How to Practice Poker

Stack of Books in Front of Image of Cards and Poker Chips

Poker is a popular, all-American card game that combines strategy, gambling and other different skills. All of the different variations of poker involve betting based on an intuitive belief about an outcome, and the winner is determined by specific combinations of hands presented by players.

In just about every modern poker game that you would play, the first round of the game begins with a forced bet known as a blind or ante. In standard poker, players place bets based on the value that they believe their hand has compared to the rest of the players at the poker table.

When players match the bet, they also have an opportunity to raise the bet. The game proceeds clockwise as each player either calls or folds. The betting round ends after every player at the table has either called or folded.

At the end of the betting round, the showdown takes place where all of the hands are revealed and the player with the highest-ranked hand will get to take the pot. Money is typically only placed in the pot for the ante initially, and then when a player wants to stay in the game or raise the pot based on his hand.

A player might also make a bet if he is trying to bluff the other players.

Bluffing is a phrase that gets mentioned a lot when you hear about poker and is actually a critical part of the game.

To be a good poker player, it’s important that you have a good understanding of the game theory, long-run expectations of other players, probability, and psychology.

Poker is getting more and more popular and has been since the beginning of the 20th century. It’s gone from being just a recreational activity or a way for people to relax after a long work day to being considered a professional sport.

Nowadays, you can turn on ESPN and tune in to professional poker tournaments here in the United States and other parts of the world. If you decide to make poker a hobby or want to get even more serious with it, then I recommend that you practice different aspects of the game.

There are a lot of different theories on the best ways to play poker. I’ll go over some of the most popular and productive ways to get better at the game.

1- Study

Before you go and enter a Las Vegas poker tournament, or before you even decide to play the game with real money—or play the game at all—it’s important that you study the game. There are all sorts of ways nowadays that you can learn something new.

When I learned how to play poker, if I wanted instructions, I had to read a book. Nowadays, there are tons of websites where you can learn how to play. There are also some popular modern books being sold that you can find just about anywhere. Some that I highly recommended are “Easy Game” by BalugaWhale and “Poker Plays You Can Use” by Doug Hull.

Both of these books are more on the advanced side than the beginner side, but they are still great books that I can pretty much guarantee will take your game to new heights. Another one called “Dynamic Full Ring Poker” is a little less on the advanced side and is going to be better for a beginner.

Go to Amazon and check out all of the instructional poker books in the new releases section.

If you’re more in the millennial age range, you’ll probably just want to study digitally. The modern method of learning is to just whip out your smartphone and watch one of the thousands of poker tutorial videos on the internet or by downloading an app.

Between YouTube and other poker gaming sites, there’s enough material to spend days on end studying tutorial videos.

You can listen to videos on the way to work, at home, at the park, at the coffee shop, or while you’re working.

The videos on some poker sites offer tutorials that you would pay for, but the teacher explains concepts clearly while providing sharp and easy-to-digest illustrations that will help you understand and improve your poker game.

A lot of teachers recommend watching poker videos that touch on specific concepts, such as probability or ranked card hands. You’ll get faster results studying videos this way than just watching one video on the whole game—that can be a little overwhelming.

Reading forums and listening to podcasts are other popular methods of learning poker that are totally free and can help you polish your game while driving or going to the gym.

2- Play With a Poker Buddy

Once you’ve studied and have a good understanding of the game and how it’s played, a great way to get better at poker it to practice playing with a friend using fake chips.

When I was learning how to play poker as a kid, my grandfather and I would play hand after hand for hours, and we would place bets using matches. There really isn’t a better way to learn something than to spend a lot of time practicing whatever it is you’re trying to learn. This is going to be the case when learning poker.

Poker Hand With View of Opponent in Background

You can read as many books as you want, or watch as many YouTube videos as you want, but you’re not going to be able to fully evolve as a poker player until you actually have cards in your hands.

If you’ve never held playing cards before in your life before and are wanting to get into poker, I highly suggest going to your local Walgreens and buying yourself a deck of Bicycle playing cards.

For whatever reason, Walgreens has professional-level playing cards in all of their locations, cards that you typically would only find online on a site that only a professional would be aware of. Bicycle playing cards are the gold standard of playing cards and the perfect deck of cards for a beginner to start learning how to handle cards.

Walmart and other stores have Bicycle playing cards too, but Walgreen has the Bicycle Black Tiger Deck, a deck designed by a magic company call Ellusionist. This deck is also a fine deck for beginners—they are just a little thicker than a normal Bicycle deck.

If you want to get into poker, you want to be comfortable with handling playing cards. Practice fanning the cards in your hand, shuffling, and get to where you can shuffle and do the bridge relatively easily. Go to YouTube and search “how to shuffle and do the bridge.”

If you can get really comfortable with playing cards, it can be an intimidation factor when playing poker against other players. Intimidation can be distracting for a player and mess with his ability to make a more rational decision. Get comfortable with the cards, and just start playing for fun and with no financial burden.

I think once you know which hand is better than which and have been taking all of my other suggestions, you’ll come to find that you have a high level of confidence with your poker skills and feel ready to start playing for real money.

Play Online

Though I do think the best way to get good at poker and prepare yourself for the tables at real casinos is to play with real cards and real people, there’s a huge advantage to playing online—you can often practice for free, and you’re still playing against real people.

But more than that, the biggest advantage to playing online is that you can focus on the mechanics of the game without being distracted by the human players. Because you won’t have a real person sitting across from you distracting you with their body language (or their actual language), you can focus on the hands, the betting rounds, and how poker is played at a basic level.

Case Holding Poker Chips and Cards

This is critical for when you’re finally playing against real people. The problem with playing against real people is that you now have this added layer of psychological play and manipulation, where players are trying to trick you and bluff you and get you riled up emotionally so that you make bad plays.

When you’re defending against that (or trying to employ those tactics yourself), you need to have a very clear idea of how the mechanics of the game work—so clear that your understanding is basically without thought. Once you reach that intuitive level of understanding, you’ll be much better equipped to play against players in real life.

Or who knows, you might just find out that you love playing poker online! Many people only play online and find that it’s just as enjoyable as watching TV or playing a video game on a console or computer.


Are you an experienced poker player and have some other practice tips that would be helpful for beginner players? Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comment section!