6 Highly Profitable Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

6 Highly Profitable Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know

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

Poker is an incredibly complex game beneath the surface, and learning all the intricacies can be daunting to beginner players.

Fortunately, learning the basic winning strategy is not too difficult, and everyone can do it with a bit of effort.

In this article, we’ll go over 5 essential poker tips every beginner should get familiar with.

Let’s get right into it.

1. Play Less Hands to Win More

The easiest way to quickly improve your poker results is to simply play less hands.

Playing too many hands is the most common mistake a lot of beginner poker players make.

Playing less to win more may sound counterintuitive at first, but hear me out.

In no-limit hold’em, most hands miss most flops (two out of three times, to be precise). 

This means that the more hands you play, the more often you will miss the flop, and lose more money as a consequence.

So you should only play strong starting hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some way.

poker starting hands

This includes broadway hands (i.e. the hands that can make the strongest possible straight, like AK or QJ), suited Aces, suited connectors and pocket pairs.

The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

Check out my other article on EXACTLY which hands to play preflop for more information on the topic.

Playing less hands has multiple benefits.

The first one is that you will play stronger hands on average than your opponents. This means that you will make stronger combinations post flop more often, and win more money as a consequence.

Secondly, your hands will dominate your opponents’, instead of the other way around.

A dominated hand is the one that is unlikely to win against a stronger hand due to an inferior kicker. So if you hold Ace-King, for example, you are dominating all the other Ax hands.

For context, AK is a 74% chance favourite to win against, say, AQ.

Another benefit of playing less hands is that you have more time to observe the action when you’re not directly involved in the hand.

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

And your ability to make quality decisions on the felt will depend on how much information you have about your opponents. The more info you have, the more informed your decisions.

And the best time to pick up on info about your opponents is when you’re not playing the hand. 

This gives you time to pay attention to your opponent’s betting patterns, action sequence, physical tells and so on.

This will also prevent any boredom you might feel while you’re waiting to be dealt the next hand.

This brings us to the main reason why most beginner players play too many hands in the first place, and that is boredom.

Playing poker is fun. Folding most of your hands is boring.

Unfortunately, playing poker for fun and playing poker to win are not the same thing.

Winning poker is not only about knowing which hands to play in which position. It’s also about patience.

If you play poker for fun, you can play just about any random hand that’s dealt to you. But you can’t expect to win any money that way.

If you want to be a profitable long term winner, you need to be willing to risk a bit of boredom for it. It’s a fair tradeoff, if you ask me.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just zone out and wait for a premium hand all day. Instead, use the downtime to observe the action and pick up on tells from your opponents.

If you play poker online, consider investing in a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4 to keep track of your opponent’s stats and find leaks in their game.

Check out Nathan's recent video on "big money" poker hands you should always play.

2. Don’t Play Suited Junk

Playing less hands means ditching the hands that may look playable, but are actually losing you money over the long run. This includes suited hands that don’t have great playability postflop, aka suited junk.

Examples of suited junk: 


One of the common amateur poker mistakes a lot of players make is playing just about any random suited hand just because it’s suited.

They do this in hopes of hitting a flush postflop and potentially taking down a huge pot.

But there are a number of problems with this approach.

The first and the most obvious problem is the fact that you simply won’t make a flush nearly as often enough to justify playing any suited hand.

In no-limit hold’em, the chance of flopping a flush with a suited hand is only about 1%.

Your chances of flopping a flush draw are better (about 11%), but this is also far from likely. 

And even if you do flop a flush draw, you still need to hit your outs on later streets, which doesn’t happen most of the time.

The chance of a flush draw completing on either turn or river is 35%.

By the way, you can quickly calculate the percentage chance of your draw completing by using the so-called rule of fours.

Rule of fours: simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4 to get a rough percentage chance of your draw competing from flop to river.

The rule of fours gets slightly less accurate the more outs you have, but it works well in most in-game situations.

If you have a flush draw on the flop, you have 9 outs, so by using the rule of fours, you’d get about a 36% chance of success, which is fairly close to the actual 35% chance of success.

If you want to know the chance of your draw completing on the next street (flop to turn or turn to river), you simply multiply the number of outs by 2 instead of 4.

There’s another problem with playing suited junk. Even if you do manage to hit a flush, you aren’t guaranteed to win the pot, because you might not have the strongest possible combination, aka the nuts.

When playing suited junk, you run the risk of your opponent having a stronger flush than you.

Let’s say you hit a flush with a hand like J3s. A flush is a relatively strong hand, but you can still lose to any suited Ace, King or Queen.

This means that you need to take the reverse implied odds into account when playing weak hands like these.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you stand to win if your hand improves on later streets. Reverse implied odds refer to the amount of money you stand to lose if your hand improves, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand.

Another problem with suited junk is the poor playability postflop. If you don’t flop a flush or a flush draw (which won’t happen most of the time), you will either miss the flop completely, or have a mediocre hand at best.

In practice, the most common hand combination you’ll make in no-limit hold’em is one pair. In this situation, your hand will often be in trouble due to a weak kicker.

Bottom line: suited junk has very poor playability postflop, since you won’t make a flush nearly as often as you might hope for.

So your best bet is to ditch these hands altogether, and play better hands that have a better playability, i.e. more than one way to connect with the flop.

For example, suited connectors can make straights as well as flushes, and suited Aces have an insane nuts potential.

When you have a suited Ace, you’re always drawing to the strongest possible flush, so you don’t have to worry about the reverse implied odds.

This is discussed in much more detail in Crushing the Microstakes.

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3. C-bet the Flop Often

Being the preflop aggressor gives you the opportunity to continue the aggression post flop.

This means that you have the opportunity to make a continuation bet (or c-bet for short) on the flop.

C-bets are usually profitable, and knowing when and how to c-bet the flop properly is the cornerstone of a successful tight and aggressive poker strategy.

As a preflop aggressor, you are the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand on the flop. This means that you are “expected” to lead out and keep betting postflop as well.

You can either c-bet the flop for value or as a bluff.

When you have a strong hand on the flop, you bet for value, hoping to get called by weaker hands.

When you don’t have a strong hand, you can c-bet as a bluff with the intention of getting your opponent to fold.

Whether or not you have a strong hand on the flop, you should get into the habit of c-betting the flop fairly frequently.

There are multiple reasons for this.

The first and the most obvious one is that you want to build up the pot if you have a strong value hand.

However, since most hands miss most flops in no-limit hold’em, you usually won’t have a made hand on the flop.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a c-bet anyway.

poker continuation bet

Chances are that your opponent has missed the flop anyway. And since you are the one that's perceived to have a stronger hand, you can often make your opponent fold right away.

Another reason to c-bet even if you don’t have a strong hand is to keep your opponents guessing. 

If you only c-bet with strong hands, your opponents will be able to play perfectly against you by simply folding anytime you c-bet, because they’ll know you have something to show for it.

By throwing an occasional bluff, on the other hand, you will constantly keep them guessing, and they won’t be able to put you on your hand as easily.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should c-bet with just about any two cards on any board.

Check out my other article on common flop c-betting mistakes to avoid for more info on the topic.

Also, balancing your c-betting range is not necessary against all opponent types.

Some players simply won’t care or pay attention to your betting patterns and frequencies, and trying to bluff them will just result in throwing your money away.

I’m talking about the recreational players here, aka the fish.

Recreational players tend to call a lot, regardless of their hand strength (or lack thereof), so trying to bluff them out of the hand can often backfire.

Against these players, you should keep it simple and bet heavily only if you are confident that your hand is ahead.

Save your bluffs for more skilled opponents who are paying attention and are actually capable of folding.

4. Don’t Tilt Away Your Winnings

Even if you follow all these tips to a tee, you still won’t win 100% of the time. Poker has a short-term luck element involved, meaning that the best player isn’t always going to win.

Even if you play perfectly, you can still lose for an extended period of time.

A lot of poker players have trouble coming to terms with this, but it’s absolutely crucial if you want to achieve any kind of success in this game.

It’s important to stick with the winning poker strategy, even if that strategy isn’t immediately producing results you may be hoping for.

Poker can be incredibly punishing, which frustrates a lot of players. This frustration often compromises their decision making and makes them prone to making mistakes, which leads to even worse results.

This is known as the poker tilt, i.e. negative emotions like anger and frustration that leads to suboptimal play.

The more you tilt, the more mistakes you’re likely to make, which causes you to lose more, get even more frustrated and so on.

Nobody likes losing, so nobody is completely immune to tilt. But at least being aware of the problem will help alleviate it to a degree.

As to how you should deal with tilt, there’s unfortunately no one single solution.

Everybody is different, and everybody has their own hangups to deal with.

But knowing how to manage your emotions is just as important as knowing which cards to play in which position.

Knowing the best advanced poker strategy isn’t going to mean much if you abandon it the moment your Aces get cracked, or you lose to a suckout.

To deal with tilt effectively, it’s important to recognize the impact of variance on your poker results.

Simply put, variance measures the difference between how much you expect to earn, and how much you actually earn over a certain period.

For example, if you bet on a coin flip 10 times, you would expect to win 5 times, since the chance of winning is 50:50.

If you win more than 5 times, you experience positive variance, and if you win less than 5 times, you experience negative variance.

People usually tilt when they experience negative variance, i.e. they expect to win, but they lose in some spectacular fashion.

This is obviously frustrating, but it’s a natural part of poker.

Variance can be brutal, but it’s also what makes poker exciting in the first place. It’s also what makes poker profitable, because it keeps the weaker players playing, despite the odds being against them in the long run.

To deal with variance, it’s important to recognize that poker is a long term game. In a single session, anything can happen, so you shouldn’t fret about how you’re running day to day.

As long as you put some effort into continually improving your game, you will do far better than most.

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5. Get Familiar With Poker Math

At its core, poker is a skill game pretending to be a luck game. The skill part is about making quality decisions based on all the available information.

At the end of the day, players who make better decisions will do better than those that make poor decisions.

If poker was purely a luck game, there would be no better or worse decisions, because every action would have an equal chance of success and failure.

In order to make better decisions, it’s important to recognize that poker is all about math and probabilities.

Poker math may seem daunting, but it’s no more complicated than what you would learn in grade school.

Figuring out poker math requires no more than the basic understanding of odds and percentages.

Some of the basic concepts you should know to make better decisions at the felt include:

a) Pot odds

b) Implied odds

c) Stack-to-pot ratio.

Let’s quickly go over them one by one.

a) Pot odds

In poker, pot odds refer to the ratio between the size of the current pot and the size of the bet you need to call in order to stay in the hand.

These odds can be used to determine whether or not it is mathematically profitable to call a bet based on the strength of your hand and the potential payout.

Calculating the pot odds is simple: you simply divide the pot size by the price of a call.

For example, if the pot size is $100, and the price of a call is $20, the pot odds are 5:1, because 100 / 20 = 5.

Once you know the pot odds, you can compare them to the odds of making your hand on future streets.

For example, if you have a flush draw with 9 outs, the odds of your draw completing are 4.22:1. This means that you’re getting favourable odds on a call, and you can continue playing the hand profitably.

Now, let’s say that the pot size is $100, and the price of the call is $50. Now you’re getting 2:1 pot odds on a call, meaning you can’t profitably call with your flush draw.

b) Implied odds

While the pot odds are exact, implied odds require a bit of guesswork. Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially earn on future streets if your hand improves.

For example, you may not have the correct pot odds to call, but the implied odds might make up for it.

Let’s say your opponent is very loose and aggressive. You figure that they’ll pay you off big time if your draw completes. In this case, it may be profitable to call despite not having the correct pot odds, because the potential payout is huge.

Check out my poker odds cheat sheet for more details about this topic.

c) Stack-to-pot ratio

Stack-to-pot ratio (or SPR for short) is a ratio between the effective stack size and the pot size. The effective stack size is the smaller stack of the players involved in the pot, because you can’t win more than what you put into the pot.

For example, if the pot is $20, and the effective stack size is $80, the SPR is 4, because 80 / 20 = 4.

SPR determines how committed you are to the pot, and how willing you should be to continue playing the hand. The smaller the SPR, the more committed you are to the pot.

If the SPR is very small (3 or less), you are automatically committed to the pot with a top pair hand or better.

Important note: SPR is a preflop and flop metric, meaning that if you are pot committed on the flop, you are commited the rest of the hand. Conversely, if you are not committed on the flop, you do not become more committed on later streets if you put more money into the pot.

Example Hand #1

Effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt AKs in the SB (small blind).

Villain open-raises to 3x from the CO. You 3-bet to 12x. Villain calls.

Pot size: 25 BB ♥♦♠♣

Flop: K94

Let’s calculate the SPR in this spot.

The effective stack size is 88, and the pot size is 25, so 88 / 25 = 3.52

In this spot, the SPR is relatively small, and you have a top pair top kicker hand. The flop is fairly dry, and you will have the best hand most of the time.

This means that you are pot committed, and you can try to ship the rest of your stack in fairly comfortably.

6. Don’t Bluff Too Much

If you are a beginner poker player, you will ideally play against other players with similar skill levels. This is why you shouldn’t bluff too often when you’re first starting out.

Bluffing may well be the most exciting part of poker, but if you’re playing against other recreational players, it may not be the most profitable strategy.

That’s because the point of bluffing is to get your opponents to fold, and recreational players don’t like folding, so trying to bluff them will backfire more often than not.

As mentioned, most recreational players tend to call too much, so the most effective strategy against them is to value bet them heavily.

You are betting for value when you have a strong hand and are looking to get called by weaker hands.

Conversely, when you are bluffing, you are trying to get stronger hands than yours to fold.

Only playing strong starting hands and value betting them relentlessly is the cornerstone of a successful tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy.

It is by far the most profitable way to play poker when you’re first starting out.

Knowing when and how to bluff is important, but there’s much more to it than having an unreadable poker face.

Check out my other article on how to bluff successfully for more info on this topic.

There are a couple of reasons why bluffing recreational players is usually a bad idea.

The first reason has to do with the fact that recreational poker players play for fun, and folding isn't fun.

Recreational players tend to overcall and stay in hands way longer than they should, so trying to push them out of the hand often won't work.

They also don't usually care about the math aspect of poker as much, so they will often chase bad draws despite the odds not being in their favour.

Finally, some recreational players tend to think everyone is out to bluff them all the time, so they enjoy calling their opponents down to "keep them honest."

There are a few exceptions where bluffing recreational players might work, though.

Some recreational players like to see a lot of flops, but tend to give up fairly easily when their hand doesn't connect with the flop in any way (which is most of the time).

In this case, you can often take down the pot with a simple c-bet. You can also make your c-bet size smaller to give yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio.

Check out my other article on everything you need to know about flop c-betting for more info on the topic.

6 Highly Profitable Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know - Summary

You don’t need to study a lot of advanced poker strategy to be a winning player. 

All you have to do is get familiar with some basic concepts and continually make sound decisions at the felt, and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.

To sum up, here are 6 beginner tips that you absolutely need to know to take your poker game to the next level.

1. Play less hands

You should only play strong starting hands that can connect with the flop in a meaningful way. This includes broadway hands, suited Aces, suited connectors, and pocket pairs.

The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

2. Don’t play suited junk

You won’t make a flush nearly as often enough to justify playing suited junk hands. These hands are more trouble than they’re worth, so it’s best to ditch them altogether.

3. C-bet the flop often

Being the preflop aggressor gives you the opportunity to make a c-bet on the flop. C-bets are usually profitable, and you should c-bet with a high frequency unless there’s a really good reason not to.

4. Don’t tilt

Poker can be frustrating, so knowing that you aren’t guaranteed to win even if you play perfectly is a must. Losing from time to time is inevitable when you play poker, so the best you can do is to come to terms with it and keep making good decisions.

5. Get familiar with poker math

Poker is essentially the game of odds and probabilities, so being familiar with basic poker math concepts is crucial if you want to achieve success in this game.

Fortunately, it’s no more complicated than what you learn in grade school, so there’s no excuse not to learn it.

6. Don't bluff too much

Bluffing is arguably the most fun aspect of poker, but resist the urge to bluff too much, especially against recreational players.

Save your bluffs for opponents who are paying attention and are actually capable of folding.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

6 Highly Profitable Poker Tips Every Beginner Should Know