The 4 Best Poker Games for Beginners (2024)

The Best Poker Games to Play As A Beginner
This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker games come in many shapes and sizes, and the number of poker formats and variations keeps expanding.

With so many formats to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which format to play, especially for beginner poker players.

This article will show you the best poker games to play as a beginner.

Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list by any means, and the format you choose will depend on your individual preferences.

With that in mind, let’s get right into it.

Best Beginner Poker Game #1: $1/$2 Live Cash Games

If you’re a poker beginner, one of the best games to start honing your skills is low stakes cash games at your local casino.

Live cash games are a beginner friendly poker format with affordable buyins, and most casinos offer cash games with a blind structure of $1 and $2.

The maximum table buyin is usually $200, meaning 100 big blinds, but you can usually buy in for less.

Even though most casinos offer a minimum buyin of less than 100 big blinds, I would still advise to always buy in for the maximum table amount.

There are a few reasons why you should always buy in for the table maximum.

First of all, if you buy in for less than the table maximum, it gives off a message that you are not really confident in your playing abilities.

A lot of recreational poker players buy in for the minimum table amount because they are afraid of losing their whole buyin.

But this is usually the wrong approach.

When you play poker, losing some money is inevitable. This is just the nature of the game, so you should be comfortable with losing your whole stack at any given moment.

Even though you theoretically stand to lose less when you buy in for less, you are also limiting your winning potential.

For example:

Let’s say you are dealt pocket A♥️A♦️, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

Another player open-raises, you re-raise, and the open-raiser shoves all-in.

You snap call, and your pocket Rockets hold up. Congratulations, you just doubled up.

If you had $40 in your stack, you won another 40.

But if you had $200 in front of you, you would have won $200 instead (minus the rake, of course).

If you are still not confident in your playing abilities, you can buy in for less than the table maximum, of course.

But this can often make you a target as soon as you sit down to play.

Other more experienced players may pick up on your buyin amount, and they may start targeting you by betting and raising you at every opportunity.

So you are not necessarily making your life easier if you buy in for less.

In fact, it may just be the opposite.

Another reason to buyin for a full amount is to get comfortable with playing deep stack poker.

The deeper the effective stack sizes, the more complex the game becomes, but you also stand to win a lot more.

Having a deep stack allows for more manoeuvrability post flop, which means you can learn the mechanics of post flop play a lot faster.

When you’re first starting out with poker, your main objective should be to learn as much as you can about the winning poker strategy for small stakes like $1/$2.

And the best way to learn new skills is to apply them in practice. 

You are bound to make a lot of mistakes on the way, but it’s all part of the learning process.

If you’re still not totally comfortable with buying in for the full amount, you can try playing poker online. On most online poker sites, you can buy in for as little as $2.

Or you can try other formats like multitable tournaments or sit-and-gos instead.

Still, I would argue that low stakes cash games are the best format to learn a successful tight and aggressive strategy and start winning relatively quickly.

That’s because the blind structure is always the same, and you can play for as long as you want and quit whenever you want.

This makes cash games more convenient than multi-table tournaments, for example.

Also, you are likely to encounter a lot of other recreational poker players in low stakes cash games.

This means you will play against a lot of players with similar (or lower) skill level than you.

Most recreational players at $1/$2 cash games don’t put any effort into improving their game, and they don’t read strategy articles like this one.

In fact, a lot of them don’t even see the point in trying to improve, because they believe poker is all about luck in the first place.

These players can be easily beaten with a simple tight and aggressive strategy and a bit of patience.

Check out my recent video for much more by the way on how to crush $1/$2 games.

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Best Beginner Poker Game #2: NL2 Online

Arguably the most convenient and affordable game for complete beginners is low stakes online cash games.

If live cash games are too cost prohibitive for you, or you don’t have any local casinos nearby, you can try online cash games instead.

On most online poker sites, you can buyin for as little as $2. 

This is known as NL2, and if you’re a complete poker beginner, I would advise to start playing at the very lowest stakes.

Buying in for only 2 dollars may seem a trivial amount of money, and fair enough.

But this is exactly the reason why NL2 is a great place to start playing poker, and even start winning relatively quickly.

If you’re a poker beginner, you can expect to lose money when you first start out, so it’s best to play in games with limited downside while you’re learning the ropes.

If you attempt to play higher stakes as a beginner, you are practically guaranteed to lose money.

That’s because there’s a big relative skill difference between online poker players and their live counterparts.

For example, if you play a $1/$2 cash game at your local casino, you will likely be playing against a lot of other recreational players.

But if you play online cash games with the $1/$2 blinds structure (this is known as NL200), you will encounter a lot of skilled regulars, and even full time professional poker players, with very few recreational players around.

If you want to play in games that correspond to the skill level of your average $1/$2 live cash game player, you would need to play NL2 or NL5 online (i.e. games with the buyins of $2 and $5).

It may seem like “playing for pennies” is a waste of time, but it’s important to understand that online poker is a different beast than live poker.

The biggest difference is the fact that you can play multiple tables at a time when playing online, which simply isn’t possible in live cash games.

Online poker also plays a lot faster than live games.

While you can expect to play around 30 hands per hour in live cash games, you can play as much as 100 hands (or even more at particularly fast tables) when you play online.

And that’s only if you play a single table. If you play multiple tables at a time, you can put in an insane amount of volume in a short time period.

This is one of the reasons why online poker sites can afford to offer games with buyin amounts that may seem trivial at first.

Of course, if you just want to gamble and have some fun, you can play any limit you’re comfortable with.

But if you want to win money over the long run, the best way to do it is to start at the lower stakes, and gradually work your way up as you gain more experience.

Another reason why I advise to start at NL2 is that it’s an inexpensive way to learn the basics of the winning tight and aggressive poker strategy.

The best way to learn something is to do it repeatedly, and playing NL2 allows you to practice more effectively due to the simple fact you can play a lot more hands than you could in your live brick and mortar casino.

And if you make any mistakes on the way, you only stand to lose 2 bucks at a time.

Finally, if you play NL2, you will encounter a lot of other beginner poker players who don’t really know what they’re doing.

This means you can start winning relatively quickly with the right approach.

This will give you the confidence and the experience to move up the stakes.

Poker is a game of skill, and the only way to win consistently over the long run is to play in games where you have some sort of a skill edge over your opponents.

So it doesn’t really make sense to jump in games where everybody plays better than you.

Decent regulars can recognize a recreational player a mile away, and they’re likely to run all over you when you’re first starting out.

This can be quite frustrating and discouraging, so it’s better to take it slowly at the beginning, and simply focus on learning and applying new concepts that will allow you to beat the games over the long run.

Check out my articles on how to beat NL2 and how to beat NL5 for a much deeper dive.

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Best Beginner Poker Game #3: Multi-table Tournaments

Another beginner friendly poker format you can try is multi-table tournaments (or MTTs for short).

In multi-table tournaments, you buy in for a specified amount and continue playing until you lose all your chips, and the winner of the tournament is the last player standing.

Multi-table tournaments have an insane upside potential due to the huge number of players they attract.

The more players involved, the better the payout structure. And multi-table tournaments often attract hundreds, if not thousands of players.

This means that winning a tournament can often mean winning quite a significant amount of money.

Tournament poker is also arguably simpler than cash games due to smaller effective stack sizes.

Smaller effective stack sizes means that the post flop decisions are more straightforward than in say, cash games with deeper stack sizes.

Also, multi-table tournaments attract a great number of recreational players, so the player pool is arguably softer than in some other poker formats.

However, the downside of poker tournaments is significantly higher variance than in cash games, for example.

In poker, variance is a measure of difference between your expected results and your actual results.

For example, if we flip a coin 10 times, you would expect to win 5 out of 10 times, since the chance of winning a coin flip is 50%.

If you win more than 5 out 10 times, you are experiencing positive variance. And if you win less than 5 out 10 times, you are experiencing negative variance.

This means that your poker results will be all over the place over the short term.

For example, if you have a win-rate of 4 big blinds per hundred hands, you can still lose money over the short run due to negative variance.

And MTTs have an insane amount of variance built into them.

This means that even professional poker players can go months, or even years before making a significant cashout.

Again, the silver lining is the fact that you only need to win big once to make up for all the losses.

The Best Poker Games to Play As A Beginner

But if your goal is to start making money at least somewhat consistently, you should probably consider other formats.

The reason there’s so much variance in MTTs is the fact that you are going up against hundreds or even thousands of players you need to beat in a limited amount of time.

Also, the blinds are constantly increasing, so you don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the nuts all day.

While waiting around for a strong hand can work in cash games, the same strategy would probably cause you to get “blinded out” in MTTs.

So in addition to being familiar with the latest advanced poker strategy, you also need a particularly fortunate run of cards to win the tournament.

Also, the payout structure is very top-heavy, meaning most of the money is awarded to top 3 places, then the amounts won fall precipitously.

So if you decide to play MTTs, you should always aim to win, instead of barely making it “in the money.”

Bottom line: multitable tournaments are a ton of fun and offer great potential cashouts, but it’s also quite difficult to cashout consistently due to a huge player pool and variance.

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Best Beginner Poker Game #4 Freeroll Tournaments

Finally, if you are strapped for cash, another poker format you can try is freeroll tournaments.

A lot of online poker sites offer daily or weekly freeroll tournaments as an incentive to play on their site.

These tournaments offer small cash prizes or serve as satellites to bigger tournaments with more generous cash prizes.

This is a great way to learn the ropes and hone your skills without risking any actual money.

They also attract a lot of recreational players, so the competition is likely to be very soft.

But like with other multitable tournaments, it can be hard to cash out consistently due to the huge player pool they are likely to attract.

Also, the blind structure in these tournaments usually increases very quickly, so there’s not much room to manoeuvre and outplay your opponents.

So winning tournaments like these often comes down to luck and having a particularly fortunate run of cards in a short period of time.

For these reasons, freeroll tournaments simply may not be worth the hassle.

When you take into account the amount of time it takes to complete them, they may not be the most time-efficient way to build up your bankroll.

But if you’re a complete beginner and aren’t quite comfortable with losing your hard-earned real dollars, they are a good way to learn the basics.

A number of online poker sites offer some benefits for signing up on their sites, including free tickets to tournaments.

Unlike other freeroll tournaments, these tickets might offer more generous payouts, so it’s worth shopping around and finding promotions that work for you.

However, like other tournaments, it can be challenging to actually cash out in them, due to the huge player pool they are likely to attract.

Check out my recent video for the 9 easy strategies every poker beginner needs to know.

The Best Poker Games to Play As A Beginner - Summary

If you’re a beginner poker player, you don’t need to learn a lot of advanced poker strategy to start winning quickly.

All you need to do is pick easy games that will allow you to hone your skills without risking a lot of money in the process.

To sum up, here are the best poker games to play as a complete beginner.

1. $1/$2 Cash Games

If you’re a poker beginner, the best place to start honing your skills is low stakes cash games. This usually means cash games with the blind structure of 1 and 2 dollars.

These games are full of recreational poker players, and can be easily beaten by following a simple tight and aggressive strategy. 

2. NL2 Online

If live cash games are too cost prohibitive for you, you can try online poker where you can buy in for as little as 2 dollars on most poker sites.

NL2 is the online equivalent of $1/$2 live cash games in terms of the skill level of the average player.

While the buyin amounts in online cash games may seem trivial, there’s also a big skill difference between online players and their live poker counterparts.

So if you try online cash games, start at the very lowest stakes and gradually work your way up as you build up your skill and your bankroll.

3. Low Stakes Multitable Tournaments

Multitable tournaments offer great payouts to winning players, but it’s hard to cash out consistently due to the insane level of variance built into the format.

Still, poker tournaments attract a lot of recreational players, so the player pool is likely to be softer than in cash games, for example.

Tournament poker is also arguably simpler than cash games due to shorter effective stack sizes and relatively simpler post flop play, so they may be a good choice for complete beginners.

4. Freeroll Poker Tournaments

If you’re strapped for cash, you can try freeroll tournaments while you’re learning the ropes.

Most online poker sites offer daily or weekly freeroll tournaments so you can practice without losing any real money.

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