The Ultimate Poker Guide: Preparing To Play

Welcome, fellow poker players, to the comprehensive guide for online poker. Although this guide will cover tournaments in a step by step fashion, cash (or ring) games can be played using exactly the same strategy – only the blinds never increase.

Our journey begins way before we take a seat at a poker table. Before we even think about parting with our hard earned cash we need to make sure we’re in the right mental and emotional state to play (I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true). Playing poker when you’re no 100% fit and well, and when you have other agendas on your mind is dangerous for your bankroll (money from poker winnings – don’t worry if you don’t have a bankroll yet). Let’s go over some examples of what constitutes not being fit and well.

  • Illness – This covers a massive array of symptoms and there are too many individual illnesses to discuss, if you feel bad just rest yourself – your body needs it!
  • Tiredness – lack of sleep leads to irrational decisions, and when money’s on the table you can’t afford to make mistakes. Turn the laptop off and go to bed if you’re tired! Simples.
  • Drug intoxication (for the vast majority of people alcohol is the lead culprit) – We’ve all woken up in the morning disoriented, with a headache and short term amnesia. Whether having a few drinks is right or not is another discussion all together, but booze + poker = epic sadness!
  • Stress – when you’re stressed all your priorities change, you can lose all sense of reason and bet huge amounts of money without a care in the world. Everyone deals with stress differently, but everyone’s mental state changes with stress – so grab those stress balls, go for a workout or have a bubble bath! Just don’t play poker until you feel tranquil!
  • Hunger – If diamonds are a girl’s best friend and dogs are a man’s, food is a poker player’s! Food gives you energy, and towards the end of a 4 hour+ poker tournament you’ll need all the energy you can get! I don’t want to get comments blaming me for making readers obese, so make sure you still have a balanced diet too!
  • Dehydration – No water = death, lots of water = health… enough said? Always keep a bottle / glass of water with you, if you’re playing long tournaments caffeinated drinks will start to dehydrate you (or at least not hydrate you as much as water).

This list is by no means exhaustive, you need to use your own judgement on what affects you – and have the self discipline to wait until you’re feeling 100% before you play.

Choosing the right poker site for you is essential. There are loads of reasons why you would pick one site over another, but before we discuss that let’s rule out a conspiracy theory that’s been getting a lot of attention recently. Firstly, online poker sites are governed and checked for their RNG (Random Number Generation) so each card that comes down has the same odds of falling as a real bricks and mortar casino. If you think you’re seeing, or have heard someone talking about there being too many ‘big hands’ (4 of a kind, royal flush etc) that’s purely because in online poker you get through a massive amount of hands compared to live poker.

Here are the important factors to consider before you choose a poker site.

  • Brand trust – If the site you’re interested in is a global, well established brand then you can be pretty confident it’ll be a good choice. Global brands don’t become global brands by accident, with massive expansion come massive responsibility – and these poker site giants live up to their expectations. If you’re going for a slightly smaller site, or an up-and-coming site you’ll need to look at player feedback – check a few forums or poker strategy sites out to get a feel.
  • Graphics and software – If you’re planning on making some money from online poker you’re going to be spending a fair bit of time looking at this poker site. Make sure you’re happy with how it looks, if you want a quick peek at the poker table, lobby or account pages just search Google for a screenshot.
  • Number of players – The more players at the site means more tables open and less JUDI SLOTS around. You’ll also get bigger tournaments with massive first place prizes (but also massive amounts of players competing for it).
  • Standard of players – There’s a poker saying that explains this quite well – ‘if you look around the table and can’t figure out who’s the fish (a fish is a bad poker player), then it’s probably you’. If you can find a site that has loads of fish on it become the shark and devour all their money! Nomnom.
  • Tournaments – This is a massive choice to make before depositing any money so tournament types will be covered separately. Normally the bigger the site (number of players, brand trust etc) the more tournament structures available.
  • Bonuses – If you can pick up a no deposit bonus, or double up on your first deposit why wouldn’t you? It’s the first boost to your bankroll and you don’t even have to win a poker tournament for it!
  • Reward schemes – loyalty points and reward schemes are great for serious poker players, it’s extra money and prizes for free – like Christmas but… more like a reward scheme.
  • Customer service – If you have any problems you want to know you’re in safe hands, look for the 24 hours customer support online chat. The customer service tends to go hand in hand with the ‘brand trust’ factor, but smaller sites can be good too.
  • Withdrawal options – almost all sites let you withdraw for no fee, but there’s sometimes a minimum (typically $5 or £5).

Now hopefully you’ve found your poker site and we’re ready to look for what type of tournament to play! The safest bet is to play a ‘gimmick free tournament’, with a fixed blind structure and a conventional leader board/prize pool. Here’s the basic attributes of a gimmick free tournament.

The chips you start with are the only chips that are given to you be the dealer/poker site (no addons or rebuys).

  • The blinds increase at fixed intervals.
  • About 10% of starting players win money, with 1st place taking around 50% of the prize pool.

The amount of chips, speed of blind levels and prize structure may change slightly from site to site but try and get a tournament that has a ‘usual’ structure (for example – if blind levels are 10 mins at one site and 12 mins at another that’s fine, but if blinds increase every minute it’s just a gimmick tournament).

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