47 Things That I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started Playing Poker

47 Things That I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started Playing Poker

Here are the top 47 things that I wish someone had told me before I started playing poker. They are not in any particular order. I am sure that I missed a few important ones even though I managed to almost make it to 50. Also, I am sure that a few will be controversial! You can feel free to leave your comments at the end.

Without further ado...

1) Tight is Right. I actually did figure this one out very quickly. Most of the bad players play too many hands. Play better quality hands than them and you will have an immediate (and huge) advantage over them.

2) Use Position. The immense power of position cannot be over-stated in poker and it takes some people (including myself) years to fully understand this. Have a look in your poker tracking program and look at your winrate by position if you don't believe me. You should be using position to take down pots on a regular basis.

3) Steal the Blinds A lot. Most people at the micros, even in today's games, are tight and passive. They will only fight back if they have something really good. Even if they do call you still have position which as mentioned has a massive impact on your likelihood of success. You should be abusing the button and cutoff in most micro stakes games today.

4) CBet A lot. You can still easily get away with CBetting at 80% versus most opponents at NL10 and below. You only need to get somebody to fold around 30% of the time in order for a standard 60% of the pot CBet to breakeven. Pretty much everybody folds to CBets at least this amount of the time, even most of the biggest fish.

5) Fold When They Fight Back on the Big Money Streets. By big money streets I mean the turn and the river. When you get raised by one of the legions of passive players at the micros on the turn or river, your one pair hand is almost always no good.

Bonus Tip: Watch My 4 Part Video Series on How to Crush the Micros!

I put out brand new poker strategy videos just like this every single week on YouTube teaching you how to crush the micro stakes.

Don't miss out! Make sure you are subscribed to my poker YouTube channel.

6) Abuse the Weak/Tights. The micros are still chalk full of pseudo TAG's. These players only present the illusion of being solid aggressive opponents. In reality they are bad regs who back down when the pressure gets too hot either preflop or postflop. You can find these players by looking for a high fold to 3Bet, a high fold to 4Bet or a low WTSD%. Frequently bluff them and take the pot.

7) Don't Bluff the Fish. Seriously, don't bluff them. Some things never change in this game. Fish love to call. Why would you want to bluff somebody who loves to call?

8) Don't Bluff the Calling Station Regs. The opposite of the weak/tight TAGfish regs which were discussed in point #6 above are the calling station regs. These players are easily found because they will have a low fold to 3Bet, low fold to 4Bet and a high WTSD%. Don't bluff on the river with air. They will look you up with third pair.

9) Relentlessly Value Bet the Fish. Thinking of hitting the check button with your mid pair? Make a bet instead. It never ceases to amaze what crazy crap they will call with. Even if you don't get called it makes you appear more aggressive which is always a good thing.

10) Relentlessly Value Bet the Calling Station Regs. Once again, bet thin versus players who love to call. Easy game right?

11) Get a HUD. Don't be an idiot like me and play 4 million hands of poker before finally admitting that a HUD is a good thing to have. Sure you can win without one but you are without a doubt giving up potential winnings. Go get the free trial for Pokertracker 4.

There is nothing wrong with Hold'em Manager 2 either and they also have a free trial. I just personally use and slightly prefer the former. The main point here is this: if you are serious about this game, get a HUD. Stop underestimating how important they are.

12) Play More on the Weekends. Bad players don't have as much time to play during the week because they have jobs to attend to. They like to unwind on the weekends with a little online poker. The games are always a bit better on these days. Try to play more on them.

My poker "office" in Bangkok, Thailand:

13) Play More During Prime-time Hours. Most of the bad players come from affluent countries such as America, Canada, England, Germany and France. Play more when it is prime-time in these countries.

14) Start From the Lowest Stakes. Don't be a hero. Even if you have been "killing it" at your local casino in the $1/$2 game, chances are NL10 will still present some difficulties for you. Online players on average are way better than their live counterparts. Check your ego at the door and start at NL2 (this is 1cent/2cent). What's the rush anyways?

15) Exercise Proper Bankroll Management. 20 buyins at the very least for a recreational player. 40 or 50 for a professional or semi-professional. This minimizes your chances of ever going broke and having to re-deposit.

16) Play With Bad Players. I cannot possibly stress how important it is especially in today's games to make sure that you are consistently playing with bad players. Winning in this game is all about playing with people who are worse than you. And when they are far worse than you, this is when you will really win big. Get these players on your table and isolate the living crap out of them.

17) Make Sure You Are on the Left of the Bad Players. It isn't enough just to find the bad players. You also need to make sure that you are on their left as well. Having position makes a massive difference in your ability to tilt them and get max value when you have it.

18) Play Less Tables. Don't try to copy your favorite mass multi-tabling hero and pull up 34 tables at once. This will lead to poor decisions at the table and an inability to table select effectively. As the games have tightened up in recent years quality decision making and table selection have become much more important factors in your overall winnings.

19) Rakeback is Massively Important. Rakeback is still huge though. It is important to understand how the rakeback program works on the site that you play on and/or what levels it really starts to kick in on. For instance, Pokerstars has a volume incentive yearly based program where the rewards in cash games don't really start to kick in until about NL25. You should plan your play strategically around this.

20) Move Up Slowly. Moving up is not a race. The slow and steady approach is always superior. This doesn't mean that you need 100k hands at each limit before you should consider moving up, but you should have enough to prove that you are a solid winner (20k or 30K is a good benchmark). Furthermore, you should feel very confident in your abilities at your current limit and absolutely know that you are one of the best players there.

21) Know That You Are the Best Player at the Table. If you aren't the best player at the table (or close to it) then why are you sitting at the table? As mentioned in point #16 winning at poker is all about playing with people who are worse than you. If you can't confidently state (and know) that you are among the best players at the table, then you probably are the fish.

22) Don't Waste Your Time Playing Play Money. I did this for over a year when I first got started with online poker. It did allow me to build a bankroll out of nothing but it was a total waste of time. Nobody plays for real in play money because there is no risk to them. Once you have the basic rules of the game down you should move on to the very lowest stakes cash games.

23) Play Cash Games. I am not here to put down SNGs, MTTs and other formats but cash games are where the most potential money is. I would actually put SNGs closely behind in second place due to the ability to reach amazing levels of rakeback with them especially on Pokerstars.

MTTs are a distant third though. Don't be fooled by the flashy scores. Most of the top MTT players, both live and online, don't make close to what the top cash game (or online SNG) players make.

24) Put People On Tilt. This is such a massively important thing to be doing especially in today's games. And this especially goes for the bad regs. Once you get a reg on tilt they can literally become your personal ATM for weeks or months on end.

25) Enroll in a High Level Course. The #1 poker training course that I recommend these days is the Upswing Poker Lab. This course is taught by some of the world's best poker players and will quickly get you winning big at the lower limits. This is one of the absolute best ways to improve your poker game fast. You can check out my full review for the Upswing Poker Lab right here.

26) Find a Poker Circle. Finding a close circle of poker friends can be beneficial to your improvement as a poker player. It is always better to know people who are better than you. People who are worse than you are not going to be very helpful. Make connections at the tables, on forums and elsewhere. Set up sweat sessions as well.

27) Don't Waste Too Much Time on Forums. For the most part, I would go so far as to say that the big poker forums today are pretty much useless. There are just way too many uninformed opinions, spammers and pointless squabbling. You are much better served to stick to smaller forums in my opinion with a close group of dedicated and talented people.

28) Read Poker Books. I think poker books still hold a lot of value. Seminal works such as David Sklansky's "Theory of Poker" and others really helped my career take off by forcing me to think about the game in the right way.

I really wish that somebody had written my first book Crushing the Microstakes before I got started though. This would have saved me more time than anything else on this list. If you are brand new to poker or struggling at NL2 or NL5, this book has helped thousands of people start winning now.

29) Review Your Sessions. It is very important in the early going of your poker career to review your sessions. It is easy to get off track when things don't go your way and make poor decisions. By regularly reviewing your decisions in key pots you will force yourself to make sure that your current knowledge base is getting implemented at the tables as often as possible. Reviewing your sessions during prolonged downswings (and getting a second opinion) is also vitally important.

30) Conduct Regular Database Reviews. At a certain point, the only way to really push through in this game is to be able to think through hands on your own and figure out what the best line of attack is based on the opponent and the situation. Database reviews can allow you to find out what macro strategies work the best in the games that you play in. They can also allow you to learn from the best possible source of information out there which is the people who are currently crushing the limit that you play at.

31) Don't Rush Into "Going Pro." A lot of people have dreams about quitting their day job and playing this game for a living one day. It isn't all roses and sunshine though. Playing poker for a living is a "hard way to make an easy living" as the famous saying goes. This is something that requires a lot of careful planning and forethought.

32) Consider Moving Abroad (or Travelling). This is also not for everybody but one of the benefits of playing online poker for a living is being location independent. This means that you can essentially work from anywhere in the world as long as you have a laptop and a reasonably decent internet connection.

As I have mentioned before, Thailand has been a huge magnet for online poker players in recent years (this is where I have lived for several years now). But there are many other areas that are popular as well such as Playa Del Carmen and Rosarito in Mexico, The Philippines, the island of Malta and my hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Sometimes a change of scenery can be a very good thing and it can also allow you to meet like minded people.

33) You Have to Play the Game. A lot of people like to sit around on poker forums talking about the game. You have seen them, the guys with 9,000 posts in the last two years. Don't be like them. There is one common denominator that almost all of the best poker players share. They are usually found at the tables. That's right, they spend most of their time playing the game instead of talking about it.

34) Remove All Distractions. You need to treat poker like a business. Your time for playing this game is not to be mixed with Skype, Facebook, forums, your kids, some unimportant phone call, the latest episode of the Walking Dead etc. All of these things can wait. When you are playing poker it should be just you, the tables and whatever software you are using. Lock yourself in a room, only have poker software installed on your poker computer. Do whatever you have to do to make this happen!

35) Turn the Chat Box to Silent. Seriously, don't waste your time with the chat box. Poker is a game where egos clash and emotions run high. Some of the most toxic, pointless discussions in the history of humanity can be found in the chat box at online poker tables. Always turn this crap off and stay focused on what matters, taking everyone's money.

36) Make Sure that Your HUD is Setup properly for YOU. As I mentioned in point #11 having a HUD is vitally important in today's games. Make sure that your HUD is setup in the most efficient manner. This means having the right stats in the right places, using color coding if need be, the right font etc.

37) Tag the Bad Players Right Away. Always make sure to tag the bad players on whatever poker site you play on right away. These colors or tags literally stay there forever and they make your table selection decisions so much easier in the future.

38) Don't Bother Taking Notes at the Micros. This is especially the case if you play on one of the bigger sites like Pokerstars. With the sheer volume of opponents that you will face on these sites it is literally pointless to make notes on individual players. Also, notes typically only have a sample size of one. What if your opponent is savvy enough to balance his range well? Now your note is not only incorrect but downright dangerous.

39) Balance Your Range Against the Better Regs. It is not enough to play the highly exploitative game that I talk about in my first book, in many of my blog posts and elsewhere once you get to the upper limits of the micros. By about NL25 you will start to encounter a few "thinking" regs. You will need to start learning how to take different lines in the same situation versus these players in order to prevent yourself from becoming predictable. You need to learn how to balance your ranges.

40) Don't Listen to all of the GTO Fanboys as it Applies to the Micros. GTO (game theory optimal) has become the big fad on poker forums and in some books in the last few years. If you play anywhere at the micros (NL50 or below) you are wasting your time and money by studying this stuff. In order to be effective GTO theory assumes an environment full of solid, well balanced, thinking opponents. This is not the case in literally any micro stakes game on any site that I have seen. Exploitative play is still far superior to GTO play at all levels of the micros. All of my content focuses on this approach.

41) Don't Think About Poker in Terms of Money. When you are first starting out you should be playing the game because of your passion for it and an urge to get better. Too many people want to be armchair accountants and figure out what their hourly is going to be before they even get started. Poker does not work this way. Play for the love of the game and the money will come to you in time. If a regular salary is what you want then go work in an office.

42) Take Care of Yourself. In today's online poker climate you need to fight for every little edge that you can get. You should be exercising regularly, eating healthy and getting a good sleep. Treat this game like a sport. If you typically play when tired, hungover, in a bad mindset, hungry etc. then you are doing yourself (and your winrate) a major disservice at the tables.

43) Never Play Drunk. You should never play poker while intoxicated because your emotional control and ability to make logical decisions are both heavily compromised. You are putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. There is a good chance that it will not end well for you. Don't worry if you have done it in the past (I have too). Just make sure that it does not ever happen again.

44) Consider Hiring a Coach. Having somebody who is as good or better than you look over your play for a session or two can sometimes make a huge difference in your game. Even if they notice just one small thing that you are doing wrong this could add up in a huge way over the long term. Not all coaches are created equally though. Make sure that you vet coaches first and stay away from the ones with flashy marketing and excessive use of "testimonials." The real coaches out there have no need to advertise in this way.

45) Be Aggressive. One of the biggest things that separates micro stakes players from mid and high stakes players is aggression. When people are just starting out they tend to think that they are aggressive but in reality they aren't at all. This doesn't mean you should be triple barrel bluffing your opponents every chance you get. However, you should be taking advantage of spots to make bluffs against weak/tight players on a regular basis. You should have an ability to shove preflop sometimes without the nuts etc.

46) Downswings Suck. They also happen to everybody. Sometimes they can defy reality in their intensity and length. This is when your will and dedication to this game will be tested. Think about how many others will just give up or play terribly when this happens to them.

47) Poker is ALL About the Long-Run. This game will drive you mad on a regular basis. This is normal. However, once you fully understand that nothing in a single session, a handful of sessions or even an entire month's worth of play holds any meaning, then you will come to terms with this game. Master this skill and you will have a massive advantage over the large majority of your opponents.

That's all I can think of for now!

I know there was a ton of information in this post. So if you want one complete list of all the poker tools that I use, you can find that right here.

Also, if you want to know more about my 10+ year online poker pro career and traveling the world, I recently wrote a big article about that which went viral. You can find that here.

And if you want to know about my day to day life as a poker pro traveling the world, make sure to follow me on Instagram.

Thanks a lot for reading guys!

P.S. this post took a long time to write. If you found it helpful do me a quick favor and smash that "Like" or "Tweet" button below. Thanks!

poker beginner


  1. Anonymous01 October

    re #27, any recommendations for small forums besides your own?

    1. Most training sites usually have decent forums. Liquidpoker.net is a majorish forum that never got the respect that it deserved. It always had the highest quality poker discussion imo, way better than 2+2 on average.

  2. Great post, Nathan. Thanks. PS I loved both your books. Keep up the good work.

  3. Great post man, why didn't you go all the way to 50 things xd ? I really enjoy your straight forward approach to the game, keep it up!

    1. Haha, I ran out of ideas. Glad you enjoyed!

  4. Thanks so much for taking time to write this. Excellent and most comprehensive. It all resonates.

  5. Great post. It's just what we need so we don't make the same mistakes ( most of which I've made already tho).
    Can you answer two questions about multi tabling and Hudson.
    1/ I assume if your multi tabling you can't also pay attention to HUDS or do you. Or do you just play tight and position when you have a dozen or so open.
    2/ I find the pokertracker HUD a bit confusing to monitor with a full ring. I usually play 6max. Is that why you play full ring or are there other benefits you font to full over 6max?
    Thanks. ken

    1. Hey Ken,

      I have made a lot of these mistakes too.

      1) Even when playing 12 tables I still have plenty of time to use my HUD because I am usually only actively playing 2 or 3 of those hands (folding the other 9 or 10 preflop). And only 1 of those hands will require any sort of in depth look at my HUD as the others will end either preflop or on the flop.

      2) I actually play more 6max than full ring these days. I am not sure what you mean by confusing to monitor though with the PT4 HUD. I have never had any problems with it in either format. Can you elaborate?

    2. Thanks for your response.
      It's not the program I was referring to it was the info overload .
      What I meant was with full ring and 9 sets of stats filling the screen it's alot more to analyze that with only six players per table. I guess like anything, practice practice, practice.

    3. Hey Ken,

      I see what you mean now. You could try cutting down on the number of stats that you use. At NL10 and below honestly you don't really need more than 6-8 stats for most decisions.

  6. Nice post!
    Greetings from Argentina.

  7. #46 and #47. Yes.

  8. Hi Nathan - Hello Communis

    Thanks for the great Post!

    Safes me a lot of time and is good directive to follow on my yourney. Really appreciate your work, man!


  9. These are indeed good points to think about when starting out. Thank you for the post.

  10. Thx Nathan for your good tips. Pls dont stop to help us beginners :)

    Great work!

    Best regards from Germany!

  11. Hey Black, its a nice Job u do here Thanks!

    What i want to know is, is there any way to get your books in other lenguanges?
    I looked arround but cant find something :(

    1. Thank you! Glad to help. My first book, Crushing the Microstakes is available in both Spanish and Russian (along with English of course). My 2nd book, Modern Small Stakes is English only.

  12. Damn, i need it in german...
    Think about it, germany has an big Poker community as u know. I Think it would be profitable to let it translate and also u would make me sooo happy with it :DD

    Good hand-wishes froh germany ;)

    1. I know there are many German poker players. I have had many requests and offers to translate my books into German and other languages as well. I won't be doing any more translations though because the effort involved is just too much given the sales volume. Translations like this really only make sense for big time New York Times best seller type books. I am just a small independent author.

  13. Bravo Blackrain79 .
    Thanks you ( komunitas-sport.blogspot.com )

  14. Hello Nathan. First of all, I want to thank you for all your great work with this site and beyond. You truly are an inspiration.

    Now let me introduce myself: my name in Dan, I am a player from Romania who is playing poker for like 10 years now, on and off (not constantly). My favorite game is cash game live, but lately the price of poker went up a lot and also players improved a lot. So I am now trying to make it online.

    I already have 2 missed shots in the past, while trying to grind the micros.

    This is my third (and I think final shot). I have been playing pretty tight, with occasional tilts that cost me quite a pretty penny.

    But now, with my latest try, I am reaaally trying to control this thing.

    Problem is, I just ran a report on PT4 (trial) and notice something bad... really bad.

    My stats go as follows: on a 6215 hands sample, I have lost overall 25.56$. Sounds like I am a crappy all around player, right? My overall VPIP is 30 and PFR 17 (needs improvement, probably). BUT. There's a big BUT.

    On the positional report, I look as follows:
    BTN: +$4.05
    CO: -$9.64
    MP: +$0.50
    EP: +$2.57
    BB: -$23.56
    SB: +$0.42

    Sounds like I kinda suck and get involved in too many pots out of position from the big blind, right? Not really. Upon further inspection, I can see that my C Won w/o Blind is actually -$1.36...

    This still doesn't make me a winning player, it looks like I still tend to overplay the CO. But wow, what the hell? I am leaking TONS of money from the big blind by not playing the hands.

    I have been playing 6 max (both regular as well as SNAP - moved to 888 from PS according to your suggestion in the article regarding sites to play).

    Now: could you please advice as to what should I do to counter this MASSIVE leak? This is clearly killing my winrate! In all fairness, this was an actual shock. I was expecting to see that I am an overall sucky player and that most likely I should quit this game. But this threw me off quite a bit. Can't really understand how can I loose so much money from the BB and have no clue how to counter it.

    Sure, the logical answer here is to 3bet more often, but I find this very hard to do, taking into account the sucky hands that I am forced to fold to a BTN open or maybe even EP or MP.

    I am thinking that perhaps one option would be to switch to FR and stop playing the SNAP/ZOOM format (going to start trying out the table selection as well, so far I have only went for tables with high VPIP and large average pots, going to start sniping for that Jesus Seat soon).

    Again, thank you very much for all your effort. My plan is that as soon as I turn a profit to buy your material to support you (I know it doesn't mean much to you, but it's for offering my share of support to the awesome work you're putting in this).

    Thank you you very much for a potential answer. I wish you a great evening!

    1. Hi Dan, thank you very much for the kind words and I wish you all the best at the tables in 2017. I hope you can understand that with the amount of comments, emails etc. that people send me, I just can't possibly reply to questions of this length.

    2. Sorry, I didn't even realize how big of a post it turned out to be.

      In short: ran a positions report on PT4. Noticed that I am loosing -$23.56 from the BB (out of a total -$25.56). Upon further inspection, noticed that my C Won w/o Blind is actually -$1.36 (from the BB). Meaning I am leaking A TON of money by not playing the BB or folding to too many bets. I am playing 6 max (normal and Snap on 888).

      How can I counter this? I 3bet sometimes, but it seems nearly not enough. Maybe switch to FR?

    3. This is a question that I could only answer by having an in depth look at your database and referring to specific hands. Anything I say here otherwise would be pure speculation. It is important to note however that everybody loses in the blinds in poker, even at the very lowest stakes.

    4. Yeah, I understand. Anyway, I think it's pretty clear. I just suck. I can't manage to beat the micros. I tried all possible strategies. I just can't.

      Tried to table select, tried to play very aggressive. Sometimes I make a bad play and most of the times, even if I have them when the chips go in, they river the best hand.

      Thank you for your time.

    5. And even when I have the nuts, nobody will ever pay a dime. Ever!

    6. Hey Dan, just because you haven't had success yet doesn't mean you "suck." Poker is a very complex game and unfortunately variance alone can often play a big role over large sample sizes. If you are using a simple solid strategy like I discuss all the time on this blog, in my books and elsewhere and play against bad players, there is no reason why you can't turn a profit at the lower stakes.

  15. Great Advice Nathan much love, Hope The weather and Women are treating You nice take care . . . -D1G1TALFOX

    1. Thanks David and I hope you are doing well also! :)

  16. Hi Nathan

    Just wanted to reach out and say thanks for your great site. As a long time blogger and educator in another field, I know exactly how much goes into this kind of thing. And, as you mention along the way, how many opportunities and new friends it can bring. I've not yet started a personal learning blog since picking up the poker bug, but you never know...

    I recently signed up for online poker and the 2NL game simply because I wanted to learn and play poker for my mental and spiritual development. Having tried a few other options (including Zynga, man that isn't even poker!) , it seemed like I'd only get on putting some cash down for my education so I deposited $50 and made a start.

    After hundreds of hands, I can say that I've learned a lot so far. In fact, the -$5 revenue that I currently 'enjoy' was a really good value way to get lessons learning. Actually, I'd say 99% of that 5 dollar loss was 'profitable' in that it was incurred (along with plenty of pot wins) while I tried to push to find the limits of certain decisions - and I found plenty. Certainly worth the outlay.

    So far, it's not so much that the game or the regs that are beating me - more that I'm beating myself with decisions that I know deep down are whack but I want to try them anyway. I guess it's the best way I learn for me - make a mistake. Once. Make a different mistake next time.

    Perhaps the next time I buy-in, I might resolve to not blow my stack profit on another test and actually leave the table ++. More TAG, less ManiAG. :-) Or get bored waiting for really ponderous player decisions in a frankly easy spot and fire up other tables. Not sure I learn a lot with multiple tables right now.

    Anyway, the only big issue I have right now is that I play in the evenings and leave the tables to go to bed at 10pm, only to find that my brain is so wired I can't sleep. Maybe I need to find another time slot hehe.
    Best wishes and thanks again

    1. Sorry just saw this, glad I could help Rob!

  17. Perfect. Thanks man