Winning at Low-Stakes Poker

Poker for Beginners

by David Huber


Poker for BeginnersSo you’ve been playing online poker for a few weeks/months after making a small initial deposit -- you’ve read various poker strategy books, exercised a reasonable amount of discipline regarding bankroll management, taken advantage of some of the wonderful articles that are available on many poker-related websites, made new friends and shared strategy, and you still find yourself on the short end of the stick when it comes to making money (or breaking-even) playing poker. Perhaps you’ve already cashed out a couple of times, but then went on to lose what you had left in your account, plus your previous earnings -- or maybe you’ve re-deposited on various occasions without any success.

Objectively, you look at your abilities and assume that, although not in the same league as the top pros whose books you read, your poker skill just HAS to be above-average and at least good enough to reach a level of moderate success you’ve been craving at ANY buy-in level. After a considerable amount of soul-searching, you’ve finally begun to contemplate the possibility that there is simply NO WAY to “win” playing low stakes poker, even at the ridiculously-low $.50/$1 limits, and that all the people playing on all these poker sites are pretty much big losers; or better yet, they’re somehow “cheating” to win. Well, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last to have some similar thought cross your mind, but if you’re willing to give poker just one more chance, then read on...

First of all, let’s assume you’ve been playing low stakes poker steadily for only a couple of months and had no prior playing experience before this… meaning that you’re still a “newbie” to the game even though you may be playing a lot of poker every week. What this implies is that there are still SO MANY things out there that you will eventually pick up on as your game develops and your experience increases. Your frustrations will probably stem from a variety of situations that eventually put your poker bankroll in the red: it could be an extended run of cold cards, a series of bad beats, an opponent continually knocking you off your hand, etc.

But mostly, you’re frustrated because everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) seems to be making a KILLING at the tables while you just can’t seem to get over the hump. I mean; the books/articles/videos/testimonials all seem to point to a very clear path of “how to win” playing whatever game -- you’ve memorized much of the material you’ve watched or read by heart and have put a lot of that useful information into practice and included it in your game. So what’s the problem? Why hasn’t all this practical literature translated into making money playing poker? You just KNOW that you’re intelligent and capable enough to catch on, but WHY, OH WHY isn’t it happening? Well, I promised a *spoiler* at the beginning of this article, and now the time has come. For any beginner, or even “middle” player, there still remains one aspect (or talent) that must be put into action every single time you take a seat at an online poker table. Whether its morning or evening, notwithstanding your personal circumstance or disposition at any given time, and certainly without regard to whether you’re up or down after any prior session, you must try to win. Yes, that’s right. TRY.

So, you’re thinking to yourself... “You’ve just wasted my time, David. I ALWAYS try to win. Of course I do. No doubt about it. Who would be dumb enough to sit down at a table and not try to win?” Well, let’s go into a little detail about what happens during the time you’re playing poker online. If you’re a start-up player who “wants” to eventually make money playing poker or simply desires to improve his/her game, then you should be paying attention to the game(s) you’re playing online and to the general tendencies of each bettor. Even if the best you can do is stare cross-eyed at the screen as you observe the chips go back and forth without even remotely understanding the driving force behind each action; you are at least allowing your brain to receive some input that will serve you well in the form of experience later on.

Beginner PokerIf, by chance, you’re participating in any other activity that distracts you from what’s going on (or decreases the quality of your play) at your table(s), then you’re not giving yourself a fair shot at using every resource possible to encourage a positive outcome. And yes, this includes: watching television, reading a book, balancing your checking account, talking on the telephone, vacuuming, responding to your e-mails, and surfing the net while you play. Oh sure, there are many *top* players who do this all the time, and it doesn’t seem to affect them much. You may have a couple of friends who engage in other activities as they play all the time, and they never talk about any negative side-effects. Yes, yes... this is probably all true. But... unless you’re a *top* player; and for all of us who struggle playing poker every day without the benefit of a 140+ I.Q. or the ability to whistle Dixie while eating crackers & covering one eye... there is one message that we can all take to heart: Uninspired/uninterested and, above all, LAZY poker is hazardous to the health of your bankroll. It destroys the below-average/mediocre player who is struggling to tread water while learning the game. It annihilates the otherwise capable young start-up who could make real progress if only he/she could pay attention. Let’s face it; if you’re struggling to break-even, you need all the advantages you can get. You have no business watching an interesting ball-game and answering e-mails while you play poker online. Or better yet, you have no business to expect to win by playing poker this way. Oh, you might go on a remarkable run, and triple your roll in a few hours/days; and get to the point where you’re so confident in your ability to make $100+ an hour that you’ll start telling any poor soul who’ll listen that you’re going to turn pro, but don’t let yourself get trapped by a good run of cards or by a few well-timed fortunate hands if you’re just starting out.

So, what do I recommend? Through personal experience, I’ve learned that paying attention is a talent that can be acquired through force of habit. So here’s what you can do to start giving yourself a better shot at winning consistently... Open a table or two, take a seat, and start playing your favorite poker game online. Make sure you do not have anything readily available to distract you, and do nothing but PAY ATTENTION for say, 15-20 minutes. It’s not so easy to do after all, huh? Well then, try again. My point here is that the moment you stop “enjoying” poker because it’s just too much “work” to pay attention, is the moment you’ve finally reached a crossroads in your early poker career. Words you previously associated with poker like: “fun”, “leisure”, and “relaxing”, get replaced by others such as “effort”, “commitment”, and “dedication”. Do this for a while and you’ll begin to appreciate some of the quality self-control and discipline many of the top players exercise while at any table.

Now, this DOES NOT mean that poker can not be fun for anyone who tries their best to win... quite the contrary; trying your best could make poker even more entertaining due to its complexity and number of challenges/choices you’re presented with each hand you play. Plus, there’s the added benefit of increasing your chances of making money and improving your game at the same time!

Of course, “trying” is just one of the many ingredients that can form a possible winning combination when it comes to playing poker. After all, a winning poker player must possess a substantial amount of talent, heart, instinct, and awareness too. However, if you’ve been evaluating your game while searching for leaks and have come to the conclusion that your game play and discipline are at least decent/reasonable considering the circumstances, then you might want to give your game a boost by trying your best to win every time you sit down at a table to play. I’m confident you’ll soon be able to pay attention without even noticing it, and thus take an important step towards your ultimate goal of success.

See also Poker for Advanced Players and Making Money Playing Online Poker.


Other strategy articles by David Huber:
Online Poker Tells
Poker Expectation
Playing Pocket Pairs
Basic Loose Aggressive LAG Poker Strategy
Basic Tight Aggressive TAG Poker Strategy
Sit N Go Strategy - Part 1: Early Stages
Sit and Go Tournaments - Part 2: Middle Stages
Single Table Tournament Strategy - Part 3 End Game



(c) Shirley Rosario

More Poker Tips

Poker Journal

Steve Badger