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New Player Dos and Don'ts: How to Prepare for Limit Hold'em

Here’s a famous quote to keep in mind as you’re learning to play Texas Holdem: "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." It’s an old American coaching stand-by to keep players interested in practice, but it still does hold water. Not being prepared will kill you in sports.

And that definitely includes poker. Texas Hold’em is a difficult game to master. And if you sit down at the table unprepared, you’re going to walk away from that table unfettered from all the money you sat down with.

Preparing to play Limit Texas Hold’em requires more than just learning simple poker rules. Way more. It means having as complete an understanding of the game as you can, and being as ready as possible for any eventuality.

This won’t cover it all, to be sure, but a couple of these simple dos and don’ts for your preparation are good to keep in mind:

Don’t: Assume Poker is Easy

Just don’t. They say only about 10 per cent of poker players are consistent winners, so clearly poker just isn’t as easy as it looks. Poker is intricate and multi-layered and filled with sophisticated manoeuvring, and that’s what makes it such a popular game. Most poker players say they never stop learning. So if you want to be in that 10 per cent, you need to keep an open mind to all there is to learn.

Do: Read a Few Good Poker Books

This is a great era for poker. Poker legends of the past had to find their own way – and usually a very hard way at that. They risked their hard-earned money on instinct and trial and error, trying to find the right combination of poker tactics that work. And because they did, you don’t have to. There are so many great poker books on the market now, written by some of the best ever at the game. You can get all the basics you need to succeed from the get go - whether your interest lies in Limit or No-Limit, tournaments or cash games – just by sitting down and reading.

If Limit Hold’em is the game for you, try The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky, or the Limit Hold’em section of Super System 1 or 2, by Doyle Brunson.

Don’t: Learn to Play Watching Poker on Television

Televised poker looks great. It really does. And it’s a fun introduction to the game. But as an instructional tool, it’s severely lacking.

For starters, the game on television is usually No-Limit Hold’em. Which is, of course, great for the cameras. But it also has some serious poker strategy distinctions from Limit Hold’em. You’re also usually watching tournament play, which is, of course, different from cash game play. And finally, the shows are edited quite a bit, giving a false idea of what kind of hands are played and how often.

Enjoy televised poker, but get your lessons somewhere else.

Do: Play at Low Limits First

There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to poker preparation. Ideally, you want to get that experience before putting too much money at risk. You can play poker for play money on Internet poker sites, but with nothing on the line opponents will rarely be playing their best. You’re better off either playing a good computer poker program, playing in a home game with friends who promise to try their best to win, or playing at limits low enough you can afford to make a bunch of mistakes on your way to getting the hang of things.