That often repeated saying about poker ‘It takes five minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master’ is as true today as it ever was.
Poker involves maths, tactics and an amount of psychology if it is to be played correctly. On top of all that, the ability to adapt to ever changing table circumstances is a skill that should never be overlooked.
A lot of poker strategy guides for beginners will tell you to start at the play money tables in order to get to grips with the rules and get familiar with using the online software. I’m not so sure that is good advice. Any time spent at the play money tables can instill bad habits in the novice player that will cost them dearly when they get to the cash tables.
You can easily pick up the basics of the game and how to use the software by watching a real money game for an hour or two. Watching until you are comfortable enough to sit in makes a lot more sense long term than playing the play money tables.
Once you are ready to get involved and put your own cash down on the table then take a little time to choose the right table stakes for you and for your bankroll. It is absolutely correct for beginner players to begin at the lowest stakes. Most poker rooms will have micro stake tables starting at only a couple of cents. Don’t be put off by the small pots – this is real poker and a great training ground with limited risk.
Also, at these stakes you can afford to make mistakes and be curious abut the outcome of hands. In real life home games there is always one, or more, players that want to see how the cards would have come down in a hand that ends early. Of course you can’t do that in an online game, so in order to see what happens, many players stay in a hand that they should have folded out of simply out of curiosity.
Again, at the micro stakes this won’t be too costly, and hopefully by throwing your – albeit small – money away a few times out of curiosity you will see the error in this and learn to stop doing it.
My point here is that there is nothing that you can learn from a book on strategy that you cannot learn by watching and playing. So long as you are always watching what is going on, and understanding what it is that you are seeing, you will get beyond your learner status quickly enough to move to a more suitable stakes level.