If you’re new to the poker scene, Bovada Poker is the place to be. But poker is even more fun when you mix in a little live action. Playing a few hands of live poker is a great way to develop your low-stakes poker strategy – and the lowest stakes you’ll find at almost every bricks-and-mortar casino are at the No-Limit Texas Hold’em tables, with the blinds at $1 and $2.


As a beginner, you certainly wouldn’t want to jump right in and play $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em online. But live poker is a whole other kettle of fish. Here’s an easy rule of thumb to compare the two: Just divide the stakes by 10. In other words, the level of play in a live $1/$2 cash game is about the same as what you’d find playing 10c/25c at Bovada. These low-stakes No-Limit poker cash games will be even easier when you employ the right poker strategy for beginners.



$1/$2 No-Limit: A Great Place to Start


Texas Hold’em doesn’t get much easier than this. You’ll find just about every kind of player when you play poker cash games at your local casino or cardroom, but you won’t find too many Phil Iveys at the $1/$2 tables. Almost all the players you’ll face will fall in the “recreational” category; they’re there to have a good time and gamble. This goes double during the daytime, when the older crowd usually shows up to play.


The level of competition will be a little tougher later in the evening, but these will still be recreational players for the most part. Since you’ll be able to see your opponents, it’ll be relatively easy to spot any pros at your table – especially if they’re wearing the classic uniform of hoodie, sunglasses and headphones. Avoid these players as much as possible, and concentrate on the others, preferably the ones who appear more interested in drinking and socializing than balancing their ranges.


Key Strategies


Before you can learn how to win cash games at the live tables, you’ll need to get familiar with the whole experience of going to a casino and getting into a game. It can be a bit overwhelming, so treat your first live cash game as an opportunity to learn things like where the cash window (aka “the cage”) is, how to sign up for a game, and who the various casino employees are and what they do. For the poker itself, here’s an old tip from Dutch pro Marcel Luske: Just open with pocket Aces and fold everything else. You might not get to play a single hand during your first live $1/$2 session, but that’s okay, since you’ll already be busy trying to absorb all that new information being thrown at you.


Once you’ve got that first session under your belt, you can start focusing more on the poker. Playing a tight overall strategy is still your best option; open with quality hands, and bet for value rather than attempting any serious bluffs. Let your opponents put money in the pot instead. At the live $1/$2 tables, they’ll be calling you down more than they “optimally” should. The aggressive players on the night shift are also prone to over-bluffing in general. Keep it simple for now and let them do what they do.


Key Hands


As a beginner, one of the first things you want to develop in poker is your range of starting hands. You’ll want to have an idea going into every game of which hands you’ll open from which seats at the table. If you haven’t developed these ranges yet, again, keep it simple by focusing on the premium hands, namely big pocket pairs (Tens or better), Ace-King, and Ace-Queen. Later on, once you’re more comfortable, you can open smaller pairs, suited Aces, and weaker “Broadway” hands like Ace-Jack and King-Queen from late position.


If you’re playing during the day, you’ll probably find your opponents limping in and playing an endless stream of multi-way pots. Don’t get sucked into this pattern of playing. If you’ve got a premium hand, make sure to throw in a healthy raise once it’s your turn. If you have a really nice “speculative” hand like Seven-Six suited, then sure, throw that $2 into the pot and play along, hoping to hit a straight or a flush and win a large pot. Otherwise, don’t bother, even if you’re getting great pot odds. Don’t forget about the rake the casino charges players; this is taken out of every pot that sees a flop, so it’s better for your bottom line if you can scoop up these would-be “family pots” pre-flop. It’s also a lot easier on your brain than navigating the post-flop streets.


Best Table Positions


No matter what kind of opponents you run into, try to play as many hands “in position” as possible. That means you’ll be the one acting last post-flop, which is a considerable advantage live as well as online. The button is the best position to be in, since you’re guaranteed to act last once the pre-flop round is done; you’ll make more money from the button than any other seat at the table, and you’ll be able to open more hands, too. Conversely, the small blind is the worst position, since you’ll always act first post-flop. As a general rule, never call from the small blind – always raise, hoping to get everyone else to fold.



Other Tips for $1/$2


There’s a lot more to learn about live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold ‘em. Most of what you’ll need to know also applies to online poker, so make sure to consult our archive of cash poker strategy articles here at Bovada and keep working on your game. But here’s a bonus tip that’s specific to live poker: If you can, try to sit at the No. 5 seat when you’re at the casino. That’s the fifth seat counting clockwise from the dealer. You’ll get the best view of the table that way. Avoid No. 1 and No. 9 (or No. 10, if it’s a 10-handed table) if you can, since your view will be somewhat impeded there. And most importantly, have fun at the tables. That’s what $1/$2 No-Limit is all about.