Friday, July 24, 2009

the top 5 things all new poker players should consider

new to poker, still learning the ropes, confused by it all? If you find yourself nodding your head and you want a little advice about what to think and where to start, then I hope the following five handy insights will set you on your way to a long and successful poker career.

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>bankroll
the bankroll or roll as its affectionately known. a subject that has been heavily debated by many. what is under-rolled or playing outside your roll? whats good bankroll management? questions that, in my opinion are best answered on a personal level rather than trying to broad brush stroke everyone. the key for any new player really, is not to gamble anything they can’t afford to lose. once you have determined that then if you follow my advice the rest of the decisions that you will need to make initially will almost be made for you. do remember though that your bankroll is your means to play poker. don’t make the mistake of calling your life money (ie. the money you need for food, rent, baby essentials) your bankroll, because its not. your bankroll should sit outside of all other financial obligations and just be there for poker. once its big enough and you are winning on a regular basis then you’ll be able to take money from your bankroll to add to your life money. in other words, poker will be a source of income, now that’s a good thing.

>poker room
so you have your bankroll and you are ready to gamble, but where do you play. there has been an absolute explosion of poker rooms in recent years, with skins such as ipoker and microgaming seemingly adding new rooms almost everyday. beyond just the room itself there are other factors to consider, such as rakeback, traffic, security, customer service and ease and convenience of depositing and withdrawing money. rake back is probably one of the biggest influencers in a small stakes players choice of card room, mainly because it helps offset the rake, which is the house take on each hand that is played. there are varying rake deals available ranging from 20-60% depending on the volume you play, and in part, the desperation of the room to attract new players. if you are interested in looking at the rake back deals that are available then I would recommend looking at those offered by rake the rake. i’ve had nothing but an excellent experience with the team there and they will offer you the same level of service. personally though, after trying room after room, shifting my roll around, there is only one place that I play at these days and that’s pokerstars. pokerstars doesn’t offer rakeback and to be honest there new player sign up deal is pretty lame but if you can see past those factors for a moment you will see that they have 1) the highest average traffic of any card room, over double that of its closest rival. 2) lots of fishy players to cash in on. 3) they have the best customer service I have experienced anywhere, always helpful, prompt and effective. 4) they are secure and safe, you won’t have any problems depositing or withdrawing money, they don’t slow down processing to hang on to your money a little longer and there aren’t any ridiculous security requirements to withdraw either like some rooms. pokerstars just offers the best product in the marketplace by a long way and that is why they are number 1. if you want my advice then play there, at least to begin with while you are finding your feet, and then experiment with other rooms once you are comfortable with the whole online poker process.

>tournaments or cash
the next big decision is whether to play cash or tournaments. new players often ask what the difference is, after all you are playing the same game in both. however the dynamics of cash vs tourneys, as they are affectionately known, are vastly different. the biggest difference is that you can’t reload in a tournament if you lose all your chips. if a player sucks out on you then that’s it, your chance at the money is gone, however in cash you can simply buy back in and wait for the fish who sucked out on you to make the same mistake again and give you your chips back. there have been many occasions where i have seen a particularly bad player get lucky time and time again, building up a huge stack of mine and others money only for me to play patiently and eventually take all his chips off him making a very tidy profit in the process. that obviously isn’t possible in a tournament. however single table tournaments, called sit and go’s (sng’s) are a good place to learn the ropes in poker. your loses are limited to the buy-in and it gives you a chance to play with the safety net of always knowing where you stand financially. my advice is to experiment though, find your groove, develop your style and see where you are most profitable.

>stakes
the question of stakes has more to do with your bankroll then anything else. you would have seen me mention bankroll management above and deciding what stakes to play is a big part of this. the general rule when playing cash is that you have no less than 20 full buy-ins for whatever stake you are playing. so for example if you are playing nl20, or no limit holdem with a max buy-in of $20 then you should have at least twenty times that in your bankroll. so $400 minimum. the max buy in is usually 100 times the big blind, so for nl20 you would have blinds of 10/20c. the small blind being 10c and the big blind being 20c. there is variation to the 20 buy-in rule for example there is less swing in limit holdem then there is in no limit holdem and more swing in heads-up then in ring games but personally i always like 20-25 buy-ins in my account to absorb any bad runs i go on.

>style
lastly, there is the question of style, or how exactly you are going to play poker. so are you a loose or tight player, are you passive or aggressive. generally being aggressive is always better than being passive. all of the top pro’s are aggressive players and they put their opponents under a huge amount of pressure because of it. the difference between loose and tight is more personal in my opinion. loose players get more action but get themselves in many more difficult spots. if you are a great reader of the game then you’ll have the skills to find the right play in those tough positions, if you aren’t then you’ll see yourself making a lot of mistakes. tight players generally see less swing in their game but are easier to read and therefore don’t always get paid off on their big hands. i suggest finding whatever you feel most comfortable with and practicing as much as you can to develop the instincts and experience you need to succeed.

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so that concludes the 5 key elements to consider when starting out in the world of online poker. i won’t lie, there is a lot to learn, but it will be a hell of a lot of fun. i still remember firing up my first real money sng and busting early on. i didn’t really know what was going on but it was fun, and i fired up another one straight away with pretty much the same result! But after about 4 or 5 goes i took down my first sng and the buzz was great! not long after that i moved to cash games and that has been where I have stayed ever since.

however your journey begins though, just have fun and remember, we all started in the same place!

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