5 Insanely Useful Poker Tips for Beginners (2024)

5 Insanely Useful Poker Tips for Beginners

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

Learning the winning poker strategy can be daunting for new players. With so much information out there, it’s hard to know where to even start.

If you want to improve your poker game, but don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will show you 5 best poker tips especially aimed at beginners.

By following these tips, you will see an immediate improvement in your poker results.

Let’s get right into it.

Beginner Poker Tip #1: Only Play Strong Starting Hands

If you want to improve your poker game quickly, the best way to start is to simply play less hands.

In fact, one of the most common amamteur poker mistakes is playing too many hands.

In poker, only about 20% of all starting hands are likely to be profitable long term winners.

This includes pocket pairs, suited Aces, suited connectors, and strong broadway hands.

If you want to know exactly which hands to play from each table position, make sure to grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

There are a few key reasons why you should only play strong starting hands in no-limit hold’em:

a) most hands miss most flops

In no-limit hold’em, hands miss the flop completely 2 out of 3 times. And since you have to pay money every time you see the flop, the more flops you see, the more money you’re going to lose over the long run.

This means you should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some meaningful way.

Bear in mind that trash hands connect with the flop even less often than two out of three times, and even if they do, you aren’t likely to make up for all the times they miss completely.

Examples of trash hands: 




Check out my other article on the 4 bad poker hands you should absolutely avoid playing.

b) you will make stronger post flop combinations

In poker, most of the money you’ll earn will come from spots where you have a strong hand, and your opponent has a weaker hand that’s willing to pay you off.

And it’s a lot easier to make a strong value hand post flop if you only play strong starting hands to begin with!

So it’s better to only play hands that have a decent chance of smashing to flop than playing just about any random hand and hoping to get lucky.

To smash the flop means to make a very strong combination on the flop, like two pair or better.

c) your hands will dominate your opponents

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

That’s because your hand will often dominate your opponent’s hand post flop.

A dominated hand is the one that’s unlikely to win against a stronger hand, due to the inferior kicker.

A kicker is the card in your hand that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can often determine the winner if both players have the same combination.

For example, if both players have a pair of Aces, the player with the stronger kicker wins the pot.

You always want your hand to dominate your opponent’s, instead of the other way around.

Since the most common hand combination you’ll make in no-limit hold’em is one pair, having a good kicker can often mean the difference between winning and losing a hand.

So you should avoid playing hands with weak kickers, because they can often get you in trouble post flop.

For example, let’s say you are dealt a hand like A2.

This is the type of mediocre poker hand you should avoid playing altogether.

A lot of amateur poker players will play just about any Ace in the hopes of catching a top pair post flop.

But even if you make a top pair, you’re still potentially losing to all the other Ax hands, since you have the weakest possible kicker.

Bottom line: By only playing strong starting hands, you are automatically giving yourself a mathematical advantage over players who will play just about any random two cards.

Learn more about this in my new video on the 5 basic poker strategies every beginner needs to know.

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Beginner Poker Tip #2: Play Most Hands in Position to Get an Edge

Playing in position is just about the biggest advantage you can have at the felt, short of actually seeing your opponent’s hole cards.

Playing in position means being the last player to act in a betting round.

Here’s why playing in position is such a huge advantage:

a) you have an informational advantage over your opponents

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

By being the last to act, you get to see what your opponents did, and they have no idea what you are going to do.

b) you can control the size of the pot

If you’re the last to act, you get the final say at the size of the pot. 

If you have a strong hand, you can bet or raise to inflate the pot size, and if you have a mediocre or a drawing hand, you can call or check behind to keep the pot size smaller.

c) you can bluff more effectively

Since it’s harder to play out of position due to the informational disadvantage, players will be less likely to fight back for pots. This means you can push them out of pots more easily with a well-timed bluff.

Of course, you should be careful when trying to bluff recreational players, since they like to call a lot.

In poker, the money always flows from the players playing out of position to players playing in position.

This is why it’s actually impossible to win money over the long run when playing from the blinds.

Check out my article on how to play from the blinds for much deeper dive on this.

When you’re playing in the blinds, you will always play out of position (the only exception is when you’re playing in the big blind against the small blind).

So when playing in the blinds, your goal is not to win money, but to lose as little as possible, then make up the difference by playing in position.

So how does playing more hands in position look like in practice?

You simply open-raise more hands from the late table positions (namely the cutoff and the button), and open-raise less hands in early table positions.

When you’re playing on the button in particular, you will always have the positional advantage post flop.

That’s why the button will be your most profitable seat by far.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

When playing in earlier table position, you should be more selective with the hands you play, since it’s less likely that you will get to the flop in position.

As you get closer to the button, you can gradually expand your open-raising range.

When playing on the button, you can often get away with playing an insanely wide range, especially if you have weak players left to act in the blinds.

You can use the positional advantage to apply a lot of pressure on your opponents post flop, meaning you often don’t need a particularly strong hand to play it profitably.

The blinds are a different story, though.

As mentioned, you can’t expect to make money from the blinds over the long run.

However, this doesn’t mean you should fold every hand that’s dealt to you in the blinds.

If you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable to getting exploited by players who will steal your blind every chance they get.

This means you need to defend your blinds from time to time, while keeping the positional disadvantage in mind.

For more, see the 5 insanely useful advanced poker strategies all today's top pros are using.

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Beginner Poker Tip #3: Play Small Stakes Cash Games to Start Winning Quickly

Poker games come in many different formats, so you need to choose the one that suits you the best.

The most popular and widespread poker formats are cash games and poker tournaments.

In poker tournaments, you buy in for a certain amount and keep playing until you lose all your chips, after which you are eliminated from the tournament.

The tournament ends after all the players are eliminated, and the blinds keep increasing every round.

This means you need to constantly keep your chip stack growing to prevent getting “blinded out” of the tournament.

Multitable poker tournaments are very popular because they have huge prize pools compared to the price of the buyin.

Also, these huge prize pools tend to attract a lot of recreational poker players, so the tournament games are arguably softer than poker cash games, for example.

However, this also means that there’s usually a huge player pool to go through to get to the prize money as well.

Also, the tournament cashouts are extremely top-heavy, meaning only the top 3 players earn significant sums, while the vast majority of players ends up losing.

Tournament poker also has a lot more variance built into the format, meaning you can go for long stretches without making any significant cashout.

Cash games, on the other hand, allow you to buy in for any amount you choose, and cash out any time you want.

So cash games are a lot more flexible than tournaments, and you can find the games running 24/7, especially if you play online.

There’s a variety of other poker formats to choose from, like sit-and-gos, spins, and so on, and different poker sites always seem to come up with new game formats.

Still, tournament poker and cash games remain the most popular, and arguably the most profitable formats.

As for which format you should play as a poker beginner, I would recommend choosing cash games over tournaments.

Here’s a few reasons to choose poker cash games as a beginner:

a) Cash games are the most convenient poker format

As mentioned, cash games allow you to buy in for any amount you want, play for as long as you want, and leave any time you want. You also get to schedule your own bathroom breaks.

Poker tournaments have a lot more rigid structure, and you often can’t know in advance how long a tournament is going to last.

Also, when you lose your chips in a tournament, you’re out. In cash games, you can always buy in again if you lose your chips.

If you want to improve at poker, the best way to do it is to practice effectively. Cash games allow you to put in a lot more volume and get more experience in shorter amount of time.

b) The blinds structure in cash games is always the same

In poker tournaments, the blinds are constantly increasing, meaning your chip stack gets progressively smaller over time.

This means that not only do you need to play well in order to win a tournament, you also need to have a particularly fortunate run of cards in a short time span.

Even if you’re the best player in the world, you won’t be able to win a tournament if the deck goes cold on you.

Also, tournaments usually have a lot shallower stack sizes than cash games.

While the standard cash game stack size is 100 big blinds, you would usually sit at only around 30 big blinds in tournaments.

This makes tournament poker arguably simpler than cash games, since there’s not as much post flop play involved.

The deeper the stack size, the more complex the post flop game becomes, since there’s a lot more manoeuvrability on the streets to come.

You might be more attracted to simpler post flop play as a beginner, but I would argue that it’s better to learn the ropes with deeper stack sizes.

If you start out with cash games and get comfortable with playing deep stacks, you will have less problems with switching to tournament poker down the line.

The opposite may not be the case.

That’s why it’s usually easier for cash game players to transition to tournament poker than the other way around.

c) It’s easier to win consistently at cash games

Finally, the most important reason I would opt for cash games over tournaments is the fact that it’s relatively easier to cash out consistently at cash games.

As mentioned, tournament poker has a lot more variance than cash games.

This means that you will usually come away empty handed when playing tournaments, and only cash out once in a blue moon.

Hopefully, the cashout can cover for all the previous buyins.

Poker tournaments have player pools of hundreds, if not thousands of participants, and you need to go through all of them to win.

Even if you’re the best player in the world, you’re still outnumbered.

So poker tournaments are a lot like the lottery.

All of the players have at least one ticket to win, and excellent players might have 5 or 6 tickets, but they’re still playing the lottery.

If making money at least somewhat consistently is your main goal, I would go for the cash games instead.

Making money from cash games is a lot easier if you practice proper game selection and bankroll management.

Tournaments might have heftier prizes, and this alone will swing a lot of players towards tournaments.

At the end of the day, you should choose the format that works best for you, depending on what you want from the experience.

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Beginner Poker Tip #4: Value Bet Relentlessly

We’ve covered the importance of only playing strong starting hands and playing most of them in position. 

Now let’s examine the third component of a successful tight and aggressive (TAG) strategy, and that is aggression.

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: winning poker is aggressive poker.

If you want to win big in poker, you need to be able to rake in big pots. And the best way to do this is to build them up yourself by betting and raising a lot.

This means entering most pots with an open-raise or a 3-bet, then continuing the aggression post flop by making continuation bets.

A continuation bet (or c-bet for short) is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.

For example, if you open-raise preflop and get called, you have the opportunity to make a c-bet on the flop.

When you bet or raise with a strong hand, this is known as value betting.

You are value betting every time your hand is strong enough to get called by a lot of weaker hands from your opponent’s range.

Most of the money you’ll make in poker will come from your strong value hands, so it’s important to learn to value bet effectively.

This ties into the importance of only playing strong starting hands preflop.

If you only play strong starting hands, you will be able to value bet more often, since your opponents will often call you with worse hands.

Also, if you play stronger ranges than your opponents, you will connect with the flop more often, meaning you can continue betting for value post flop.

Most of the time, however, you’re going to miss the flop completely, even if you only play strong starting hands.

When that happens, you can still consider making a c-bet on the flop.

That’s because your opponent is just as likely to have missed the flop as you. 

And since you are the preflop aggressor, you are perceived to have the strongest hand. This means you can often push your opponent out of the pot even if you missed the flop completely.

When you c-bet the flop with the intention of getting your opponent to fold, this is known as a light c-bet (or a bluff c-bet).

Light c-bets are especially effective against opponents who love to see a lot of flops, but tend to give up pretty easily if they don’t connect (which is most of the time).

When players play in such a manner, this is known as playing “fit-or-fold”.

Against these players, you can generate a lot of profit by c-betting quite often, regardless of whether or not you connected with the flop yourself.

Check out my other article on the correct flop strategy for a much deeper dive.

If you’re playing against recreational players who aren’t too keen on folding, on the other hand, you’re better off mainly betting for value.

Beginner Poker Example Hand #1

You are dealt AK in the CO (cutoff). You open-raise to 3x. Villain calls from the SB (small blind).

Pot: 7 BB



Villain checks.

You: ???

You should c-bet 3.5 BB.

This is a textbook spot for a light c-bet. Even though you missed the flop, you should still make a c-bet most of the time in a spot like this.

You have 6 overcards, since any Ace or any King on future streets will give you a top pair, top kicker.

You also have backdoor straight and flush draws.

A backdoor draw means you need both turn and river cards to complete your draw.

This means you have a lot of hand equity to fall back on in case your bet gets called.

Bear in mind that you actually might have the best hand here, since the board is very dry.

This means your opponent is quite likely to have missed the flop as well, and will often give up the hand if you bet here.

Beginner Poker Tip #5: Don’t Bluff Too Much at Lower Stakes

When you first start out playing poker, you are ideally going to be playing against players with similar skill levels.

If that’s the case, you should keep your bluffing to a minimum.

A lot of amateur poker players think that winning poker is all about pulling off huge, daring bluffs while holding absolute air.

While bluffing certainly is a crucial part of any advanced poker strategy, it’s worth noting that bluffing excessively when you’re first starting out is not the most effective strategy.

Instead, most of the money you’ll win will come from your strong value hands.

The reason you shouldn’t bluff too much (or even at all) against recreational players is the fact that recreational players simply don’t like folding, and will often choose to call you down instead.

Remember, the point of bluffing is to get your opponent to fold, and if your opponents aren’t likely to fold, you’re better off not bluffing altogether.

Here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t try to bluff recreational poker players:

a) recreational players play for fun

Recreational players are here to play, and in their minds, folding is the opposite of playing.

They’re here to splash some chips around, not to watch someone else have all the fun.

b) recreational players love to chase draws

Recreational players are always hoping to get lucky and hit it big. So if they catch any remote piece of the board or any sort of a draw, they’ll usually chase it regardless of the price or the odds they’re getting on the call.

c) recreational players don’t care about the math

Similar to the previous point, recreational players don’t care about notions like pot odds, implied odds, or hand equity.

This means they don’t base their decisions on math and probabilities, but on emotions and gut feelings.

So they will often call you down when anything but folding makes very little sense. 

d) recreational players love to hero call

Recreational players are under the impression that everyone is out to bluff them all the time.

This is why they will often call you down with hands like Ace-high or similar nonsense.

Don’t prove them right. Save your bluffs for players who are actually capable of folding.

e) recreational players get irrationally attached to their hands

If a recreational player gets what they perceive to be a strong hand, they will often play it to the bitter end.

That’s because recreational players often don’t get the difference between absolute and relative hand strength.

Absolute hand strength shows how strong your hand is in the overall hand ranking system. For example, a flush is stronger than a straight.

Relative hand strength shows how strong your hand is compared to the board runout.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the difference.

Beginner Poker Example Hand #2

Let’s say you are dealt T9 and the board is:


On this board, you have the stone cold nuts, i.e. the strongest possible combination. There’s no way for you to lose the hand unless you misread it and fold it by accident.

Now, let’s look at a different board.

Let’s say you’re dealt T9 again, and the board is:


On this board, you also have a straight, so your absolute hand strength is the same. However, your relative hand strength is terrible.

Your opponent can beat you with a stronger straight if they hold KT, and there’s also a possible flush on the board.

Also, the board is paired, so your opponent could also have a full house.

So how does this relate to bluffing recreational players?

Simply put, recreational players will have a hard time folding something they perceive to be a strong hand (in absolute terms).

So you shouldn’t try to “represent” a stronger hand by bluffing.

Chances are, your bluffing attempts will simply go over their head, anyway.

If you want to learn how to bluff with nothing when you're card dead, check out my recent video.

5 Best Poker Tips for Beginners - Summary

If you’re a beginner poker player, you don’t need to learn a lot of advanced poker strategy to improve your game.

All you need to do is follow the basic tight and aggressive strategy, and you’re guaranteed to see improvements in your results.

Here are 5 best tips for complete poker beginners:

1. Only play strong starting hands

Most hands miss most flops in no-limit hold’em, so you should only play hands that have a reasonable chance of connecting with the flop in some meaningful way.

These include pocket pairs, strong broadways, suited Aces, and suited connectors. The rest is trash and should be thrown away.

2. Play most hands in position

By being the last to act in a betting round, you get an informational advantage over your opponents, you can control the pot size, and you can value bet and bluff more effectively.

To play more hands in position, simply open-raise more hands from late table positions (the cutoff and the button), and be more selective with hands you play from early table positions and from the blinds.

3. Play small stakes cash games

Cash games are arguably the best poker format for beginners because the blind structure is always the same and you can learn to play deep stack poker.

Cash games are also more convenient than tournaments and you can start winning relatively quickly with proper game selection and bankroll management.

4. Value bet relentlessly

In poker, most of the money you’ll make will come from spots where you have a strong hand, and your opponent has a weaker hand that’s willing to pay you off. 

If you get a strong hand, don’t be afraid to value bet it heavily. You shouldn’t slowplay your big hands unless there’s a very specific reason to do so.

5. Don’t bluff too much against recreational players

If you’re playing against other beginner poker players, you should keep your bluffing to a minimum.

Bluffing is only effective against players who are capable of folding, which often isn’t the case when playing against recreational players.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan
Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

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.

5 Insanely Useful Poker Tips for Beginners