How to practice poker
Poker is one of the most challenging things to master. You can quickly pick up How to play Texas Hold’em or any other variant and get started, but getting really good is a long and hard ride. There are three main reasons for that:
- The game looks simple on the surface, but it is incredibly complex.
- The feedback loop is long and inconsistent.
- There’s a mix of skills required from tactical moves to math to psychology.
As with other things that are challenging to learn it isn’t enough to learn by just playing. If you want to become good at soccer or playing the guitar it’s not enough to just play soccer or to play the guitar.
You need to study (in some form) and you need to do what is called deliberate practice. Practice is extra important in poker since the feedback loop is long and inconsistent. To get feedback from your actual results in terms of winning or losing you might need to play 50 000 hands, for example. Since luck is a major factor in the short run, a player can make very bad plays and win a lot of money – which can reinforce mistakes. If you ask different people if you did the right things during a hand you will get different answers from different people. Some of them might be losing players and their advice is not reliable, but even if you ask two highly skilled pros you will often get different answers. The reason for this is that the game is very complex, there can be more than one right answer and there’s a lot of assumptions that influence their answers.
All this boils down to the same thing, if you really want to learn poker you need to practice. So how do you best practice poker? The best way is to use a poker simulator, like Poker Trainer. With a poker simulator you get instant feedback and learn much quicker from your mistakes. The game is broken down to smaller pieces where the right answer is known and you get instant feedback. Poker Trainer uses a leaderboard and the playing is on time to make the poker training more fun and to make it easier to track your improvements.
We all know that playing is more fun than training, but with a poker simulator the training can be almost as fun as playing.
This is the recommended path from Beginner to Winner:
- Learn the rules and how to play.
- Practice poker hand ranking.
- Practice identifying the best hand.
- Start practicing with Play Money to get comfortable with the game mechanics. There are plenty of sites to choose from, here’s a selection of good poker sites for different regions.
- Practice which hands to play preflop in different scenarios.
- Practice hand reading from the flop to the river and learn to assess how often your hand will win against villains’ range.
- Practice and explore with an Odds Calculator to get a better feeling for your chance of winning in different situations.
When you have mastered these steps you are very likely a winner at microstakes or low stakes poker. There is plenty left to learn after this, but this gives you a very solid foundation to continue from.