5 Insanely Profitable Beginner Poker Tips (Skyrocketed My Winnings!)

5 Insanely Profitable Beginner Poker Tips

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

With so much poker related content these days, trying to improve your game can be overwhelming. 

The lingo is confusing, the math is convoluted, and the preflop charts are more trouble than they’re worth.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

You don’t need a PhD in math to become a winning poker player. You also don’t need to study and memorize preflop charts for hours on end.

This article will give you 5 simple tips that will improve your poker results, guaranteed. No math required. 

Let’s get right into it!


1. Less is More


The simplest way to improve your poker game instantly is to play less hands. Playing too many hands is the single most common mistake a lot of amateur poker players make. 

And it’s understandable. If you’re playing poker for fun, folding all the time doesn’t sound too appealing. Unfortunately, playing poker for fun and playing to win are entirely different things.

If you want to have fun and get in on the action, sure, you can play just about any hand that’s dealt to you. But you can’t expect to make any money this way. 

Now, this sounds totally counterintuitive for most beginners. How can you win if you don’t play? 

The answer lies in basic math. Most hands miss most flops, so the more hands you play, the more often you miss, and therefore, the more money you lose. 

So if you want to improve your results, you should only play strong hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the board in some meaningful way. 


This has a couple of benefits:


a) You’re playing with a mathematical advantage. 

If you play stronger hands than your opponents on average, you can expect to win more money than them on average. 

You will often make stronger hand combinations than your opponents. 

This is how most money in poker is made: when your opponent has a strong hand they’re willing to pay you off with, and you end up having an even stronger hand.


b) Your hands will dominate your opponents, instead of the other way around. 

A dominated hand is the one that is unlikely to win against another hand. 

For example, if you’re holding Ace-King suited, and your opponent is holding Ace-Queen offsuit, your hand dominates (it has roughly 75% hand equity, meaning you can expect to win three out of four times).


c) You can observe the action. 

When you’re not actively involved in the hand, you can use the downtime to observe your opponents more objectively than you could when actively playing. 

You can pay attention to their betting patterns, physical tells and so on. 

Poker is a game of incomplete information, and the player with more information will come out on top more often than not. 

When you’re always fixated on which card will come up next, you can miss out on a ton of valuable information.


d) You will avoid awkward, marginal situations. 

It’s rarely the case in poker that you know exactly where you stand in the hand. 

The only situation where this is the case is when you have the stone cold nuts (the strongest possible hand combination), but these spots are unfortunately far and few in between. 

More often than not, you will encounter a lot of confusing spots where you’re not sure how to proceed, which can cause you to make costly mistakes. 

These mistakes could easily be avoided if you just don’t put yourself in an awkward spot in the first place. 

As you get more experienced, you will naturally get more comfortable with getting involved in marginal situations. 

But when first starting out, it’s better, and far less costly to err on the side of caution.

So which hands should you actually play? As mentioned, you should only play hands that can hit the flop in a meaningful way. 

This includes pocket pairs (like pocket Aces or pocket Eights), broadway hands (hands that can make the strongest possible straight, like Ace-King offsuit or Jack-Ten suited), suited Aces (like ATor A♠5♠), and suited connectors (like 9♣8♣ or 76). 

The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

These hands make about 20% of all starting hands in no-limit Texas hold’em. While folding 80% of the time might sound too restrictive, it’s the best way to drastically improve your poker results, guaranteed.

In fact, Nathan discussed this (with charts) in a recent video with his 5 beginner poker tips that work insanely well.


This is just a general guideline, of course. 

You should play more hands in late positions, and even less hands in early positions as he also discusses in the video above. 

But this brings us to the second beginner poker tip…


2. Play in Position to Give Yourself an Edge


Playing in position means being the last to act in a betting round. This gives you a huge advantage over your opponents for several reasons.


a) You have more information. 

When you’re the first to act, you have no idea what your opponents will do. 

Conversely, when you’re the last to act, you get to see what your opponents did and act accordingly. 


b) You have more options. 

If you’re the first to act postflop, you can either check or raise. You can also fold, but that doesn’t really make sense. 

When you’re the last to act, you can fold, call, check behind, or raise, depending on the situation.


c) You can get more value out of your strong hands. 

When last to act, you can dictate the price of the pot. 

If you have a strong value hand, you can set the price and let your opponents react to you, instead of the other way around. 

If you want to keep the pot size small and manageable, on the other hand, you can check or call to exercise pot control.


d) You can bluff more effectively. 

Due to the aforementioned disadvantages, other players will be less willing to play back at you out of position. 

That’s true even for recreational players on some subconscious level. 

For this reason, you can try to take down the pot even when you don’t have the best hand. 

If your opponents check to you and nobody seems to be particularly interested in the pot, you can try to take it down with a simple bet. 

Your opponents will be more reluctant to fight back, as they’ll have to play the rest of the hand with a disadvantage.

You should always be aware if you’re going to play the hand in position or out of position. This depends on your position on the table. 

If you’re the first to enter the pot (playing under the gun), you should only open very strong hands, as you’ll often play out of position. 

As you move closer to the dealer button, you should expand your starting hand selection.

By the way, there is an entire deep dive 30 minute video on starting hand selection (includes charts for every seat at the poker table) in BlackRain79 Elite Poker University.

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Anyways, when playing on the button in particular, you should expand your hand selection drastically, as you’ll always play in position when on the button. 

This should be your most profitable position over the long run. 

The second most profitable should be the cutoff (i.e. the seat to the direct right of the button).

Conversely, you should be extra careful when playing from the blinds, as you’ll always have the positional disadvantage. 

The only exception would be when you’re in the small blind and playing against the big blind. 

The mechanics of poker are set in a way that you are guaranteed to lose money when playing from the blinds, no matter how well you’re playing. 

So your goal shouldn’t be to try and win money when playing from the blinds, but to lose as little as possible, and to offset these losses when playing in position.


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3. Play Aggressively - Don’t Get Pushed Around


Being selective with the hands you choose to play and playing them in position are two key components of a successful tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy. 

The third key factor is playing those hands aggressively, i.e. betting and raising a lot instead of checking and calling. 

If you take one thing from this article, remember that winning poker is aggressive poker. There are a number of advantages of playing your hands aggressively:


a) You can obviously win more money. 

The goal of the game of poker is to win as much chips as possible, and you can only do so by building up the pot. 

As a general rule, you’re much better off building up the pot yourself with your strong value hands than relying on your opponents to do it for you. 

There are certainly spots where slowplaying (playing your hand passively in order to conceal your hand strength) can be profitable, but these are more of an exception than the rule.


b) You can win the pot even without a strong hand. 

There are two ways to win the pot: either to have the strongest hand combination at showdown, or make everyone else fold. 

Since very strong value hands don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em, relying on those alone is not enough to be a profitable long term winner. 

Sometimes you have to fight for the pot even without a strong hand. And the only way to do so is by betting and raising frequently.


c) You make yourself more difficult to play against. 

If you play passively, you’re allowing your opponents to shove you out of the pots with impunity. 

You’re allowing them to dictate the tempo, instead of the other way around. 

What’s more, even if you wake up with a strong hand, there’s no guarantee they’ll pay you off. If you just start raising out of nowhere, they’ll figure out you have a strong hand and simply fold. 

If you’re playing aggressively, not only will you be able to win more than your “fair share”, your opponents might start doubting you and pay you off once you do have a monster hand.

In fact, this is one of the most important lessons I would tell myself if I had to start poker all over again.

So what does playing aggressively mean in practice? First of all, you should always open the pot with a raise. If you’re the first to put money into the pot, don’t open-limp. 

(Open-limping means just paying the big blind when first to enter the pot, as opposed to open-raising).

Open-limping is one of the telltale signs of recreational players, and should be avoided at all costs. I wrote an article a while back why open-limping is so egregious if you want to know more. 


Entering the pot with a raise is much more profitable for a few reasons


a) you’re building the pot straight away with your strong value hands. 

As mentioned previously, the name of the game is winning as many chips as possible. 

If you build the pot preflop, you’ll be able to make an even bigger pot postflop. 

This has to do with pot geometry, meaning that the bet sizes used on previous streets dramatically influence the final pot size. 

The bigger the bets, the bigger the final prize.


b) You’re entering the hand with the initiative. 

As a preflop aggressor, you’re perceived to have the strongest hand. 

This means you can continue the aggression with a bet on the flop. (This is called a continuation bet, or c-bet for short). 

C-bets are usually profitable, regardless of whether or not you connected with the flop. 

If you hit the flop, you can make a c-bet to extract more value, and if you miss, you can make a c-bet as a bluff attempt (this is called a light c-bet). 

Since both you and your opponent are equally likely to miss the flop (you’ll miss the flop completely two out of three times), your opponent will often have to fold to a c-bet, since remember, you’re the one that’s perceived to have a stronger hand.


c) You can win the pot outright preflop. 

You won’t get dealt strong hands often, so you’ll sometimes need to win the pot without them. 

If you open-raise, you’ll often be able to steal the blinds. 

Since players from the blinds are playing with a positional disadvantage, they’ll often forfeit their blinds for the fear of playing out of position. 

This is basically free money, as you have the opportunity to steal the blinds multiple times per orbit. If you open-limp, you can’t win the pot outright. 

This is one of the reasons why open-limping sucks, and should be dispensed with. In fact, open limping is one of the reasons why most people lose at poker.

Entering the pot with a raise, or even 3-betting (raising against another player’s open-raise) will make your life easier postflop, as well. 

You can continue applying the aggression and dictating the tempo of the hand. 

I’m not advising to just bet and raise incessantly at all times, of course. 

But since most beginners, and even a lot of intermediate poker players tend to play passively, upping your aggression level would probably be beneficial to your game.


4. Don’t Bluff Too Much (Or Even at All)


Bluffing is arguably the most exciting part of poker. You’ve seen your favourite poker pros do it without breaking a sweat, and you want to emulate it. 

But contrary to popular belief, being a great bluffer is not what being a poker pro is all about (even though it certainly doesn’t hurt). 

In reality, however, most of the money you’ll win in poker will come from your strong value hands, not from pulling daring bluffs.

By the way, as I talked about in a recent article, there are 3 bad bluffs in particular that you absolutely must avoid. 

It might be tempting to try bluffing when you’re just learning the ropes, but there’s much more to pulling a successful bluff than just nerves of steel and a good poker face.  

You have to consider the player type you’re up against, the history you have with them, the board runout and the previous action, your opponent’s range, your perceived range, fold equity, which bet size to use, just to name a few. 

You can just wing it, of course, but I wouldn’t advise it. 

When first starting out with poker, learning to properly value bet your strong hands is much more important than figuring out advanced bluffing strategies. 

There’s another huge reason you should refrain from bluffing too much when first starting out. 

If you’re a beginner poker player, you’ll ideally play against players that are beginners themselves. 

And here’s the thing: beginner poker players don’t like to fold. At all. They’re notoriously bad at folding, which makes them beginners in the first place. 

And since the objective of bluffing is to get your opponents to fold, you probably won’t achieve the desired effect. 

What you want to do instead is make them pay a premium for your strong hands, and count your money. Recreational players play for fun, and folding isn’t fun. 

It’s anything but. Recreational players also don’t pay any mind to the math aspect of poker. 

They might have some basic understanding of the pot odds and the risk-to-reward ratio, but that’s about as far as their knowledge or interest goes. 

For this reason, they don’t mind making mathematically unsound decisions. 

For example, they love chasing all kinds of draws, regardless of how unlikely that draw is to complete. 

If they catch any piece of the board, they’ll hang on to their hand far longer than they should.

This is how you ultimately win money against them (i.e. value betting hard when they have something to pay you off with). It’s also why you shouldn’t try bluffing them too much, or even at all. 

Chances are, your bluff will just go way over their head, regardless of how credibly you can “represent” a stronger hand. 

They don’t care about your hole cards. They only care about theirs. 

If they like them, they’ll hang on to them, so trying to push them out of the pot will more than likely backfire. 

Save your bluffs for players who are actually paying attention, and are capable of hitting the fold button.

Don’t tilt Away Your Winnings

The last tip doesn’t have anything to do with the strategy aspect of poker, but it’s crucial for your long-term profitability nonetheless. 

Following other tips to a tee won’t always produce the results you might be hoping for, even if you play perfectly. 

That’s because poker has a short-term luck element involved. 

In other words, even if you don’t make any mistakes, you could still sustain prolonged losing periods. 

Your poker results will be a never-ending swing of ups and downs, because luck plays a big role in your short-term results. 

The technical term for these swings is called variance by the way and it doesn't mean that poker is rigged against you.

Put simply, variance measures the difference between what you expect to earn over a certain sample size and what you actually earn. 

If you earn more than you expect, you’re experiencing positive variance, and if you lose more than you expect, you’re experiencing negative variance. 

When talking about negative variance, we’re usually referring to frequent suckouts (having a best hand that ends up getting outdrawn despite the odds), coolers (having a strong hand while your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand), or being card-dead (being dealt bad cards for an extended period of time). 

Your results oscillating dramatically from time to time is a natural part of poker, but it can be very difficult to come to terms with. 

This is true for both amateur and professional poker players alike. Nobody likes losing, especially when we’re “not supposed to.”

Variance can be brutal at times. 

During these losing periods, a lot of players get frustrated to the point they abandon the tried and true winning strategy and start making mistakes. 

This causes them to lose much more money than necessary. 

This is known as poker tilt. Tilt is the state of making suboptimal decisions due to the compromised emotional state, like anger, frustration, desperation and so on.

How you deal with your tilting problems will affect your results far more than knowing which cards to play in which position. 

These days, anyone can learn how to play winning poker. There’s plenty of material out there for anyone interested. 

Knowing how to control your emotions, on the other hand, is not something you can learn from reading an article. 

You’re unfortunately on your own in this regard. 

But just being aware of how detrimental tilt is to your profitability is the first step to solving it. 

There are techniques you can learn to keep your tilt in check, but everyone’s tilting problems are unique, and there’s no panacea.

I wrote an article a while back on dealing with variance if you want to know more. 

Suffice it to say, learning the basic winning strategy is only the beginning of your poker journey. 

Constantly improving your game, both technical and mental, is what will ultimately allow you to achieve your poker goals.

And if you want a simple practical strategy to start winning right now at the lower limits, just read Crushing the Microstakes.


Summary


To sum up, here are five simple tips you can employ right away to improve your poker results:

1. Play less hands. 

Only play strong hands to give yourself an immediate advantage over your opponents. 

If you play stronger hands than your opponents on average, you can expect to win more money on average.

2. Play in position. 

Playing in position gives you an informational advantage. You get to see what your opponents did, and they have no idea what you will do. 

It also gives you more options. You can get more value out of your strong hands, as well as bluff more effectively.

3. Play aggressively. 

Winning poker is aggressive poker. Always open the pot with a raise. Keep applying the pressure post flop. 

Dictate the tempo of the hand, instead of reacting to your opponents.

4. Don’t bluff recreational players. 

Bluffing only works if your opponents are capable of folding, and recreational players are notoriously bad at this. 

They play for fun, and folding is boring. Save your bluffs for opponents who are actually paying attention.

5. Don’t tilt. 

Following all these tips isn’t going to count for much if your game goes off the rails the first time your Aces get cracked. 

Learning to control your emotions when the winning strategy isn’t working is just as important as the strategy itself.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.
 5 Insanely Profitable Beginner Poker Tips