The poker dream is still alive. Ever since Chris Moneymaker turned $86 into $2.5 million at the 2003 World Series of Poker, people have been trying to strike it rich playing the most popular card game on the planet. That includes many of the people playing online right now at Bovada Poker.
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It takes a certain amount of skill and talent to make it big at this “mind sport,” but you don’t have to be a poker savant to enjoy playing the game. If you follow our list of top 10 poker tips, you can gain an edge on most of the opponents you’ll meet at Bovada. How far your poker journey goes from there is in your hands.
1. Start Small
There’s a learning process to go through anytime you’re about to start something new. Your poker education will take place both at the tables and in whatever qualifies as your poker laboratory; this is where you’ll study the game, using books, computer programs, videos, charts, and so on.
As with anything else in life, the best price for your education is as close to free as possible. Your first games at Bovada Poker should be Play Money games, which will give you the chance to get familiar with both the software and the sport itself. Once you’re satisfied with your progress, move on to the microstakes, where you’ll play for pennies. There will be lots of mistakes during this phase of your development, so make sure they cost you next to nothing.
As for your education away from the tables, free is still the best starting point. There’s tons of good stuff out there on the internet – including right here at Bovada Poker – that you don’t have to pay a cent for. Seek out the best content from the most reliable sources, then be willing to shell out a few bucks once you’re ready for intermediate lessons.
2. Focus on Texas Hold’em
There are many different ways to play poker. Here at Bovada, you have three main options: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi/Lo. Most people these days are still playing Hold’em, the game that Moneymaker helped make famous, so that’s the game you should concentrate on first – even if you’ll find softer opposition with those other variants.
It’s a good idea to dabble in as many forms of poker as you can, including live games, but make sure you concentrate most of your efforts on Hold’em first.
3. Play Tournaments (Including Sit-and-Gos)
The Moneymaker Era got people very interested in tournament poker. This is the preferred choice for most new players, so again, it should be yours as well. Cash poker remains popular, too, but the level of competition there is a lot tougher. Stick mostly with tournaments for now, and mix in a few microstakes cash games for fun and practice.
When you’re browsing the tournament calendar at Bovada Poker, don’t overlook the Sit-and-Gos (SNGs). These are shorter tournaments that start as soon as the required number of people have signed up; they take a lot less time to play than multi-table tournaments (MTTs), but you still get the opportunity to learn all of the important things you need to excel at tournament poker.
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4. Play Fixed-Limit Games
With this poker tip, we recommend you go against the grain a little. Most poker players at Bovada and elsewhere prefer No-Limit Hold’em, where you usually have the opportunity to bet your entire stack of chips at once. This betting structure is fun and exciting, but it’s also a very expensive way to fund your early poker education.
That’s the main reason why we recommend starting with Fixed-Limit Hold’em (or Limit Hold’em for short). There are only two bet sizes in this game: the small bet, and the large bet (just twice the big blind). This will help prevent you from paying big-time for your early mistakes. It will also simplify the game, which will make it a lot easier for you to learn the fundamentals before tackling the No-Limit version.
5. Use Starting Ranges
There are four betting rounds in each hand of Hold’em: pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. The pre-flop round is by far the most important – the decisions you make here will either put you on the right foot or land you in hot water as the hand unfolds.
Fortunately, pre-flop is also the easiest of these four betting rounds to play. Memorize a predetermined set of starting ranges for each position at the table; the player acting first (aka under the gun) should have a very tight range that includes only the strongest starting hands, like medium-to-large pocket pairs, suited Aces, Ace-King, Ace-Queen and a few other good hands. You can widen your starting range gradually as you move closer to the button, where you’ll open-raise about 50% of the time.
These starting ranges should also cover which hands you’ll call with when someone else open-raises (hint: they should be very few, and usually when you’re in position), as well as which hands you’ll 3-bet with. It’s also good to know in advance which hands you’ll call a 3-bet with, which hands you’ll 4-bet, and so on.
Once you have these ranges memorized, don’t stray from the path. Save that for when you’re more familiar with the game and how to manipulate your ranges like the pros do.
6. Learn ABC Poker
Speaking of which, almost all the best poker players in the world are playing something close to game theory-optimal poker, or GTO for short. The general concept here is to make the moves that will prevent your opponents from exploiting you, by striking the right balance between “value bets” and bluffs. Sometimes you’ll have it, sometimes you won’t – there’s nothing your opponent can do in the long run to improve their situation at your expense.
Don’t start learning this style of poker just yet. GTO is advanced stuff; instead, learn a simpler, less risky “ABC” style that will allow you to extract the most value possible from the lesser-skilled opponents you’ll be facing. This means bluffing a lot less often. Again, it’s a simpler style, so it’s easier to learn. It also protects you from making expensive mistakes in your early poker career.
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7. Study and Exploit Your Opponents
With this poker tip, this is how you can really make ABC poker work for you. Every player has a certain style, whether they’re trying to have one or not. If you pay attention, you can figure them out to some degree. Do they fold a lot? Do they call a lot? Are they 3-betting you every hand pre-flop? Study their patterns, then react accordingly.
8. Keep a Poker Schedule
It’s easy to spend far more time (and money) than you intended at the poker tables – especially when you’re playing tournament poker. You can avoid this by scheduling your sessions to fit your timetable, and by sticking with your schedule.
As a general rule, your focus will naturally wane after about 90-120 minutes of playing, so if you’re at the cash tables or the SNGs, consider making this the maximum length of your session, then take at least 30 minutes off before loading up again. If you’re playing MTTs, use the 5-minute breaks at the top of the hour to refresh as much as possible.
9. Collect Your Welcome Bonus
There’s nothing like some free bonus cash to help keep your bankroll afloat in the early going. Don’t forget to claim your Poker Welcome Bonus when you sign up at Bovada and make your first deposit. The amount of bonus money you’ll earn will depend on how much poker you play, and at what stakes. Don’t chase that maximum bonus too hard, or your bankroll might go off the rails, but definitely claim what you can.
10. Enjoy Playing Poker
This is hands down the most important of our Top 10 poker tips. Do you love the game of poker? Would you play even if there weren’t any money at stake? Then you’ve got the right mentality for future poker success. Winning money is great, of course, but the pursuit isn’t worth it if you’re not having fun. There are other, more lucrative things you could be doing with your time. Use it wisely.
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It’s hard to stop at just 10 poker tips, but these are the ones that will carry you the furthest when you’re just starting out at Bovada Poker. Learn them well, check out the other poker articles in our vault, and we’ll see you at the tables. To begin playing online poker, make sure you sign up to Bovada today. Once you create an account, you can enjoy all the online poker you like! Also, you can win real money playing any of our online casino games including Hot Drop Jackpots, online blackjack, online slots and more.