Poker Basics

Fred Faour

Maybe you saw poker on TV and wanted to try. Or your local bar has a game going and you want to learn. On SportsMap Elite, there will be many learning opportunities at an advanced level. But if you only have a passing knowledge of the game, this will get you on your way.

  1. Learn the basic rules

It sounds silly, but knowing which hand beats what is important. This will give you a detailed look at the basics. If nothing else, learn the ranking of each hand. You can also observe tables once you join our poker club. Pay attention to what is happening with the other players and familiarize yourself with the software and how the game is played. Pay particular attention to the players who are winning the most chips.


2. Start with the free games

OK, let’s make a bet. The most common plays are Win, Place and Show. This means you are wagering on a horse to WIN, run second (PLACE) or third (SHOW). A common wager is called Across the board, which means you are betting on all three. There are also many other wagers to eventually try: Exactas (first and second), trifectas (first, second and third), superfectas (first, second, third and fourth), pick 3s (winners of three straight races), pick 4s (winners of four straight races), etc. Before you jump into those, let’s keep it simple.


3. Limit your hands in the beginning

When first getting started, playing tight is the best way to learn. Unless you are in the blinds, stick to top starting 10 hands:

  1. AA
  2. KK
  3. QQ
  4. AK (same suit)
  5. JJ
  6. 10-10
  7. AK (different suits)
  8. AQ (suited)
  9. 9-9
  10. AJ (suited)

Or you can use this table, which ranks all the hands, although slightly different.

As you become more familiar with the game, you can begin to expand which hands you play.


4. Understand the importance of position

If you have the button, you will be last to act after the flop. This is a big advantage; the later position you are in, the more advantage you will have. Think of it as being the dealer in blackjack. You don’t have to act until everyone else does. Again, knowing how to take advantage of this will come with more practice.


5. Find your personality

Eventually, your game will match your life. If you are a wild risk-taker, you will likely develop an aggressive game. If you are a passive person, you will likely be a tight player. But there are many ways to win. Early on, avoid too much bluffing. You will figure out the right times to do it as you learn more and become more accustomed to the game. But let your personality dictate how you play as your skills develop.


6. The bottom line

This is just a starting point if you have been interested and want to mess around a little and see if you can learn. Use losses as learning experiences; go back and evaluate what you did right and wrong. Sometimes you will just make a bad play. Sometimes you will get outplayed. Sometimes you are just unlucky. As Matt Dean used to say, “decisions, not outcomes.” The more right decisions you make, the better off you will be in the long run.