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14/10/2005 No.19
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday October 14, 2005
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How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

How much money should you play for? This is a vital question in the early stages of poker. If you play for too little, you won't care enough and you won't think properly. But if you play for too much ... Well, that's obviously stupid. If your aim is to go skint, my best advice is: don't bother reading this column, just be at my house at 7.45 on Tuesday night. The game starts at eight, but I'd hate you to miss out on a seat.

For those still reading: you can't play properly when the stakes are too high, either. It makes you nervous and you throw too many hands away. The profitable poker player is the one who makes the right calls and the right folds according to situation. Learning to do this is hard when "the right call" involves putting your annual rent money on the line, or "the right fold" was only costing you 5p anyway. That's why you have to find a balance.

If you're going out for an evening of live poker, you should take about the same amount of money as you would normally spend on a night out doing something else. That's enough to make it interesting but not crazy. If you win, you won't have such a windfall that you get false confidence in your game. If you lose, you won't be crippled but you'll think about the meal or theatre ticket you could have bought instead, and you'll try harder next time. It has to hurt a little, without killing you. So let's say you would normally spend £40 on a night out. Go to a game where the buy-in is £20, and give yourself room for a rebuy. Then go home. If it's still early, you might catch Coronation Street.

Internet poker is different. It's there all the time, right on your desktop, so you have to be careful. Forty quid from your credit card is easily followed by another £40 and another. So buy in for a fifth of your "night out" money, and learn cheaply. If you have 10 losing sessions in a row, sell the computer.


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