Friday, January 06, 2006

How To Introduce Your Friends To Poker - Part 2

Kraven: Is there another way out?
Lucian: I guess it never occurred to you that you might actually have to bleed to pull off this little coup.

In part one of “How to Introduce Your Friends to Poker”, I went through the basic mentality and approach you need when trying to teach someone this grand old game. Now, I will go a little more specific and get into the guts of teaching poker.

Remember that no two people learn poker the same. I try these as guidelines, but your student may need more time in one section, or breeze through another. Tailor your sessions to the student, and you can’t go wrong. I will elaborate on this more later.

Ok – so where were we? You’ve taught them the basic mechanics, got them to deal a hand and by now hopefully they know how the game is set out. Now you need to teach them to win.

STEP 1 – Watch Rounders
If they haven’t already, get them to watch Rounders. Even non-poker playing folk will love that movie. I don’t think it is a big stretch to believe that three things contributed to the massive poker boom of late: Televised poker with hole cams, Chris Moneymaker winning the World Series, and Rounders. If they have even a fleeting interest in poker, this will get the juices flowing. It will also give you something to reference back to later on, which can make things easier.

And yes, I do think this is a very important part of the learning poker process. Sure, they might get delusions of putting their house payments on the line in a seedy underground card room, but that will surely be beat out of them when they see how hard the game is to actually play.

STEP 2 – The Lingo
It may be surprising to outsiders, but knowing the poker lingo I feel is very important. When teaching the game, it also makes things a lot easier. Most of the poker lingo will be picked up while they play, but they need to know some of the basic stuff – i.e. “The Nuts”, “Streets”, “Under the Gun” and so on. Don’t go crazy with it, but whenever you use a poker term, make sure you explain it to them. This will also help with their confidence down the track. How so? Well, when they are in a game and some player uses a little bit of poker jargon and your student has no idea what it means, they might feel embarrassed or like they are far less knowledgeable about the game.

Sure, knowing what TPTK means doesn’t really make a great player, but this is all about perception. If your student feels inferior, they will play inferior. We’re not trying to make them into a walking poker dictionary at the moment, but just explain a few terms to them as you go.

STEP 3 – The Golden Rule For Beginners.
I have always believed in this golden rule, and I have read it in several books by people much smarter than me. This is the most simple exercise in Holdem and I’m sure most of us take it for granted. It is something we all do without thinking mostly, yet it is still worth it to make sure your new student adopts this habit.

Explain to your student, they must always ask themselves – “What is the nuts?” On every street. This is very important, because you don’t want them to bet their entire life savings on a Broadway straight on a paired board with three to the flush. It’s just a simple little exercise that lets them know where their hand strength is. The other main reason is this is the first step beyond level one thinking. Once they start looking beyond the two cards in their hand, they have taken the first step to successful play. It is very hard to convince someone straight away that a ten high flush isn’t strong enough on one hand, and then tell them that three of a kind is the nuts on the next. The strength of a hand is all relative, and this is the first step in learning that valuable lesson.

Also, it will hopefully stop them making a cardinal sin – folding or calling with the nuts. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing someone call with the nut straight on the river when last to act. Don’t do it, it makes baby Jebus cry even more than minimum raises do.

I am going to cut this post short here, because the next step is the biggest step of all and will take up far too much space. Besides, I can make this one post into two and really get some bang for your posting buck that way.

FAQ 2 - So when do I bluff?

Ah yes, “To bluff is to poker”. Your new friend will no doubt know how a bluff works, but no clue as to how a bluff will work. There is a massive difference.

You could play it safe and say some crap like “The real pros only bluff once a day”, which is horse shit in no limit games. Limit games maybe, but not no limit. Anyways, you can spin this old line to them to keep them in check for now and let the bluffing come later.

I think you are better to tell them something out of one of Doyle’s books, and I am paraphrasing here. It goes along the lines of “You can’t bluff a made hand”. Which means, there is no use trying to bluff someone off a pot when they have the nuts. Explain this, and discourage bluffing until they understand why they bluff and when they can bluff. That is at least a month down the track (and that is a best case scenario).

Forget semi-bluffs even exist for now.

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