What to look for as a beginner, and why?

This article was posted on December 7, 2007

Every day, hundreds and possibly thousands of people go through the stage of being online poker first-timers. Being a rookie at anything is tough, and this is especially true of online poker.

You deposit your money, you join the room, you go through all that trouble in order to happen upon an environment which is pretty unforgiving with beginners, regardless of the fact that apparently it's as rookie-friendly as could be. As a complete newbie, believe me, you can use a few good pieces of advice, and heeding such advice can significantly shorten the period of discomfort you'll experience in any online poker room.

First of all, you need a poker room with some soft competition. At this stage, you need to play against fish in order to maximize your profits. You need it so that they don't kick your can all over the place. Going up against skilled opposition will not only have you busted out of the game faster than a hare chased by a pack of greyhounds, chances are it'll also diminish its excitement for you, and cause you to lose interest in the long-run. You need to grant yourself a fair fighting chance, so go with the fish-pool for starters.

Also, poker rooms where there's a lot of traffic are not only more likely to feature plenty of action at all limits/stakes, they're more likely to feature more fish like yourself too.
Next, you need to understand a few things about the nature of Texas Holdem because that's almost certainly the game you'll first be playing as a beginner. If you're thinking Omaha or Stud, forget them for the time being. Texas Holdem offers the best odds for rookies, because it features high variance, coupled with a reassuring presence of the luck-factor, which not even the best poker players can successfully tackle. That means there'll be a more or less level playing field, and sharks won't be able to take advantage of you quite to the extent they could in Omaha or Stud.

Anyway, back to the nature of Holdem. As a beginner, you're sure to go through a wide spectrum of emotions during your very first game, from exhilaration to feeling downright washed out. The reason is the short term variance I mentioned above. Do not let yourself be carried away by the outcomes of individual hands. In Holdem, only long-term winning matters, and that has very little to do with the results of individual hands. There a thing called 'expected value' which basically determines which hands should be played and which shouldn't. As long as the expected value is positive, you will always win, but only a little, as long as it's negative you always lose a little. Remember it's all averages I'm talking about there. Even if you win big on a negative EV hand, in the long-run, the negative expected value will return to it causing a slight loss.

All this comes to show that there's actually nothing glamorous about winning poker. If you come to the table with images of pros bluffing each other out of huge pots on 7,2o, you'd better get rid of them as fast as you can.
Winning poker is a lot more like a job than an actual game. You got there, you put in the hours, you let your EV work for you, and you leave with the daily wage. Certainly there are loads more elements involved in becoming successful, but if you catch on early to what you should be after, the task of learning the subtleties will hopefully prove much more straightforward.

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