Checklist for Beginner Poker Players


Dear NYC Poker Players,

Poker can seem like a very boring game.  In reality poker is very mental game, and every decision made at the poker table directly affects how much money can lost or won at the poker table.  This checklist is designed to help new and novice poker players make smarter decisions during their action.

Beginner Poker Players improve your NLHE skills with this checklist.

First, ask yourself, “Is it your turn to act?”  Every player needs to be aware of the dealer button and where it is located on the poker table.  You never want to act when it is not your turn.  It is definitely against the rules, and it is also considered rude.  A smart poker player is always thinking, but taking action when it is not your turn can be a costly mistake.

Question #1: How many opponents are in the hand?

  • The more players in the hand, the less likely you are to win the hand.
  • Example: Pocket Aces versus a single opponent are very likely to win, typically with a 80% (or greater) chance to win.  However, Pocket Aces versus four (4) opponents and your chances of winning drop to roughly 45% to win.
Question #2: What kind of poker player is my opponent?
  • Is your opponent: New or experienced?  Aggressive or conservative?  Smart or dumb?
Question #3: What hand does my opponent(s) have?
  • If the opponent is aggressive, then they could have a wide range of hands; some good, some bad, and some very ugly hands.
  • If the opponent is conservative, then they would have a smaller range of hands; pocket pairs, or picture cards, or a suited hand.
  • The more you know about your opponent, the more you know about what kind of cards your opponent plays.

Question #4: What cards does your opponent(s) think you have?

  • REALLY IMPORTANT!  If your opponent thinks that you are a conservative player, then will think you are playing conservative cards.
  • Always remember, that while you are trying to read the other poker players, the other players are also trying read you.

CRITICAL THINKING MOMENT: Up until this moment you should be thinking about what is happening, and you haven’t “done” anything yet.  It is now your action, or turn to act, what will you do?

Question #5: What is the action to me?

  • If no one has bet, then you check or bet.
  • If someone has bet, then you can call, raise, or fold.
CRITICAL THINKING MOMENT: If you fold, then you can’t win.  If you check or call, then you giving your opponents a chance to improve.  If you bet or raise, then your opponent must fold, call or raise.  The strongest play is to bet or raise because you are applying pressure to your opponent(s).
Question #6:  Is my opponent weak or strong?
  • If you are facing a weak opponent, maybe they will fold if you bet.  *Even if you are bluffing, a weak opponent will fold.
  • If you are facing a strong opponent, maybe they will raise if you bet.
Question #7: Is your hand weak or strong?
  • If your hand is strong, then you should bet or raise.
  • If your hand is weak, then you should fold.  *Unless you believe that a bluff against a weak opponent can win.
  • HOWEVER, if you have a draw to a strong hand (like a straight or a flush), then you should call a small bet.  *Flush draws and straights draws do not always improve, so if you are facing a big bet, then you should fold.


Experienced poker players rely on skill and expertise to become winning poker players.  It is very important to develop critical thinking and analytic skills if you want to improve your abilities as a no limit holdem poker player.

And if you need a reminder:

  1. These questions will help you identify opportunities that other (weaker) players can miss.
  2. Bad decisions and bad timing cost money.  In order to be a winning poker player, it is important to be aggressive selectively (not all the time – duh).
  3. Last but not least, don’t over think.  Trusting your intuition will help as critical thinking skills develop.