Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams, the winningest micro stakes player of all time, gives you 14 insanely useful poker beginner tips. These are guaranteed to have you playing better and more profitably with your very next session.
Listen to Nathan Williams’ “14 Insanely Useful Beginner Tips” podcast #290
The 14 beginner tips below are a condensed version of Nathan’s original post from May of 2020 called “The 14 Best Beginner Poker Tips for 2020”. Printed here with Nathan’s permission.
Make sure you visit blackrain79.com right now and signup for his Free Poker Cheat Sheet and Newsletter (in the sidebar). You’ll thank Nathan for this cheat sheet, I guarantee it.
1. Be Selective With the Hands You Play
Playing subpar hands will often get beginning players into trouble. It will lead to situations where you make a good hand like top pair or even a flush, but somebody has a higher kicker or a better flush. Following the tight ranges below means you’ll be folding preflop between 80%-85% of the time, but this is how you gain a mathematical edge over weak players who play far too many hands.
2. Be Aggressive With the Hands You Play
This means that you want to come into the pot for a raise most of the time (every time when first to enter).
I would recommend making your raise 3 times the big blind in most games online.
Aggressively entering pots gives you control, making is much easier to win the pot after the flop because we will have the betting lead.
3. Play Against Bad Poker Players in 2020
One of the biggest keys to your success in poker will be playing in “soft” or “juicy” games that contain a lot of weaker players or “fish”.
These fish are playing far more than the top 20% of hands. Also, they will often be playing most of their hands in a passive way by just limping or calling raises preflop.
In poker, you will make most of your money against players like this because they are making big mistakes. It will be much more difficult to make a big profit against the solid regular opponents who play a tight and aggressive game.
4. Don’t Bluff Too Much
A big key for having success against bad or weaker poker players is to keep from trying to bluff them too much. The reason why is because these types of players like to call a lot with very weak hands.
If you were the preflop raiser, it’s OK to cbet the flop most of the time. But after that, if you get called, it is important to slow down on the turn and river if you have nothing. Being patient with the recreational players and waiting for a good hand is a big key to winning big at the lower stakes.
5. Make Lots of Value Bets
Building off of #3 and #4 above, because weaker players make lots of calling mistakes, we can bet more often for value with a wider range of hands. Fish who call too often are a huge source of your profits.
So against players who will call with hands as weak as bottom pair or ace high, you can make a value bet against them with hands like top pair or middle pair very often.
6. Play Within Your Bankroll
A poker bankroll is the total amount of money that you have set aside to play this game with.
I generally suggest having at least 20 buy-ins for the cash game that you are playing in ($50 buy-in game = $1,000 bankroll). SNG and MTT players should have higher bankroll requirements due to the increased variance in these formats. Variance is the natural ups and downs in poker.
7. Make Sure You Know the Poker Hand Rankings
If you are completely new to the game of poker, then it is very important that you learn the rules. Basically this means that you know “what beats what.”
You should know for instance that a flush beats a straight and a full house beats them both. It is best to simply memorize the rules.
8. Don’t Chase Draws Too Much
A big mistake that a lot of beginners make is paying too much for their draws or “chasing” as some might say. It is important to understand a little bit of basic poker math and know what your pot odds are.
Basically, you do not want to be calling with your draw if your hand odds are worse than your pot odds. Conversely, there are also many situations where you want to actually be raising with your draws instead because this can force weaker opponents to fold.
This is something that I talk about in Crushing the Microstakes (Nathan’s first book).
9. Don’t Play High Stakes
Another big key to success for a newer poker player is playing at stakes that you are comfortable with. Don’t make the mistake of playing at stakes which are way too high.
I recommend starting at the very lowest limits online, usually that’s NL2. This game has a $2 max buy-in and the blinds are 1 cent and 2 cents. A fair warning: just because you can play for a lot less money online does not mean that the games will be much easier. In fact, often the opposite is often true.
10. Don’t Play Too Many Poker Tables
With online poker you can essentially play almost as many tables as you want. And yes, this will allow you to multiple your winnings. However, each additional table that you add takes a little bit away from your concentration and this can lead to mistakes.
I recommend starting out with only 1 table at first. If you feel like you are able to handle this easily, then you can try adding more one at a time.
11. Know Your Position at the Poker Table
Position is the #1 advantage, so your goal must be to play in position as much as possible for the most success. Acting last after the flop gives you so many more options and you will profit more in the long run.
Having position allows you to see what your opponents choose to do before making your decision at each stage of the hand. This valuable information will allow you to dictate the pace of the hand, get additional value bets or even bluffs in.
12. Use a Poker Tracking Program (also known as a HUD)
While it is not 100% necessary to use a poker tracking program (like PokerTracker 4) in order to win at online poker, it will definitely help you make better decisions. Therefore, once you get serious about the game, you should at least try one out for awhile.
A poker tracking program basically reads the raw data from the hands that you play and converts it into useful information for you. This useful info helps you develop “reads” on your opponents, allowing you to exploit them in more ways.
13. Invest In Your Poker Knowledge
One of the best ways to quickly improve your results is to learn from somebody who has already been highly successful in poker. There are tons of great poker books available today to get you started along with training programs and coaching.
The bottom line is that for the cost of a buy-in at NL25 or NL50 you can often learn some advanced poker strategies to quickly help you blast through the micro stakes. The knowledge is out there, more than ever. And this can flatten the learning curve tremendously for a poker beginner.
14. Most Important Beginner Tip – Have Fun!
Poker is an exciting game with many different formats available from cash games to tournaments to sit and go’s.
It is really important that you choose to play the format that is right for you. And more importantly, you should pick the one that you find to be the most fun and exciting.
The reason why is that poker is a crazy game with a lot of ups and downs. At times you will be jumping for joy. At other times you will be despairing your terrible luck. But what will keep you going over the long run, besides a solid winning strategy, is your love for the game.
If you love this game like I do, then you will be excited to sit down and play every day. And as a 10+ year pro myself, believe me, this will take you further than anything.
Here’s my challenge to you: If one of these tips inspired you to take action either on- or off-the-felt, do it! Action is the greatest teacher so if you realized you’re too passive (#2 above) or you play games well above your bankroll and it causes scared poker (#6 and #9 above), it’s time to make a change.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Support the Show
Jordan LeBlanc, Matthew Tortora, DW and Jaco Mort picked up PokerTracker 4 (get it here to support the show), the best poker tracking software. I love it and use it everyday! In appreciation, I sent each of them a copy of my Smart HUD for PT4. With an ever-growing database of hands to study and all the helpful features, PT4 is the go-to software for serious poker players.
Bruce Lahtinen, Pavel Markelov, Tarek Lachgar, Cesar Silva and SoyBomb bought the Smart HUD with a 1.5 hour webinar for PokerTracker 4. It’s the best online poker HUD in the business with every critical stat in the HUD and the 7 custom popups. This is what every online player needs to maximally exploit opponents.
Coinbase makes buying and selling bitcoin super easy, and bitcoin is the best way to deposit and withdraw from online poker sites. Nate used my Coinbase Friend Referral Link to get a $10 bonus when he purchased his first $100 of bitcoin through Coinbase. And doing this supported the show!