Hey there, new poker player here. I haven’t played any tournaments, live, or online games but have been playing a lot for no money with a couple buddies (so when I say new, I mean barely in the game yet new). I wanted to take my game to the next level and learn how to play legitimately, and was wondering where to start out? I’m open to buying books or online lessons, but not really coaching per-se. Also, how long did you wait til you joined the legitimate poker game? When did you feel you were ready to start betting money? Thanks for any help y’all can give, it’s really appreciated!
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When I started poker (back in the 90s) I read two books before I ever set foot in a casino and I probably was a winning player from day one. But now the games are much tougher, and this will not be sufficient to be a winning player. In fact, I may not even be a winner myself anymore, because other people have done a lot more studying over the past 30 years--and it isn't enough to be better than half the table because of the casino cut (rake) you have to the best at the table (better than 90%) or possibly second best (better than 80%)--otherwise you are losing. And those other players, at least some of them, are trying pretty hard, so you can know quite a bit without being better than 80%.
Still, I'd get a couple books (many reviews are available) or possibly online courses (many reviews are available too) and go all the way through your study material. Then go sit down and play in the smallest game you can find (assuming live, you could try online too) for about two to four hours only.
I'm assuming you can afford to lose some money, because you probably are going to. Therefore, don't be afraid to play, but also don't be eager to play. You aren't really trying to win this first time. Sit there a while. Get a feel for things. Then go through your study material again, because you should have a better idea of what it's telling you after even a little experience.
At that point realize you have a lot to learn about position, hand selection, sizing, when and how to continue, when and how to deal with other people who continue (or who donk), and the same on the turn, and the same on the river, including when and how to bet for value or to bluff, or to handle other players betting (which are either for value, or bluffs, or maybe just bets without purpose)...and plenty of other things.
It's a pretty long road, and if you are going to take it seriously you can study a lot more than play at first, but you do need to get in there and play at least a bit, and if you've done at least some study it's not too early to play a bit--just don't overdo it.
One other thing--try not to have any ego involved. In a 1-3 game you aren't dealing with great players, even if they think they are, so just do what you think is right, see what happens, and don't worry about it (or if you happen to win, don't read too much into that either). Ego, enjoyment of bluffing, fear of being bluffed, the feeling that you are being soul-read (you aren't) or that you have some great read yourself (you most likely don't), and whatever else, all get in the way. Just study, play your best for a few hours, and then go see what you learned and study some more.
And realize too, for all but the very best players, if you actually want to make money it's much easier to get a job.
Honestly, I don't really remember much about my first time playing for real money. It was actually on a cruise ship, which are typically some of the worst tournaments you can play. I do remember that my experience didn't last very long, and that I annoyed the heck out of the guy sitting next to me. I will plead the Fifth on whether I played every single hand and called every single bet.
My wife started playing a few years back. She started on one of the free phone apps, like WSOP or something. The thing that we did, which is much more difficult in the COVID era, before she went to an actual casino, was to play in a bar league game. You may or may not have these in your area. But where we live, there are a number of bars and restaurants that have weekly games. Anybody can play for free. And there are a lot of inexperienced players, so they are mostly accustomed to helping you learn the ropes. But be aware that the quality of play is not that great. It is, however, wonderful for helping you get accustomed to sitting around a table with other players, handling your chips, cards, etc.
If I were starting out today, I'd probably try to play some low-stakes games online, since that is what is most likely to be available. If you fell you have a safe situation in which you are comfortable with a casino setting, I'd start with tournaments. The reason is that your losses are capped, and you can practice many different aspects of the game, if you stay in long enough.
And of course, I am a big believer in this site as a study and practice resource.