While poker involves some degree of luck, it is primarily a game of skill that requires the right mindset and strategy. Many players go from break-even beginner to profitable intermediate player just by learning a few simple adjustments. The most important of these is shifting your perspective on the game to be more cold, detached, and mathematical.

Read the Player

A large part of poker is reading your opponents and there are entire books dedicated to this topic. Most of the time it’s not from subtle physical poker tells (like scratching your nose or playing nervously with your chips) but rather patterns and habits. For example, if a player always raises the same amount when they have two pairs then it’s probably safe to assume they are playing some pretty strong cards.

Position Is Critical

A big mistake most beginners make is acting out of turn, either calling too early or raising too much too late. This gives your opponent a good idea what you have in your hand and can easily put them on a bluffing alert. It’s important to keep your opponents guessing at all times, especially in a game as deceptive as poker.

The rules of poker vary by game but usually you will ante something (amount varies, our games are typically a nickel) and be dealt two cards and five community cards in the center of the table. Betting then occurs in clockwise order, with the highest hand winning the pot. You may also be able to draw replacement cards for your current ones depending on the rules of your specific game.