Learn Poker From Scratch in 2024 (Free Cheat Sheet)

Learn Poker From Scratch

People often ask me, if you wanted to learn poker from scratch, how would you do it? 

And specifically No Limit Texas Hold'em which is by far the most popular poker game these days.

Well, I think there are a number of clear paths to poker success that I would suggest for anybody who is looking to learn poker for the first time.

In fact, there is a very specific game-plan that I would suggest. And I am going to break it all down for you in this article step by step.

Also, make sure you read until the end because you can download a free copy of my poker cheat sheet, which has now helped over 100,000 people learn poker from scratch and start winning big.

Alright, let's get into it!

1. Learn Poker From Scratch - Start With Play Money or Freerolls

Now, my first suggestion for learning poker from scratch might seem a bit odd to some people but please hear me out!

I would actually suggest that you start with play money (also known as fake chips) at any online poker site. Yes, zero monetary value. It's basically like playing poker with monopoly money.

Almost all online poker sites allow you to play for free without having to risk anything.

They also have freerolls which are basically tournaments where it costs nothing to enter but if you win, then you will profit a small amount of real money.

There is one other popular option too. You can play Zynga poker for free on Facebook.

I would personally rather play on an actual online poker site for free, but hey, this is an option that might appeal to some people also.

Now, the reason why I suggest starting out playing poker for fake chips is because as a beginner you need to learn the rules of the game without any pressure.

If you step right into a real money poker game without even knowing the rules, you are probably going to lose.

Trust me on this one!

So just go create a free account at any of the big online poker sites and start playing. It is pretty easy to learn how the betting rounds go in poker: preflop, flop, turn and river.

Basically everybody is dealt two cards face down and your goal is to make the best 5 card poker hand. And the best way to learn is by simply playing for free.

You also want to learn what the blinds are and how they work. The blinds in No Limit Hold'em are basically just forced bets that everybody has to make once in awhile in order to get the action going.

Because two people are forced to put in some money before seeing their hand each time (small blind and big blind), this creates a pot immediately and encourages competition.

Lastly, don't even worry if you win or lose. Again, all you need to be focusing on right now is learning the rules of the game.

2. Learn What Hands Beat What

The next thing you want to do to learn poker from scratch is to quickly study some charts so that you know what hands beat what.

By this I mean knowing that a flush beats a straight, three of a kind beats two pair and so on. This is something that you need to memorize if you want to be successful in poker.

There are tons of good charts available for free online that you can study. For example, here is a good poker hands charts from www.wsop.com

These are the 10 different types of poker hands that you can make, ranked from best to worst. A royal flush is always the best hand possible and high card is always the worst type of hand you can make.

How to Learn Poker From Scratch

Make sure you study this chart and memorize what hands beat what. Print it out and tape it to the wall as you play fake money poker if you need to.

It's actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. This is why it is important to learn while you play with fake money when you are first starting out.

I am a big proponent of applied learning in poker. In other words, learning poker through direct experience is always the best!

If you want more help in understanding the hand values in No Limit Hold'em, I would suggest studying a good free poker guide.

This will quickly give a poker beginner or somebody struggling at the the lower stakes a strong foundation to understand how to play better their hand better on the flop, turn and river.

3. Learn a Basic Strategy for Real Money Poker Games (TAG)

The next step to learn poker from scratch is to start studying a basic strategy to beat real money games. Because remember, the goal of poker is to win money!

By the way, check out my latest video for my top 5 best poker games for beginners.

I know it might sound a little funny, but profit is basically the scoreboard we use in poker. The guy (or girl) who won the most money is the best/winner/champion etc.

So you should only play the fake money games in the beginning while you are learning the basic rules of the game and memorizing what hands beat what.

This should probably only take you a week or two even if you are only playing poker part time. Once you are ready, it is time to try the real thing.

So once you get these fundamentals down, then you will want to start playing some low stakes cash games, tournaments or sit and gos.

There will be more on the main differences between these poker game formats in the next section by the way.

You can find these games though at almost any online poker site or even at the brick and mortar casino that probably exists somewhere near where you live.

You can also play in home games with friends. This is actually how I initially learned how to play poker. $5 poker games with my buddies over a few beers!

Now, there are tons of good basic poker strategy guides available out there these days but I always recommend my free poker "cheat sheet" for all beginners.

This 57 page little free guide teaches you my complete basic strategy for how to beat low limit poker games at every stage from preflop to the river.

You will learn:
  • What hands to play
  • When to re-raise
  • When to bluff
  • When to make a tough fold
  • When to make a big call
  • How to find the fish
  • How to read their poker hand
  • How to keep yourself from tilting

And tons more.

Basically what you are going to learn in this free poker guide is what is called a TAG (or tight and aggressive) play style. This is the #1 poker strategy for beginners in my opinion.

And these are actually the exact same strategies that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro by the way.

In fact, I wrote this free little poker guide to show you how I created some of the highest winnings in online poker history at the micro stakes (the lowest limits).

How to Learn Poker From Scratch

And I purposely made it 100% free so that everybody could quickly learn how to play poker from scratch without having to invest in expensive training or coaching.

Over 100,000 people have read my free poker guide now and quickly learned how to start consistently winning at low stakes poker.

Enter your details below and I will send you my free poker cheat sheet right now.

4. Start Playing Low Limit Real Money Poker Games

Ok, so you have learned the basic rules of how poker works by playing fake money poker games. You have also studied a few charts so you know what hands beat what.

And you have also studied my free poker strategy guide above. Therefore, you understand the fundamentals of how to play a good TAG poker strategy.

So what's next?

Well, now it is time to step up to the plate and start playing poker for real money.

Now if you choose to play online poker then most poker sites have very low limit poker games where you can play for as little as $1 or $2.

Since this is a very small amount of money for most people, this allows you to once again comfortably ease your way into learning poker.

I would highly caution against trying to play high stakes right away. This is a huge mistake that many poker beginners make, and they often end up paying for it dearly.

I would recommend depositing around $60 at a major online poker site and starting out in one of these super low limit games.

Don't worry, I will explain why exactly I recommend $60 in a bit below. What games should you play though?

Well, there are 3 main types:

1. Cash Games
2. Tournaments
3. Sit and Gos

Cash games are played with real money that you bring to the table (converted to chips to make it easier to handle), and the blinds always stay the same.

It's pretty simple stuff.

In tournaments and sit and gos though, everybody exchanges a real money "buy-in" for a specific number of chips which hold no monetary value.

Everybody's real money buy-ins are then pooled together and the person who wins all the chips at the end of the tournament will be awarded the biggest percentage of the real money prize pool.

This is why the biggest draw of large poker tournaments in particular is the opportunity to turn a very small amount of money into a very large amount very quickly (sometimes in the millions of dollars).

How to Learn Poker From Scratch

Should You Play Cash Games, Tournaments or Sit and Gos?

I would say that which one is best for you depends primarily on your personal preferences, goals in the game and which format you enjoy playing the most.

Some people like the consistent winnings of cash games while some people like chasing the big prize in a tournament. Sit and gos are kind of somewhere in the middle of these.

I think it is best to try them all out when you are first learning poker.

Here is a guide that I wrote which teaches you all the difference between cash games, tournaments and sit and gos in much more detail.

You will learn the pros and cons of each and then you can decide from there.

Lastly, if you want to play live poker games in a casino, then I would also recommend the low limit games where you can often buy-in at the poker table for as little as $50.

You will also usually find softer competition in live poker games. What I mean by this is less skilled players who are easier to beat.

The bottom line is that when you are learning poker from scratch, you need to start small. Don't jump into the higher stakes games too fast.

That's like jumping right into the deep end before you even know how to swim! Just take it slow and also find out which games you enjoy playing the most.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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5. Create Some Clear Bankroll Targets to Measure Your Poker Success

So as I suggested before, for online poker I would recommend depositing around $60 to start (explained below in a sec). This is what is called your poker bankroll by the way.

As this amount grows you will be able to slowly move up to higher limit games where your potential earnings increase dramatically.

For example, at the micro stakes which I focus on and also teach, my goal is always to get you consistently making $1000 a month from poker.

I think this is a solid basic goal that is achievable for most people within 6 months time.

Now what you want to do is set a series of clearly defined bankroll targets for when you will move up to the next stake.

This is how you progressively move up to higher stakes in poker where you have the potential to make a lot more money.

I always suggest keeping your poker bankroll target goals conservative especially when you are just learning poker for the first time.

So I would suggest that for online poker cash games you have at least 30 buy-ins for each limit before you play it.

How to Learn Poker From Scratch

So for example, the lowest limit cash game on many online poker rooms these days has a 1 cent small blind and a 2 cent big blind. And the maximum buy-in is $2 which is exactly 100 big blinds.

This is why I suggest that you deposit $60 initially if you are playing online poker cash games for example. Because $60 is exactly 30 buy-ins for the lowest limit on most poker sites.

By the way, if you want to take my advice and start playing these 1c/2c cash games first (also referred to as NL2), I recently wrote a massive step by step article on how to crush NL2 poker games.

So once you turn your initial $60 into $150, then you can move up to the next cash game limit with 2c/5c blinds and a $5 maximum buy-in. This is also called NL5.

After that, your next step is the 5c/10c blind cash games which is also called NL10. I think you get the point.

Here are the bankroll recommendations that I suggest for all low stakes online cash games. This is exactly 30 buy-ins for each limit.

Please remember that these are just the minimum amounts suggested though. A bigger bankroll is always a much better idea.
  • NL2 - $60
  • NL5 - $150
  • NL10 - $300
  • NL25 - $750
  • NL50 - $1500
  • NL100 - $3000

In fact, as a professional poker player I can tell you that I always have much more than these amounts in my bankroll when I play these games.

I prefer the peace of mind of knowing that no matter how many brutal ups and downs I go through (which you will endure also), that my bankroll is easily able to withstand it all.

Now, if you choose to play poker tournaments or sit and gos then you will want to be even more conservative with your bankroll requirements.

I would recommend having at least 100 buy-ins in your bankroll for tournaments or sit and gos.

And remember once again that this is just the bare minimum. I always recommend having more than this if you can. And this is because the swings (ups and downs) of poker can be absolutely brutal sometimes.

And in tournaments or sit and gos the swings are especially vicious. You will often go weeks or sometimes even months without any sort of significant win at all. This is why I suggest a bigger bankroll compared to cash games.

But the good thing is that you can often find poker tournaments or sit and gos online with a buy-in of as little as 50 cents.

Keep in mind that if you play live poker, you will need a bigger bankroll because casinos simply do not offer such low limit games. This goes for both cash games and tournaments or sit and gos.

6. Be Prepared for the Highs and Lows of Poker

Now one of the biggest hurdles you are going to have to overcome as a poker beginner learning the game from scratch is not getting too disappointed by a lack of early success.

In fact it doesn't matter whether you are a beginner or a world class pro, you are always going to face prolonged periods of adversity in this game.

And that I mean losing.

In my hugely popular "10+ years as a poker pro" post I talked about some of my most ruthless downswings (losing streaks) and how I almost quit the game entirely on many occasions.

Poker is a tough, tough game if you want to survive over the long term. I want you to be prepared for that. Because there will be no words to explain the kind of craziness that this game will throw at you.

The biggest thing that you need to understand though is that poker is a long term game. It can often take months or sometimes even years for the mathematical skill aspect of the game to get sorted out.

Also, since you are brand new to the game you will also be at a disadvantage versus other more higher skilled players.

This is why I would also suggest watching my 4 part video series on YouTube which I specifically made for poker beginners.

Part #1 is below.

And make sure you are subscribed to my poker YouTube channel because I release new videos just like this one teaching you how to crush the small stakes poker games every week.

It is also very important that you learn from your mistakes along the way. This is why I highly suggest reviewing your poker hands after each session.

You can use a program like PokerTracker if you play online. And I would suggest reviewing all of your big and medium sized losing hands.

Within the software itself you can set filters for your losing hands. I usually review all hands where I lost 50bb (big blinds) or more, after every single session.

And I am always asking myself one simple question: "Could I have lost less money in this hand?"

Because in poker there are simply going to be situations where you are destined to lose money when you have a really, really good 2nd best hand.

So the only question is did you lose the minimum?

Now you are also going to face "bad beats" in poker. This is when you actually had the best hand but they just got lucky and hit a miracle card against you.

This will also happen frequently in poker and it is very important that you know how to deal with bad beats and not start tilting and playing badly.

I have coached over 100 students in the past in the low stakes games and tilt is without a doubt the #1 biggest problem that they had.

And honestly, it is the #1 reason overall why people do not have success in poker. This is where reviewing your poker hands after your session comes in.

If you had the best hand and they just got lucky against you, then you can move on and not worry about it. Because like I said, the math always sorts this stuff out over the long run.

The way you win at poker is by consistently getting your chips into the pot with the best hand (the mathematical favorite).

Now while it is true that you will get unlucky sometimes in the short run, if you consistently get your money in as a statistical favorite, then you will always win in the long run, when it actually matters.

It is important that you know this and truly understand this right now when you are just starting your poker journey.

Because this is how you will learn to not take it so personally when they inevitably get lucky against you again and again.

Most people do not ever come to terms with this very simple fact about the game and that is why they will never succeed at poker. Don't let it happen to you as well!

7. Additional Study to Speed Up Your Poker Learning Curve

Another thing that I would recommend if you are trying to learn poker from scratch is to keep working on improving your game.

While you can learn a ton about poker and improve quickly by simply playing a lot of hands, sometimes it helps to get a little bit of help along the way as well.

Luckily, there are more top notch poker learning resources specifically aimed at beginners and novices available these days than ever before.

For example you can learn from some of the best poker players in the world like Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey. Both of them have new poker "Masterclass" training programs.

I have studied them both and I think they are excellent for both poker beginners and many experienced players.

Learn poker from Daniel Negreanu

You can enroll in Daniel Negreanu's new poker Masterclass right here.

You can enroll in Phil Ivey's new poker Masterclass right here.

8. Advanced Poker Training

What about if you are already a veteran at the poker tables though and you want to improve your poker skills with something a bit more advanced?

Another excellent video based poker training system I recommend is my new BlackRain79 Elite Poker University.

This is the most advanced cutting edge training course available today with 17+ hours of video lessons, hundreds of step by step example hands and dozens of "cheat sheets."

Learn Poker From Scratch in 2022

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9. Take it Slow and Just Have Fun

The last tip I have for you to learn poker from scratch is to just relax, take it slow and enjoy the game.

There is no pressure to move up the stakes super fast or become the next Daniel Negreanu. Poker is a game "that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master" as the famous saying goes.

Any time I find myself getting stressed out by poker because I am not winning as much as I would like, I take a step back and realize how amazing it is to be able to play this little card game and profit from it as well.

Because poker has honestly changed my entire life. It allows me to travel the world and create a total freedom lifestyle, working when I want and where I want from anywhere on earth.

Either from the beach.

Learn how to play poker for beginners

Or the big city.

Learn how to play poker for beginners

We are truly blessed to be able to play this little card game and make a part time income or even a full time living from it.

This is why it is important to always remember why you first started playing this game in the first place. Probably for the thrill of the big all-in or the big tournament score right?

Don't allow yourself to ever lose that feeling.

Don't let yourself get so stressed out over short term results like most people do. Because honestly, you just don't have much control over these.

The bad beats are simply going to happen. The coolers are going to happen as well. And I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it won't ever stop either.

Because the short term luck element is a crucial part of the game that allows the fish to keep giving away their money to you again and again.

If they weren't allowed to get lucky and beat you from time to time, then they would quit the game and go find some other hobby.

Always remember to have fun at the poker tables no matter how good or bad your results have been lately. Because you have no control over the short term madness.

You can choose to rise above it and play for your long term success though.

Final Thoughts

So can anyone learn poker from scratch these days and quickly start winning? Is it easy to get started and win at poker even if you don't know if a flush beats a straight yet?

Well, if you learn poker the right way from the start, and take a slow and steady approach, then I think you can get winning (at least at the lower limits), in a relatively short period of time.

If you are totally brand new to poker then I would recommend starting with play money or freerolls at any major online poker site. Both of these are fake chip games, no actual money is involved.

This will allow you to quickly learn the basic rules of the game without any pressure at all to win. Because if you lose a bunch of fake chips who cares right?

You should also study a few charts that can easily be found online in order to memorize what hands beat what in poker. You need to know for example that yes, a flush does always beats a straight.

Next you should learn a basic tight and aggressive (TAG) poker strategy system like I show you in my free poker cheat sheet.

This will help you immensely when you step into the low limit real money games that I discussed in this article.

This is my #1 recommended free learning tool for people wanting to learn poker from scratch (it has helped over 100k people now).

So make sure you grab your copy of my free poker cheat sheet today!

You can take the basic poker strategy that you will learn in this free guide to any low stakes poker games (either online or live) and you will start winning consistently.

But equally important to your poker success is the mental side of the game. For example, it is important not to get frustrated if you don't achieve immediate success right out of the gate.

Many poker newcomers will struggle versus higher skilled and more experienced players.

Also, you need to be prepared for a lot of short term bad luck in poker, "bad beats," "coolers" and the sort. Because they happen to everybody, yes even pros.

You want to stay focused on consistently getting the money in good (statistical favorite) and letting the math take care of the rest over the long term.

Lastly, perhaps the most important poker tip that I can ever give you is to just have fun! Poker is a crazy, crazy game full of countless ups and downs.

It is important to always remember to have fun and enjoy yourself no matter how much you are winning or losing lately.

You can't control all the short term madness that this game will throw at you. You can control your reaction to it though.


Let me know in the comments below if you are learning poker from scratch. 

What is the #1 struggle you are having so far at the poker tables? Or if you are already winning big, then feel free to brag about it in the comments as well!

How to Learn Poker From Scratch


  1. i think nlh is the most basic fundamental type of poker (eventhough the growth seems end since past 10 years), anything like 5 card plo is just variance and shit shows lol.

    1. Hey Tom,

      Yup I agree NLHE is still dominant. Although it is nice to see some other games like PLO or even more recently, Short Deck Hold'em, gaining in popularity.

  2. Nice article! Excellent guide for beginners.

  3. I definitely think, it makes a lot of sense to start with play money games, until you have learned the very fundamental things like reading boards. So that you are not surpriced, when your flush lose on the river to a full house, or when your 44 lose to AQ on 99727, because you got counterfeited.

    I actually started on Zynga Poker, and that I will not recommend. It was absolutely shitty software, and the site was also full of colluders, bots and hackers trying to steal your chips, so they could sell them to other players at a lower price, than what Facebook charge for them. It was also full of people trying to become your "buddy", so you could "send them chips" and spare them the cost of buying them.

    Yes crazy as it sounds, some people actually pay for fake playing chips, and other people mainly from poor countries like Indonesia make a business out of selling these fake chips cheaper than the site itself. And rather than just winning them on the table, they resor to all sorts of cheating to get those precious chips from you.

    It was an absolute mad-house, and even though this is several years ago, I would be surpriced, if it has changed that much since. So just open an account on a real money poker site and go to the play money tables there. Even just the software is so much better.

    1. Hey Lars,

      That is hilarious. I actually started my poker career playing with fake chips also, although on poker sites, not zynga. I actually got my first bankroll by selling all the fake money chips I had made at the poker tables haha. It's big business these fake money chips! :)

    2. With hindsight I wish, I had sold my Zynga chips as well. I ended up getting banned from the site, and at that point I was one of the chip leaders. Guess this is also, why so many people went after me. Someone even went as far as to open fake Facebook accounts in my name in an attempt to get my password out of my friends or family LOL.

      Actually its not even true, I started on Zynga. My first experience with Poker was on Full Tilt back in 2006. It did not last long though, but somehow I managed to withdraw a small winning, even I had not read any strategy articles, and I was clearly playing like a fish. But I guess, online poker was just really soft back then.

      On Zynga I learned to play a basic TAG strategy, and after that it was no problem beating real money micro games as well.