What is the Best Way to Learn to Play Poker?

min read
BetMGM Jan 18, 2022, 9:21 AM

Poker’s hugely popular and there are a lot of reasons for this, not least: It’s a fun, social game; you can play games for money or for free, and there’s a deep element of strategy involved to keep you interested as time goes by. These are pretty good reasons to invest some time in learning to play poker. But where to start? We’ve gathered the info you need to get off the blocks.

Go online

Most of what you’ll learn about the game first off will probably come from internet searches and playing online poker.

Start by searching these terms to acquire the basic information:

  • Poker rules
  • Poker variations
  • Poker hand ranking chart
  • Bankroll management
  • Texas Hold’em rules (this is the most common poker variant)
  • Texas Hold’em poker basics
  • Poker positions
  • Poker odds calculator.

Join a poker school at an online casino

This is by far the easiest way to learn to play poker. BetMGM, one of the best online poker sites, has an expertly developed “poker school” that you can visit online. You’ll be able to access online poker guides, cheat sheets, charts and poker tournament tips. The best thing about starting this way is that you can go straight from learning to play poker online to stepping up the virtual felt via the BetMGM app on your mobile or desktop device. (Bear in mind, though, that this inimitable card game takes a few moments to pick up but a lifetime to master!) 

Watch instructional videos online

Internet platforms such as YouTube have plenty of educational videos for beginner poker players. These are a good way to learn to play because they give you visual representations of the rules and poker basics you’ve been reading about in your online searches. There’s also tons of content out there! Some of our top channel picks are Doug Polk Poker, Joe Ingram, Andrew Neeme, Brad Owen and Daniel Negreanu. Go check them out!

Get a deck of playing cards

If you plan to play offline, you’ll need to learn to handle physical playing cards – so if you don’t already own a deck, buy one. Practice this routine as often as you can:

Shuffle and deal four hands of hole cards face down (as if there are four people in the game.) Now decide which hand is best. Deal the flop and assess the hands again, observing how the advantage may have changed. Repeat this for the turn (sometimes also called “fourth street”) and again for the river (or “fifth street.”) The aim is to keep practicing this routine through nine hands until you can determine the best hand without hesitating for more than several seconds. Don’t worry – you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Take lessons at a brick-and-mortar casino

Many casinos offer free table-game lessons, which is a great way for novice players to learn the fundamental rules, strategies and etiquette of poker games straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. MGM Casino Resorts is a great place to start, providing it offers lessons in your area.

You’ll be taught by a friendly dealer who will explain the basic rules then show you some example hands to demonstrate the different scenarios that can happen with each. After this, you can usually play a few practice hands on your own, using chips that aren’t the real thing so you can see how you do. The dealer will explain the different odds of landing each type of hand and demonstrate how the betting works. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions, which is a great way to fill in any missing gaps in your knowledge.

Find a home game

If the social side of the game is what appeals to you most about poker, ask around your circle of friends, or even find someone in your neighborhood who holds regular home games – and request an invitation. This way, you’ll get to learn the ropes in a relaxed, homey environment. If you’re a hands-on learner and want to enjoy some chill time with friends, this is the way to go. You don’t even have to play for money – it could be something nominal, like matchsticks or counters. But if you do decide to bet money, make sure everyone at the table has agreed on the maximum stake, and that you’re all happy to bet at that level.

Get your hands on the best poker books

There’s a reason poker books, even in the internet era, are still so popular. They let you learn at your own pace, skim over what you already know, and reread any aspects you’re still not completely clear on. Books are a fast track into the poker world and provide a shortcut to obtaining poker tournament strategy, tips and advice from the legends of poker themselves.

Our top 10 recommendations (in no particular order) are:

  1. Harrington on Hold’em by Dan Harrington
  2. Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo
  3. Essential Poker Math, Expanded Edition by Alton Hardin
  4. Getting Started in Hold’em by Ed Miller
  5. Small Stakes Poker Tournaments by Jonathan Little
  6. Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen
  7. Sit ’n Go Strategy by Collin Moshman
  8. Moorman’s Book of Poker by Chris Moorman
  9. Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book by Phil Gordon
  10. Super System 2 by Doyle Brunson & more.

Cultivate realistic expectations

If you enjoy the social and thinking side of poker, you’ll always be a winner. Keep in mind that no matter how many books you read, charts you study or tutorials you watch, poker is a game of skill, practice and luck.

If your plan is to quickly make real money playing poker, then you’ll be disappointed. To make any profit over time, think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll need to accept that mastering poker is a long-haul grind of honing tactics, betting strategies and how to read people, as well as knowing the cards won’t always play out the way you want them to. 

The most valuable advice we can give you about learning to play poker online or at brick-and-mortar casinos (or elsewhere in the real world) is to manage your bankroll effectively, make sure your expectations are realistic, and have fun!

Learn to play your best online poker at BetMGM

At BetMGM, our “poker school” will give you all the knowledge you need to get started in the game, and includes many of the tools we’ve mentioned in our blog. Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you can play at your own pace – without having to leave the comfort of your home – by immersing yourself in live poker games. Or perhaps try out your luck and strategy in one of our online poker tournaments? All you have to do to get in on the Texas Hold’em poker online action – as well as other variations like Omaha, Spins and FastForward – is register with BetMGM.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.