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Learn how to play poker : A Free online poker guide

I started playing online poker in 2004, right before it started to blow up and get big. Back then, you could just wait for some good hands, and just bet them well and you'd be printing money. Since that time, the games have become increasingly competitive, and the ability to find good games in substantially more difficult. That doesn't mean that you still can't make some good money playing online poker. But you need to have a smart and effective system in place for maximize your time that you invest in learning the game of poker, and what you expect to see in terms of the money you win. This is called your learning ROI.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have an efficient plan at anything you do in life. Games like no-limit texas holdem can, "take a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.", as Doyle Brunson once famously stated. Not only do you want to be efficient, but you want to build the proper foundation for your poker game, so that you can easily move up, and continue to add more skills to your own poker arsenal.

I've won a ton of money playing online poker over the years (yes, into good six figure numbers), and I did it by building the right foundation, and continuing to expand my knowledge of the game. I've also coached hundreds of students over the years, and I've seen a lot of the same mistakes players do over and over. Just about all of those mistakes can be avoided with the proper study and training. These are the top coming mistakes I see from losing or break even poker players:

  1. Poor pre-flop strategy.
  2. Not being aggressive enough post flop.
  3. Not folding when opponents raise (not believing their opponents).
  4. Not value betting aggressively enough.
  5. No betting plan past a continuation bet.
  6. Playing too many hands out of position.
  7. Poor bet sizing.

That's what I'd consider some of the top mistakes, but there's others of course. The main thing you need to focus on as you're learning to play this game is eliminate the biggest potential mistakes first. The biggest and most costly mistake of the above seven major poker leaks for beginners above is #1, poor pre-flop strategy. If you make a poor decision and get involved in a hand you shouldn't be involved in, then you'll just end up compounding that mistake post flop by getting into mostly losing situations on later streets. You'd be surprised how many people, who have played poker for a long time, think they have a good pre-flop strategy, when in reality they make countless mistakes. There's also people who exude too much ego in this area and think they can just play any hand at any time, and out play their opponents post flop. And maybe they can to a certain degree, but if you're not winning, then it's time to take a good long honest look at your game, and re-examine your overall strategy.

This is a true story. When I was first learning to play poker, I started to learn online limit texas holdem. I read several poker books, online articles, and found an excel spreadsheet that would rotate starting hands and bets, raises in front of you and have you say if you'd raise, call or fold. Then it would just say right or wrong. It wouldn't give you any information about why it was right or wrong, but I started figuring out the patterns on what it was looking for in terms of profitable starting hands. I got a chance to speak to the person who wrote the excel program, who seemed quite knowledgeable and was a friendly guy, and helped point me in the correct direction in terms of how to study the game. I was quite appreciative, and worse that excel program out determined to become good. AND, I'm extremely confident it was one of the primary reasons that I only made one $50 deposit on an online poker site, and never went broke. I took that $50 and built my entire poker bankroll from it, and have made quite a bit of money over the years.

Here's my blueprint for how to improve your poker game and make more money:

1) Get your pre-flop poker game rock solid

While others on popular poker forums like 2+2, were struggling to be profitable at games, I was absolutely crushing them from the get go, and I never looked back. I continued to study my game and think about it from multiple levels and angles, and did a lot of things and plays that other regulars didn't think would be profitable, but they were. :)

So my first suggestion to you is, get the Ace Poker Drills pre-flop trainer. If you can afford it, get the entire program. But at the very least get the trainer. Yes, it's something we make money from, and yes I'm plugging it right now, but for good reason. It works! If you can continuously score well on this program, you will have the best foundation you'll need in order to become highly profitable at texas holdem. I got so much use out of that old limit holdem excel program, that I made one for my students only initially on no-limit and limit texas holdem games. I added in tons of advice so you'll understand the why much more easily in common spots. I can't recommend it more highly honestly. I'd recommend downloading the free trial and checking it out: Poker Quiz - Ace Poker Drills.

2) Work on your post flop fundamentals

Once you have a solid pre-flop strategy down, it's important to get the other post flop fundamentals of the game down. For this reason I wrote: Poker by the book. It's a two part series for beginners that gives you the solid post flop (and more pre-flop advice), you'll need to become profitable at the game. If you're already doing ok at the game, or you've read poker by the book, then I'd highly recommend my free poker book, Polished Poker. This is a great free poker e-book on some more advanced parts of the game. I've been told countless times it's the best free poker e-book that exists today. There's a follow-up poker workbook I wrote for it, that takes the concepts in Polished Poker, and puts them into real game situations for you to think through, and then you can check your answers at the back of the book - Polished Poker Workbook.

3) Join a poker forum and/or study group

One of the best ways to continue to get feedback about your poker game, and learn from others who are on the same path as you is to sign-up to a couple of online poker forums, where you can post hands, and give others feedback about how they are playing spots. For me, this was another key part of my own development. Mostly, reading others who posted hands where I had no attachment to the hand at all, and thinking through multiple plans for approaching the hand. You'll learn a lot about yourself and your own game by doing this. I run a free poker strategy thread on Cardschat.com, and you're welcome to join this group which has been studying, posting, and sweating each other since early 2014. A link to the thread is here - pokerstategy thread.

4) Read poker books, watch poker videos

Another great free poker resource I built was an article and video library on this page here. I'll be adding to it regularly, but I tried to locate an assortment of original content that I thought was meaningful to poker players development. That page is located here - Poker strategy article library. There's lots of great free and paid resources for poker video, and poker training sites. We have one we recommend at pokerzion.com as well. Since it's an affordable option for people who are still learning the game.

5) Invest in online poker software

If you're going to play online poker at all, then you're going to want to get some poker software. There's tons of free and paid software in this area. At Ace Poker Solutions, there's several great poker products you can find from the menu above, but I want to highlight a couple of essential things, both free and paid options. You're going to want a poker database application, and there's 3 main players that you can currently choose from.

If you're going to play online poker at all, then you're going to want to get some poker software. There's tons of free and paid software in this area. At Ace Poker Solutions, there's several great poker products you can find from the menu above, but I want to highlight a couple of essential things, both free and paid options. You're going to want a poker database application, and there's 3 main players that you can currently choose from.

1) PokerTrack 4 (Paid) - A great clean and stable poker database application. You can get a free 30-day trial here.
2) Holdem Manager 2 (Paid) - Very nice interface, and most popular poker database on the market. You can get a free 30-day trial here.
3) Free Poker database (Free) - A popular choice for those who aren't sure how much they want to invest yet. You get can it here.

I wrote an article about the differences between the two most popular database applications, PokerTracker 4 and Holdem Manager 2. You can read it here.

6) Become a good quitter

I had a good friend back in college that smoked like a chimney. Back then, a lot of people smoked (much more unpopular now a days), among other things. :) This friend though would go through 2-3 packs a day easily. I asked him once, "Are you ever going to consider cutting back or quitting?". And he responded, "Hell no. I'm not a quitter". In poker though, it's good to learn to be a good quitter. It's really just as important as anything above, and depending on your temperament, could be more important than anything I listed.

If you become the worlds best poker player, it won't do you any good if you lose a couple of hands, turn into a crazy tilt monkey, and lose all your money back and more. Even if you're playing well, but losing, it's usually best to walk away because how others will view you will change, and you can get into a lot of strange spots you normally wouldn't get into because of your perceived image. As you become better at poker, you can of course learn how to take advantage of this, but for now, learning to be a good quitter is super important.

Reading some books on poker psychology like, The Mental Game of Poker, from author Jared Tendler is a good place to begin. I'd highly recommend Tilt Breaker for online poker play because it will take all of the guess work out of how you're performing, and just shut your session down when you reach you tilt limits. It can easily save you tons of money if you struggle with control.

Summary of my How to Play Poker Guide

1) Become an expert at pre-flop play. Recommendations: pre-flop trainer from ace poker drills (see below as well).
2) Get your post flop fundamentals in order. Recommendations: Poker by the book, and Polished Poker series.
3) Join a poker forum. Recommendations: Join our free study group on cardschat.
4) Read some books, and poker training videos. Recommendations: Free Poker strategy article library, Pokerzion.com
5) Get some online poker software. Recommendations: PokerTrack 4 or Holdem Manager 2.
6) Improve on self control. Recommendations: Tilt Breaker, The Mental Game of Poker,

Recommended Poker Software and Tools

Ace Poker Drills Pricing

Equity trainer


Knowing your Pot Odds and equity in any given situation will help you make good decisions that will increase your long term profitability. Use this Poker Tool to learn, understand., and quickly calculate your expected share of the pot with Ace Poker Drills Equity Trainer.

pre-flop trainer


An important part of winning big at small stakes Holdem is playing better starting hands than your opponents. Use our poker software to gain the ability to quickly recall what hands to bet, call, check, or fold in different position. Master your pre-flop game width Ace Poker Drills Pre-Flop Trainer.

Odds/Outs & Equity Calculator


Understanding the basic math of Poker Odds is essential to becoming a great player. Practice and build your calculation skills with Ace Poker Drills Odds and Outs Poker Tools and increase your profits at the tables. Also use the FREE Poker Equity Calculator to quickly calculate your equity in any given poker situation.

Combo pack


Get all 3 products for 18% off when you purchase the Ace Poker Drills combo pack. Get the foundations and training that will make you winner by committing to improving your game today!

Poker by the Book Purchase

Poker by the Book: Volume I

Poker Book with a proven wining system
Learn to master odds, outs and the math of no limit holdem
Post-flop betting strategies
Applicable to full ring and 6max NL holdem poker.
Available by Instant download
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Poker by the Book: Volume II

More post-flop betting strategies
Playing out of position
How to analyze complex poker situations
No Limit Holdem Player dependent adjustments
Available by Instant Download
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Poker by the Book: Volume I & II

A complete copy of Volume 1
A complete copy of Volume 2
Free Holdem Manager HUD
Free Poker Tracker 3 HUD
Complete Poker Books available today by Instant
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Polished Poker Workbook Purchase

Polished Poker Workbook: Volume II

Hand Reading Exercises
Understanding Combinations and Fold Equity
Blind Play
Marginal Spots vs. 3-Bets
Available by Instant Download
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