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Texas Hold 'Em Poker - A Beginner's Guide

Updated on January 13, 2015

Online Poker

Despite the often negative view that gambling holds throughout the world, online poker is not only a fun hobby, but money can be made with some knowledge and preparation. It is also arguably one of the games within the ‘gambling family’ where skill plays a much larger part than most. Firstly, for those completely new to gambling here are some basic, but crucial tips before you even load any gambling software – many of these are useful for gambling as a whole. If you have these in your mind you will stand a much greater chance of winning and enjoying this hobby.

My First Ever Poker Book and in My Mind the Best Book for New Players

Key Online Poker Gambling Tips

1. The most important tip I can give you, and what my Dad gave me. Only bet what you can afford to lose. Despite some level of skill which will maximise your chances of winning, as the name suggests, you are gambling your money – there are no guarantees. Never use your entire paycheck or use money that is more importantly used elsewhere i.e. for your children, wedding savings etc.

2. Have a gambling ‘bankroll’. This could be a prepaid card, a PayPal account or another online account service where you essentially house your gambling money. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the money is kept separate from your main account so there is no impact or temptation to spend more than you have. Secondly, as you see the amount go up and down (hopefully after a while consistently up as it should) you can keep track of how you are doing much more easily as only used for one service.

3. It does happen, but if at all possible avoid drinking alcohol when playing online poker or gambling. The simple reason being you will make poorer decisions and will be making more emotional judgments as opposed to more logical judgments, which at the beginning stages you need to be focussing on until you have more experience and can make more ‘gut’ calls.

4. Make sure you have a stable internet connection and play off Wi-Fi and not 3G/4G. The last thing you want is for your connection to time out when you’ve made a big bet or have picked up a killer hand. If you take it seriously to earn a little extra cash then invest in a decent broadband provider with no data limit.

5. Only bet 5% of your bankroll for any one game – Cash game or single buy-in table game. Bankroll management is the number one thing most people don’t realise is important when playing. They assume if they have 50 dollars in their account, they play a 50 dollar game and may win 200+ dollars but more than likely this level of game is too much for a beginner, you lose and then have nothing. Statistically, it’s about minimising your losses and maximising your gains. Losing 5% of your bankroll won’t cause any big emotional swings or put you out of pocket too much. You grow your bankroll slowly and gradually move up in game costs as your bankroll grows.

6. Always have an idea of the amount of time you want to invest in the hobby and how much would be your ideal payout scenario. If you start with 10 dollars and end up making 30 dollars then you could release 20 dollars into your main bank account and start from 10 dollars again and be more than happy. Don’t be afraid to draw out some money here and there... it gives you confidence that you’re not only winning but actively using these winnings for something else.

7. Most gambling software allows you to play with ‘play money/chips’ which means the casino lets you play without actually spending any real money. Even though the atmosphere is very different, it is the perfect way to get used to the flow of games, betting, raising, hand strength as well as work out the type of player you are.

Hand Ranges From Weakest (bottom) to Top (strongest)
Hand Ranges From Weakest (bottom) to Top (strongest)

No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Rules

There are quite a few variants of poker but I’ll be focussing on the most popular and easiest to grasp, in my opinion, which is No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em – often shortened to NLH. No-Limit basically means there is no ‘cap’ on the amount you can bet – relevant to your bankroll.

The aim of the game is simply to have the best hand through betting, bluffing and ultimately demonstrating you have the strongest winning set of cards or ‘hand’. Each player is dealt 2 cards initially and players can either place their ante (minimum level of chips required to participate initially) suggesting they want to play or fold their cards and wait for the next hand to be dealt. After this first round 3 community cards are dealt into the middle which anyone can use to create the best hand by combining with their initial two cards. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Flop’. Another round of betting occurs where players can bet, call, raise, check, or fold, a fourth card is turned over by the dealer called the ‘Turn’ and then another round of betting takes place. If there are still players left at this point, the dealer deals the final card called the ‘River’ and the final round of betting happens. Either the players fold and there is a winner or there is a ‘Showdown’ where all current players lay their cards on the table and the dealer decides on the winning hand who takes the pot of money that has been bet over the course of the round. For online poker this is worked out automatically by the software. There are many other subtleties but this is the basic process of the game.

No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em – Cash Games and Single Table games

There are a lot of variations of No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em games. 9 seaters, 6 seaters, Head’s Up (2 seaters), multi-table tournaments... the list goes on. There is much more choice online. I’ll be focussing on Cash games and Single table games.

Cash Games

These games use your bankroll directly and you as long as deposit the minimum limit into the game initially ($2, $5 etc) you can stay on your online seat until you want to leave. In cash games the process is exactly the same as normal NLH game but you are betting directly from your bankroll. It’s good to limit yourself again to 5% off your bankroll, play with this and when it’s gone, leave the table, take a break and then try again another time. In cash games players tend to be tighter (play less hands) and the higher the initial Buy-in the better the quality of play. Players can come and go on the table so you will play against lots of different styles making it hard to track certain players unless you make careful notes.

Single Table Games

These involve a Buy-in i.e. $2, but you are then given a set number of chips instead of using that $2 to bet with. If you lose all of your chips then you have only lost $2. It’s a very good way to manage your bankroll and for those unlucky swings you won’t be too worried when you have the best hand, are outdrawn on the river and lose your chips. Often the top 3 spots will be paid winnings out of 9 or 10 players on the table. The table is fixed and no new players can join which makes getting to know the player’s style much easier. Single table games at normal speed (there are turbo versions which mean decision time is shortened) can take around 1 hour if you get to the top 3. I prefer single table games as you often see the same players on the similar level and can use your notes against them by bluffing or playing a little looser with your hand range depending on their play style. As players are eliminated it’s important to know that the strength of your hands are increased. JJ (pair of Jacks) will be a much stronger hand when there are 5 people left on the table than when there were 9 because mathematically your odds are simply better and less people are likely to be in the pot. More people in the pot = more variance.

Online and Offline Differences – Why Play Online?

There are many differences between playing poker online and offline and I’ll be going through some of the differences and pro’s/cons so you can see what may be right for you. I would strongly suggest you start online as it’s a good practice ground for the basics.

Online poker


- No smart clothes required and you can find a game in a timeslot that suits you.

- Very quick to start playing a game and can play with players from all around the world.

- You don’t give away any ‘tells’ with your eyes, hands or body.

- Many poker software versions are customisable with backgrounds, decks and sound effects.

- Chips are all calculated for you so beginner’s are right at home.


- You can be disconnected due to bad internet signal.

- Can be distracted by other programs running on your computer.

- Harder to read opponents online than in real life.

- You may miss-click the wrong button if you’re not careful with your mouse.

Offline poker


- Great atmosphere in a casino and can meet like minded people.

- Bar service and food services available quite easily.

- Reading people’s reactions is much easier.

- Winning against real people in a casino has more of a buzz than online.

- Much slower pace so can be more relaxing.


- Knowing chip sizes and knowing the rules is much more important as you handle the chips directly – mistakes show inexperience.

- Can be quite tense, uncomfortable for some people.

- There are a lot of distractions and noises in a casino which may put some off.

- You’re much more likely to drink alcohol in this situation which could affect your game.

- It takes a much longer time to play an offline poker game in most cases – can be tiring.

Basic Player Types

There are many types of players that you’ll encounter online, but it is important to categorise their play style as best you can as will help you make better decisions against them on their tactics or their hand ranges i.e. the range of hands they tend to play or prefer. Here are some main types:

Shark – Generally a player with lots of experience who knows what they are doing. They recognise online tells (time takes to bet, betting patterns etc) and have won more than they have lost. They are not afraid to bluff and often will take notes against other players within the poker software client. As they are more experienced you can bluff a Shark more easily than a Fish or Donkey. They will give you respect if they think you deserve it.

Fish/Donkey – These are usually a term for players who ‘fish’ for cards without having a good hand at all. They are waiting for a decent hand and will pay to hit that one card which may change the tide. Dangerous to play against as they can lose you lots of money and rarely fold to a bluff or over big bets.These players are erratic purely because they haven’t learnt the rules or bet randomly, play random hands with little to no skill behind their actions and can be annoying and rude to other players in the built-in chat rooms. These are the kind of player’s who go ‘all-in’ (place all their chips in) on the first hand to try to double their amount. They don’t respect the game of poker and often have lost quite a lot of money over the long term but refuse to change.

Rock – These players don’t play many hands at all (normally top ten poker hands). These are easy players to face as will often fold to bluffs but be careful when you are re-raised by them or when they enter the pot because it’s likely they’ll have a decent hand.

Key Terminology

Here are some poker terms which you may come across. This is not an extensive list by any means but highlights some of the basics, if I haven’t already mentioned them within the hub.

Flop – The first 3 cards laid down by the dealer

Hole cards - The first two cards you're dealt

Turn – The fourth card laid down by the dealer

River – The full five card line up and final fifth card

Button – This represents the dealer

Cowboys – Pair of Kings

Straight Draw – One card away from completing a straight

Flush Draw – One card away from completing a flush

The ‘Nuts’ – A rare unbeatable hand i.e. you believe or have at the showdown, the best hand likely to be beat anyone.

Donkey/Fish– weak/erratic player

Shark – strong player

Rock – careful player


Online poker really is an enjoyable game and I’m confident if you take my advice on board especially with bankroll management and picking the right games, you may make some money. Get as much knowledge as you can, but playing hands is the best way to experience online poker starting with pretend money. If anyone has any questions then feel free to comment and I’ll try and answer them for you. I’m not entirely sure on the policy of recommending poker sites or including links here but go for the bigger, well known sites over the smaller ones. Hope this helps you all.

Important Disclaimer

I’m from the UK where it is legal to gamble and I’m aware that there are many US states where it is illegal to gamble so please respect your local laws and only play for real money online if your state/country deems it legal to do so. You gamble at your own risk.

Question Time!

Have You Played Online Poker Before?

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Rounders - The Best Poker Film Ever Made In My View


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