own good. It’s ill-advised to feign ignorance at the poker tables, but it’s a tactic I have seen used from time to time.
Be Slightly Aggressive Early
When playing poker, your goal shouldn’t be to tread water by keeping your chip count consistent. As I said, while you are playing conservatively, other players will continue to beat up on lesser players.
Instead of emulating a passive style of play, be selective about the hands you play and play them aggressively. If you’re confident about a hand early, it’s worth attempting to assert your dominance at the table.
Other weaker players have no desire to stay in a hand with someone who is more aggressive than they are. Because of this, it can be easy to steal blinds and slowly but surely drain your competition’s stack of chips.
Never Reveal Anything to Other Players
There’s a fine line between being conversational and overly chatty at the poker table. Odds are you’re going to play with someone who will constantly try to strike up conversations at the table.
You might think they’re just friendly, and they very well might be. However, it’s never a bad thing to assume that these players are trying to get inside your mind.
At the poker table, information is a commodity that’s as valuable as the chips you’re playing with. What might seem like a harmless back and forth with another could potentially lead to your demise.
I’ll admit that better players have played me in the past. When I first started playing Hold’em, I fell into a more experienced gambler’s trap and talked far too much at the poker table.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, this gambler was psychoanalyzing me and reading me like a book. The best poker players can effortlessly figure out other players. If you’re new to the game, eventually you’ll run into someone like this.
If and when this happens, it’s crucial that you don’t reveal too much too early.
Know What Poker Strategy Works for You
Under no circumstance should you enter a poker game without a plan.
If you don’t know which methods are most effective for you, you need to devote more time to your development. There are far too many free resources online to waste your money on legitimate cash games.
Once you’ve hand-selected a strategy that you know works, you will start to see results at the table. While it’s critical for players to roll with the punches and never be too predictable, playing with a certain style is advisable.
Defer the First Round of Drinks
Drinking and gambling go hand in hand for a significant portion of the poker playing community.
It’s tempting to order a drink within the first few minutes of your game starting. But, the longer you hold off on the booze, the better you’ll perform in the long run.
And when it comes to drinking at the poker table, it’s always best to try to play the waiting game. If you do choose to drink while you gamble, make sure to keep it in moderation.
Nobody wants to be the guy who makes a fool out of himself and has to go home early.
Losses Happen: Don’t Get Flustered
The odds of losing a hand in the early stages of a poker game are high. As you should know, Hold’em rewards higher caliber players. But the game also requires a fair amount of luck.
You might think certain hands are sure winners only to get burned by the river card. When a seemingly easy victory turns into a loss, it’s vital to your success at the tables that you don’t lose your composure.
Once your emotions are compromised, even if it is for a brief time, you can expose yourself to other players. If they realize you’re liable to react poorly to losses, players may make a point to turn up the heat and be more aggressive.
Instead, it’s always best to react to early losses with a degree of nonchalance. If other players see that losing a hand doesn’t rattle you, they will be less inclined to goad you on.
The first several hands in a game of Hold’em are paramount to winning at poker. It’s quite common for inexperienced players to stumble out of the gate, but there are several easy fixes to consider.
Before anything else, make sure you’re not setting yourself up to fail by picking out the wrong kind of game. If you can’t afford to buy in for the table maximum, I suggest finding another game.
Always be on the lookout for the dead giveaways of a bad poker player. If you can pick them out before anyone else, you can potentially take advantage of their inexperience and increase your chip count.
Contrary to popular belief held by several new players, you should never be too conservative. You might be tempted to maintain a consistent chip count, but other players won’t feel the same way.
When talking to the gamblers you’re competing against, don’t reveal too much about yourself. The information you disclose during a seemingly harmless conversation can be used against you down the road.
Finally, consider turning down the first round of drinks, and don’t get flustered if you lose a few hands early on. Maintaining a steely demeanor will show other players that you mean business and intend to stay at the table for a while.