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How to Practice your Poker Skills

Poker Night 09
"Poker Night ’09"   CC by 2.0   Existance Church
An official ‘mind sport’ like poker rewards players that take the time to study the nuances of the game. Whether that’s the strategy element, people's past hands or the many psychological aspects involved. However, in the absence of a casino or like-minded friends, it can be tough to gain any experience with the game. Here are a just a few ways to hone your skills at the table.

Play a Computer
Poker is a complex game but its basic rules translate easily to code. ZX Poker (1982) and Video Poker (1986) were some of the earliest pieces of software to pit players against a machine. Although games like this have transcended platforms, many of the most popular were on PC. Telltale Games’ 2013 game, Poker Night 2, is a PC title that features ‘celebrity’ opponents like GLaDOS (Portal 2) and Claptrap (Borderlands 2).
The advantage of practising against a computer opponent is that you can play on your own terms and in your own time. It also doesn’t carry any risk of financial loss.

Play Online
Playing poker online presents a very different environment to players used to the real-life game. Your best poker face doesn’t matter, the online community can be unpredictable and researching your opponent's playing history is a must in the absence of physical ‘tells’. But it’s nevertheless an inroad to the more competitive side of the game.

There are plenty of free casino games out there, offering the option to play (and learn) without the burden of using real money. mFortune, a West Midlands-based company, is a good example. They provide a £5 incentive for players to make a deposit too in case you do want to play for money.

Watch Poker
It’s not the best way to learn poker (you don’t get to see some of the hands) but watching the pros at their day job is a good source of inspiration for novice players.

Poker has been a fixture of US TV listings since The World Series of Poker (WSOP) was first broadcast on CBS Sports in 1973. It’s a little harder to find on telly in the UK, though. Beginning its life in the late night graveyard slots on Channel 5, ESPN (available from BT) provided full coverage of the recent WSOP tournament in September. It amounted to 14 episodes over seven weeks.
Play Amongst Friends
"Poker Night ’09"   CC by 2.0   Play Amongst Friends
Read Books
A career as an author is almost a given for retired professional players, with everybody from Chris Moorman to Doyle Brunson putting pen to paper in the last few decades. Studying is something you can’t escape from if you want to climb the poker ladder. You’ll need to get a handle on strategy as well as things like tilt, self-confidence, and how to ‘read’ other players.

If you can’t see the point of reading when you can just learn by playing, consider that the likes of Moorman have posted career earnings in the region of £10m. Opportunities to learn from players of that calibre don’t come along very often.

As a final point, it’s always worth trying to get a small poker game going in your local area, whether that means talking to friends, co-workers, or petitioning the local pub for a regular night.

There you have it, four (and a half) easy ways to improve your skills at the poker table.
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