Care and Feeding of Beginner Poker Players

Care and Feeding of Beginners

by Michael Wiesenberg

It happens every day in public cardrooms. A beginner sits down at a poker table. Usually he brings with him the minimum buy-in for the table.

If he’s lucky, he doesn’t run afoul of the regulations. Usually he’s not lucky. He gets dealt pocket aces in a hold’em game, with five players ahead of him. He makes a string raise, someone complains, and he doesn’t get all that extra money in the pot. And then, because he telegraphed his hand by his attempt at a raise, no one calls on the flop.

Or maybe a monster hand gets fouled, and wins no money at all, in fact, he loses all the money he put in the pot. (Maybe he has made a full house on the river against two made flushes and a smaller full house.) How does his hand get fouled? He leaves his holecards sitting on the table in front of him. Someone disgustedly throws her hand toward the discard pile and one of the cards takes a bad bounce and lands on our hero’s cards. The dealer explains that if cards touch an unprotected hand the hand is dead and the cards must be thrown in. One of the players explain that to protect a hand, the player must put his hand over the cards, set a chip on top of the cards, or place some sort of small trinket on the cards. (Many players use a spinner for this purpose. A spinner is a colorful disk-shaped token about the size of a poker chip whose main purpose is as a card protector. Spinners are so called because many are designed such that they can be easily spun — a teetotum — and have a pattern that forms an interesting design when spun.)

A poker hand can be fouled in other ways. A player may drop a card in his lap or on the floor, and attempt to pick it up.

Or there’s $100 in the pot, someone bets $10, and he doesn’t call because he has only $1 left. He doesn’t realize he doesn’t have to call the full bet.

Why doesn’t he know all this stuff? Because no one told him!And because some of the “sports” think they can make an easy few bucks by keeping this newcomer in the dark.

The attitude is very shortsighted, and I’ll tell you why. If this guy loses his first buy-in because of what he considers picky rules, he may never come back. Oh sure, the sharpies won a few easy bucks. That’s part of their skill, isn’t it, taking advantage of those not thinking quite as clearly or as fast as they?

Bad business, folks. You need these beginners coming back time and again.

Very few of them will turn out to be big threats to your bankrolls. Most of them will be the typical losing players who regularly habituate cardrooms.

Give them a chance to come back.

How do you do that? If a player who sits down at your table is an obvious beginner, take with under your wing. Help with. Don’t let with foul his hand. Explain to with about string bets.

If you’re a floor person, watch out for the beginners. They provide your livelihood, too. Cardrooms in some areas are in danger. There are too many of them competing for too little business. They need every customer they can get. Even those that have all the business they can handle don’t want to lose those customers, and need new customers coming in.

Now, some clubs are very good in their treatment of beginners. They make sure no one sits down without being thoroughly familiar with all the rules. But even clubs with the best of intentions can’t watch out for every beginner on a busy weekend night. It’s up to the players.

I suppose you noticed that I referred to this mythical beginner as he. That’s because beginning females are naturally afforded a bit more courtesy. This is of course because, in many areas, more poker players are men than women. Let’s change that to being gentlemen and ladies, and show courtesy to the beginners. Not only will they bring fresh money into circulation, but remember that everyone, too, was once a beginner.