I’ve received an offer I cannot refuse – the nice young woman I’ve been seeing has offered to teach me how to bake her delicious homemade bread. And what does she ask in return?

Well,” she said, “I’ve always wanted to get good at poker. Could you teach me?”

So, rather than simply tossing “Super System 2” in her lap and watching the NFL playoffs, I’ll spend some quality time teaching her how to play. That shows what a caring guy I am, right? I think so, at least. Also I get to eat homemade bread. What’s not to love?

In preparation for the evening, I’ve decided to put my thoughts to paper in an effort to polish my own instructing techniques. So here, courtesy of this nice young lady, are my philosophies for beginners.

Play, play, play.

There is no substitute for the real thing. Sit down at a live table as often as possible, and immerse yourself in the online game with every chance you get. Play as if you were practicing your jump shot or spending some extra time in the batting cages. If you get burned out on hold ’em, switch over to Omaha or one of the many stud games. The basic skills you’ll need to excel will always be present, no matter what form of poker you’re practicing.

Vary your strategy- see what works.

The most dangerous opponent at a table will always be the unpredictable one. No one wants to play with a loose cannon who will move all in on a small pair preflop, only to check his nut flush down to the river two hands later. In many ways, that’s exactly the kind of player you want to be. Don’t let your opponents build a solid read on you. Make different moves in different situations, and see how the other players react. To be clear, I’m not recommending that you make reckless, blatantly incorrect moves. Those are the kinds of plays that’ll swallow a bankroll before you know it. But never let the opposition draw a bead on you. As soon as you think they have you figured out, it’s time to switch it up.

Watch the pros (selectively).

ESPN deserves a lot of credit for the so-called “poker boom.” But while it may be an excellent place to watch your favorite players butt heads, it’s not the best learning tool. What many viewers don’t realize is that ESPN condenses an entire day’s worth of poker into a single hour (minus commercials). So what you’re essentially seeing is a glorified, glamorized highlight reel with a commentary track added in post-production. But fear not, TV lovers – there are some great shows to be found on the dial. NBC’s Poker After Dark is one of the finest places to learn the sit & go game, though there is certainly still some editing taking place. The hands down winner in the television world has to be High Stakes Poker, found on the Game Show Network. It runs unedited, showing the game in its entirety. The show features some of the biggest names in the business betting big money. What’s not to like about that?

Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

If you’re a talkative person, then be talkative. If you’re naturally introverted, then stay that way. If you’re trying to be someone else, good players will be able to sniff it out. Your body language and speech will change depending on hand strength, and you’ll always appear to be nervous. Let your own personality come out, but be sure to control some of your basic physical tells. Watch your posture and eyebrows. Do your best to maintain a constant delivery no matter what cards you’re holding.

Don’t be intimidated.

You’re going to lose, plain and simple. It’s how you take it and learn from it that will make you a better player. Above all, don’t let the opposition get inside your head. There are plenty of players out there who rely solely on intimidation to beat their opponents. They will berate you no matter what check, call, raise or re-raise you make. Don’t be fooled – players like this are not nearly as good as they think they are. In fact, the worst thing you can do to a bad poker player is to tell them how horrible they are! You want to play with suckers, because they’re easy money. So if you see someone playing poorly at the table, don’t taunt or try to scare them. Just keep taking their money little by little, pot by pot. Before they know it, they’ll be broke down to the felt. And after all, isn’t that the best victory?

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The PokerJanitor's Philosophy
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